- Personal Finance
How Can I Save Money on Grocery Shopping?
Tips for grocery shopping
My wife makes a sketch map of the grocery store aisles so she knows what’s where. She makes several photocopies of this. When it’s time to go to the store, she takes her list and writes the items in the approximate locations on one of these maps. Armed with that, she can zip from one item to the next in the most efficient manner and be out of there in no time at all. And she doesn’t get distracted by roaming the aisles to see what beckons to her. When she’s sick, she can even send me with the map and expect me to find most of the things.
Buy store brands. They’re as good as and sometimes better than the brand-name goods. Use coupons, loyalty cards and rebates put out by the producer, the grocer, the newspapers and online. A young friend of mine networked all that so well that after one trip to the grocery store, he figured he would actually make a slight profit once all the rebates came in—that’s an extreme, but shows what is possible.
Buy in bulk when it will save you money, especially if it’s on sale. You have to do the math, though, because sometimes the biggest quantity is more expensive—in an effort to trick you into assuming that quantity is cheaper. Another caution: If having a large quantity of something like junk food just means the family will use it more quickly, that’s not something to buy in bulk! Perishables are out of the question, of course. A large chest freezer makes storing larger quantities of frozen items more practical.
Buy meat that’s marked down because the “sell by” date is imminent. You want a fresh “sell by” date on things like bread and lettuce, but meat that’s been aged a bit is actually better.
Ask what the grocery store does with their dented canned goods. If you can find out what thrift store sells those, you’ve found a bargain grocery.
Don’t go out for just one item. Efficiency dictates combining errands. I’ve always got at least two stops on the itinerary; if one fails for some reason, maybe the other successfully redeems the trip. (Note to self: If grocery is on the list, go there last so the ice cream doesn’t melt.) If you will have to drive some distance to get to the stores, schedule your shopping trips to be less frequent. At one point we lived at such distance that a run for staple supplies was monthly.
Tips for other shopping
When buying tools and electronic items online, poke around the website a bit or do a search to see where they are selling reconditioned or refurbished items. Usually they are simply items that have been removed from the shrink wrap and then returned. At that point, they can’t sell it as new, so you get a discount. Only once or twice have I encountered an item that had an intermittent problem—the reason why it had been returned by the original purchaser—that the verifying technician failed to catch.
I find that the mom-and-pop shops and stand-alone establishments are frequently cheaper than the national chains. That’s true of auto repair shops, auto parts stores and low-end motels, at least. They don’t have the large franchise fees and national advertizing campaign overhead. They don’t have the prime locations, so their overhead isn’t as much. The only way they can survive, though, is by word of mouth, so you know they’re reputable if they’ve been around awhile.
My wife likes to do virtually all non-grocery shopping online. I think the prices might sometimes be a bit higher, but she is quick to point out that she doesn’t pay gas that way, and shipping is often free. That makes this one hard to calculate. Comparison shopping is much easier online, and it’s so much easier to locate a specific hard-to-find item.
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