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Six Ways to Reduce Your Grocery Bill Without Clipping Coupons

Updated on September 22, 2011

I know that everyone has to eat to survive, but is your grocery bill killing your wallet? In this downed economy, saving money (or rather, spending less of it) has become more important than ever before. With food prices on the rise and more pay cuts and job losses on the horizon, people need to seriously start thinking about where their money is going. Did you know that the average family of 4 in America spends more than $1,000 per month on groceries? For some families, this amount of money can be quite significant. Here are six ways you can slash your grocery bill without using coupons.

Tip 1: Cleanup Your Pantry

Ever went to the store to buy something only to realize when you got home that you already had it? What about discovering something expired or got freezer burn just before you wanted to use it? If either of these scenarios has happened to you, then you may need to organize your pantry and create an inventory of items that you have one hand.

There are various methods that you can employ to keep an inventory of your pantry. Spreadsheets are commonplace for this, but I like the convenience of a wall chart. You can hang a dry erase board near your pantry or freezer and keep a running total of everything that you are storing. Keep a marker nearby and change the number of items remaining every time you use something. If you want to get really organized, you can even write the expiration dates on the board as well.

When you begin getting organized, it will seem very time consuming to manage your food inventory. But in fact, this will actually save you time as well as money. After you get organized, you will instantly know if you have the ingredients on hand to prepare any meal that you wish. The advantages to getting organized and creating an inventory cannot be understated.

Tip 2: Make a List and Stick to It

One of the worst things you can do as a consumer is go to the store without first knowing what you are going to buy. Making a list and sticking to it will serve two purposes. The first reason you need to make a list is to ensure that you won't forget anything important. This will have the effect of reducing the amount of times you have to go to the store. The second reason that you need to make a list is so that you can avoid the dangers of impulse buying. Depending on the retailer, impulse purchases can account for more than 50% of a store's retail sales. Buying stuff that you don't need can be detrimental to your budget. When making a list to prepare for your monthly or bi-weekly grocery shopping adventure, you need to check your inventory and plan your meals accordingly.

Tip 3: Begin Planning Your Meals

This is a very important task if you are serious about saving money at the grocery store. Meal planning will ensure that you only buy what you need and helps to reduce waste. For example, if you plan to make steak with a salad and vegetables on one night, then you can plan the next night's meal to use the leftovers. You should also plan your meals around common ingredients so that there is no waste. For example, if a recipe calls for 8 ounces of elbow noodles, you could choose a second meal to use what's remaining in a typical 1 pound box of pasta. It's best to try and plan meals around perishable items that are purchased in large amounts to avoid waste. Whenever I eat lunch, it is almost guaranteed to be leftovers from the night before. So when I plan my meals, I make sure that whatever I make will also work for lunch the following day.

Tip 4: Go Vegetarian

As far as groceries are concerned, one of the most expensive things you can have on a menu is meat. Pound for pound, meat products are about as costly as they come. The table below shows a comparison of the average per pound price of some common meats and vegetables.

All Ground Beef
All Other Beef
All Ham
Boneless Chicken Breast

Average national retail prices per pound of select food commodities for Jan-August 2011. Source: USDA

Not only are meats pricey, but it requires much more natural resources to raise an animal and prepare it for consumption than a vegetable does. So if you want to slash your grocery bill and help the environment at the same time, choose to cut meat from your diet.

Tip 5: Lose Weight

If you have a high body mass index, reducing your waistline could also have the affect of reducing your grocery bill. As you move forward with your weight loss and new lifestyle change, the amount of food that you consume will slowly decrease. When you skip highly processed and junk foods, you will start to see a decline in your grocery bill. You'll find that dieting can be much easier then you think when you keep in mind that your are helping to trim your spending as well as your waistline.

Tip 6: Choose Store Brands

Many "store brand," or generic, products are actually the exact same item as a name brand one. Typically, a generic item can be around 10-25% cheaper than the same product with a brand name. In some cases, buying generic can even be less expensive than using a coupon for a name brand alternative. Why are they cheaper if they are the really the same? Generic and store brand items are usually the product of a licensed label. When you buy a store brand product, you aren't paying for the marketing campaign and expensive packaging that goes into a brand name product.

When grocery shopping check the product labels to confirm if two products are the same. If they are the same, the labels will indicate the same ingredients in the same order. They may also (but not always) share the same packaging and manufacturing location. Another indicator of licensed labels can be found in the package's material and shape. If the two products share the same packaging, it is likely that they are actually made in the same place. And trust me, if flavor is a factor, store brand products rarely taste any different than the ones you see advertised all over TV.


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