Grocery shopping is one of the highest household expenses people have. Every month it costs hundreds of dollars and is well into the thousands annually. So why then do most people wander aimlessly through the aisles tossing random items into the cart. They get to the checkout and swipe a card without thinking about the total cost. From the store they go home and cram all of the new food on top of the old food with relief that their cupboards are full again.
Is it because groceries are a need instead of a want?
People don’t shop the same way when it comes to cars or even pens and school supplies. They shop around, find the best deals, and only buy when they know that they have arrived at the best possible deal. Why not do the same with groceries? There’s two or more grocery stores in just about every two blocks in most neighborhoods. Why not invest a little time into grocery shopping to save hundreds or thousands each year?
Here are nine really easy ways to save money at the grocery stores every time you go shopping.
1. Take a minute every week and plan out your meals.
How do you go grocery shopping if you have no idea what you want to eat for the week? You can either add meals to a calendar or simply write a bunch of meals down on small pieces of paper and draw them out of a hat all week long. How ever you decide to choose your meals and when to eat them, it is very important to know the items you need to buy before you go to the stores.
2. Make a shopping list.
Once you know what meals you are going to be having, making a list of things to buy becomes very easy. After you make a list, you need to stick to it. Even still, 82% of grocery shoppers buy items on impulse. Grocery stores know this and pretty much set up their entire stores to encourage the impulse buy.
Don’t be fooled, and stick with your list!
3. Inventory what you already have at home.
While you’re making your list, take notes on things you already have for your meal plan. If you already have enough of something you can scratch it off of your list. How many times have you come home from the grocery store and noticed that you just bought some things that you already had in your cupboards?
Everyone likes coupons, they save you money. Then why do most people avoid them? Coupons are basically money that the stores or manufacturers are handing you as a gift to try their products. These days coupons are available everywhere. If you want to, you can avoid clipping them and simply print them at home or load them onto your stores shoppers cards. With all of the technology and easy access most people have to the internet these days, saving money with coupons is perhaps one of the easiest to save money at the stores.
An important note on coupons. Only print clip or load coupons for items you want and need. Don’t buy the item just because of the coupons. If you don’t eat it or use it, you’re not saving any money at all.
Also, try to use the coupons at the right time. When the item you want is at its lowest price, you will save more by applying the coupon. How do you know when is the right time? Look down at step 8.
5. Store websites.
Right there along with coupons, are the store websites. They usually have a ton of great exclusive deals and coupons. If the store has a shoppers card, you can load their coupons and many more straight onto the card. When you check out, the savings automatically apply. Some even allow you to print out the list of coupons you’ve loaded so you can easily remember which coupons are loaded on your card.
A lot of the time you can look through the weeks’ ad on the website. When they have a coupon in the ad, you can load that one to your card or print it out. This is a pretty easy way to get more savings, plus get a lot of helpful tips and information.
They also usually have a ton of recipes posted on their sites to help you out with meal planning in step 1.
6. Eat before you go.
Going to the store while your hungry is perhaps the very worst thing you can do. Eat before you go… in fact, eat as much as humanly possible. Have a Thanksgiving dinner before you head off to the grocery store. Eat so much that the sight of food just plain makes you mad.
The entire time your gathering coupons and surfing the store websites, you should be eating non-stop. Please, never go to the grocery store when your hungry!
Okay, you’ve planned your meals, made a list, have 7 million dollars in printed coupon money in your pocket, and have eaten every thing in your house not made of metal. Now it’s time to go to the stores and get your new food.
7. Stocking up.
If you have any room in your home to store products, you will save some long term money by stocking up on certain items that go on a really good sale. Soda, for example, is just about guaranteed to be on sale every major holiday. On a great sale it can range from $2.25 to $2.50 for a 12 pack when the normal price is $4.89 to $5.99. Why on earth would you pay $3.50 more per 12 pack when you can get it for a far lower price soon enough?
The dates on soda last upwards of 3 months, so it is very easy to buy enough, at the low prices, to last until the next time they are on sale.
You may have to spend slightly more up front to see the savings of stocking up start to work, but over a little time the savings will be huge. Just be sure to only stock up on things you will actually use before they go bad. No one wants to drink a Coke from 1976 no matter what price you got it at.
When stocking up, keep the freezer in mind. If you can, the cost of one of those large sized stand alone deep freezers will pay for itself in the long run. The money you save by stocking up at the right time will also more than pay for the very minor added costs in utilities to run the freezer. Or, to save that little bit of added costs, just run an extension cord over to your least favorite neighbors house… just kidding, please don’t do that.
8. Price book.
This one goes hand in hand with stocking up. A pricebook will easily identify a great price when you see one. It will show you a history of specific items and their prices every week. How do you know when a ‘sale’ is actually a sale? Having a price book on the items you buy on a regular basis is the very best way to have instant access to identify those really great sales when they come up in the ads or at the stores.
This one does require some work on your part. You will have to keep a record of these items on a semi-regular basis in order for this to be any good to you. Once you have it and keep it maintained, you will not only be able to identify the great sales, but you will also start to see the stores ad cycles for each item. You will be able to identify the best possible prices on the items you buy most and stock up at the right times to get the highest overall savings.
Granted this step is about as fun as cleaning broken glass out of the inside of your gloves, but a price book will save you the largest chunk of money at the grocery store than any other step.
9. Know what you and your family eat.
This may seem like an automatic step to the process, but it’s not. Ever notice that before you go shopping for the week, the same items are left over in the cupboards and the fridge as the last time you went to go shopping?
That’s because no one likes that stuff!
If you or your family do not like something, don’t buy it. If it’s the last thing to be eaten at your house, there’s a good chance that no one really likes it, and it only gets eaten as a means to survive.
The items in the back of the fridge or cupboards are the things your family might be able to live without. Or, if someone does enjoy the item but just not often, check to see if there’s a smaller package available and buy that one instead. The smaller package might cost a few cents more per unit, but you will ultimately be spending less at the store and wasting less at home.
Buying the things that you and your family like and enjoy not only makes for a happy family, but with any luck you will never walk into the kitchen and utter the phrase, “What’s that smell?!”
10. This is the one bad idea…
Just stop going to the grocery store.
By not going there, you will save tons of money. You will save hundreds of dollars a week and thousands each year. There will also be a savings in gasoline and time. You will have money just piling up around you. This will be the most freeing experience of your life… all the way up to the day you die from starvation.
Bottom line, grocery shopping is a need we all have to deal with. It is very expensive and does take some time, but you are in control. Groceries are a variable cost that you can raise or lower.
The money you can save just by starting a few new and simple habits will surprise you.
What would your family do with and extra $150 a month? Or more?
What about an extra $1800 to $2500 a year? Or more?
Think about it for a minute.