Whether you’re shopping for 2 or 22, you can’t deny that the price of food goods has increased exponentially over the past decade. Many families have resorted to creative (yet time consuming) strategies such as extreme couponing and monthly meal planning. While these are great, the average working mom and dad, does not have the time, knowledge, or resources to plan out these strategies effectively. However there are several small changes that you can make today to help fight the battle of the waning wallet.
1. Build your core grocery list
Write out a core shopping list of items you purchase regularly, but make sure they are:
You’re looking for items that will give you the most bang for your buck! Things like potatoes are cheap and can be prepared in many different recipes. For the most part, stick with individual ingredients, which can be made into many different things, rather than pre-made food items such as potato salad. Check out these great printable grocery lists – http://bit.ly/1onBrfv.
2. Stick to a plan
Plan out your shopping trip even further by creating a weekly/monthly meal plan. Focus on the items on your core list and make “Either/Or” decisions about the secondary items on your list. Get either bacon or sausage, either avocados or bell peppers, either brie or fresh mozzarella, etc. It is best to do this planning according to what is on sale. For great recipes (by ingredient) and menu planning tools check out www.allrecipes.com.
3. Shop at discount stores
Be sure to check out the local Dollar Tree and Dollar General stores for significant discounts. Many times these locations sell brand name merchandise at anywhere from 50%-80% off retail. I have made it a point to check there first for items that I would normally buy before I head to the grocery store.
4. Use generic brands
Thanks to some very clever marketers, name-brand items, which tend to be more expensive, are usually placed at eye-level. Therefore when you’re shopping, look up (or down) for cheaper items, including generic brands. Scan the top and bottom shelves to find items that are several cents to several dollars cheaper than their strategically placed name-brand counterparts. Don’t be afraid to try generic brands. Many generic brands are the same item as the brand name but are made for the store to distribute in its own packaging. However generic brands do vary so test them out before purchasing a large quantity.
5. Do your own kitchen chores
Buy fruits and vegetables in their natural form instead of washed, cut, and packaged. And stay away from the prepared food section of the store because you pay a premium for salads and other dishes that are already made for you.
6. Stock up when items you regularly buy go on sale
When items you regularly buy go on sale, stock up. Don’t think of that sale as a one-time opportunity to get a single helping of your favorite food for less. If the item has a long shelf life (or if you have room to freeze it), buy several and score big savings. I strongly suggest investing in a Food Saver or similar piece of equipment. Many of your favorite foods including fruits, vegetables, and meats can be frozen if prepared properly. Check out Thriving Home’s blog for 60+ easy freezer meal ideas!
7. Don’t buy personal care products at the grocery store
Unless you do your grocery shopping at a SuperTarget or a Walmart Supercenter, you’re better off buying shampoo, toothpaste, cotton balls and other personal-care products at a drugstore or dollar store, where they’re cheaper. If you really want to amp up your savings I highly suggest you check out the abundance of new personal care products for sale on Ebay.
8. Grow Your Own
While there is an initial investment for this strategy, the potential health and financial benefits may be worth the investment. Make a garden this year and plan to expand a bit each year. If you own a freezer and know how to can and preserve you can take advantage of this method to make your own sauces, preserves, soups, etc. Not only that, but you can’t buy healthier food and you’ll never appreciate your meals more than when produce them yourself. Next week, we will be sharing our best gardening tips and how to include the whole family in garden maintenance.
9. DO use Coupons
If you’re going to buy it anyway, having a coupon makes it cheaper. It’s a no-brainer. Due to technological advancements such as mobile coupons, social media, QR codes, and coupon websites, coupons are easier than ever to obtain. However, the best coupons still come in the inserts in the local Sunday paper. I strongly suggest talking to the local convenience store owner or newspaper delivery person. If you are serious about growing your coupon stash many times you can make arrangements with these folks to receive the coupon inserts for papers that were not sold. Typically unsold papers are discarded or recycled and you may be able to scoop up the extra coupons at no additional cost. In addition, do your research before you head out to the store. Many stores offer added benefits such as double coupon days or coupon stacking (combining manufacturer’s coupons with an advertised store sale – this is how extreme couponers typically get their FREE items).
10. Watch the cash register
It is estimated that up to $2.5 billion per year is made in scanning errors. That’s a ton of money in missed savings. After all, what could you do with an extra $2.5 billion? Also, people can easily make mistakes when making entries into the store’s P.O.S. system. Check your receipt carefully each time you shop.
Volunteer to work for a local food pantry. Many times at closing on Friday they have large quantities of produce like strawberries or bananas that won’t keep over the weekend. Rather than throw these items out ask to take them. Items like preserves, breads and other foods can be made that will extend the shelf-life of those products.
12. Grab that raincheck
When an item that most people use (like olive oil) goes on sale at the store, it sells out quickly. Inquire about getting a raincheck on that item. Some grocery stores will offer an extension on sold-out sale items.
13. Make Your Own
Did you know that you can make your own effective and inexpensive homemade cleaners? Save tons of money on expensive chemical cleaners and make your own using products that you most likely already have in the pantry. Household items such as vinegar, baking soda, and table salt can be used to make anything from metal cleaner to floor cleaner.