When families try to save money, they usually turn to cutting discretionary spending first. No more dinners out, nights at the movie theater or shopping sprees at the mall. However, most overlook a potential source of significant savings: the grocery bill. Slashing the food budget sounds like a painful task for those in the most extreme poverty, but there are many ways to cut costs and still eat well.
- Know if it’s really a deal. Don’t be fooled by big, bright sales flags and pictures in ads. Being “on sale” doesn’t mean it’s the best price you can find for the item. Stores can mark an item down less than a dime from its original price and call it a sale. The smart shopper’s solution is to keep a price book. Record the usual and the best prices you paid for items you buy often and compare each so-called sale to those numbers. Also pay attention to how often stores offer these best prices. You want to buy enough to last until the next sale but not so much that you store it forever.
- Buy in bulk ONLY what you can use. Buying in bulk isn’t such a deal if you wasted half of the jumbo size container you buy, so buying everything in bulk doesn’t always lead to savings. The best items to buy in bulk are canned foods and dry goods like flour, sugar and rice, for example. Bulk ketchup, not so much.
- Ask your local grocer how the store deals with items nearing their expiration dates. You may be able to buy many products at a discount because these dates reflect a very conservative estimate of the shelf life of the product. Many bakeries will sell day-old bread and other goods as well, and you can freeze any extra above what your family will eat fresh.
- Coupons. You don’t have to take this step to the extreme to save money. Savings can be as simple as going online to a few great sites like RedPlum, SmartSource and Coupons.com. Become familiar with the coupon policy at the stores where you shop. Some stores offer double coupon specials on certain days. If the store allows, you can get great deals by combining manufacturers’ coupons with store specials. However, some may not accept internet coupons or have other specific limiting policies, so to keep it simple, know the policy before you shop.
- Store brands can offer great savings on basic items because you don’t pay for a name, but if you are brand loyal, you have options for saving as well. Most brands have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and email lists to share news, promotions, special offers and coupons with loyal fans.
- A few quick hints: More expensive items are usually placed on shelves at eye level while the lower-priced counterparts occupy the highest and lowest shelves. Beware the items conveniently displayed near the checkout; travel sized items and candy at inflated prices are there to tempt you.
- Lastly, be alert at checkout. Cashiers have a monotonous job and even the best make mistakes. If something doesn’t add up right, speak up.
You can save money on groceries without resorting to ramen. With these secrets to savings, you can keep your fridge, your stomach and your wallet full.