Extravagant spending at the grocery store isn't something many in today's economy associate themselves with, yet families dump more money into shopping than they need to. Taking a trip to the grocery store can feel like going to the dentist: You know you're going to spend a lot and won't feel that great walking out the door.
But fear not consumer, we've compiled five tips that will save you cash at the check-out line.
Tip 1) Clean, Organize and Inventory.
You've probably done this before: You've bought something and never used it, only to throw it away months, or years later. In 2009, the average weekly cost of groceries for a family of four, according to the U.S.Department of Agriculture, was $147. That's a lot of money, so don't let it go to waste. Make note of what you have in your kitchen and be knowledgeable about what you're purchasing.
Go through your pantry and refrigerator and throw away any expired products that you can no longer use. Give both areas a good, firm scrub down. Clean is good, so give your food a happy home.
Second, rearrange and organize your goods. Arrange similar products together while also allowing for easy access to the products you use more often. Put the lesser-used items in the back.
Finally, do an inventory. Make some notes about what you have available. Saving is all about using what you already have to create meals, rather than purchasing a new product. If you have an extra product, think about using it or putting it into an emergency kit.
Once you've got everything in order, hunt down the deals.
Tip 2) Use the resources available to you
If you're the one who does all the cooking in the house, then do what a former editor of mine said: "Rule with an iron fist and a velvet glove." Almost all the major stores have weekly ads on their web site that display the sales that you can take advantage of and plan around. With your family, use the ad to plan out meals that use sale items and items you already have while also creating a separate list for what you need to buy.
The Grocery List Creator
and the Kitchen Monki
are helpful, web-based tools that you can use to search recipes, ingredients, and create printable lists that you can bring with you to the store.
Also, think like a grocery store and plan your purchasing around what the holidays have to offer. As certain holidays approach, certain items will become more and more affordable. Obviously, turkey will hit during Thanksgiving while corned beef and pastrami will come about around St. Patrick's Day. Use the items that are holiday-specific for different purposes other than typical holiday meals.
The Food Network
and Betty Crocker
both have tons of recipes that you can use and change as you see fit. Give them a try, you might be surprised.
Once you have both a meal list and list of items that you need to purchase, its time to check the coupons.
Tip 3) Use coupons to your advantage
The days of clipping coupons from the Sunday paper are still available, but there are other ways to save. We've entered a new, faster and more efficient age of saving money. Make your savings at the store count double, or even triple by adding coupons to the mix.
Web sites like Coupon Chief
, Red Plum
, and Fat Wallet
all have electronic copies of coupons that you can use at your store of choice. Always be on the lookout for ways you can stack coupons with the weekly sales. You can find ways to save by just doing a bit of research beforehand.
The folks over at GroceryCouponGuide.com
offer up tips on saving using coupons and have explained the art of the double coupon
, the process of stacking coupons to get a better deal. Blogger Jennifer Derrick, who regularly posts to the Grocery Coupon Guide, has some some of the best advice how to avoid becoming discouraged
while shopping frugally.
"If you get into couponing expecting to have those kinds of great savings week in and week out, you’re probably going to end up disappointed," Derrick says on her blog. "If you want to coupon, you need to have a more realistic expectation of what you, personally, can achieve and then work from there."
Once you have your list and coupons ready, get everything together, grab those reusable bags and head to the store!
Tip 4) Buy Smart
Always have faith and trust in your list because it will save you from high costs.
Grocery stores are no longer quaint shops where you pick up your supplies. Most national-brand advertising firms use the magical art of marketing science to have their products placed on eye-level so you can easily grab and go and not think twice about it.
Slow down and take some time to really look at what your buying.
Every item has a price tag and they can often be very confusing. But if you know what to look for, a price tag will be your number 1 tool for saving money at the store. The folks over at EveryoneEats.com
have decoded these confusing little pieces of paper, but to surmise it all, look mainly at the unit price of an item, rather than the total cost. The unit price will tell you how much an item is worth per ounce. Compare that to other items to get the real savings.
Look at the brand you're buying too. Name-brands often cost more than their store-brand counterparts and often purchased because consumers are more familiar with them.
In 2005, the Meyers Research Center held a double-blind nationwide taste, the results
(PDF) of which showed that participants preferred the taste of private-label products over advertised brands by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. Consumer Reports held a similar test in 2009 and got similar results.
Purchasing store-brand goods can save a lot of money in the long-run, but not nearly as much as resisting the urge of the dreaded impulse buy. The Journal of Consumer Research
(PDF) suggested in a June 2008 study that consumers are more susceptible to making impulsive purchases if they are distracted while shopping. So be sure to eat before going to the store and avoid junk food purchases. Everything looks good when your hungry, especially junk foods.
Your money would be better spent on purchasing healthy food such as apples, carrots and salad making materials and doing the prep work yourself. Buying seasonal fruits and veggies will also translate into savings.
Tip 5) Finally, the home kitchen
Now that you've made it home, we have a few final tips for you. First, consider purchasing reusable bags. They can be used for more than just grocery shopping.
Also, put your gas and time to better use and do all of your shopping at once. You can take the time you would use to make multiple trips to and from the store each day for better things, like making dinner with the family.
Finally, spending time in the kitchen can offer valuable bonding time, says WebMD Registered Dietitian Elaine Magee, MPH. In an article published on the medical web site, the dietitian stated that, "Cooking with your kids can help get them interested in trying healthy foods they might normally turn their noses up at."
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