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How to Save Money on Groceries

The Domestic CEO and Money Girl teach you 4 strategies to shop wisely and save a bundle on your food bill.

By
Laura Adams, MBA,
Episode #264

Are you tired of spending so much at the grocery store? Me too!

So today, I’m really excited to have a special guest who is going to give us 4 smart strategies to save money on food shopping. It’s Amanda Thomas, the host of a brand new Quick and Dirty Tips podcast called the Domestic CEO. Amanda’s a pro at making your home the best it can be (for less!). So I asked her for some savvy tips on how to keep food from taking a big bite out of your budget.

Tip #1: Shop Once a Week

That’s right, once a week. No more. Every time you walk into a grocery store, you’re tempted by their marketing tricks. The smell of fresh baking bread, the aisles stocked with your favorite childhood cereal “on sale,” and the chewing gum and breath mints conveniently placed in the checkout line are all marketing tactics.

The stores know that people react to these temptations and make impulse buys. The more times you go into the store, the more opportunities they have to lure you into purchasing more than you need and blowing your budget.

To shop just once a week, you simply need to do a little planning beforehand. For example, my husband and I cook dinner at home about 6 nights a week. To make sure we have everything we need for the entire week, every Sunday morning I take 30 minutes to write down 6 meals we can eat that week.

I then go through my kitchen to make sure we have all the ingredients for those meals. Any missing ingredients get added to the grocery list. Then, I check all our staple items (milk, butter, condiments) and add anything that is low or out to the list as well.

Finally, I factor in lunches and snacks. Once I do that, I have a list of everything I need for the entire week. I can take this list into the grocery store and, as long as I stick to it, I can easily manage how much we spend on groceries each week.

Tip #2: Buy When it’s Cheap, Not When You Need it

This is the couponer credo. The reason a couponer is able to save so darn much at the grocery store is because they buy each item when it is at its absolute rock bottom price.

If you want to save money on your shopping, stock up on items that you know you always need when they are on sale. As long as you have space in your pantry, and keep an organized kitchen, you can save a ton of money using this philosophy.

I grew up on a farm watching my mom can vegetables at the end of every summer. She stocked up when they were available, and we ate them when we needed. You can do the same thing with vegetables, though I prefer freezing rather than canning. It’s just easier.

Red bell peppers are one of my favorite examples. Each spring, when red bell peppers are in season, they can be purchased for 1/6 of their out-of-season cost. Whenever you see your favorite veggies take a major drop in price, buy a whole bunch of them, cut them up, and freeze them in zippered baggies.

Berries do this major price drop as well. Stock up when the stores have piles and piles of them, then freeze them to use year-round in smoothies, oatmeal, and baking.

Watch meat prices, and you will see that they rise and fall quite often, and dramatically. If you buy your chicken each week when you need it, some weeks you may spend 3 times as much as other weeks. But if you purchase multiple packages of chicken when they go on sale, then freeze the extra, you can instantly save 60% on your meat bill without changing any of your eating habits.

Tip #3: Buy in Bulk…Sometimes

Buying in bulk by shopping at a warehouse store can seem like a good idea. You MUST be getting a deal if you are buying 40 pounds of jelly beans all at once, right? Not necessarily.

If you follow the “Buy when it’s cheap” method from Tip #2, you will likely pay less per ounce or pound at your normal grocery store as compared to the warehouse stores. Don’t be afraid to walk around both the warehouse store and your normal grocery store with a calculator, pen, and paper.

For each item you normally buy, take note of the price per pound or ounce. (You can easily figure this out by taking the total price of the item, then dividing it by the weight. Some stores even post this on the labels for you already). Then, compare the two stores against each other.

The warehouse stores will usually beat the grocery store’s NORMAL price, but you aren’t buying things at normal price anymore. You are buying them when they are on sale, so you may get a better deal at your normal grocery store – without having to wrangle that 50-pound bag of couscous into your car.

Buying in bulk also runs another risk: The massive amounts of food can go bad before you get a chance to eat them. The great deal you got on 15 pounds of Wheat Thins isn’t a great deal if you have to throw out half the box because they went stale. Make sure you consider how much you can actually eat before purchasing from a warehouse store.

That said, there are a few items that I recommend buying in warehouse stores 100% of the time (as long as you have the space to store them). The first are rice and dried beans. You can get these dirt cheap if you purchase them in 20-pound bags. If you don’t own a Mexican restaurant and need to make sure these stay fresh, grab some plastic storage boxes with gasket seals to make sure moisture and bugs don’t get into your stash.

The other item that is very well priced at warehouse stores is oil. It will come in a massive jug, but you can get inexpensive oil jars that you can refill and are easy to use when cooking.

Tip #4: Skip the Packaging

Items like spices, grains, and nuts can often be purchased for much less if you buy them at a store that sells them by weight, out of bulk bins. True, this way you don’t get the pretty jar of pistachios that you can proudly display on your table. Instead, you get a basic plastic bag that you can fill with as much or as little of the item as you want.

But foregoing the packaging can save you a bundle because often that plastic or cardboard is a large part of the price of these items. Again, just make sure you have sealed containers in which to store these items, and you’ll save money without sacrificing any quality or taste.

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About the Author

Laura Adams, MBA

Laura Adams received an MBA from the University of Florida. She's an award-winning personal finance author, speaker, and consumer advocate who is a trusted and frequent source for the national media. Her book, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love was an Amazon #1 New Release. Do you have a money question? Call the Money Girl listener line at 302-364-0308. Your question could be featured on the show. 

 

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