Changing your buying habits so that you’re only buying food when it comes on sale can take some time, but it’s the best way to save money on your groceries. This will involve some careful planning; you can’t impulse buy all the ingredients you need for dinner. Instead, learn to meal plan around what you have on hand.
Pay attention to sales
Clip them from newspapers, print them off specialty sites, and sign up for apps that let you scan your receipt when you’re done shopping. Many grocery stores will let you use all three of these methods on the same purchase. As a bonus, you’ll often find the same products run coupons in multiple places at the same time.
Use coupons from a lot of different sources
Cookies, candies, and baked goods can be some of the most expensive food in the grocery store, and you don’t need any of it. Not buying this stuff will improve your health and knock about 20% off your grocery bill. Instead, learn a few simple recipes, and occasionally bake these things at home.
Stop buying snacks
Most stores will put items that are about to expire on discount as soon as the store opens in the morning. If you get there first, you can save a lot on milk, cheese, meat, and produce. Just make sure you have a plan to eat it soon.
Shop early in the morning
You may want to invest in a mandolin or other automatic chopper, but you can save a lot by buying whole produce. The pre-cut stuff tends to cost two to three times as much.
Slice your own produce
Discount grocery stores don’t offer the same amenities as a full-service store, but they are good places to pick up cheap canned goods and frozen foods. You may also want to look for a factory-outlet bread store in your area.
Shop discount stores
While the cost per ounce might be cheaper, it just doesn’t make sense to buy a large package if you’re going to throw most of it away. Think about how much of the product you’ll actually use, then compute the cost per serving.
Carefully consider bulk purchases
Many times, it can be cheaper to make your own salad dressings, jam, and spice mixes than it is to buy them at the store. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and it can save you a lot of money. Of course, really consider the cost of your ingredients. Occasionally, it makes sense to just buy pre-made items, especially if they’re being discounted or you have a coupon.
Learn to make your own foods
TV shows that show people clearing shelves of ten cent mustard might be entertaining to watch, but most people don’t need to take everything a store has when they find a good deal. Only buy what you’ll use. Don’t fall into the trap of stockpiling decades-old salad dressing in your basement, just to throw it all away. If you do accidentally overbuy, donate your excess to a local food bank.
Stockpile with care
When you do find a good deal, think about how you can use a lot of that item. Can yo make a large batch of freezable soup, for example? If you have a potluck coming up, could you bring all the condiments (that you got for free by combining a sale price and a coupon) instead of cooking a dish?
Frugal living experts love to tell people that they need a deep freezer to store all their bargains, but consider that the cost of running that appliance is about $30 a month. If you’re not saving that much, then you need to go down to one freezer.
Rethink your deep freezer
Meat is one of the most expensive items you put into shopping cart. While you might not be enthusiastic about becoming a vegetarian, it may be a good idea to find a few meatless recipes that you like. If you drop meat from your diet one day a week, you’ll see some significant savings, and you might even feel healthier, too.
Cut back on meat
These have become more trendy in some areas, causing prices to go up. If you shop at well-established markets, however, you can find some good deals. Remember to buy produce in season, and shop towards the end of the day when sellers are more desperate to get everything sold.
Shop at farmer’s markets
Food co-ops are becoming a popular way for farmers to get food directly to customers without having to go through grocery stores. Many areas have co-ops that focus on specific items, such as local produce, while others are larger operations that import large quantities of food.