Grocery shopping; you’re doing it wrong.
Most of us toss groceries in our shopping carts without thinking until we get hit with a huge bill at the cash register.
With food costs at an all-time high, you’re probably searching for ways to save money at the grocery store. Here are a few budget-friendly tips that don’t include clipping coupons or purchasing a store membership.
1. Create a Shopping List
The best way to save money at the grocery store is to come prepared with a shopping list. Deciding what you need before shopping allows you to stick to a plan and avoid grabbing random items.
If you’re like most shoppers, you’ll scan your fridge and pantry, then quickly create a shopping list for your out-of-stock ingredients. Here’s a more efficient way that will save you money in the long run; Create your weekly meal plan, then write your shopping list based on all the ingredients you need. Bonus points if your recipes share similar ingredients or contain products on sale.
2. Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach
Impulse buying leads to larger grocery bills. If you’re shopping while hungry chances are you’ll grab multiple products that are not on your grocery list.
When you’re stomach’s growling, suddenly everything looks appetizing. You may find yourself grabbing cookies, chips, and candy to satisfy your cravings. Eat before you shop so you won’t give in to temptation.
3. Check the Store Flyers
Store ads are usually delivered to your mailbox once a week. Don’t toss them out without getting a look at what’s on sale. If you don’t receive store ads in the mail, check the store’s official website or app for their latest deals.
Store ads contain products known as loss leaders. Loss leaders are items priced to get you in the door. Think of them as the grocery’s version of a Black Friday doorbuster. Each week grocery chains offer low-cost products to entice you to come in and spend money.
You can find great deals on meats, vegetables, and frozen foods. Scan your shopping list, then check the store ads to see which stores currently offer those items on sale.
In some cases, you may have to visit multiple stores to get the best deals. Be mindful of your travel time and gasoline prices. You don’t want to drive ten miles to save $1 on a loaf of bread.
4. Buy Bulk Spices
Spices are essential to cooking at home, but at $7 or more they can really add up. One method to slash your spice budget is to purchase them in bulk.
Some supermarkets have bulk bins counters with various spices. Much like bulk coffee, you can scoop out what you need into a plastic bag and pay by weight.
Another low-cost option is purchasing spice packets. These products are commonly found in the aisle near Asian or Hispanic food products. There you’ll see spices such as cinnamon, dried rosemary, sage, and oregano for as low as $1.
If you already have spice jars on hand, simply refill them with your bulk spices.
5. Keep a Running Total
If you set aside a specific amount for grocery shopping, keeping a running total of your purchase can help you stick to a budget.
Starting with the first item, then the next, use your smartphone’s calculator to track your total. After you grabbed everything on your grocery list and your total is higher than expected, you will have to decide if you are willing to stretch your budget or remove some items from the cart. Your decision will be based on how far you can go over your allotment at the time.
6. Buy Store Brands
Buying generic or store brands is a surefire way to save money at the grocery store.
More often than not generic products come from the same price as more expensive brands. The cost difference comes from paying for an item in plain packaging instead of a product with flashy labels and advertisements.
Stores rarely manufacture their own items and instead rely on popular brands to produce for them. This means big savings for savvy shoppers.
7. Shop at Farmers Markets
If you shop organic, you’ll quickly realize how quickly those products can increase your grocery bill. One of the best ways to save money on organic food is shopping at farmers markets.
Farmers markets offer locally grown food without pesticides or chemicals. They’re typically more flavorful and nutritious than their grocery store counterparts. Even beef and chicken are free-range, hormone-free, and not treated with antibiotics.
Not only are you receiving the highest quality meats and produce, but you get to meet the people responsible for growing your food.
Search the farmers market directory for a location near you.
8. Check Markdowns on Expiring Goods
Some stores heavily mark down their perishable food such as meats and bread. These items are very close to their sale-by-date and are marked down to 50% or more. The grocery store will take a loss by selling products at a discounted rate than tossing them in the garbage.
Markdown products are perfectly safe to purchase and consume before their expiration date as long as they are stored properly. If you don’t intend to eat them before they expire, toss them in a freezer bag to extend their lifespan.
Grocery shopping and eating go hand in hand. We often shop for the groceries we eat, so why not try to get the most bang for our buck? Saving money at the grocery store doesn’t mean spending hours clipping coupons. With a little preparation, you can slash your grocery budget and get quality ingredients.
Do you have any grocery store money-saving tips? Please leave them in the comments.
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Erika Marie is a fashion and beauty writer as well as a hardcore vintage clothing enthusiast. In her free time, she can be found thrifting for hidden gems to add to her collection.