Create an Inventory – Take a stock of your current groceries to get a sense of what items you need and what you can avoid buying on your grocery trip. This helps you avoid impulse buys and in turn keeps you to your budget.
Grab a coupon book from your local supermarket and plan your weekly meals around what deals are going on that week. A lot of people plan their meals for the week and then try to shop for the lowest prices. You can cut your grocery bills significantly by planning your meals around what you know will be on special that week.
Stock your pantry sparingly and use it all up! Most Americans will throw out about 25% of the groceries they purchase according to the National Resources Defense Council. Not only does this contribute to unnecessary waste in garbage dumps, but you’re also throwing money away. Don’t overstock on groceries only for them to go bad, stale, or get moldy.
Shop once a week – the less frequently that you shop, the more money that you’ll save. Getting a week’s worth of groceries in one shot might seem like a big purchase, but it allows you to better plan your budget and allocate money for other essentials like gas, bus passes, and rent.
Don’t be afraid to try the store brands! A lot of the same companies that produce your favorite name brand cereals, cookies, and breads, also produce the store brand versions that are available at, often, half the cost or more. They don’t taste any different and are often the exact same product you’d get in the more expensive brand-name box.
Research the Best Prices
Create a list of the 10 items you buy most frequently at the grocery store and make a trip to your store along with some neighboring stores just to do some price research. Bring a little pad of paper and pen and write down what the prices are at each store for each item. You’d be surprised at how low prices can be for the same item that you’re buying at your usual grocery store.
What do you buy the most of? For example, if chicken is a big part of what you cook with, you might want to find out how to best stock up on this at the lowest price. You can do this the easiest by buying in bulk and freezing what you don’t plan on using that week.
Don’t fall for the trap of promotional sales where several groceries are available for the same price. It’s not always all discounted and you might save money by buying them all individually between different brands of the same product. Check if it’s actually a discount before throwing them into your basket.
Download coupons online and use them! While they may not seem like big savings for individual items, using them together can help you get the best deal and your savings can add up quickly over the course of the month. Coupons.com is a great source for grocery coupons that are good at any store. For extra savings, wait to use the coupon until the item is discounted at its lowest price.
Is an item you want out of stock? Most people don’t know that a grocery store can write an IOU for the discounted price that you can redeem later in the future even after the promotion stops running. Ask the cashier or customer service desk for help with this if you notice one of your weekly items is out of stock, or an item that’s on sale is sold out, but you still want to buy it.
Be a Smarter Shopper
Pick one grocery store and be loyal to that store. Sign up for their loyalty program and you can earn points and get on their mailing list for coupons that you may not find anywhere else.
The more aisles you walk around in the store, the more likely you are to buy something. Grocery stores careful design their store layouts to ensure people spend the most money possible by placing impulse purchases in areas where you’re most likely to fall for them. Learn your store’s layout and stick to the same route every time, going only where you need to go in order to pick up the items on your shopping list.
Shopping alone can help you reduce impulse buys. According to the Marketing Science Institute, approximately 65% of items in shopping baskets are unplanned. That’s a big number considering most people go in with a planned list. Try to be disciplined and leave your roommates, spouse, or children at home so they can’t entice you into adding an extra item into the basket.
Eat before you go! Many studies have shown that eating before you go to the store increases the chance that you’ll stick to your list because you won’t have food on your mind. Many people don’t eat before they go to the grocery store and that’s why store planners often place baked goods and to-go foods, like rotisserie chickens, at the front of the store. It creates a tempting odor and visual that can be hard to ignore if your stomach is growling.
Look low and high on the shelves. The middle of the shelves and the “end caps” of the aisles are where items are placed at eye level and meant to entice you to purchase them. Look at the top and bottom shelves for the best deals and to find the least expensive brands and best deals.