Whether you’re single or have a family, groceries can take a big bite out of your paycheck. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average annual expenditure for food was $6,759, about ten percent of the average income before taxes and the third-largest household expense. About 58 percent of food expenditures was for food at home.
Good thing there are many ways to save money on food. Here’s a list of 15 methods to help you save money on groceries.
- Make Sure to Eat Before Going to the Grocery Store
It’s a common tip, but for a reason. Many people go to the store before dinner or just after work. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine showed that consumers are likely to buy food with more calories, although not necessarily more food, if they shop after a short period of fasting. To resist the urge, make sure to eat before you head to the grocery store.
- Plan Ahead and Do Your Inventory
Before grocery shopping, check your pantry and fridge to know what are the items you need. This way, you don’t go into panic mode and buy something on impulse because you can’t remember how much is left or when it expires.
- Create a Standardized List
When you don’t have a list to follow, you wind up buying far more than you need. To avoid this, make a standardized list of the items you buy on a recurring basis. It’s a simple time- and money-saving tactic.
Keep in mind that you need self-control to resist the temptation to buy goods that aren’t on your list. Stick to the necessary aisles and, as mentioned above, grab a snack before going shopping.
If you share your groceries with friends or family, you can use grocery apps to share and sync lists.
- Go Solo
This can be challenging for parents, but if you can get time away from the kids to go grocery shopping you might save money. There’ll be no pleas to buy things you don’t need. Plus, you won’t find yourself in a rush and can take time to compare prices to get the best deals.
Depending on where you shop, you can either print coupons, show them on a smartphone, or load them directly into your loyalty program account at the store. While some may find the discounts to be too small to bother with, remember that they add up.
Moreover, don’t forget to stick to your budget. Coupons can help you save money, but don’t get sucked into buying something you don’t need just because you have one. One way to do this is to check weekly sales ad, whether in your local newspaper or online, and match coupons to items on your shopping list.
Keep in mind that goods usually go on sale in six to eight-week cycles. So, if an item is on sale this week, it will likely be on sale again after a couple of months.
- Avoid Food Waste
According to the National Resources Defense Council, about 25 percent of the groceries we buy wind up in the trash bin. To avoid wasting food and money, try to sort through your food cabinet, fridge, or pantry once every week to check the items that are about to expire. Place this front and center so you’ll remember to eat them before they go bad.
- Shop Weekly or Monthly
The more you shop, the more likely you will give in to impulse buys. To keep yourself from spending more than needed, try to visit the grocery store weekly or if possible, monthly. This way, you can properly plan your grocery budget. Plus, you’ll save money on gas and time.
- Buy Generic Items
You might be tempted to buy recognizable brands before comparing prices or ingredients. Generic and store-name brands are usually cheaper than brand-name goods, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the quality is compromised. This is especially true for staples, like salt or flour.
- Know the Store Policies
Make it a habit to verify your store’s general policies. Do they accept competitors’ coupons, can you stack coupons, and can you double coupons? What about returns? At Trader Joe’s, you can return any item for a refund – even if you just don’t like how it tastes.
- Keep Your Receipts and Earn Cashback
There are apps like Ibotta, Checkout51, SavingStar that let you earn cash back on your purchases if you take and send a picture of your grocery receipt. These apps offer cash-back deals on a variety of goods, including generic everyday purchase like bread or milk.
- Avoid Pre-packaged Food
Pre-packaged food can be a great time-saver, but it can also be expensive compared to non-prepared items. To save money, buy the necessary ingredients to make the same meal for a fraction of the cost.
- Take Advantage of Store Loyalty Programs
If you frequent a grocery store, join their loyalty program if they have one. You’ll get access to promotions, discounts, and exclusive offers from the shop. Sometimes you might even get free items or exclusive discount codes.
- Find Cheaper Alternatives or Substitutes
Review your last grocery receipt and note the most expensive purchases you made. Next time you are at the grocery store, check to see if there are other low-cost substitutes for these items. Subbing out even a few can add up over time.
- Stick to The Outer Ring
In many grocery stores, the outer aisles are used for fresh produce and dairy products. These are generally the healthiest foods available. By sticking to the outside aisles you can avoid impulse buys, just get the essentials, and go home with healthier food.
- Always Watch Your Purchases Being Scanned
Sometimes, items get mislabeled or don’t ring up correctly in the system. Or, coupons might be scanned wrong. When this happen, let the cashier know, and he or she should quickly resolve the problem. If you can’t keep up with the checkout process, take a second to review your receipt before leaving the store.