While reviewing my budget spreadsheet recently I noticed that our grocery bill has really been creeping upwards lately. I realize the cost of food has increased and, now there are only the two of us at home, we tend to buy more convenience and semi-luxury items, but it still seems too high.
I’m determined to save money on groceries by cutting at least 25% off our monthly grocery bill, and I have to convince my husband to get on board since he does the grocery shopping.
Related: Ways To Save Money
He’s not usually too co-operative with my money saving plans.
How To Save Money On Groceries
The problem with grocery stores is there are too many temptations. There are overwhelmingly too many choices. One store near us has the bakery right next to the entrance another has the floral department.
Then there are the sample tables. It’s hard to get out without a floral centerpiece, a dozen donuts and a family sized package of delicious “home-made” lasagna. Then there’s the final battle at the checkout line with all the magazines, chocolate bars and impulse items. You need to focus!
A major marketing strategy used by grocery stores is the endcap. This is the set of shelves at the end of the aisle used to display popular and flyer-featured items. One thing you need to be aware of is that these items are often not on sale, and if they are they may not always be the best bargain.
A second strategy utilized by grocery stores is placing a common item – say coffee – in the middle of the aisle, so that you have to walk past the cookies, chocolate syrup and acai berry juice.
Companies pay a premium to get their products displayed at eye level so that customers will see them first. The problem is that they usually are a higher price. When looking for the better deal, look high and low for similar products that cost less.
It’s no accident that the most shopped for items are located at the opposite corners of the store. The purpose is to get customers to walk through the entire store for their three items, inevitably picking up two or nine other items along the way that they don’t need.
Store flyers are released each week, letting shoppers know what is on sale in the store that week. One feature that is pretty consistent for all grocery stores is that the products with the best sale prices will be on the front page. Be aware that not all the products in the flyer are on sale. They are known as featured products, but they are at the regular price.
Create a shopping list. The reason is twofold. The first is that you will forget something that you need if it’s not written down. The second is that you want to buy only what you need for the week (or month, or whatever time period) without randomly adding products to your cart. This is essential if you want to save money on groceries.
I make my grocery list based on sales in the store flyer, my meal plan and what I already have stored in the cupboards and fridge. This prevents me from coming home with the third bottle of ketchup that I forgot I already bought on a previous trip. It also prevents those quick trips to the store for a single ingredient you need for your meal. My husband is always running off to the store for something like a bunch of cilantro and it inevitably turns into a mini-shopping spree.
Occasionally I will come up short an ingredient when I’m cooking and it gives me an opportunity to be creative with substitutions – or eliminate it altogether. I think of a recipe as an inspirational guide. My husband regards a recipe as a strict how-to plan.
All stores have a cycle of when they put their products on sale – often every three months or so. There’s not really much point in multiple store shopping unless they are all close or you’ll be in the area anyway. I’ve started a price book so I will know when there’s a good deal.
Look for “product markdowns” on items in every department where the price has been reduced for quick sale. They can be for meat or dairy close to their expiry date, produce that is getting too ripe, packages that have been crushed or something that’s just not selling fast enough. I used to be a bit squeamish about it, but now I check the quality of the product and decide whether I can freeze it or use it right away.
To Coupon or Not to Coupon
There are two mindsets about using coupons – well three really:
- Some people never use them. They would rather save money on groceries by buying the store brands and items on sale. They never see coupons for items they like and they often are on packaged, processed food – often sugary cereal.
- Some people will use a coupon if they have one (and remember to use it) but don’t go to any trouble to get them. This would be me. There’s not much opportunity in Canada to save a great deal with our prices and store policies.
- Some people go to great lengths to find, clip, organize and manage their coupons. They use them in conjunction with sale prices and stock up and sometimes get items for free.
One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to know how to cook. We’ve been led to believe it’s hard and/or time consuming but it isn’t. A meal of fresh ingredients is much better than the salt, sugar and preservative laden fare you get in packaged meals. Double or triple some recipes to freeze so you’ll have something on a hectic day.
Use the products you’ve bought previously that are stored in your cabinets and freezer, and then make a list of anything else you may need. Try to shop around the perimeter of the store where the fresh food is located with only a few forays down the aisles for certain canned or packaged products.
Finally, use only cash. Then you’ll be sure to not overspend when you are only carrying a certain amount.