How to Save Big at the Grocery Store - Savvy

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Let’s face it, the budget is tight for most of us. It seems that no matter how hard we work, the debt we have built up so far is not going anywhere soon. With all the pressure to pay bills, it can be depressing to attempt to buy enough groceries for the family. Luckily, there are many different ways to save at the store, and they can all add up to a huge break on the cost of feeding a family.


Determine Your Budget

While it is important to buy enough food to last until the next trip to the store, it is also important to realize your limit. By setting a realistic budget on food, you will know how much you have to spend. This will also help lower temptation while at the store. Perhaps there is an item in the cart that you don’t need, but you were craving. It may be a better idea to spend that money, elsewhere. Stick to your budget limit and only grab items you need. Aim to come in under the limit, if you can!


Rotate Your Pantry Items

Especially if planning to stock up on good sales it can be easy to forget what is in the pantry. Make sure to keep the pantry organized and take a look through it before you go back to the store. For example, if you have three bags of rice in the pantry, find a few meals that incorporate rice into them. This will give you a bigger limit to spend on other items. It also ensures that you use up all your purchases before they expire. Having to throw away things you did not use is a major waste of money.


Plan Meals Around Leftover Fridge Items

Are there things you bought last week that did not go into a dish? Make sure to look through your fridge for anything that may be expiring! Whether it is a condiment, some produce, or defrosted meat, incorporate it into your next meal. Also, do not throw away produce that may be a little wrinkled. As long as it is mold free, it is still safe to use. Sautee it in the skillet or drop it in the slow cooker with a roast!


Eat Your Leftovers

This is an area that is easy to fall behind in. It is hard to gauge, sometimes, how much your family will eat throughout the week. Leftovers happen, and it is good to have a dedicated night where you eat leftovers instead of cooking. If there is a large amount of leftovers, it can also be a good idea to have them for lunch, instead of the usual sandwich or salad. There is nothing more frustrating than dumping a bunch of leftovers in the trash because no one ate them.


Freeze Items Like Meat and Bread

Whether a really good sale came along or you bought too many supplies for a party, the freezer is your friend! Meat, bread, hot dogs, and other items can be stuck in the freezer to be used later. It is good practice to label them with a date and keep the freezer as organized as possible. When you hit a week where things are tight, you can dig in the freezer to see what you have stashed up, but be sure to take a good look in it every other month to make sure there isn’t an item that needs to be used.


Stock Up on Great Sales

Check your mailbox and local newspaper for store flyers. If you prefer to be paperless, you can also go to your store’s website and search for the weekly ad. Take one day every week where you can go to multiple stores, if necessary, to get the lowest price on every item. Did you plan on making a roast but then saw that pork chops are on sale? Make pork chops this week and save some money on your meat purchase! Is there barbecue on the menu, and the competitor of your favorite brand is having a 50% of sale? Give that other sauce a try! Little decisions like that can have a big impact on your grocery budget.

Another way to take advantage of a good sale is to use it to stock up on one item. It is important to make sure you can still buy everything you need for the week, but use any extra to buy as much of the greatly discounted item as you can. Some stores have $5 meat sales on packages worth $10 or more, so that can be a great time to fill your freezer.


Consider Substitutions

Many items called for in recipes can be substituted for something cheaper that may already be present in your kitchen. For instance, some pancake recipes call for buttermilk. Did you know that buttermilk can be created by adding 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk? Give it a light stir and let it set for five minutes, and you have your own buttermilk! That is a much cheaper solution than buying the smallest container at the grocery store, and you won’t have to worry about the rest of it spoiling.
Another good substitution is syrup for vanilla extract. Vanilla extract can be very expensive, especially if you do a lot of baking. Syrup contributes to a recipe in the exact same way; you won’t even notice the substitution! Whether you just ran out of an item unexpectedly, or you can’t add certain items to your list this week, a quick Google search can bring up many useful substitutions.

This can also apply to meat and produce. If your recipe calls for a Gala apple, but the Fiji or Green Delicious are on sale, go ahead and make the swap. Frozen chicken is often cheaper than fresh, and if a certain cut of beef is cheaper than another, swap it out!


Do Your Research

It is important to know you get the best prices on your purchase. Visit a few stores to research who commonly has the lowest price on items you buy frequently, such as eggs, cereal, diapers, produce, and meat. Also, keep in mind that stores like Walmart often offer price matches if you can bring in a competitor ad. By having an idea of who has the lowest prices on items, you will be able to eyeball flyers and tell if the sale is a good price or not.


Do Not Get Swept Away in Yellow Tags

Often, stores will announce sale items as you move through the aisles by marking them with yellow tags. The price may look good compared to regular price but make sure it is a big enough savings to make the purchase worth it. Often, there will be a much smaller number telling you how much you are actually saving. Is that item $3 off or only 50 cents off? Is the identical item from a different company next to it more expensive or less?

It is also good to look at the price per ounce. That 10-ounce can of beans may be on sale, but that 32-ounce can is probably still cheaper. You can find this unit price in very small print on the price sign.


Take Advantage of Co-Ops and Farmers’ Markets

Not only are you going to get better quality produce and meat from these places, but they often have competitive pricing. Do check in with more than one farmer before you decide to buy, as some will ask for higher prices than others. However, buy buying your meat in bulk from a co-op or signing up for a subscription produce box, you can often save yourself some money, especially if you are willing to go for a mystery box.


Learn From the Couponers

Okay, don’t go crazy. Please don’t walk through the store with nine shopping carts so that you can earn $10 or get every item in your cart for free. I mean, you can, if you really want to, but the kind of planning and effort that goes into that is intense, and no one in the checkout line is going to like you. However, coupons are still a great source of saving money, and you can often stack newspaper coupons with store coupons. If you do not get the newspaper, you can ask your local library for the coupon sheet or print coupons off online. It is easy to get an item for cheap or totally free by paying attention to what coupons are available and what is on sale.


Take Advantage of Rain Checks

Sometimes, Dierbergs or other stores will have three-day sales where certain items are insanely inexpensive. If you can’t get out to the store until after work, you may miss out on certain items. Most stores, though, have a rain check policy. Simply ask for your rain check at checkout or at customer service, and you will be able to buy the item for that price at a later date. You may even find a coupon to use with it in the meantime!


Use Savvy for Online Purchases offers a wonderful browser plug-in that will automatically locate coupons and promotion codes for free. This is a great tool for any purchases you have to make online. You can also earn cash back and other incentives, so be sure to check it out!


Never Shop Hungry

Make sure you at least eat a filling snack before you head out to the store. If your stomach is empty, everything will look good, and you are more likely to throw expensive, convenience items in your cart that you don’t need but currently have the desire to snack on. Be strong and stick to your list!


Do not Buy from the Deli or Meat Counters

Packaged lunch meat, chicken, beef, and more are much cheaper than their displayed counterparts. Boar’s Head, a brand commonly found at the deli counter, is easily twice as expensive as a pound package of Buddig or Oscar Mayer lunchmeat. You can also choose to buy a large ham or turkey breast, and then ask the meat counter to slice it for you. This service is often free, and the bulk meat you just bought will be cheaper than what is available at the deli counter.


Take Advantage of Rewards Programs

Try to do your shopping from the same store, or even a couple of stores, if possible. If they have a rewards program, make sure you are enrolled. For example, Walgreens has a points system that will reward you with $5 for every 10,000 points.


Follow the Outside of the Store

This practice will not only save you money, it will better your health. Dairy, meat, produce, and other essentials generally line the outside of the store. Meanwhile, foods filled with preservatives and other fillers make up the inner portion of the store. By not walking up and down every aisle, you will lower your costs and better your health. Only go down the aisles you need to. Like the coffee aisle…coffee is essential.


Don’t Trust the End Caps

End caps often have products that are on sale. The trick, however, is to realize that that is not always the cheapest item available. If you see a good deal on an end cap, find the item’s area in the store and check out all the prices for yourself.


Portion Out Your Own Snacks and Meals

Buying pre-portioned snacks and frozen dinners is tempting, but these are more expensive. Buy bigger bags of chips or a whole pineapple and divvy it up yourself. Instead of purchasing a small bag of apple slices or baby carrots, buy a big bag of whole apples and carrots and chop them up yourself. Putting a whole chicken in the slow cooker may take more time, but the price of the meat will be lower than the package of pre-sliced chicken breasts. Plus, the meat off of the whole chicken or turkey can be used in multiple meals throughout the week.


Make Your Own Garden and Herb Garden

By doing your own gardening, you can save a ton of money. Buy plants instead of seeds, as it is easier to get them to grow, and line your garden with marigolds to keep out wildlife. Peppermint plants also deter pests. Buy tending a garden faithfully, your produce savings will be immense.

Herb gardens are even easier. These can be kept indoors. You can hang them from a window or keep them in small pots. Herb gardens can be grown outside, as well, and some herbs are harder to prune back than they are to kill!


These simple tips will be a big help when saving on your grocery budget. By minimizing your spending in this area, you can feed your family for less and have more money to eliminate your debt with.