Content writer with lots of experience in stretching my dollars in order to enjoy life on a budget.
1. Buying No Name or Store Brand Does Not Always Equal Savings
While store brand products are generally less expensive than their name brand counterparts, there are exceptions. Store brand products do not usually go on sale, whereas a brand name product can be purchased at a significant discount if you time the purchase for when the items are available for less. There is a trade off of preference vs. savings as well. Being flexible on buying a balance of both types of products could stretch dollars and satisfy individual tastes.
2. Use Paper or Digital Coupon Apps
Collecting paper coupons are still an easy to save a significant amount of money per year. Pick up a couple in the store if you notice them on display, even if you are not buying the item that day. Hang on to them and organize them, and then you will be ready to save when it's time to purchase. Slightly different than instant on the receipt savings, coupon apps (such as Checkout 51) are another great way to build savings that accumulate. While there is a volume of items that can be tempting to buy, be strategic with what you choose to purchase. Of course, there are some new items worth checking out if there is a coupon rebate, but it can be tempting to overbuy them to save money. Still, used wisely, the method really can add up savings, and it is nice to get $75 or $100 back after just a few months.
3. Sign Up for Grocery Store Loyalty Programs
This strategy complements coupon collecting. While it can be slightly time-consuming to manage it all, the value is there. I notice many fantastic digital deals of the week. Generally one or two products are featured on the app, and you can add the savings and scan the app at checkout. It can be a way to get the customer in the door and hope they purchase more of the higher-priced items along with the deal. It is worth it if you can handle that temptation of browsing and buying more for several stores. Check the store's flyer as well, and if there are a few other great deals to go along with the digital deal of the week, it is definitely worth the trip.
4. Adapt Your Meal Routines
If your household has a set type of menu and snack choices each week, you may be at the mercy of a more substantial impact of rising prices. For example, the cost of meat and poultry has gone up significantly. Reducing the number of meals containing meat or using less protein can soften the hit to the wallet. This can apply to fruit and produce as well. Berries are more expensive and don't seem to be at their best quality in certain geographic regions in the Fall and Winter, so it is not ideal to overstock on these items. Frozen berries can be a good and affordable alternative. And you never know when a great price will pop up! For example, apples have been over a $1 each for months, and it was a nice surprise to find a bag for $3.99 this week. And be mindful of shortages, for example lettuce, the shortage has impacted quality and price. Look carefully for the best options that are worth paying for. Maybe it is not necessary to make that Caesar salad this week.
5. Consider Shopping at Local Markets and Stores
Shopping at higher price stores may seem counterproductive to saving, but hear me out. This can be an excellent option for individual meal planning and niche purchases. While many things can be pretty expensive in an independent store, several are on par or only slightly higher (like produce and meat). The advantage of a small shop is you can be concise in what you purchase, so you are less likely to overbuy because of temptation of wandering through too much space with an overwhelming number of products. I enjoy supporting local but keep my items purchased within a specific range of cost and number.
6. Avoid Purchasing Perishables All At Once
Food waste can amount to hundreds of dollars a year or more. We can have good intentions and get excited to stock on all the healthy fresh foods, especially on sale, that we can. But when buying perishable food, have at least a plan of when to use these items. Produce tastes best when very fresh and used within a few days, so ideally, if you live close to a store, make a repeat trip for a few things. This can be related to shopping to support local markets by choosing items for a meal or two at them.
7. Consider Both Value and Cost
The best items to choose at the grocery store are the ones you will actually use and enjoy, and ideally they will be the best deal. But if you prefer a certain brand of mayonnaise, pasta or type of cheese, your basket may cost a few more dollars but it will be money well spent as you will be more likely to use the entire product. If possible there should also be room for some discretionary treats or meal conveniences - just set a limit. If your food basket is too boring - you may be tempted to not eat what you have at home and indulge in take out and restaurants more often. And that will raise your food bill quite a bit more than a couple of grocery store indulgences.
8. Be Observant
Scope out the various section of the store and look for price trends, sales you may have missed, and product alternatives that may work for your budget that you may want to try out. Thankfully, not every item has gone up for good, and there are still plenty of great sales from week to week. Focusing in-store and paying attention to ways that can stretch the budget and variety to your grocery cart is time well spent.
While everyone has different shopping habits and budgets, it is clear that rising costs can have an impact on most people. There are still ways to enjoy your grocery shopping experience, eat well and save money. I hope you found some of these ideas useful.
© 2022 Nella DiCarlo