Food is essential to our existence. What isn't essential is paying an arm and a leg for our daily bread. Compared to dining out, buying groceries and cooking homemade meals remains a far more affordable way to eat. But grocery shopping can be even more affordable with these tips the next time you find yourself carting down the aisles.
How to Save Money on Groceries
- Don’t Dawdle in the Aisles
- Price Watch
- Consider the Cost of Convenience
- Know Your Terminology
- A Full Mouth Is a Quiet Mouth
- Go for Day-Olds
- Break Free from Brands
- Use a Prepaid Gift Card
Let's explore each tip a little further.
1. Don’t Dawdle in the Aisles
Shop more efficiently at the supermarket by leaving your cart at the end of each aisle. It’s faster because you’ll go directly to what you need and grab it, plus you’ll be less tempted to purchase extras since you won’t be wandering slowly down the aisle with the cart.
2. Price Watch
When you’re at the supermarket, make sure you keep a close watch while your items are being rung up. A recent study found that 10 percent of items are scanned in at the incorrect price.
3. Consider the Cost of Convenience
Remember the cardinal rule when it comes to saving money on food: If it’s “convenient,” it’s probably costly. For example, pickles cut flat for sandwiches, juice in single-serving bottles, pre-shredded cheese, and “baby” carrots. Think carefully about what you’re buying and decide if the convenience is worth the extra cost!
4. Know Your Terminology
When shopping, know your terminology: Only the term “use by” means that you shouldn’t eat the food after the date indicated. “Sell by” dates are only an indication for the store, and foods will usually keep one to two weeks after. “Best before” is only an indication of food quality, not of food safety, so again, your perishables may still be fine to eat.
5. A Full Mouth Is a Quiet Mouth
If you find you’re making a lot of impulse purchases at the store because your kids are begging for snack foods, keep them quiet by buying them a package of animal crackers or a similar snack right when you get to the store. Most stores don’t even mind if your kids eat the crackers before you pay for them.
6. Go for Day-Olds
Supermarkets often discount their day-old or slightly overripe items in the morning. This is a great way of getting deals on fruit, vegetables, bread, and other foods. At first glimpse, this money-saving strategy may not seem appealing to you, but you can use these items in casseroles, desserts, and other dishes where you won’t even notice the difference. With a loaf of day-old bread, for example, you can make french toast, stuffing, croutons, bread pudding, and much more!
7. Break Free from Brands
When you’ve been buying the same brand-name product for as long as you can remember, it’s hard to make the switch to generics. However, you’ll be surprised when you find many generic and store-brand products taste exactly the same (or better!) for less than half the cost. Always buy generic baking ingredients such as flour, oil, and sugar. These generics are indistinguishable from their more-expensive counterparts. Frozen and canned vegetables are also usually exactly the same. As for products such as cereals, cookies, and crackers, basic is better—we’ve had good luck with plain granola, potato chips, and wheat crackers. No matter what the product, it never hurts to try. If you end up having to throw away one can of soup, you’ve wasted a few dollars, but if you like it, you can save a lot over the course of a year.
8. Use a Prepaid Gift Card
Need a little help budgeting your trips to the supermarket? Many chains now offer prepaid gift cards. Buy one for yourself and think of it as a portable checking account: Put money on the card, then “withdraw” from it every time you shop. With a dedicated grocery “account,” you’ll find it’s easier to keep a tighter rein on your spending.
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