Do you know exactly how much you spend on groceries each month? According to the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the average family of 4 in the US spends a staggering $786 a month for groceries on a low-cost meal plan. A liberal food plan is even more shocking: almost $1200 A MONTH! What if we could trim that back to save money on groceries? What could you do with an extra $75 or $100 or $125 a month?
Here is another statistic: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Middle-Class Families spend over 12% of household income on food. That amount fluctuates between household income brackets because families living on tighter budgets spend around 30% of their household income on food. Saving money on grocery store trips is a great way to give your budget a break!
Lisa and I are penny pinchers! We are really proud of that because it allows us to do things that we wouldn't be able to do otherwise. We have really worked to pinch every penny we can at the grocery store.
Keep in mind that even though we are penny pinchers, we are not extreme couponers. We use some of the same strategies but we strategically choose to buy certain items over other items (that might have great coupons) for health and allergy reasons.
We have worked together to come up with a list of over 30 tips on how you can save money on your very next grocery store trip! It doesn't matter what brands you like or what types of foods you eat, these tips WILL save you money. We are sharing with you tips that we use regularly, plus a few we have recently learned!
Welcome to our new series that we call Made In A Pinch Tips: Simple Ways to Save Money on Groceries. And stay tuned, because each post in this series will include more unusual ways to save big at the grocery store!
1) Steer clear of those inner aisles!
Grocery stores are purposefully designed to place essential items at opposite ends of the store (think of the walk between produce and dairy). This design forces most customers to walk through the aisles and buy more products. Oh, by the way, those products in the inner aisles are the more highly processed items! Instead, skip walking through the aisles and walk around the perimeter to get what you need.
2) Buy generic!
While it is common knowledge that generic products are cheaper, most people believe that generic items aren't essentially the same products as the name brand items. However, many basic products are just what they are, so it doesn't matter whether it's name brand or generic. For example, milk is milk. I personally vote for buying organic milk, but I always go generic on milk because cows are cows. There is no difference in what they produce (other than organic vs not organic).
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Other items to buy generic include: baking powder, baking soda, flour, sugar, cornmeal, oatmeal, salt, spices, and pain relievers (think Tylenol vs acetaminophen). Many cereals (Rice Krispies vs generic, Corn Flakes vs generic) are essentially the same or at least so close that you would never know the difference. And finally, consider buying baby formula generic. Your first reaction may be to say that you wouldn't skimp on feeding your baby. I completely understand that feeling! However, consider that generic baby formula has to meet the same safety standards and nutrition guidelines as name brand formulas. Both generic and name brand formulas are basically made with the same ingredients.
If you are unsure whether to buy name brand or save and go with generic, simply check the label to ensure you are buying the same item.
3) Check high and low shelves
Interesting fact: people tend to look at eye level. Knowing this, grocery stores place the most expensive items at that level so that shoppers see those products first. Make it a habit to check the higher and lower shelves to find cheaper products. I have always done this, not knowing that it was actually a true thing – I just search and search all the shelves to find the cheapest prices!
4) Do some searching for the best price
Make a one-time commitment to visit the stores in your area to price compare a list of about 10 items you buy regularly.
Ideas of stores to visit include:
- King Soopers
- Super Target
- Super Walmart
- Sams Club
- Trader Joes
- Natural Grocers
- Whole Foods
- Earth Fare
- Lowes Foods
Your goal is to find out if you are actually shopping at the store with the lowest overall prices for your needs. Use a spreadsheet like this one to write down and compare prices.
5) Don't go to the store hungry!
This may sound like a “duh” tip; however, I cannot tell you how many times I have done exactly this (even though I KNOW not to!). I have paid so much extra by the end of the shopping trip because everything “looked” good instead of just sticking to the list I had in my hand.
If you must go to the store when you are hungry, take a few nuts or other small, portable snack to help curb your hunger. Another option is that you can take advantage of the free samples, if your store hands those out.
6) Make an effort to eat with the seasons
Buying produce that is in season tastes so much better and costs less than buying produce that traveled from other countries. When in doubt, check sales flyers and product labels for country of origin. I have included a simple graphic for you to save or print out to know when produce is in season.
*Note that I broke up the produce into columns of veggies and fruits, and I did that based on how they are most often used instead of how they are officially categorized. For example, a tomato is technically a fruit, but I have it listed as a vegetable based on how people typically use them. Get the graphic HERE.
Were these tips helpful? Get even more money saving tips for the grocery store!
Comment below…were any of these tips new to you?
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