Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: Saving Money at the Grocery Store

My life seems to revolve around themes. This week's theme appears to be budgeting. However, that wasn't apparent to me until I went out today (Yes, I actually left my house for once!). So anyway, lately I've been thinking a lot about ways I can save money. After a year of paying rent alone and spending a lot of time hungry, and not going shopping (except for food), I'm ready to re-evaluate my living expenses and figure out ways to live better while not going broke. First up (since it's my #1 priority): how to save money on food. Here are 10 tips I'd like to share that will keep both my stomach and wallet full.

1. Stock up on items you use often when they are on sale
I love macaroni and cheese. Usually it's really expensive. But today, it was on sale for $.69 a box. So I bought 4 boxes. When you figure that each box contains 2 servings, there's 8 meals for less than $.50 each! Other items to stock up on: rice, pasta, canned goods, and other non-perishables.

2. Buy items you don't normally use, but would like to have, when they are on sale
Usually I'm a wait-till-I'm-starving-and-then-get-groceries kind of a girl. Common sense dictates that this is not a good idea. So when I have to do this, I usually make a list and try to stick to it. Unfortunately, when I have to make a one time purchase of something I need right then, it's notBold on sale. So a smarter strategy would be to see what's on sale every time I shop and purchase items when they are discounted. For example, I could buy my favorite bottle of wine when it's on sale and save it for later, rather than buy it later for an extra $2.

3. Don't buy items you don't need just because they are on sale
Sales can be tempting. Very tempting. But don't spend money on an item you don't normally buy just because it's on sale. For example, I don't normally buy cookies, so I wouldn't buy them just because they are on sale.

4. Check the unit price
At first glance, it may seem that you save money by buying the $2 toilet paper instead of the $3 toilet paper. But when you look at the unit price, you may find that the $2 TP is 30 cents per square while the $3 TP is only 5 cents per square.

5. Don't buy more than you can actually use
I cringe at the thought of how much money I've wasted by throwing away food that spoiled before it was eaten. If you do buy more perishables than you can eat before they go bad, then portion them and freeze for later, or cook several dishes using those ingredients and freeze them. Otherwise you will be throwing money out like garbage.

6. Look at those grocery flyers you get in the mail
You'll find valuable coupons as well as be able to comparison shop without ever leaving your house. You may be surprised by the deals stores offer to entice you into their market. It also helps to clip the ads for items you planned to purchase anyway, so you can check prices and make sure you're getting the best deal.

7. Organize your coupons
Place your coupons in a coupon file organized by type of food (dairy, produce, meat, etc.) with the soonest-to-expire coupon at the front of each section.

8. Don't be afraid of discount stores
You may be wary that discount grocery stores don't offer the same quality food as large chains. While this may be true for produce (but sometimes not), you will usually be able to find name brand non-perishables, as well as some name brand frozen foods, dairy, and meat that is perfectly fine and offered at half the price. You might even be surprised at the quality of the produce found at a discount store.

9. Don't forget about the dollar store
While dollar stores don't always offer a great selection of grocery items, you can often find several deals on paper towels, cleaning items, disposable dishes and utensils, sodas, crackers, spices, cookies, and sometimes even bread.

10. Make a list and carry cash
One of the easiest ways to make sure you don't go over budget on groceries is to pay for them with cash. At home, make a list of all the things you need to buy and estimate how much they will cost (using coupons will help you figure out the prices). Add 10-15% of the total as a buffer and for tax, and only carry that much cash with you to the store. Check your list and total up the price of your items as you go. When you reach your limit, it's time to head for the check out lane.


  1. These are great and very useful shopping tips!

    I can't believe the great food items my mom finds at the Dollar Store. When I'm over, I'm always asking her where she got a food item, and it turns out, from the Dollar Store. I didn't even know some dollar and .99c stores carried grocery store items!

    Only buying what's on sale is something my mom has been doing for decades. She keeps telling me to plan meals around what is on sale and to utilize the freezer! I love freezing fruits because it's easy to through into a blender. Catch fruits on sale, wash, cut up, freeze, and blend together later =)

  2. Dollar Tree always has soda, candy, and chips, and usually has bread, cookies, crackers, spices, juices, and canned goods. I also like dollar stores for paper products, cleaning products, food storage and other household items (like lightbulbs) that you can get at a grocery store but are usually expensive.