If you’ve been to the grocery store regularly over the past few years, you will have noticed how much more expensive food has become. Sometimes I am horrified by the costs – especially since I’m a vegetarian and focus on fresh fruits and vegetables which are horrifying expensive. In fact, the cost has inspired me to learn how to grow lots of organic food this coming summer. I’m going to get my son to build some raised beds for me and then I’m getting serious about it. But that’s another story and, in the meantime, are there any ways to save money on groceries? I’m happy to say that here are six ways of saving money that work. And how do I know? Because I’ve used all of them myself.
Manufacturers know that one way to increase the sales is to offer coupons. That is a way I have been introduced to many favorites, and I know you’ve done the same. We all love a bargain and we’re more willing to take a chance if we feel we’re getting a deal. One caution, though: make sure you’re truly interested and will use the product. I have a friend who buys ANYTHING, regardless of whether she needs it or not, just because it’s a bargain and she will save money. This is silly because, after all, a flea collar isn’t much use to someone who has no pets. :-)
When you run into the store on your way home from work, desperate for something for dinner, you are likely to buy a prepared food, one that has everything necessary in a box or frozen container. But you know that it costs much more than buying all the ingredients separately and creating the dish. A great example is a container of "fresh mashed potatoes" that I noticed in the meat department recently. The cost was $3.79 – yet I could buy a five pound bag of potatoes for $3.59 and that bag would result in many, many more servings of potatoes than the puny container. We pay a high price for convenience.
A grocery list is a great inflation fighter. If you want to waste money, rather than save money, just wander through the grocery picking items that catch your fancy. With a menu plan and a good list, you won’t be tempted to spend money on luxury items or goodies that seem great at the moment, but aren’t practical or necessary. Save money with lists – it’s a way to discipline ourselves.
Stores often have great sales, so buy a lot of a favorite food when it’s on sale. Depending on the size of your family, it might be smart to buy giant amounts of your cereals, veggies, canned goods, etc. And some items can be bought in bulk even if you live alone – like toilet paper or laundry detergent. Some of the bargain stores, like Sams or Costco, have terrific bargains when you’re willing to buy large amounts.
My mom told me years ago not to shop when I was hungry. As a know-it-all teenager, I didn’t believe her, but she was right. Not only is food much more tempting when I’m hungry, but junk food has much more appeal because it’s faster. "Hmmmmmmm … I’m hungry so do I want to fix a salad or stuff a granola bar in my mouth this second?"
Shopping at the same store every time makes shopping easier because you know where everything is. In addition, you are less likely to see unfamiliar items that catch your eye and tempt you to spend money. This morning I needed some bananas – and only bananas. I know right where they are in my favorite Publix and could walk directly to them. I didn’t have to walk by new products or be enchanted by something I haven’t noticed before, enabling me to get in that store and efficiently and quickly leave without spending extra money.
Just because food prices keep rising doesn’t mean that we have to eat ramen noodles at every meal. It IS possible to eat well and keep your costs fairly low. If you want to save money on groceries, the #1 requirement is commitment. How important is saving money to you? Use the ideas above, and develop your own, and this important task absolutely can be accomplished. Determination and commitment don’t come at the market, though. That part must be supplied by us.