My sister sent me a text the other day and wanted to know ways to get grocery bills as low as possible and how to cook without meat. I laughed because she totally came to the right person. This girl loves to save. So I told her that I would send her the information when I had time, and to check my blog under "Need to Feed" for a few posts I have already done on meatless meals. So now I finally have some time, and I decided to post here some of my tips on getting your grocery bills down.
Honestly, I miss living in Utah because it was so easy to save. Now that I live in Washington my store options are limited...namely to Fred Meyer. I miss my stores! But there are still lots of basic ways that you can cut down your bill no matter where you are, so I'll start with those.
The adds come in the mail in Utah once a week. If you've just moved to a new place, sometimes it takes a couple months to get going, but you can always call the post office to make sure they start coming. They also come in newspaper, and if you don't get that, they are ALWAYS posted online! So if you don't have access to a hard copy, go to the store's website online and check what's on sale that week.
Then based off what's on sale that week, plan your meals! A lot of people will say to plan your meals ahead of time and then go grocery shopping for only those things. That will help keep you from spending money on extras, but if you REALLY want to save, plan meals around what's on sale at the stores that week and then go shopping.
Pizza Snowballs that week. If there is a great sale on eggs, stock up and make egg salad sandwiches or omelettes another night. Basically, you look at the adds and think "what meals can I make from what's on sale?" By planning meals around what's on sale you're going to cut back the money you spend.
Also, buy your produce based on what's on sale. Don't buy asparagus that is $2 a lb or more. Wait until it comes in season and then make all the asparagus stir-fry's you want. When packaged lettuce is cheaper, buy lots of lettuce and have chef salad. Some produce always stays about the same price like apples, bananas, or fresh lettuces, so keep them as your basics, but others are expensive until they go on sale. Grapes are a good example of this, boy are they pricey until certain times. Strawberries also go up and down in price, so just watch the prices and buy fruits/veggies in their season. I have my base prices that I'm not willing to pay more than for each of my fruits and veggies and I just wait until they get to that base or lower. The more you watch the prices the more familiar you'll be with what's a good deal.
It's also good to compare store's adds to each other. Some people don't like shopping at more than one place. It does take more time, and it does take more work, however, it can pay off. Don't buy cereal at Walmart if Smiths has a giant sale going where you can get it a dollar cheaper a box. Head on over to Smith's!
Now I'm not recommending you take an extra trip to Walmart just because their tuna is twenty cents cheaper a can than Smiths, that would be a waste, but if they have a bunch of canned goods that are all significantly cheaper than take the extra trip to Walmart once you're done shopping at Smiths. Of course you can always price match everything at Walmart, but I personally hate shopping at Walmart and would rather pay a few cents more per item and get it somewhere else. But it is good to know about price matching because if you're already at Walmart, and you know that Smiths has eggs on sale for ninety-nine cents a dozen, instead of taking an extra trip to Smiths, just pick them up while you're at Walmart and let them know Smith's price and they'll drop it down to match for you...saving you the extra trip.
When I lived in Utah I found that I preferred different stores for different products. For example: Reams has the cheapest produce and meat, and occasionally has good sales on other things like cereal. So I just planned a weekly trip to Reams for produce and Smiths for the other items that were more expensive at Reams, and watched the adds for what was on sale to pick up while I was at both places. Walmart has the cheapest base prices for everyday essentials, so if I ran out of flour or spices, or toilet paper, or cleaners I would take that dreaded trip to Walmart. But it's only by following the adds, and being aware of what's going on sale where and when, that you can save yourself the money and time.
Second point: STOCK UP
If there is a couple things that you eat a lot, when it goes on sale buy A LOT and store it so that you have plenty to use until it goes back on sale again. When you're favorite brands of cereal go on sale, buy as many boxes as will fit into your budget or that you have room to store. If you use a lot of frozen strawberries in smoothies, when strawberries go on sale, buy a whole bunch, cut them up and freeze them yourself. Buy enough that will last until the next time they go on sale.
Sales usually rotate every three months (produce is the exception to that because it usually goes on sale based on what's in season). So if your favorite bread is on sale, buy a couple loaves and then buy a couple more to put in the freezer. Buy granola bars on sale to last until they go back on sale. It's amazing the places you can get creative to store stuff, and the amount of food that you can freeze.
Word to the wise: If you do not have the money to stock up when something goes on sale then don't buy so much. You can save yourself right into the poor house. You can't spend $30 on a good cereal sale when you only have $25 to spend on groceries. Know how much money you have to spend before you go. It's definitely a balancing act. However, if you spend $10 on a good cereal sale and stock up, you know you won't have to spend part of your grocery budget on cereal for awhile and can use that money to stock up on something else the next week.
Also, just because something goes on sale, it doesn't mean you have to buy it! Assess what you're low on, what you need, and if you can wait until it goes on sale again. Don't waste all of your money buying cheap hamburger buns if you're not going to have hamburgers. Also, if you already have twenty packages of buns in your freezer, and yet they go back on sale again, don't waste your money buying more! It sounds like a no-brainer, but it's amazing how many people can't help spending money just because it's a good deal.
It's a good practice to stock up because sometimes, when you don't have any money to spend on groceries, you can look at what you have stocked up and make meals and eat from what you already have until you have enough money to go grocery shopping again.
Third point: BUY FROM THE DISCOUNT SECTION
Every store that I've been too has a section of the store that has discounted items for purchase. The two main ones are bread and meat. What happens is that the bread is getting older and they need to get rid of it before it goes bad and they have to throw it out for a loss, so they mark it down significantly just for you! I find it's usually on a bread-rack in the back of the store somewhere. You can buy bread, rolls, bagels, donuts, cookies, cakes, pitas - you name it, it just depends on the week. So check it out and you can seriously score on items you normally wouldn't be able to buy.
They also do it with meat. Each store usually has a refrigerated section that has older meat and cheese and lunch-meat at discounted prices. This is what I love to find because you can seriously score some good deals on what normally costs a whole lot. If you can't find it, just ask someone that works there and they can show you. That way you'll become familiar with the area in the store where it's kept, and just check it every time you go in to see what there is. Sometimes there's not much, and sometimes you really luck out.
There are also produce discount sections and other miscellaneous item discount sections. Not every store has all of them, but there is usually at least a couple places to find the manager specials.
Don't be freaked out that it's "old". It doesn't mean it's bad, in fact, it's usually perfectly fine. It just means the store is going to have to get rid of it soon. Last week I got three pounds of ground turkey for $2.24! That is amazing! It was in the discounted section for $2.99 for a three-pound chub, and I had a coupon for seventy-five cents off Jenny-O. Score! I went home and divided it up into three sections to freeze for later dinners.
Now coupons are a whole different story and can save you SO much, even without being extreme! But that's a whole other post I'll have to get to later. But I'll just say for now, once you've made your list of what you're going to buy, look through the coupons that come in the mail or online and clip ones that match what you're planning to buy for even more savings. There are lots of websites that match up the sales with coupons for you. My favorites are: freebies2deals.com and fabulesslyfrugal.com.
These are just my basic tips that everyone can use for bringing down their grocery spending. It takes a little work planning and preparing, but it really pays off...especially if you need to save the money for other expenses. I never buy something that's not on sale, unless it's a basic staple in our diet (like milk or something), I stock up when it does go on sale, and I always check the discount areas of the store.
All this information might seem intimidating, but just start slow, do what's right for you, and you'll catch on. Next time I'll post about coupons, and maybe I'll even do another meatless dish post as well. I hope that helps Sadie as you start saving money!! :)
5 years ago