Couponer or not, most people want to save money on groceries. Next to our mortgage, the money we spend on groceries is the second biggest expense. Month after month, I struggle to get the total lower. But then I found a few hacks that brought it to a manageable, all-time low.
Why would you want to save money on groceries?
For most people, food is the second largest expense every month. You have to have it to live. But you don’t have to spend a fortune on it.
Most people think that you have to buy cheap, processed foods to save money on groceries. But it is quite the opposite. Fresh (even frozen) foods and foods in bulk can save you quite a chunk of change. We are vegetarian and still manage to save money.
The more money you save on groceries (and eating out), the more money you will have to save for other things. Like that big project around the house that’s been waiting to be finished, or a nice family vacation, or you can stash that cash in a investment account and earn money.
Controlling your spending is tough. Make it a game!
It has been shown in studies that if you make your set goal into a game or a challenge, you are more likely to achieve that goal. You’ll have more fun getting to that goal and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
To save money on groceries, you could take the whole family grocery shopping. Whoever can find the least expensive ingredients for the cheapest (but still healthy) meal wins. Or you can test your kids (and yourself) to see who can calculate the cost per ounce the fastest (more on this later).
Turn meal planning into a weekly event with your family. Write down your favorite, but simple, recipes on to pieces of paper and draw them out of a hat. Or have one person each week create the meal plan with you.
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Before you shop, take inventory.
Sounds silly, but it works.
The ultimate goal of saving money on groceries is to spend as little as possible. This can only be done if you know what’s already in your pantry.
Go from your fridge, to your freezer, to your pantry and cupboards. List out each item and how many of each one you have. For example:
- canned black beans x 3
- canned chick peas x 2
- boxed mac n’ cheese x 6
- bags of spaghetti x 2
- frozen peas x 1
You get the idea.
After inventory of your pantry is taken, try and make meals just from those items. If you need fresh onions or tomatoes, write it down along with your meal plan. My Meal Planning 101 has the perfect printable for doing this.
I cannot emphasize enough how much of a difference meal planning makes. 20 minutes is all it takes on a Sunday afternoon. That plan of what you are going to eat every day of the week will give you peace of mind, less anxiety every meal time, and more money back in your pocket.
While my printables in Meal Planning 101 are great for a beginner, I have a more detailed printable for each day available in my Etsy store.
Go with a list.
I don’t care if you use an app or a piece of paper, JUST MAKE A DANG LIST.
If you’ve gone through your pantry and made a meal plan, then you should have a list written down of what else goes into those meals. A list keeps you from overspending on groceries.
And let me tell you, if I don’t have a list, I get a little crazy. Like buy six frozen pizzas, 3 lbs of cashews, AND a fizzy drink at check-out. Plus whatever else I threw into my basket because it was a good deal. *Insert heavy sigh*
Don’t be me. Make a list and take it to the store. Take a picture of it right after you finish it just in case you forget to shove it in your bag.
What the heck is price per unit?
Like I mentioned before, price per unit can be important. Most big box stores (think Target, Walmart, Kroger) have the same item but in different brands and varying sizes. If you know the price per unit, you can determine what the best deal is.
You need to buy black beans. They are in several meals this week so you can purchase a little more than you normally would.
There are four bags on the shelf:
1: Name brand 1 lb bag – $1.50
2: Store brand 1 lb bag – $1.25
3: Store brand 5 lb bag – $3.75
4: Store brand 10 lb bag – $8
Since they are all in pounds, you’ll use that unit to get the price. If they varied by a few ounces (16 ounces are in a pound), then you would use ounces.
To calculate the price per unit (pound in our case), you use this formula:
1: $1.50/1 = $1.50
2: $1.25/1 = $1.25
3: $3.75/5 = $0.75
4: $8/10 = $0.80
The cheapest, most cost effective choice in this case is option #3 – 5 lbs for $3.75 because it is only $0.75 a pound. Walmart is the only store in our area that posts the price per unit right on the shelf. It is most often in ounces but it works all the same and I don’t have to do math!
Abandon brand loyalty.
I learned this in couponing, but it also applies to shopping without coupons. The more loyal you are to a brand, the more likely you are to spend more money. Like Goya black beans cost more than the Great Value store brand black beans. Or Secret deodorant costs more than Suave.
Stores often place those big brand names front and center. This is so you pick that item off the shelf without looking for a cheaper product.
Why are they more expensive?
Because companies pay big bucks for advertising and some of that goes straight to the store! They want their product to up front! Plus with coupons that go out every week, they really want you to buy their product… even if it is the same as something less expensive.
So crouch down to that bottom shelf (or in some stores, the top shelf) and grab the cheaper product. Calculate the price per unit and you’ll find it’s often less expensive. Similar products are sometimes made in the same factory as the name brand products!
Stock up when you can.
To save money on groceries, you will often need to purchase multiple of the same item when it goes on sale. Don’t go crazy, but stock up when you can.
Say a 16oz jar of pasta sauce is on sale for $0.50 and the regular price is $1. I would buy three of those on-sale jars so I don’t have to pay full price later.
The rule of three (as it applies to the grocery store) is something that I heavily rely on. Generally the “three” means one to use now, and two to save for later. If I’ve taken pantry inventory recently, I should know exactly how many pasta sauces I have and if I need more.
If your favorite store is advertising an item for a rock bottom price – go buy what you can! BUT use at least one in your meal plan the following week.
Don’t buy something on sale just to buy it.
I hope these zero-coupon, grocery shopping tricks help you to save the big bucks. Let me know in the comments what tricks you use to save money on groceries!