Grocery Saving Tips
Editor's note: we selected some suggestions from readers who spend the least in our Grocery Spending Survey. Here's how they reduce their food bills.
Her Stash Is the Secret
I have a full freezer, an extra kitchen cabinet jam-packed with "backstock" items and a full cabinet under my bathroom sink. The reason? I take advantage of coupons and sales and buy a lot of something that I know I will use when I get a good deal. I have only a few staples that I will buy whether on sale or with a coupon or not; everything else must be a deal before I will buy it! Grocery shopping is like a game for me (hunting the deals) and I always save at least 20%, usually 25-30%, sometimes even 40% on my grocery bill, which is very satisfying. My best tip is to clip coupons for ANY items you might use (note, an ITEM that you would use -- toothpaste, margarine, bread, etc., no matter the brand -- the key to grocery savings is to not be brand loyal) and then wait and watch the grocery store circulars to use the coupon in conjunction with a store sale price or, better yet, buy-one-get-one-free sale.
The weeks when the sales are not good are light buying weeks for me, and can be because I have built up all my backstock. In addition, the extra food is like money in the bank -- if I ever hit a rough patch I know I will have enough food to carry me through for at least a month. Plus I never have the inconvenience of suddenly running out of toothpaste or shampoo and having to run to the store for a single item which of course is additional expense.Frugal living is not deprivation, it is celebration!
Beth in Coatesville, PA
That's All Folks
My best way to save $$ is to only shop with so much cash..that way I don't go over budget.
My best tip is be sure and check out the price per ounce/pound/piece. Just because it's in the big box, doesn't mean it's cheaper! Sometimes two smaller packages are cheaper than the big box. Compare prices ounce per ounce.
Scratch That Itch
I buy in bulk, and cook from scratch. I cook more than I need so that I can have ready-made meals and snacks in the freezer. And the CROCKPOT has been a wonderful way that I can cook from scratch while I'm at work.
Price Book Shopping
I use and maintain a price book for almost every item I purchase. I have found alternative sources for some items other than the grocery stores. We do not buy dry cereal and we only use powdered milk (yes, my husband and kids drink it without complaint). In short, I pay the lowest price available for everything I buy.
I don't know if my input will skew the results as I am in Australia, but I do have a good tip - only shop once a fortnight, that way you only get half as many chances to impulse buy. Freeze meat, buy long-life milk (it's cheaper anyway and the skim stuff tastes the same as the fresh skim).
Kim S. in Melbourne, Australia
Get Close to the Source
We buy only whole foods from a grocery co-op and farmers markets. We shop 1 chain store for loss-leaders only when the product is cheaper than the homemade version. The chain store honors other stores coupons and advertised specials.
We also save and use all of our leftovers, I never have to "make" lunch.
Don't Pay for Processing
My tip is to buy fresh food, preferably locally grown, in-season. Buy in bulk, from a food coop if possible. I always buy 10 lb bags of brown rice from a food coop. Not only do I pay less per serving of rice, but I'm also serving a healthier dish to my family.
Larissa L. in East Brunswick, NJ
Special Dietary Requirements
We have multiple food allergies, so we can't always buy the least expensive items, but I do lots of cooking from scratch. Another way that we have saved money for food is we have talked to the manager/owner about items to order since some of the brands/items they have carried we can't eat due to our food allergies. He now stocks ground lamb, turkey & chicken chili for less than any other stores around. The lamb he sells us for the same price as the cheapest ground beef. The chilis for less than the sale price - all the time. People, sometimes, if you give them a chance will be more than generous.
We're still paying off last Christmas and worry how we'll afford the holidays this year without charging it again! Tell us: Yes, we could use help getting out of the debt trap we're in! or No, debt is not a problem for us but I'm always looking for ways to trim my family's expenses further!