There’s a bazillion-and-one ways to cut your grocery bill, but here are six tips that I’ve learned in my efforts to cut our own bill:
Tip #1: Make as much as you can from scratch. (But don’t dismiss store items just because they’re not made from scratch.)
More often than not, making something from scratch will be cheaper than buying it pre-made from the store.
Ah. Did you notice that I said “more often than not” and not “all the time”? That’s because you can sometimes find an amazing deal and or coupon on an item to the point where it would be more expensive to make it.
This is tough, but well-worth acknowledging. I imagine that a big part of this depends on your family size, too. For a family of two, we have yet to figure out a way to make pizza cheaper than what we can purchase frozen at the store.
That being said, more often than not it is far cheaper to make things from scratch. And, it’s the most accurate way to weigh and measure everything that you’re putting into the recipe for calorie-counting purposes. Plus, it’s much healthier!
Tip #2: Stop having “your” store.
This doesn’t apply to you if you only have one store within a reasonable driving distance. But for those of you that have access to multiple grocery stores, you’ll have to get it out of your head that any one of those stores is the best. I don’t care what store it is. It’s not the best. Even the “cheap” stores don’t always have the best deals.
So if you have access to multiple grocery stores, you’re going to have to decide to shop at several. Note that I didn’t say “all of them.” At some point your time, fuel, and sanity are more important than the extra $.05 you’ll save by driving across town yet again. But where that line is depends on you, your time, your budget, and your ability to keep track of things. We easily have four stores in our area, but I tend to avoid the fourth except for the occasional ad check. They just rarely have sales I’m interested in, and their prices are usually on-par with another one of our stores. Still, I check occasionally just to stay in touch.
Tip #3: Scour deals and coupons every week.
This is where most of my time gets spent. There are whole websites devoted to couponing, which I’m not going to get into. I actually only do minimal “store couponing” and use digital coupons for one of our grocery stores. We could probably save a lot more if I had time to invest into couponing, but I don’t right now, so there’s that.
At a minimum, however, try to look at all the grocery stores’ weekly ads and, if they have it, store coupons. Keep in mind that sometimes what’s in the ad is not a deal at all. I’ve been amused time and time again to see some brand on sale in an ad only to go to the store and see that its neighboring brand is cheaper but not on sale. But, weekly ads are a great place to start, and you can get an idea of what sort of prices you’re looking at.
Tip #4: Look for the about-to-expire and damaged cart.
You’ve probably seen other people mention this one. But it’s amazing what you can find. I have literally picked up a can of sauce that’s $0.40 cheaper than the one I have in my cart, all because there’s a dent in the side of it. My husband I even splurged on name brand mac & cheese because the boxes had been crushed a little and were almost at store brand prices.
My favorite about-to-expire product is bread. Nathan and I will buy a bunch of bread about-to-expire and stick it in the freezer. Then we just take out a loaf as we need it and let it defrost. We’ve yet to have an issue from this.
Tip #5: You’re going to buy store brand 99.9% of the time.
If you really want to save money, it’s amazing what the difference in price is between a brand and a store brand. Now, if you’re a crazy-good couponer, you can often get better coupons on brand items. But I barely have time to look at ads and do some store coupon checking, let alone more advanced couponing. So, for me, store brands are the way to go most of the time.
Did you see that? I did it again: “most of the time.” I have actually found brand items on sale for less than the store brand items. But this is RARE.
Will it taste different? Yes. I can taste the difference in brands easily. But add a little seasoning and just work through it. Or, what my husband and I will sometimes do is if we have a favorite store brand product, even if it’s not the cheapest we will still pick it. Popcorn is one of those where we can get it cheaper, and we’ve tried the really cheap brands, but we go with one particular store brand that costs a little more. It’s a win-win for us, because we’re paying less than the brands but we get to enjoy good popcorn.
Tip #6: Recognize that there are exceptions. So keep alert.
This kind of sums up a lot of what I’d mentioned earlier. Once you’ve been doing price-checking for a while, you’ll have your “I get my milk from this store,” and then you’ll have your “I get my paper products from this store.” I definitely do. It cuts down on the hassle-factor. But even still, you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled as your walking down the aisle or browsing ads. You never know what you might find.
So what are your tips? What tricks do you have?