How to Save Money on Groceries

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Groceries can be one of a family’s largest monthly expenses, but it is also the single easiest expense to save money.  There are so many ways to save that you could easily cut your grocery bill by one third.  Coupons are not the most important way to save money on groceries.

  • Use coupons — Coupons are probably the first thing people think about when saving on groceries, but it is probably the least important.  We are diligent (not extreme) couponers and probably average $5-$10 in coupons per week, more when our favorite store doubles coupons up to a dollar or triples up to 99 cents.  But this could add up to more than $300 per year.
  • Use store brands — Buying store brands instead of more expensive national brands probably saves my family at least as much as coupons with much less effort.  There are a few items that we prefer name brands and each family will have to decide those for themselves.
  • Stock up on what’s on sale — By far, the biggest saving strategy is to concentrate on sale items.  Plan your shopping and meals by viewing the circulars to see what’s on sale.  If you don’t subscribe to the newspaper so you can save money by getting coupons and sales circulars, then view sales online.  After a while, you can get an idea of how often which items go on sale  Minimize the items you buy when not on sale, and stock up on enough sale items to last until the next sale.  There are some items that we simply don’t buy unless on sale like snack foods, soda, cereal, and most indulgences.  It helps to have a big pantry to fill with sale items, but we have an overflow shelf in the laundry room.
  • Join store’s loyalty program — Many grocery and drug stores offer the best deals to members of their free loyalty program.  These make sales even better and are well worth signing up.
  • Make a list — Use paper or mobile phone apps and concentrate upon what’s on sale, the fresh items you need every week, the things you are out of, and the meals you plan to prepare.  Lists enable you to zero in on sale and coupon items and things you really need without wondering around the store being tempted on every isle. Keep a starter list on the refrigerator that family members can add items to as needed.  Of course there is also a smartphone/online app for that: http://get.ziplist.com/Ziplist provides many cool and cost-saving features as well as lists accessible online and by smartphone including telling you where your items are on sale.
  • Don’t shop hungry — And take as few family members as possible so fewer unplanned extras are added to the cart.
  • Limit your impulse items to a set amount, say three per week.
  • Compare unit costs — Compare products, brands, sizes, and sale items by comparing the unit price, for example, price per ounce, pound, serving, etc., rather than the overall price.  Usually, the larger size is more economical per unit cost, but not if the smaller size is on sale.

About John Kimball

Over the past few decades, I have experienced most of these financial issues with both mistakes and successes. I sure wish someone had told me these things when I was first starting out. So many times I have cried out, "I want a do over!" when I learned a new financial lesson or tip. I aim to pass along to you the financial insights I have gained from experience, reading, analysis, and living the financial aspects of managing, saving, investing, and spending your money. I am an analyst with a large organization and happily married with two children on their way to an expensive college, no doubt. I read numerous financial blogs, websites, newsletters, magazines, newspapers, and books to bring you the latest news, insights, tips, and lessons combined with decades of experience.

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