Feeding your crew takes a healthy bite out of the family budget — typically a third of it, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So it’s an obvious place to start if you’re looking for ways to spend less. Finding savings on groceries doesn’t have to mean lugging a binder of coupons through the store or convincing your family they like eating beans and rice four times a week.
How to Save Money on Groceries
Here are just a few ways to shop smarter and save:
1. Choose the right store
Every three months or so, take time to compare the everyday prices of eight to 10 items you regularly purchase. See how the total compares from store to store. One store may not be lower on every item, but you’ll likely find that one store comes in with a consistently lower total.
2. Keep a price list
Like choosing the right store, knowing the average price of items helps you know when something’s at a good price. It also lets you know if the price has gone up enough to consider replacing it with a cheaper alternative.
3. Stock up when things are on sale
Grocers typically put items on sale about every 12 weeks. If you’ve taken the time to keep a price list, you’ll recognize a rock-bottom price and can buy three months’ worth. Stocking up at a great price can become the norm, and so will always having what you need.
4. Plan meals smart
First, plan meals starting with the food you already have at home. Good food that needs to be eaten won’t go to waste and neither will the money you spent on it. Then, plan based on the ads and what’s on sale. It’s also a good way to mix up routine menus with new options. Why waste perfectly good savings?
5. Make a list
You’ve taken the time to plan meals smart; go all the way and make a list of what you need to make those meals. But most important: stick to it. Veering off it and buying what you don’t need, wastes the time you took to plan and savings.
6. Choose lower-cost alternatives
After your next shopping trip, circle the highest-priced items on your receipt (meat is usually the biggest offender). Think about swapping them out for cheaper options, such as chicken over red meat, or a chuck roast or flank steak over pricier beef options. Better yet, go meatless more often!
7. Let apps do the to work for you
No surprise, when it comes to finding the best prices at the grocery, there’s an app for that. Smartphone apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51, and Favado.com make it easy to track sales, compare prices and rack up rebates on thousands of grocery items
8. Compare unit prices
More isn’t always the best deal when it comes to packaging. Most pricing tags include the unit price, which breaks down the cost of an item per unit of whatever you’re buying. The smaller package may be on sale, but the bigger package may be a better value and vice-versa. And that 10-for-10 deal? You may not want to be so quick to load the cart. A similar item on sale may be the better deal.
9. Be friendly with different brands
You’re getting ready to toss the family’s favorite can of chicken noodle soup in the cart and notice a different brand is on sale. Consider giving it a try. Usually you can’t tell the difference between brands, and sticking to one brand for an item may just be a bad habit. And here’s a secret: name brands are often disguised as generic and store brands — at a lower cost.