Over the last few months, we’ve been practicing a pretty strict grocery shopping budget. You see, not too long ago, we figured that one of our biggest expense was groceries. And it wasn’t because we only like eating expensive food. We were just spending more than we were aware of because we never properly planned our grocery trips. We went whenever, didn’t care enough to look into sales, and never took inventory of what’s in the fridge or the cupboards. In a few months, we’ve slowly been getting accustomed to our new budget and have saved quite a bit or extra cash.
So here is a short list of grocery shopping tips and tricks that’s worked for us so far:
1. Be aware of how much you’re spending on groceries, then decide whether you want to keep the same budget or cut back a little. Set your grocery budget. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just set some limits. We had to do this, because we realized that our little trips for chocolate bars and bottled drinks added up to a few hundred each month!
+No idea how much you should spend for groceries? Read this article from lifehacker.
2. Plan your trips to the store.
+ Make a list before you go. Avoid grocery shopping without a list! In our case, everytime we grocery shop without a list, we end up with a lot of stuff we don’t need and/or are unhealthy.
+We’ve been trying to stick to 4 (once a week) grocery trips a month, with a set budget. We tried a twice a month schedule, but we just didn’t have enough fridge and pantry space for that much food, so we settled with once a week. Decide on what’s best for you and your schedule.
+ Since most grocery stores here have their sales on weekends, we try make our grocery trips then.
3. Stockpile and keep track of what you have. Whenever there’s a case lot or wholesale deal, we just can’t turn it down. It’s not a secret that buying in bulk saves a bit of money. Don’t forget to take inventory though, and be aware of expiration dates!
+ When you’re stockpiling or buying in bulk, capitalize on food that don’t expire quickly (like canned or frozen food).
+ The thing about buying groceries on sale, is that many times, they are pretty close to the expiration date–that’s why they’re on sale. The store wants to get rid of them before they go bad. So whenever anything is on sale, check the expiration date and ask yourself if you can really consume it before it goes bad. There’s no point in saving a few cents if you end up having to throw the merchandise away.
4. Plan your meals. It’s not always easy to plan meals ahead, but it helps to have a few ideas before heading to the grocery store. This also makes it a lot easier to make a list. In our household, we often have a couple of “default meals”–easy meals that we can and will more than likely make at least once a week.
5. Shopping with rewards. We are crazy about points. I have even turned Tav into a points-crazed monster. No, really he went from not caring at all how much he spends on grocery trips to calculating the optimal points-to-dollar ratio. I kid you not. So sign up for customer loyalty rewards programs, they’re almost always free.
+ if you’re going to points shop, try to choose just one or two stores (whose points or rewards policies suit you best OR whichever store you frequent).
+ TIP: don’t buy something just because it’s on sale and/or earns you extra points. The rewards are tempting, but if it’s not on the list or if it’s something you otherwise would not have bought, then put it back and walk away.
+ Save your rewards for the rainy days. Unless the rewards/ points expire, try to bank them until you need them. For some jobs, for example, some months are slower than others. Save it for those times of the year that you might not be getting as much work or overtime.
EXTRA: Coupon shopping: It seem to have worked for some people (think extreme coupon shoppers), but as for me, I find that you need to dedicate a lot of time finding and clipping coupons for it to really pay off. And because time is money, it’s not worth it for me. However, if you do run into coupons don’t turn them down. The Sunday paper usually has a lot of store flyers with coupons in them.
*Note: I like eating good and I refuse to cut back on food I enjoy to save a couple of bucks.