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Ten Tips for Saving Cents at the Grocery Store

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Faith's Firm Foundation: Ten Tips for Saving Cents at the Grocery Store

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ten Tips for Saving Cents at the Grocery Store

Welcome Maria Rainier once again, with an extremely timely topic in light of the state of our economy!  Everyone's trying to save cents wherever they can.  Take notes, because Maria has some really practical and useful suggestions!

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As a stay-at-home mom operating on a very strict budget, I have to be meticulous when it comes to grocery shopping.  Being thrifty comes naturally to some, but it has taken quite a bit of effort and learning for me.  Not to say that I have ever been frivolous with money - I haven’t.  I was raised to be conscientious of getting more bang for my buck, so to speak, but making the choice to stay at home with my children and reducing our family income by half really forced me to take a step back and evaluate how to cut costs. 

One of the biggest areas of expense that I have managed to overhaul has been groceries.  Here are my top ten tips for being thrifty and getting the most for your money when it comes to the grocery shopping.

Make Your Menu
The most important step, for me, is meal-planning and creating a weekly menu.  Sometimes, if I’m feeling really ambitious, I will plan two weeks’ worth of meals.  By planning out the meals we will eat, I am able to make more detailed, accurate lists of exactly what I will need to purchase at the grocery store. It also helps prevent those “Oh no, what will we have for dinner tonight?” moments which easily result in either a fast, unprepared trip to the grocery store or a meal at a restaurant - both of which can be costly.  When I have a detailed menu and list, I am much less likely to deviate and buy other things, thus preventing extra expenses.

Clipping and Snipping
Clipping coupons is probably the most obvious and classic way to pinch pennies at the grocery store.  In addition to the Sunday paper, coupons can now be found online through sites like Coupons, CouponMom, SmartSource, Red Plum and many others.   No matter where you find your coupons, it’s important that you keep them organized in a fashion that works best for you.  Meaning, you can organize them by month of expiration, area of the grocery store, whatever - just make sure you can find them quickly and remember to use them.

Hired Help
Take coupon-clipping a step further by utilizing one of the many online coupon and price comparison services.  There are several available, but one of the most widely known is The Grocery Game.  Some of these services charge a fee while others are free.  The amazing part of a service of this nature is that it has already done the work for you.  Simply check the website for lists of deals and which coupons help achieve the major savings. 

Work the Weeklies
The weekly ads are a valuable tool. You no longer have to subscribe to a newspaper to access many of them, as most major grocery stores have their weekly ads online.  Some even have incorporated a way to create a printable shopping list while perusing the online ad.   I enjoy printing the lists that I have created and use them as comparison tools when I visit other stores.  For example:  I take the list I printed for Harris Teeter and compare them to the sale prices of foods in Super Walmart.  I make notes on the printed list about which store has a cheaper product.  I also find that paper-clipping coupons to the printed weekly ad shopping lists helps me utilize my coupon stash.

Super Shopper Cards
It seems like just about every store on the planet offers some sort of shoppers reward card.  Using these shoppers cards can often times save several dollars on a total grocery bill.  Add that to the savings of coupons or other store promotions and you can certainly save quite a bit more.  One of my favorite grocery stores also has gas stations, so they build a gas savings into their shopper rewards card program.  For every certain number of points accrued from buying groceries or prescriptions, a customer receives ten cents off per gallon of gas at their next fill-up. 

Survey Stores
Price compare between the stores local to your area.  Certainly, if you would only save a few cents by driving thirty miles away, the savings isn’t worth the cost to make the trek.  But, you may find that your local all-purpose mart might have an item listed at a full fifty cents to a dollar cheaper than the grocery store that is the same distance away.  In those cases, it couldn’t hurt to make a list for both stores and shop at both.  Another thing to consider is looking into discount stores and places that sell items for a dollar. 

Avoid Checking Out the Checkout
When you have to wait in a line at the supermarket, it’s easy to start perusing magazines, candy, gum and other random items that are placed at the checkout station.  However, it’s important to be very careful not to fall into the trap of repeatedly buying items that are housed in that checkout area.  Although they are small expenses, those little purchases add up over time.  Stay focused.

Buy in Bulk
Products may cost less when purchased in larger quantities.  Some stores display the price-per-unit on the shelf tag of their stock.  If it is not broken down in an obvious way, use a calculator to determine the item’s price-per-unit.  My phone has a calculator function built-in, so I typically use that when I need to figure out which item is a better deal.  Warehouse/wholesale clubs offer the advantage of buying foods and other goods in bulk, but it is imperative to compare those prices to sale prices at regular grocery stores.  Sometimes bulk isn’t always better.  However, when bulk does equal better, stock up so you have plenty on hand.

Bypass Brand Name
Grocery stores offer their store brand version of many brand name products.  In many cases, the store brand is just as good (or even better) than the nationally recognized product.   Typically, the store brands are less expensive, so I follow one specific rule of thumb.  I always try the store brand of a particular item.  Always. Because, you just never know if it is any good until you try it.  Once I have given it a fair shot, I decide if I will continue to buy it in the future or revert back to using the brand name.  More often than not, I wind up sticking with the store brand and slashing more from my grocery expenses.

Day-Old Delights
Have you ever checked near the bakery or meat cases for items that are discounted due to their “sell by” dates?  Day-old bread is usually marked down to less than two dollars, on average, so I tend to scour that rack each time I visit the supermarket.  Anything I find is taken home and thrown in the freezer to preserve freshness.  The same thing occurs with meat.  Steak, ground beef, chicken and sausage - I have purchased all of these items that were drastically reduced because they were nearing their “sell by” date.  Since all of the meat I buy immediately goes into my freezer at home, a sell by date that is close does not bother me.  The item will remain fresh in the freezer for a couple of months. 

After some time and practice, it’s amazing what a few changes can do to minimize grocery costs.  

Bio: Maria Rainier is a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes on education, online degrees, and what it takes to succeed as a student working towards an online bachelors degree from home. She works from home too - as a wife, a Mom, and a freelance writer. In the event she finds some spare time, she enjoys working in the garden and taking weekend trips with the family.

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