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Because I give advice each week here at Super Saving Tips and because I spent almost a decade working with supermarket chains learning all the secrets that they know and use, people constantly ask me about ways to save money on grocery shopping.
On the surface, it seems pretty challenging. You have to buy food and you have to spend money, big money on it every week and there’s really not a healthy way to avoid it. The biggest challenge, however, may be the constant bombardment of advertising that you are exposed to. That influences you and your family about those “must haves” that are really not and that clogs up your budget.
So here are the easy ways to save money on grocery shopping. Common sense and an actual plan of attack works every time, so pay attention and you can do what we do and save…without even really trying!
First Let’s Look at Our Actual Results
Would you believe me if I told you that since 2014, seven years ago, my wife and I haven’t spent any more money on food (groceries, take out, and dining out combined) in any year than we did then? It’s true.
As a couple without kids at home, we have maintained a stable and predictable grocery budget despite the inflation and issues that have arisen in food chain supplies and shortages. And the best part about it all is that we haven’t had to stop eating and buying our favorite items in order to do it.
Where to Begin
Like everything else we do, we actually make and use a budget when we do our grocery shopping, by month and for the entire year. It should, in my opinion, represent about 10% of your annual budget. But the larger your budget is, the smaller that percentage should be (even though the dollar expenses of course will be higher). So if your annual income is $50,000, a middle income level, a good plan for grocery expenses would be about $100 a week or $5,000 a year. That’s where to begin.
You tend to spend more in dollars as your income increases, but you will probably spend less of a percentage of your disposable income (DI) even if you increase your total income.
Of that 10%, the breakdown of DI spent on food away from home is at 4.7% compared with about 5.3% of DI spent on food at home according to the 2019 Consumer Expenditures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One plus during the height of the pandemic (if there was one) was that people weren’t dining out and thus were actually saving a few dollars without really trying because of it.
Yes, grocery spending has increased during the pandemic with people going out to eat less often, but takeout and delivery isn’t as costly as dining in a restaurant.
Our Seven Year Food Expense Numbers
Now our food expense numbers will be higher than some, lower than others. Many factors go into how much a family spends, and in our case, we live in a high cost of living area.
As you can see, we are actually spending less now on food than we did seven years ago and the number has been very consistent over that period of time. Predictability is a good thing when it comes to money you spend every week.
13 Ways You Can Save Money on Grocery Shopping Without Really Trying
Here are 13 simple ways to save and they all work! And none of them require extreme couponing or other extensive measures.
1. Shop as infrequently as possible
Instead of shopping weekly (or even more often), try to stretch your groceries two weeks or beyond. Yes, you’ll be buying more per trip, but in the end you will spend less and save your money.
2. Shop with a list
Going into the grocery store without a good list is like going on a trip without GPS or a map or any planning. You’ll buy things impulsively and you’ll buy things you don’t need. You’ll even forget the things you do need. Keep a running list on your phone, it’s always handy.
3. Purchase fewer convenience foods
No cut fruit or prepared foods you see at the deli counter. Purchase staples like dried legumes and grains, raw meats, and fresh vegetables instead of prepared foods. They last longer, which will help you to be able to shop less frequently, and they are so much cheaper!
4. Shop the perimeter of the store
Have you noticed that a lot of the processed foods are located in the interior aisles and near the checkout stands? Avoid them and find the fresh produce, raw meats, eggs, milk, butter and such located around the perimeter of the store. Grocery stores are designed to place essential ingredients at opposite ends of the store, forcing shoppers to pass through all the aisles, tempting them with items they don’t need.
5. Look down and look up for the best prices
The lowest priced items are placed above or below eye level. The items that bring stores the highest profit are always at eye level and easier to find.
6. Shop your pantry, fridge, and freezer first!
Before you shop, first check your kitchen. You don’t want to purchase ingredients that you already have but may have forgotten about. This will reduce your waste. (Americans waste millions and millions in food dollars every year!)
7. Know the “great” prices
Stores will try to trick you with loads of sale signs. Know what you usually pay for things and also when a sale price is crazy good. That’s when you stock up. Know when a big sale sign is just hokey.
8. Try the drugstores for certain items
Candy and snacks are often used as loss leaders to draw you in when and if you buy them. But they also sell frozen, dairy, and refrigerated products at good prices and often they have the best beverage prices in town too!
Just be sure to check sizes and per ounce costs and take along your price list, so you know whether you’re actually getting a good deal.
9. Always have and use your store loyalty card
It’s easier than ever by using your phone number as your membership number when you first join and sign up. I just enter my phone number into the keypad and watch the discounts roll in. The digital coupons save you time from searching them out and clipping them. Your time and the reward points really add up in savings.
10. Watch for mistakes
When you go through the checkout line, pay attention as the cashier scans your items. Especially if you have a cart full of items, the cashier might scan something twice, or the price might ring up differently than the price advertised in the flyer or on the shelf. Check your receipt before you leave the store too. I find errors all the time and get my money back before I head home.
11. Ask for a discount
You may not think it’s possible, but discounts come to those who simply ask. The butcher and the bakery are price targets for items that are about to pass their “best used and sold by dates” so when you see them, ask! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
12. Use a cash-back app to get refunds and rebates
The best out there that I use is Ibotta. Install the free app on your phone to easily save money on grocery shopping. Just choose which items you want cash back for inside the app, then scan your receipt, and start saving! The best part about it is you’ll be able to scan “any brand of bread” for 50 cents off, etc. If you do coupon, you can get a rebate.
13. Shop with your credit card for extra rewards
I know not everyone can, but we use our credit card and get 5% back on all grocery and restaurant spending at the end of every month. If you can, get a card that offers these big rewards. It can be 1%, 2%, 3%, or even 5% like ours, but any percent goes back into your pocket. It’s just another reason to have great credit that makes it easier to save your money.
If you need help in saving your money at the grocery store, then this list is an easy way to begin. Pick the ones that you feel are the easiest or the most natural to you and work up to using as many of the tips as possible. Believe me, if you want to save, you can and you don’t have to be an extremist to do it!
Remember, the goal is to shop smarter, not harder!
The best part of all these money saving tips is that you don’t have to sacrifice any nutrition for cost. In fact, you get better nutrition while you save money on your grocery shopping! This is totally a case of being able to have your cake (a healthy cake!) and eat it, too.
What tips do you have to help save when you grocery shop? Are you willing to try these “easy” ways to save? I bet you will see positive results when you do.