When times are tight, we can shave things like premium cable channels and overseas vacations off our budgets. We can put off luxury purchases like new cars and Jimmy Choo shoes. One thing we can’t stop buying is food. No matter how we bend our budgets, groceries remain a must.
What we can do is learn to shop smarter. We asked around, and found many ways that people manage to eat well while spending less. Here are 10 ways to save money at the grocery store:
Shop the perimeter
American grocers tend to display essential foodstuffs such as produce, milk and bread on the outermost aisles of the store. Processed packaged foods are most often found on the inner aisles. Stay around the edges of your local grocery store, and you’ll spend less on things your family eats every day.
Look high and low
There’s plenty of psychology behind product placement. Studies show that most shoppers reach for items that are displayed at eye level. Take, for example, the way breakfast cereals are displayed. Brightly-packaged boxes of high-priced cereals are placed on shelves that are immediately seen by a kid riding in a shopping cart seat. Lower-priced cereals are nearer to the bottom of the shelves. Before you grab a box that’s right in front of you, browse for bargains on the lowest and highest shelves.
Hunt for house brands
Lose the habit of buying name-brand products, and you may get the same exact item for a much better price. A number of manufacturers allow their products to be branded by the store in which they are sold. Once you remove a well-known, heavily-advertized label, many products are identical to those sold with the grocery store brand. Check the ingredients list to be sure.
Make your own
Prepared foods are convenient, but they also cost exponentially more than the ingredients to make them. Look to packaged potato salad for proof of that. A tub of tasty potato salad can cost several dollars in the deli department. A bag of spuds, a jar of mayonnaise and a carton of fresh eggs costs a lot less, and makes a lot more salad. Invest in a good cookbook, and before long you’ll be serving delicious meals and snacks for an affordable price.
Browse the bargain bins
Most grocery stores have at least one area where you can find slightly-dented canned goods and discontinued household products that are marked down for quick sale. Always take a look for the items on your shopping list in the bargain bins before cruising the rest of the store. Savings can be substantial.
Make and take a shopping list
Plan ahead, and always take a shopping list when you visit the grocery store. Even if you have an excellent memory, sticking to a written list of must-haves and staying away from impulse items will save you tons of money in the long run. Scan your pantry, note the essentials that need restocking, and don’t deviate from your list.
Never shop hungry
Enjoy a hearty meal before you go grocery shopping, and you may pay less at the checkout. If you’re hungry when you shop, everything will look good. When your hunger is satisfied, you’ll find it easier to avoid costly prepared foods and come-hither packaging.
Ask for rain checks
If an advertised item is out of stock, many store managers will give you a rain check you can use to purchase the item at a later date for the same on-sale price. Note any sale items that are depleted, and ask your cashier to call for a manager when you’re ready to check out.
Understand unit pricing
Look closely at the shelf tags, and you’ll probably see a per-unit price. Compare the cost-per-ounce, and you can clearly see which packages are the best deal.
Spend time, not money
Cook from scratch and save. A package of dried beans may cost the same as a can of pre-cooked beans, but the amount of edible food is quite different. That can of beans may be easy, but you’ll get at least five times more food if you take the time to soak and cook your own. Chop your own produce to make healthful salads and leave the pricey pre-packaged salad mixes at the store.
Saving money at the grocery store is easy, if you shop smartly.