Are you tired of seeing prices rise every time you go to the grocery store? The Federal Reserve may say that inflation is pacing the 2-percent target, but anyone who looks at their till slip after a shop can say otherwise.
Food prices will continue to escalate as the world teeters on the brink of a global recession. Threats to food supplies cause increases in prices, and you’ll find you’re paying more for some food products than others. For example, the recent global shortage of pork due to Chinas “pig ebola,” means that pork prices are set to rise exponentially over the coming months.
At the same time, wages aren’t rising, and people are experiencing a cash crunch on their monthly budget. The grocery store is the place where most of us notice the cost of living starting to encroach on our budget.
Fortunately, we put together this list of tips and ideas you can use to bring down your monthly spend. Give each of these strategies a try, and you’ll save hundreds of dollars over the year on your trips to the grocery store.
Plan Your Shop
The most important part of your money-saving strategy starts before you walk out the door to go to the grocery store. Creating a meal plan for the week helps you identify all the ingredients you need when you visit the store.
With a meal plan, you know all the ingredients you need, and you don’t waste your time wandering around the isles. With a meal plan and ingredients list, there’s no chance of you picking up items that you don’t need for the week.
Think about the meals you want to make this week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eat as healthy as you can, and avoid relying on TV dinners and prepared meals for your food. Prepared meals contain sub-standard ingredients that have a low nutritional value. In many cases, these prepared meals come with meat offcuts and processed foods that are terrible for your health.
If you have little time to make breakfast or lunch during the week, then preparing meals that you can store throughout the week is a good idea. Mueslis and yogurt jars, soaked oats, and salad jars are all pre-made options you can make on a Sunday, and leave in the fridge for a few days. Pull them out when you need them, and get a nutritious meal instead of relying on the drive-thru at lunchtime.
Set a Budget and Write a Shopping List
After you have your meal plan ready, it’s time to execute. Start by writing a comprehensive shopping list of all the ingredients you’ll need for your meals. Creating a shopping list provides a method to the madness of visiting a grocery store.
With a list, you can laser-target the items you need at the store, and save time. Time is our most valuable asset in the modern world. If you add up all of the minutes you spend aimlessly wandering around the grocery store during the year, we bet it adds up to hours of your life. With a list, you get in and get out of the store in the shortest time possible.
Create your list on an excel sheet and print it out or send it to your phone. If you think that feels too much like work, then a simple hand-written list will suffice. Once you have your list ready to go, it’s vital that you don’t differ from the plan and only shop for items you need.
Never Shop When Hungry
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when visiting the grocery store is to walk through the doors feeling hungry. Two types of hormones govern our appetite and food choice – Leptin and ghrelin. When you get hungry, the body ramps up production of ghrelin to stimulate your appetite.
Unfortunately, when ghrelin is rampaging through your body, you make poor food decisions. If you visit the grocery store when you’re feeling hungry, there’s a higher chance that you’ll buy things that aren’t on your shopping list. Hunger makes us do silly things, and you’ll find yourself picking out loads of snack foods and other items you don’t need.
Only visit the grocery store after you enjoy a meal. Try to avoid going to the bravery store after work, as this is the time of the day when you’re likely to be feeling hungriest. Plan your shopping trips on weekends, and hit the grocery store after you enjoy a substantial breakfast.
Double Up On Ingredients
Research shows that Americans waste around 25-percent of the food we eat. That’s a shocking statistic. Imagine if you could save 25-percent of the money you spend at the grocery store each year? That figure would likely be hundreds or thousands of dollars.
One of the best ways to ensure you waste less food in your home is to double up on your meals. Cook enough to make two meals when it’s time to prepare food. While this strategy may seem like you’re making more food, you’ll waste less. Pack the extra food and use it for a second meal during the week. Store it in Tupperware and freeze it for a snack later in the month.
Use this strategy for making breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll find it surprising how much food you save during the week. Plus, there’s the convenience of having frozen home-cooked meals on hand when you’re feeling tired and don’t want to cook in the evenings after work.
Shop for Deals
Before you head out to the grocery store, take some time to shop for deals online. Most large grocery store chains will post price deals on their website. Smaller stores may use local newspaper inserts to promote discounts on items. It’s vital that you look for the best deals possible, and compare prices between products.
For instance, toilet paper is one of the necessities we can’t do without in our life. It may shock you to find that there’s often a 25 to a 30-percent difference in pricing of this consumable between different retailers. However, you can be sure that a retailer is offering a special deal on toilet paper every weekend.
Proteins are also another item where grocery stores have promotional deals all year-round. Some grocery stores may offer deals or discounts if you take more than one item of the same type. For instance, buy three batches of asparagus and only pay for two.
Visit Sites for Coupons
Visit sites like eBates, and other similar discount sites for virtual coupons on thousands of grocery items. Sign up for a cashback program with eBates, and you could earn up to 40-percent of your spend in cash back credits that payout to your PayPal account.
Clipping coupons may seem like you’re cheap with your money. However, there is nothing wrong with taking a frugal approach to your grocery shopping. Clipping coupons may take some time, but you’ll save thousands of dollars over the year using this strategy.
Stock Your Pantry
Keeping a well-stocked pantry ensures that you don’t run out of crucial items. If you’re ready to make a salad, but there’s no olive oil for the dressing, you’re more likely to go and visit the grocery store. While you’re there, you’re probably going to pick up a few other things that you don’t need.
Keeping your pantry packed with everything you need helps you avoid situations where you have to waste time and money going to the grocery store. Make sure you stock up on all the non-perishable items you use throughout the month. Ensure that you don’t leave the house for any unexpected shortages.
Use Your Leftovers
We all have leftovers after making a meal. How many times have you finished your enchiladas, and put the leftovers in the fridge? The next day, you forget they are even in there. When you return from work, you start cooking something fresh, and the enchiladas sit in the fridge overnight.
The following day, you open the fridge door to a rank smell of rotting enchiladas. You throw out the meal in disgust, both at the state of the food and yourself for wasting food. Stop these situations from occurring and use your leftovers.
If you’re cooking something like enchiladas, where it might be too much for one serving, then double up the ingredients and make a second meal you can store in the freezer.
Prep Your Meals
We already discussed the importance of meal planning. However, meal preparation is essential. After you visit the grocery store on Sunday, return home, and spend an hour or two preparing meals for the next few days. Most meals will keep in the fridge for up to four days before they start to spoil.
Putting together items like salad bowls and jars of soaked oats saves you plenty of time during the week when you oversleep in the mornings. All you need to do is grab a jar and hit the road. Using this strategy will help you avoid the drive-thru line at lunchtime, saving you plenty of money during the year. Scour forums and blogs online for tips and tricks for preparing meals in minutes.
Join a Community Supported Agriculture Program
One of the best ways you can save thousands on your annual grocery shopping is through joining a community agriculture program or co-op. These programs are a collaboration of community members that support a local farm. The members pay an annual or monthly fee to join the program, and this entitles them to some of the crops each year.
These programs can save you a fortune of your vegetable bill over the year. Having fresh, organic veggies on hand for a fraction of the price you pay in the grocery store is fantastic. Plus, you get genuine organic fruits and vegetables, which is far healthier for you and your family.
Joining a community-supported agriculture program is the best way to improve the health of you and your wallet. Look online for programs in your area, and participate for a small fee.
Buy Your Food in Bulk
If you’re heading to the grocery store, make sure you buy in bulk where you can. Canned foods and other items with long shelf lives are fantastic for buying in bulk. When you visit the grocery store, look at the shelf pricing. The chances are that you’ll find there are two prices.
The higher price in the bold or large font is for a single unit. If you look under that, you’ll find a smaller, cheaper bulk price if you take more than a set amount of items. Buying in bulk is an excellent way to save money on canned foods, sauces, dry foods like rice and pasta, and bottled things like olive oil.
The Final Tip – Don’t Give in to Your Impulses
When you finish your shop and move to the checkout, don’t fall for the impulse trap. It may surprise you to learn that suppliers pay the grocery store for shelf space. The premium shelf space in the aisles is at eye level and the shelf below. However, the most expensive shelf space is next to the cashiers.
You’ll notice that grocery stores put candy and convenience products near the cashier. This situation is not a coincidence. Food manufacturers spend millions on research to understand what triggers consumer’s impulses. By placing the candy and convenience products near the ill, the study shows that you are more likely to buy these products on a whim.
Therefore, avoid the temptation to fill your grocery cart with a few candy bars and snack foods while you’re waiting for the cashier. If you pick up one candy bar every time you go shopping, then that’s a couple of hundred dollars over the year that you’re spending on impulse purchases you don’t need.
Don’t fall for this sneaky tactic that retailers use to upsell your shopping trip. Stick to your plan and your shopping list, and don’t blow your budget.