If you are like me, you look at couponing reality shows with horror and no small amount of wonder that any human would use their spare time in that way. I know that came off a little judgmental, but it happens to be my honest first reaction. I spent most of my years after college eating out, so I am on the opposite end of the spectrum. However, my health and my bank account have convinced me over the past few months to take a closer look at making more food at home and eating less processed foods. Which means, it is time to save money and get serious about grocery shopping…not too serious where it would take more than an hour every week or too lax so I end up ordering in because I don’t have what I need.
Grocery shopping, is an integral part not only of #adulting, but also of the American economy. Considering that the average American household spends $4,015 on groceries each year (amounting, in 2016 to over $52 billion dollars nationwide), it’s easy to see that grocery stores are among the driving forces of the economy.
So if you don’t have the time to plan a cost-effective and time-efficient grocery trip, but you want to save money, what do you do?
1. Reconsider Name Brand Food
Don’t be afraid to put down the name brand food and purchase a generic or store brand, instead. Often, the store brand food is made or manufactured by the same company as the name brand, but it’s packaged and labelled differently – and costs a lot less! You can save a lot of money over the course of a year by adding up these little weekly savings.
2. Read Store Fliers as You Plan
It’s unwise to take a shopping trip without a plan in place! Shopping on an empty stomach, especially, shows a statistically significant rise in the odds that you will impulse purchase and, consequently, spend more money. Instead, you should make a plan before you shop (and eat a good snack!). Look over that week’s store fliers – which are often mailed to every address within the store’s area – and see what the sales and deals are. Plan your meals around these sales, especially in regards to meat. You can save money by shopping at the stores offering the best deals that week.
3. Stick to Your List
Once you’ve made your list – STICK TO IT! Don’t be tempted, especially by free samples given out in store, to deviate from the sales and list you’ve researched in advance. Willpower is a critical tenet of economical shopping. If monotony gets you down, either allow yourself one new or exciting item to try per month OR push yourself to try new recipes and ingredients regularly.
4. Be Smart About Sale Items
Seeing that “SALE” sign is an awesome feeling. But you’ve got to be smart about it. For example, be careful with consumable items, you can only consume so much and expiry dates or fresh foods only have a certain shelf life. However, if the sale in question is on cleaning supplies or office supplies, consider buying more than you immediately need. That kind of purchase is an investment. You will definitely use it later and save money on it now. The trick to this approach is making sure you remember you have an extra bottle of dish soap hidden under your cabinet next time you run out!
5. Know Your Pantry
If you’re looking to save money on your groceries and minimize your shopping time during the week, make sure you have pantry staples. These are items that every kitchen needs that can help you create meals quickly even when you haven’t had enough time to grocery shop during the week. Pantry staples include: flour, rice, oils, spices, dairy items you use daily, and some kind of canned goods. Check out this list for a more detailed breakdown of items your pantry needs.
6. Be Willing to Shop at Multiple Places
It might be time-consuming and less convenient, but you need to be willing to shop at multiple places if you’re truly committed to saving the most money you can on your groceries. For instance, don’t be tempted to buy toiletries in the grocery store; these items are almost universally less expensive at drug stores. Different stores also run different weekly specials, so you might be able to get all the things you want or need at the lowest possible prices if you’re willing to visit more than one store.
7. Use Your Phone
There is basically an app for everything these days. And there definitely is one for grocery shopping. Two that are particularly great for cutting down your grocery bill and grocery shopping time are Favado and Coupon Sherpa. Coupon Sherpa displays coupons you might be interested in and sends you notifications when you enter a specific store. This app is good if you just want a simple couponing app available for use. Favado has a bit more options. With Favado you can compare deals across stores and you can set up notifications for when your favorite items go on sale. You can also store your shopping list on the app. It’s a nice app to consolidate your grocery needs on.
Grocery shopping can be a challenge, especially in the midst of an already hectic schedule! But with some advanced planning, and a dedication to sticking to a plan, you can nav. your grocery shopping quickly and efficiently while seeing your savings account increase.
Image credit: Mirjana Jesic