Are we paying attention?
As always, food prices increase with steady regularity, but in small increments that might go unnoticed.
Even the smallest changes can add up over time and have a big impact on your wallet (and bank account credit card debt, etc.).
There is no way to avoid it: groceries cost money.
But what you can control is how much money you save compared to how much you’ve spent.
Clipping coupons can be helpful, but it isn’t the ultimate solution.
Use these 11 tips to save money on groceries the next time you head to the store — or the next time you order groceries through an app. By being frugal and careful with how you spend your money on food, you won’t leave more of your paycheck than you have to when you go grocery shopping.
1. Shop with a Plan
Putting together a list before heading to the store can help you save on groceries but having a full meal plan in place can be even better.
Creating a meal plan can help you focus throughout the shopping trip and create less of a chance of buying unnecessary items — or forgetting items.
The goal should be to purchase everything you need for the week in one trip. Returning to the store creates more opportunity to buy things you don’t really need, which could easily derail your grocery budget.
2. Stockpile Non-Perishables
Finding a good deal on an item can be exciting but take into consideration how long the item will last or if it will be used before expiring.
Sometimes waiting to purchase perishable food items should wait until you know it will be consumed.
But sales on non-perishable items can be a great way to save money on groceries.
Items like pasta and cereal have a long shelf life and can be worth stocking in the pantry.
And don’t forget other household items like paper towels, aluminum foil, and sandwich bags. If you have the space to store the items, you know they will be used in the future, and it’s on sale, go for it!
3. Shop from Your Home
Sometimes sticking to a list or meal plan can be difficult with all of the available options and goodies waiting on the shelves. Or if you tend to go to the store multiple times each week, the chances of overspending your budget can increase.
Consider switching to a shopping app, like Instacart, and let the store do the work for you.
Simply add the food and household necessities you need to your cart and then checkout. Using a shopping app will help you control the amount of time you spend browsing the virtual shelves.
And if your total is too high, you can simply remove items from your cart before checking out. This is much easier than encountering an awkward situation while checking out at the store.
4. Eat Seasonal Foods
The produce section is an important part of a well-balanced diet, but the costs can add up.
Opting for seasonal fruits and vegetables can be cheaper and fresher than imported items that aren’t in-season in your area.
If you want to enjoy your favorite produce throughout the year, buy them while they’re in-season, prepare them for cooking, then store the food in your freezer.
Green vegetables, for example, benefit from blanching for two to three minutes before going into the freezer.
5. Shop at Multiple Stores
Buying all of your groceries at one store sounds convenient, but it can end up being more expensive.
Each store will have its own sales, and it’s rare that one store will have the best sales in every department.
Typically, paper products, toiletries, and household cleaners will be less expensive at big-box stores and even pharmacies.
Food items will usually cost less or have a better sale at a grocery store or a supermarket.
6. Do the Prep Work
Ready-to-eat foods are convenient, but you are paying for an employee to do the work for you.
Instead of buying prechopped fruits and vegetables or canned beans, opt for whole produce and dried beans.
Even bone-in chicken can be less expensive per pound than deboned chicken.
It will take a little longer to prepare the food, but the ingredients will be fresher, tastier, and have fewer preservatives.
The little effort is more than worth it to save money on groceries.
7. Reduce the Amount You Spend on Meat
The meat department can be one of the priciest sections of the grocery store. Cutting the fat (pun intended!) in this department can help save on groceries each time you shop.
Purchase less expensive meat like bone-in chicken, ground chuck, or brisket. Using a slow cooker or adjusting a family-favorite recipe can make it feel like you spent a lot more, making the savings even more delicious.
Alternatively, incorporating meatless meals into your weekly meal plan can help cut down your grocery bill.
If these options aren’t feasible, try to purchase meat that is on sale. And if there’s one on sale that you prefer, like chicken breast, buy it and store it in your freezer. This way you’ll have it on hand and won’t have to pay full price later.
If you enjoy seafood, you should try to purchase frozen whenever possible because it can be approximately 20% less expensive. Fish is frozen at the peak of freshness, so nutrition, flavor, and texture are locked in.
8. Shop with a Basket
Shopping with a cart has the potential to become overloaded with groceries and ruin the budget you put in place.
Using a basket encourages shoppers to purchase only what they can carry. So, if you don’t have a long list, skip the cart and opt for a basket to help keep you on track.
Over time stores have caught on to this trick, which is why more carts are offered compared to baskets. If there aren’t any baskets available during your trip, do your best to stay on track.
9. Understand How Much Food Costs
Offhand, do you know how much a gallon of juice or pound of chicken thighs cost? The chances of the average person knowing this information is slim.
If you don’t know how much food typically costs, it’s hard to know if you’re actually getting a good deal.
By doing a bit of research to discover the cost of food, you can decide if you’re getting a deal or if you should pass on the item.
10. Don’t Fall for Promotions
Deciding if a promotion is valuable is a lot easier if you already know the cost of the item. Many promotions, like 10 for $10, are a great way for stores to clear out inventory before a new shipment.
Before loading your cart, check if the item is worth it. If a canned item originally costs 79 cents, but the sale is 10 for $10, don’t fall for the flashy signage.
And be sure to read the fine print. Do you have to buy the specified number of items to get the deal or can you buy less and pay the equivalent?
11. Use the Items You Buy
This one seems like a no-brainer, right? The unfortunate truth is that many Americans end up tossing their leftovers or letting food go to waste.
According to the USDA, 31% of food loss happens at the retail and consumer levels. Spoilage can happen at any stage in the supply chain, from sitting on the shelves to going unused in our refrigerators.
Pay close attention to expiration dates and freshness while shopping. If the item is close to the end of its shelf life and you know it won’t be used in time, it’s best to spend your money on something that will last until you’re ready.
Save on Groceries Today
These are just a few tips to help save you money on groceries and give your bank account a break this year. You never know how much money you could be saving on groceries until you put these tactics to use.
For more money saving tips and to protect your bank account, contact the finance experts at Hudson River Community Credit Union.