Don’t Judge a Product by Its Brand Name
More often than not, you won’t be able to taste the difference between generic ketchup and the “good stuff”. Buy generic pasta, condiments, spices, and more. If you absolutely need to have the premium quality products, here’s a tip: look at stores like TJ Maxx or Homegoods for gourmet ingredients at lower prices.
Look for the “Manager’s Special"
Stores will mark down items that are nearing their sell-by date. Meats tend to be salvageable, so long as you either cook or freeze them immediately. Discount produce is great for a salad you're planning to eat that night or for a vegetable soup the next day. Sometimes the bakery has an excess of goods and will mark down products just to make space. And just like any other store, supermarkets do have clearance aisles. Look for good deals on long lasting products, such as coffee.
Snack Before You Shop
Grocery shopping on an empty stomach is a dangerous game. Keeping your eyes on your list is hard when you haven’t eaten all day. Everything looks delicious when you have the munchies, and you’re likely to fall prey to impulse buys. Avoid wasting a few bucks on chips or candy by grabbing a bite to eat beforehand.
Cut Costs by Cutting Convenience
Prepackaged salad can save you time in the kitchen, but they cost dollars more than buying a bundle of uncut greens. A head of lettuce or a bundle of spinach is much cheaper than the plastic-wrapped alternative.
Visit Ethnic Supermarkets for Fresh, Cheap Produce
Avocados are awesome. They’re also pretty expensive. If you have a Latino supermarket in town, you’ll be able to find avocados that are often bigger and cheaper than what you’ll find at American grocery chains. The same goes for other specialty foods. Looking for bean sprouts? Go to an Asian market. Your friendly neighborhood grocery store may not have what you’re looking for—and if they do, it’s totally overpriced.
Buy Shopping List Staples in Bulk
If you’re constantly running out of flour or sugar, try buying in bulk instead. When the supermarket’s family size option isn’t enough, head to Costco, Sam’s Club, or your local bulk store. They offer both pantry and grocery items at a low price. Since these stores supply restaurants and other business, you can find deals on household essentials, such as toilet paper or cleaning solution. Of course, you’ll end up wasting money if you let your food expire.
Become a Coupon Master
Many of the deals in the weekly flier may only be available to discount-card holders. These cards are free and tend to come with other benefits, such as discounts at the gas pump. Couponing is so much easier these days. Some stores accept coupons that you’ve loaded onto your smartphone.
Skip Unnecessary Organic Foods
You may want to opt for the cheaper, non-organic produce in most cases. You can buy non-organic fruit with a thick skin, such a bananas and pineapples, without fear of tainted fruit. A rule of thumb that health nuts swear by? Buy non-organic if it's one of the "Clean Fifteen," but buy organic if it's a "Dirty Dozen."
Don’t Be Afraid of Frozen Food
Fresh produce can be pricy. Not only can you save a buck or two buying frozen veggies, you don’t have to worry about a looming expiration date. Unlike canned fruit and vegetables, the produce is flash-frozen to retain its nutrients. Next time you need strawberries for your breakfast smoothie, go to the frozen food aisle.
Make a List and Stick to It
Okay, this sounds like a no-brainer, but it's one of the single most important things you can do. You’d be surprised at how much extra crap ends up in your cart by the end of a grocery run! Believe it or not, supermarkets are designed with this in mind. The essential items such as milk and eggs are hiding at the back of the store, behind aisles and aisles of goodies you know you don’t need…but they look so tasty. If you can’t resist the temptation, make a rigid list of food you’ll need to prepare a meal menu. And if you must, add “one fun treat” to your list.
A BLT, large salad, or omelets are just fine for dinner. No need to go all out every single night with a meat, two steaming veggies, and fresh bread.
Carry a Calculator
While grocery shopping, whenever you add something to your cart, add the price into the calculator. Doing this will help you make better financial decisions, and you might just put back that pack of cookies you know you’d be better off without, anyway.
Check the Pantry
This one should be a no brainer, but before leaving to go on your grocery trip, you should raid the pantry and your cabinets to see what meals you can make beforehand. This way, you may only need to buy a couple of things to complete a few meals rather than purchasing a whole week’s worth of food.
Freeze and Store Meals
There are a ton of free freezer meal recipes online. Meal prep can be fun and it makes the rest of the week so much easier. And you save money? It’s a win-win!
Don’t Bulk Up Just Because You Can
A 40-pack of yogurt can seem appealing for the savings; however, if there are just two or three of you in your house it could expire before you can get to it. Bulk up on things like everyday items, instead, like flour, sugar, and canned goods.
Take Cash and Leave the Card at Home
Taking cash with you is a smart way to save money. This way you know exactly how much you can spend, and you’ll make smarter choices about which foods you buy and which you decide to pass up. Once that cash is gone, it’s gone, so be aware.
Make a List and Stick to It
The easiest way to save on groceries is to make a list of what you actually need and then stick to it as soon as you’re in the store. Don’t allow for surprises by picking up extra items unless there an absolute necessity that you missed writing down.
Shop in Season Items
Things like pomegranates in July and grapes in the winter are bound to cost extra and may not even taste the way you imagined. Make it a point to pay attention to which fruits and vegetables are in season.
Ignore End-Cap Items
The items on the end of isles are there to tempt you on purpose. Avoid these if they’re not on your list or if it isn’t something your family necessarily needs.
Try Different Stores
We know it’s convenient to just drive to your nearest neighborhood grocery store, however, it could be financially beneficial if you split your trip up to different stores for different specials.
Sometimes certain stores put specific items on sale on a cycle. If you begin keeping track of the sales cycles of your favorite grocery store, you may be able to begin to predict when the next sale is going to happen.
Stick to a Meal Plan
Just like sticking to your grocery list, this one seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how much it happens. If you already have your meals planned and/or prepped for the week, stick to your original menu. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself making an extra trip to the grocery store to replenish what you used up.
Don’t Buy More Than You Need
Man, when our favorite items go on sale, it’s hard to not go crazy and overbuy it at that special price but fight it we must. If you end up buying more than you need, you really didn’t get a deal. The same can be said about picking up items just because they’re on sale. If they’re not on your list, then you’ll still end up spending more than you planned.
Try Growing at Home
Look, no one knows better than us that not everyone has a green thumb. However, for those that do, it may be beneficial to plant your own garden to grow things like fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Not only will you save money this way, but you’ll have that extra pride of knowing that you grew the nutrients that your family is consuming.
There are several shopping apps that you can choose from, and your favorite grocery store may very well have its own app that you can order from. If you order online, you can search for just the items you need without the temptation of grabbing those extras. Plus, it’s super convenient to just pull into a parking spot and let someone else load up your car.
There are a ton of apps for your smartphone such as Ibotta and Receipt Hog. These apps reward users for purchasing certain items or for shopping at specific stores. It may not seem like much but getting that extra $10 gift card for the store of your choice for doing nothing but buying what you need is just a bit of extra incentive to scan those receipts.
Leftovers Are Key
Want to save a lot more money? Stop going out for lunch and take leftovers with you instead. Just a thought: You go out for lunch Monday through Friday and spend roughly $10 per day. That’s more than $200 per month. Sticking to your list and eating leftovers will save you tons of cash.
If You Buy it, Use it
There is nothing worse than opening the refrigerator to find a sea of rotten dollar signs. Yes, we’re talking about those moldy peaches, rotten tomatoes, and other unused, forgotten about produce. Be careful not to overbuy these items and be sure to use what you buy or else it’s like throwing your money away.
End of Day at the Farmer’s Market
Not everything will be cheaper at the farmer’s market, but we do know there are some pretty good deals you can get for many of your produce items. The best time to go to the Farmer’s Market at the end of the day when vendors are looking to get rid of what they brought with them. They may slash prices to move the items so they don’t have to cart them home.
Leave Your Over-Spender at Home
That’s right. That includes spouses and children specifically, siblings, parents, etc. If you know you’re going shopping, try to plan it as a solo trip. Many times, those around you will influence your spending if you’re not careful, especially a cute kid staring up at you with those big eyes begging for that pack of cookies or candy you know you don’t need or want.