Some of you might have read my post about Couponing a while back and I am certainly an avid Couponer. I love coupons, but sometimes the sales don’t match up with what my family needs or my family just doesn’t enjoy the items I happen to have coupons for. When that happens its good to have other methods of saving money at the grocery stores. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned for those non-coupon shopping trips.
1: Stick to the outside of the store – Produce, Meat & Dairy are generally the departments that ring the outside of the grocery store, they are also the departments which hold a lot of our necessities. Those aisles in the middle are full of temptation, sure that box of cake mix on sale sounds great but when we are trying to save money we have to ask ourselves…do we really need it? I tend to find myself spending more when I start wandering around in those middle aisles, all those small items on sale really add up and then when I get home they tend to sit in the cupboard until I finally get around to using them. I didn’t need them, I was just lured into buying them by pretty sales signs and clever marketing. To save money I find it best to ring the outside of the store and then hit up only those aisles with items I truly need. It’s much easier to say no to temptation if you’re never tempted, to begin with.
2: Set a Budget and stick to it – Although I try to shop with a list as much as possible I also keep a budget in mind, sometimes when you go to the grocery store the Item you were planning to buy is sold out or you find something else reduced that wasn’t advertised in the flyer. I find it helpful to set an amount for each department. If I say I am going to spend twenty dollars on fruits and vegetables but end up making substitutions on my list or picking up a few extra items I can still make sure I hit my budget, keeping a dollar amount in mind keeps me accountable and is a helpful way to make sure I don’t inadvertently overspend.
3: Shop with a List – Make a list, sure there will be the times where your list doesn’t work (as discussed above), but overall list making is a great way to keep you on track and stop you from spending extra money. Lists keep you focused, you go to the store, you get what you need and you leave. Without a list, you end up wandering the aisles or trying to figure out if you have forgotten anything you might need for a recipe or even buying doubles of items you already have at home but forgot about. Having a list, even if you end up altering it along the way, means you go into the store with a purpose and plan, I spend far more at the grocery store if my general plan is just to ‘see what’s on sale and figure it out’ then I do if I go in with a list.
4: Plan your Meals – planning your meals goes hand in hand with making a list. I like to sit down and ask the family meals they want to have in the coming week and go from there. With meals in mind, I can then go through my pantry and freezer and figure out what I need for each recipe and what I already have. This is also a good time to take stock of my supplies and either base my remaining meals on what I have already or plan on stocking up on items I happen to be running low on. Like the list mentioned above going to the grocery store with specific meals in mind is a good way to stay focused in the grocery store and also to make sure that I’m not buying items I really don’t need.
5: Buy large, versatile cuts of meat – Rather than buying one pack of chicken legs and another of chicken breasts and a third of thighs for three separate recipes sometimes it’s cheaper to just buy a couple roasting chickens and break them down yourself. Items like Hams or Turkeys might seem expensive at face value but when you break them down into how many different meals you can make out of them it can be a great deal cheaper than buying separate cuts. Getting creative on how you use your leftovers can be a huge money saver in the long run and thankfully for us, it’s very easy to look up leftover recipes nowadays.
6: Learn your Local Stores – Some stores have cheaper meats and some stores have better produce selections, farmer’s markets have seasonal sales. Taking the time to get to know which of your local stores have the best deals on different items makes those couponless shopping trips just a little bit cheaper. Going to several stores instead of one might be a touch more time consuming but it will pay off in the long run. Doing this will also mean you can take advantage of the various sales when it comes to restocking your pantry. Sugar might not be on sale in your normal store but it could be at the store across the road, following the sales at more than one store will mean you won’t miss out on a really good deal.
None of these tips by themselves are going to save you a great deal of money, however, working several of them into a system will help those tighter money weeks just a touch more bearable without turning it into a week of Peanut Butter and Jelly and Ramen.
If you would like to learn more about Couponing and saving, even more, money I suggest reading this article.