In this series on saving money, I will be addressing a variety of subjects. Today, we are going to address grocery shopping. This is just a collection of ideas that have worked for me... I am not saying this is the way everyone should do things. :)
The price of groceries has been increasing and yet, we all need to buy groceries. I have a large family and we use a lot of groceries each week... what should we do?
Over the years, I have adjusted my systems to work with what is available to me, and I think that is something we all have to be aware of. Years ago, I kept a big coupon file... in a plastic shoebox... and it went to the store with me. I saved lots of money that way because a store in my area had buy-one-get-one free sales AND double coupons on coupons up to 99c. Wow! When that store chain pulled out of our area, coupons weren't that much help to me, so now I rarely use coupons.
I also used to do lots of rebates and I kept good records on it... I saved a lot, especially when coupling rebates with coupons and buy-one-get-one-free deals. That worked great and my husband was really impressed, which is always fun! :) Now, I rarely use rebates anymore... and that is okay.
I peruse the 5 ads and make a grocery list... that list consists of what is ON SALE and what I might be interested in buying. I will not actually buy all that is on the list... this is just to give me an idea of what is on sale that week.
You will notice that I list ground beef on the list under more than one store.... I really wanted to buy some ground beef this week, if on sale, so I was watching for it. It has been so high in price and we haven't bought much lately, so I was hoping to get some. It was on sale at a few stores, but which one is cheapest? That's where the list really helps.
I also do not just reproduce each grocery ad on my list... I am only watching for things I might be interested in buying. Most things on the list will not actually be purchased by me. What does the list mean? On the list, I write the sale item, the size, the price and the limit, if there is one. I also write down if it takes a store coupon.. and what page of the ad has that store coupon.
So, how do I decide what to buy and what store to visit? It depends on several things:
-Will I be near a certain store?
-Are there several items I could use at that store?
-Is there something I really need at one of the stores?
-Will there be a special sale that makes it worth going... and I can buy other things there also?
I do not go to 5 stores in a week... in fact, I usually only go to one store a week, and some weeks, I don't go to the store at all.
This week's list showed cheese on sale.. we have been wanting cheese... for homemade pizza. The prices were similar and knowing we were having unexpected company and homemade pizza was what I planned for supper, I had my husband and son do a run to store #3 to get cheese. I also had them buy bananas, which were not on sale, but we use them in kefir smoothies.
On that same trip, they also went to store #1, which wasn't far from the other store... and I had them get hamburger. The price is not as good as some of the other stores, but those stores would be having sales on it only on the weekend. We were having company the next day and while my cupboards weren't bare, I was out of many things needed for various meals, so I just needed enough for this time with unexpected company and I had my husband just get the little one pound package. One nice thing about going to store #1 was that they had strawberries on sale and I was able to create a dessert for our company, with what I had on hand, because they bought the strawberries for me. Luscious Strawberry Layered Dessert
On this list for Aldis, you can see that the Roma Tomatoes and Peppers have a note (Mexico?). What that means is that we need to check to see if it is a product from Mexico. I do not buy products from Mexico because of pesticides and more. The sad thing is that MUCH of Aldis produce, at our store, is now from Mexico. I do a bulk of my shopping at Aldis, usually, but may have to re-think that at some point. I realize items from Mexico may be cheaper, but it is not worth it to me, to ingest more toxins in doing so and sabotage my family's health.
I tend to plan my meals based on what is on sale... instead of buying what I need to make a meal. It actually saves quite a bit of money to do this.
We've all heard the tips on grocery shopping: don't go when you are hungry as you buy too much, take a list, and more.
I would add:
-Watch the expiration dates...
-Take a calculator and figure the price. Don't trust the pre-figured unit pricing listed on the sign at the store... I have found some of them to be wrong. It helps to do your own figuring.
-Bulk buying is NOT always cheaper... use the calculator. I have found this to be true at Cosco and Sam's Club also. I do not have a membership at either and I would not spend the money for such. I did get a free pass a couple of times and so I checked it out, but I was quite disappointed. What I found was that if I watch the sales in the regular grocery stores, I could beat the price on about everything I checked. I concluded that buying a membership and buying foods there would actually COST me money, not save it.
-Check the clearance meats, if they have them. Those $1 and $2 off stickers on a package can help much... If it isn't that great of a cut of meat, maybe cooking it in the crockpot will make it better... and you save money.
-After holiday sales are a good place to stock up on candy, if you use that. I have bought such and used it to make cookies... or to save for later in the year. This will NOT work if you are tempted by it. I have a big old popcorn tin where we keep such items... they last for a long time. What a blessing to pull out a fun treat for the family a few months later... a treat that was bought for a very small amount.
-Avoiding the packaged items will help save money. Packaged dinners and mixes usually cost more.
-Building a pantry is a good idea... when canned goods are on sale, buy a few and tuck them away. The same is true for other things that will last. I also do this with butter... butter is so expensive again... when on sale, I stock up. It helps to get to the point that the pantry has a supply of foods... just remember to regularly add to it as you use them.
-Watch the prices as the cashier rings things up... be sure you are charged the sale price and not the regular price. Also be sure the prices you are charged are accurate. I have seen stores who do not have the shelf price and the cash register price coordinated.
-If you buy clearance items that are marked down, be sure they are charged that way. Especially when the item will have to be scanned twice to do the discount...
-Buy things your family will eat... something that will go to waste, won't be a good deal.
-Maybe try to introduce some new food or recipe that saves money, once in a while. If it is accepted, keep using it... if not, don't use it anymore. You may find some winners, though.
-When something is on sale at a good price, I stock up. I will budget money to do this so that I can spend extra on the weeks where there is an especially good sale... other weeks, I underspend, so that I can save that money for when I need it.
-When there is a limit on a sale item... like a limit of 2 per customer... I know of many people who give their kids money and put them in a line... or go through a different line to get lots of items that way. I choose not to do that... because to me it seems dishonest, so I abide by the limits and trust the Lord to provide for us. I don't say that to heap a guilt trip...that is just what I feel convicted of the Lord to do... you will have to decide for yourself. The reason I bring this up, is that I have heard people push others to bypass the limits... and say that is the way to save money. Please don't allow yourself to feel pushed into doing something that goes against your conscience. God is our provider... and He will provide...
-Group trips together to save on gas... I try to go to the library and grocery store or do other errands, all on the same trip. It saves gas money...and it also saves time.
-Taking a snack and a bottle of water can keep the blood sugar stable and allow you to have energy to shop for a longer period of time. If I don't do this, it is easy to feel I just HAVE TO BUY A SNACK NOW...... my energy fails and I can tell I NEED a boost. Even if I do buy something, it doesn't help a lot and my productivity is done for that trip. Plus, I have just wasted money on a short term snack that I would not have chosen to buy if I wasn't desperate for some nutrition. Thinking ahead really helps this problem. I like to carry some raw almonds and raisins in a baggie as that can help stave off the fatigue.
If you only have one store to choose from, you can still watch for sales or clearance items... and maybe it would be helpful to buy some items on line and have them shipped to your home. Maybe a once or twice a year trip to a larger area to buy staples would be helpful. We tend to do this for trips to the Amish store which is 100 miles away from us... when I go, I buy 50 pound bags of flour and oats, I stock up on spices and bulk items. I combine such trips with a trip to see family... or a day trip.
I have been learning to save money for several years.. and I didn't learn it all at once... and not everything I learned still works. Being flexible is a good idea.... and if you can implement one idea to save money, that is great... use what works for you and don't compare yourself to others. I like to remember that God is the One who meets our needs.. He gives us all we need and I am thankful. I hope you are too. Thank you for visiting and if you have additional ways of saving money on groceries, I would love to hear about it in the comments.
Saving Money Series:
The Number One Way I Save Money!
Saving Money-Part 2-Grocery Shopping
Saving Money-Part 3-Buying Used
Paula's No Rules Weekend Party
Home and Garden Thursday
Penny Pinching Party
Homestead Blog Hop
Homemaking Link Up-Raising Homemakers
The Homemaking Party
Talk of the Town
Tuesdays w/ a Twist
Tuesdays at Our Home
Art of Homemaking