Want to save money on groceries but don’t have the time or ambition for extreme couponing? There are still simple, easy changes you can make to your shopping habits that will pay off big at the checkout counter.
1. Never, ever shop without a list
Write out a detailed list with all the ingredients you’ll need for the week (or, if possible, longer) and religiously stick to it. Sites like allrecipes.com will even generate a shopping list for you based on the recipes you select.
2. Shop fewer times per month
The more you shop, the more you spend, so see how long you can go between shopping trips. For perishable items such as produce, consider signing up for a food co-op with local farmers. (Even better, grow your own fruits and vegetables when possible.) And it may be worth using a milk delivery service or buying milk at a service station if it allows you to spread out the rest of your shopping.
3. Score big on sales
Set aside 10-20 percent of your grocery budget for “super-sizing” your pantry. Each shopping trip, buy multiple items of the best deal you can find on one item you regularly use. That way, you’ll be stocking up on groceries your family needs when they are at their very lowest price.
4. Stop buying “snack” food
It’s amazing how quickly you can reduce your grocery bill when you cut out things like chips, cookies, crackers and soda. Use the extra money to buy fresh produce — which can be expensive — and eat that between meals. It’s good for your wallet and waistline.
5. Get in and get out
The longer you linger, the more likely you are to overspend on items you don’t need at the store. In particular, don’t talk on the phone as you roam the aisles. Shop with a mission.
6. Eat something beforehand
Shopping hungry can lead to all sorts of unnecessary impulse buys. If you are full when you get to the grocery store, you won’t be as tempted to bring home that box of donuts that’s clearly not on your list.
7. Leave your kids at home
It’s cheaper to pay a babysitter than to buy all the bribery treats you’ll need to keep children entertained during a purposeful shopping trip.
8. Use your freezer
Meat can make up a big part of a grocery bill, so stock up when it’s on sale. Sometimes it’s worth getting a standalone freezer for the pantry or garage for extra storage. It also saves money and effort to make multiple batches of meals that freeze well.
9. Do a quick price-match check
If you shop at a store that will price-match, take a quick glance at their competitor’s ads to see if there’s anything on sale that you were planning to buy.
10. Embrace the sandwich bag
Instead of paying extra for food in individually packaged servings, buy in bulk and make your own single servings using inexpensive sandwich bags. And you can save big on produce when you cut up your own carrots, apples, etc.
11. Hit bottom
Items that are the most expensive tend to be at eye level, so train your eyes to look at the top and bottom shelves in each aisle.
12. Buy at least one “desperation” meal
This may be as simple as having a frozen pizza on hand, but make sure you have something easy to cook for nights when all you want to do is eat out. It’s also smart to keep a few ready-to-assemble meals in your food storage so you can make something for a neighbor who is sick or needs help … without an extra trip to the store.