I do not know of a single person who doesn’t like to save money. And the supermarket is one of the most important places to be shopping-savvy.
The good news is there are so many easy and effective ways to slash your grocery budget.
Here are 8 tips that will bring that receipt total down considerably.
1. Buy whole fruits and vegetables. Pound for pound, whenever you buy anything that has been peeled, cut up or prepped in any way, you are paying a premium. And not only are you paying more for the work that went into the prepared food, you may lose additional money on the back end, since these items are more perishable than their whole counterparts. Pre-diced onion might only last for a handful of days in the fridge, for example, while whole onions will last for weeks.
2. Don’t snub store brands. House brand foods used to feel like an inferior version of name brand items, but these days stores have more formidable relationships with manufacturers, and often the house brand of something might be made by the same company as a reputable brand name product. You will have to taste some to figure out what you like. And stores like Costco with their Kirkland brand items, or Trader Joe’s with their eponymous line of groceries are powerful examples of how good store brand products can be.
3. Put the freezer to work. If pork chops are on sale but you don’t plan to make them this week, consider buying them and freezing them for later. Or if your market or price club has a great deal on bulk chicken or ground beef, take advantage of it, and just divide up the package into smaller freezer-proof containers or bags. Label everything and wrap it well. Frozen shrimp also deserves a special shout-out: Most shrimp that you buy “fresh” was actually frozen and defrosted anyway, so stash a bag in the freezer for quick weeknight dinners. Frozen vegetables and fruit are also great to have on hand.
4. Look for the bargain aisle. Many supermarkets have a designated aisle where they feature a selection of reduced-price items. Often these items are seasonal, and you might see them discounted further after a holiday (matzoh ball mix is practically free right after Passover, and candy canes are a steal on Dec. 26).
5. Look for “While Supplies Last” signage. In one of the markets where I shop, some of the sales signs on the shelves have additional language (in small print, so get in close to check!) letting shoppers know that an item is in limited supply and intended to sell out. Often these prices are discounted heavily since the store is trying to clear its shelves for new products.
6. Stock up on on-sale non-perishables. If you have the storage space, when you see that canned broth or tomatoes or beans or pasta is on sale, throw a few extra into your cart. I once bought 10 containers of mustard because the price was so good (I happen to really love mustard).
7. Look for clearance areas in the market. Day-old pastries and bread (perfect for French toast or stuffing!) might be tucked into a small shelf near the bakery. Corners of the store may have shelves with collections of miscellaneous products that no longer warrant space on the main shelves. This might be because they are close to expiration, or there are just a few left and they aren’t being restocked. You could also get some serious steals on packages that got a little dinged up, but the contents are still fine. (Who cares what the outside of the box of cereal looks like?)
8. Look at the store circular before you go. Many major markets have a website that will show you the items on sale that week. A chance to think about this in advance means that you can meal-plan around the pot roast that is on special, or decide this is the week to stock up on snacks for back to school.
Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.