How to Buy Groceries Wisely

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Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries

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Looking for ways to save money at the grocery store? Here are the easiest and most practical ways to save money on groceries. As Ben Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny got.” We’ll help you save those pennies (and dollars) with commonsense tips.

They’ll Catch Your Eye—And Your Wallet

  • Avoid buying items on shelves at eye level. Sure, they’re easier to get to—and that’s why grocers put them there! Better buys are usually found on the highest and lowest shelves.
  • Avoid special displays at the ends of supermarket aisles. Many times, grocers doctor up those areas to make the items look as though they’re on sale.
  • When it comes to refrigerated items, don’t just grab what’s at the front of the shelf. Look at the shelf life and be sure to purchase the items with the longest shelf life.

It’s All the Same

Store brands are generally cheaper than the heavily advertised name brands, but you’re still not sure whether to use them. Don’t knock them until you’ve tried them. Many store brands are manufactured by the same folks who make your favorite name-brand product.

The difference is not in the quality of the product but, especially with canned goods, in the uniformity. Maybe all the green beans aren’t the same length, or perhaps the corn kernels are smaller than the name brand’s. Check them out before you dismiss them; nine times out of ten, you’ll be satisfied with the quality, and they’ll save you money.

Be a Unit-arian

When you compare prices, especially on nonfood items, always make sure to compare the unit prices (the price per pound, ounce, or other unit). Normally, the unit price is listed on the same shelf tag that lists the product price.

Get Tough!

Save money on your food bill by opting for less tender cuts of meat and marinating it overnight before you cook it.

  • Store-bought oil and vinegar dressing make an easy marinade.
  • Place the meat in a sealable plastic bag, pour in the dressing, squeeze out all the air, and place the bag on a plate.
  • Put the plate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. The acid in the vinegar will break down the tough connective tissue in the meat, tenderizing it.

Fly Through That Grocery Store

The typical shopping strategy to to shop around for deals. But we find an easier way is to simply reduce the amount of time you spend food shopping is to pick one store you like and always do your shopping there. Once you’re familiar with the layout of the store, you’ll be able to find what you need quickly. Knowing where to go also decreases the chances of making impulse purchases, the bane of the bargain hunter.

Eat First, Shop Later

If you have a hard time sticking to your shopping list, try eating just before you head to the grocery store. Shopping on an empty stomach makes everything look good. Your willpower is likely to be a lot stronger if you plan your shopping trip for after a meal.

Coupons: Double or Nothing

To get the biggest saving with coupons, use them only where and when you can double or even triple them.

Join a Food Cooperative

Food co-ops are grocery stores run by their members. They generally offer better prices than their commercial counterparts. Unlike those larger stores, many co-ops sell certain foods in bulk. Some co-ops run on a membership basis; others allow anyone to shop but offer discounts to members.

Create a Budget

Sometimes, folks have little idea of HOW they are spending their grocery budget. For a full month, keep your grocery receipts in a drawer; at the end of the month, tally it up by category (meat, wine or drinks, specialty items) and see where you spent what. Consider where you overspent. How many purchases were essentials? How many were nice-to-have items non-essential, such as specialty tea? We’re not saying you can’t enjoy simple pleasures, but we are aware of where there is waste. Make adjustments to your shopping and budget for a second month. 

If money is tight, put the weekly grocery budget in separate envelopes and only spend the amount of cash that you bring. Do not bring a credit card inside the store.

Create a Meal Plan Before You Go

Sure, we all make shopping lists and try to stick to them. But how about planning out your full week so you can see how you could possibly create savings? Think about how you pack a suitcase. Do you bring a separate outfit for every day? No, you usually double up on trousers or think about how to minimize how many pairs of shoes you bring. The same goes for groceries. Can you buy bulk frozen chicken and plan two meals? Can you maximize the number of meals you can get out of the week of groceries? Can you buy a chicken or make a casserole and have yummy leftovers one day? 

About The Author

Earl Proulx

When Earl Proulx died in March 2002 at age 88, he’d written Yankee Magazine's “Plain Talk” advice column for 22 years. Read More from Earl Proulx

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