Today’s post is written by the amazing Andrea from www.AndreaWoroch.com. She’s a nationally-recognized consumer-finance expert and I’m super honored to have her on TBM. 🙂
Groceries are among the top five costliest expenses for household budgets, behind housing, transportation and insurance. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spends $4,000 on groceries annually, or approximately $330 per month. Many experts will tell you that couponing is key to saving money on food and personal care, but with everything moms and dads have on their to-do lists, clipping coupons is unrealistic for some families.
There are plenty of other ways to save money on groceries, however, and adopting just a few of the following tips can help you shave hundreds of dollars off your food budget so you can spend money on your family in more meaningful ways— like a trip to the beach!
Pick your stores wisely.
Knowing which stores have the best prices on the items you buy is key to saving money on groceries. Personal-care products, for example, are usually better priced at Walmart or Target compared to grocery stores, while drugstores often have big savings on cereal when you include their loyalty program discounts. By conducting a bit of research on who has the best prices for the products you buy most, you can cut your grocery bill significantly.
Compare unit prices.
To determine which product represents the best value, compare unit prices to learn how much you’re paying per ounce or per pound. For example, a 12 oz. bottle of ketchup might be priced lower than a 16 oz. bottle, but the per-unit price may show the 16 oz. bottle is actually a better value because you paying less per ounce. By contrast, buying a few small packages might result in higher overall savings than one large package, depending on the cost per unit.
Browse top and bottom-shelf brands.
Manufacturer’s pay big bucks to be featured at eye level, which is why well-known brands typically dominate the middle shelves. Products placed on the upper and lower shelves are often cheaper (though not inferior in quality), so it’s important to scan the entire section when pricing products. This is also where you will find the generic versions of your favorite name brands for 30 to 60% less. Make sure you skip the name brands for pantry staples like flour, sugar and baking powder. These single ingredient-cooking ingredients can’t be made any differently from brand to brand so stick with the generic to save. Here are more tips on shopping generic brands during my segment on Hallmark’s Home & Family.
Mind the seasons.
Another key to saving money on groceries is to buy seasonally. While you may be craving strawberries in December, citrus is a better buy since berries are a spring and summer crop. The same is true for products popular during certain times of the year. For example, common barbecue foods like ground beef, condiments and salad dressings are often on sale in May and June, while you can find great deals on yams, canned goods and pie fillings around Thanksgiving. Look for recipes that use in-season ingredients to help save on your family meals.
Buy spices in loose form.
Spices are among the priciest grocery products we buy, but their flavor and nutrition are essential to the meals we prepare. Spices purchased off the shelf cost anywhere from $2 to nearly $10 depending on the variety, and much of that cost is attributed to packaging. Head over to the bulk bins or to a local spice shop to spend 75% to over 90% less per unit. You likely have packaging at home which you can refill, or you can buy small containers from the dollar store.
Pass on the “pre-” premiums.
Anything pre-chopped, pre-baked, pre-washed or otherwise prepared features a premium price, since grocers can charge you extra for the convenience. A bag of pre-washed, pre-cut vegetables, for example, features a 40% markup compared to buying carrots, celery and other vegetables whole and chopping them yourself. Items from the grocery store’s bakery are even more expensive, with markups exceeding 100% in some cases. Alternatively, you can purchase a boxed cake, brownie or cookie mix and add just a few basic ingredients for as little as a few dollars.
Meal plan with overlapping ingredients.
You likely know by now that meal planning and preparing several dishes for the week in advance will keep you from ordering take-out or going out to eat when schedules get a little nutty. But how much do you end up wasting when it comes to perishable and fresh foods? Since some recipes only call for a small portion of a single food, keep grocery waste at bay by researching recipes that use overlapping ingredients. For inspiration, Real Simple offers a variety of dish ideas and recipes using just 10 simple ingredients with this meal plan.
Stock up during sale time.
It seems like a bonus when something you buy regularly goes on sale. However, savvy shoppers know to stock up on items during this time to reduce their overall grocery costs. Consider buying the limit of non-perishable items and storing them in your pantry, or freezing perishable sale items for future use. If possible, shop on Wednesdays. This is when your grocery store is more likely to release a new circular while still honoring last week’s deals so you have a greater selection of items on sale to stock up on in the first place.
Use store loyalty programs.
Being part of a grocery store’s loyalty program is a no-brainer method for getting the best deals on food and personal products. Increasingly, stores are offering digital uploads of weekly coupons to loyalty cards, making redemption as simple as swiping your card. Plus, you may receive other perks like discounts on gas and email-only offers.
Print instead of clip.
While the idea of clipping coupons seems like a time-consuming and tedious task that most families don’t want to deal with, there are other ways to find coupons for the items on your grocery shopping list. In fact, it’s as simple as heading to your computer and printing grocery coupons directly from sites like Coupon Sherpa, which offers manufacturer’s deals by zip code as well as by brand, so you can search specifically for savings on products from Cheerios, Tide, Huggies and more. What’s more, apps like Yowza and Ibotta help you save on your grocery purchases all from the palm of your hand!
About the Author
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer-finance expert who is passionate about helping families find simple ways to save more and spend less without sacrificing their lifestyles. She has worked with hundreds of national and regional outlets on consumer stories and has been interviewed by NBC’s Today, Good Morning America, Dr. OZ, CNN, MSNBC, FOX & Friends, ABC World News, Inside Edition, Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, New York Times, Family Circle, Cosmopolitan and many more. Andrea also writes for various news outlets and her stories have been published on Forbes, AOL Daily Finance, Yahoo!, Huffington Post, LearnVest, New York Daily News “Dollar Stretcher” and ClarkHoward.com. Andrea lives in Bakersfield, CA with her husband and rambunctious, Goldendoole, and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her first child this August. You can read more about Andrea and watch recent TV clips at www.AndreaWoroch.com.