If you follow OurDebt.net you know our mission is to show you what we are doing to get out of debt. Part of getting out of debt is getting smarter about what you buy everyday. Before Melissa and I started paying off debt, eating out was a big part of our lifestyle. We were in debt up to our eyeballs yet $50.00 of sushi still sounded like a good idea. When we made the choice to stop adding to our debt and start eliminating it, eating out had to go. Now we shop at the grocery store for our food and I’ll teach you what we have learned.
We have saved so much money by making our meals at home. Honestly, the numbers are staggering. In an earlier article “Discover How to Save $50.00 a Week Easy” I pointed out that I have saved almost $900.00 a year by taking my lunch with me to work instead of eating out. Imagine if you and your partner ate out every workday.
Cooking at home means you will be shopping for more groceries. Like anything you buy on a regular basis this is a place where you can save some serious money. So lets take a look at how you can start saving money at the grocery store.
Lay out the grocery store battle plan
Your grocery store battle plan for saving money at the grocery store starts before you even leave your house. You will need to set aside some time to produce two documents, a meal plan and a shopping list. Sunday is when we have time in our house to do our budgeting and this is usually when Melissa puts together a two week meal plan and her shopping list. You could plan for longer than two weeks but I wouldn’t recommend buying produce for more than two weeks. Can and dry goods can be stock piled so buy those when you see a good deal.
While you are planning your meals for the coming weeks it is a good idea to look at the grocery store circulars. Each week major grocery stores mail out circulars filled with deals and coupons. You can also check the Sunday paper for more deals. Another place to look is online. Many major grocery stores have a digital version of their circular. Many major brands even let you search and print coupons online or add them to your club card. Take some time and set up your accounts. Be careful not to buy unneeded items just because you have a coupon. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t use the product in the next two weeks, you don’t need it.
In the days before the internet, people used to share money saving tips through word of mouth. You would tell a friend about a good deal on steak and they would let you know when and at what grocery store they saw that coffee you like on sale. If you still have access to that network use it.
In the internet age we have groups and blogs dedicated to getting the best deal on groceries. One of the best websites I have seen is CouponDivas.com. CouponDivas.com has a whole section dedicated to groceries. In that section you can find a database of grocery and manufacture coupons. Click here for the Coupon Diva’s Database.
Side note: If you do your shopping online you might want to check out http://www.retailmenot.com/ They have a large database of promo codes that you can use during the check out process. I don’t make it a habit of buying things because I have a promo code but I do check to see if their is a promo code before I finish checking out.
Where and When Should You Shop?
Where to shop
This next part will take you a few weeks to get right. You are going to want to go comparison shop at your local grocery stores. The best way that I have found is to keep a little notebook (notes app for those technophiles). I write down the prices of several household staples. You don’t have to go crazy and log everything you buy. My top suggestions are milk, lunch meat, cheese, bread, (produce I lump together as a category and note who has the best deals), drinks, toilet paper, hygiene products, and breakfast foods. These are just a few of the things I log.
Log these Items every time you go to the grocery store, even when they are not on your shopping list. After a few weeks of logging you will start to see what stores tend to have better prices on milk and where you can get the best fruit.
Don’t over look the pharmacy as a place to buy food. Some of the best deals can be found at a pharmacy. According to Melanie Pinola on Lifehack.com, you can find some deep discounts on milk if you shop at chain Pharmacies Like CVS, Right Aid, or Walgreens. Pharmacies also beat the grocery stores on spices, personal care, and yes, prescriptions. See Melanie’s article
Don’t forget to look at your local ethnic grocery store. I often find the best deal on produce at these little mom and pop grocery stores. The persian grocery store around the corner from our house has some of the best olives in town. The Mexican market in the other direction is the grocery store for cheap fresh produce.
When I was living in downtown LA I would do my produce shopping at Grand Central Market. This place is a city block wide building with produce and food from end to end. I could find ridiculous deals on all kinds of fruits and vegetables while getting some chinese takeout. See if your city has a full time farmers market where you can score big savings.
When to shop
Wednesday is the best day of the week to shop. Why Wednesday? Most grocers start their weekly ads and sales on Wednesday. If you ask, often the grocery store manager will honor the previous weeks advertisements as well. This means that there are more things on sale on Wednesday than any other day of the week.
According to Readers Digest, Wednesday is also the best day to shop if you want to beat the crowds. Despite the amazing sales, people don’t like to go to the grocery store on hump day. WiseBred.com and Readers Digest note that the best time to shop is during and after dinner time. For the ultimate no hassle experience, grocery shop on Wednesday between 6pm and 8pm.
Read the Readers Digest article here
Read the WiseBred.com Article here
How should you shop at the grocery store?
I am sure you have heard it before but don’t shop on an empty stomach. Studies and personal experience prove that when we shop while hungry we buy more. You have a list. Make it a point not to buy items that you have not put on a list unless absolutely necessary.
Don’t shop with kids. Grocery stores are not advertising only to adults. They often put kid centric items on lower shelves to attract the attention of your little ones. There is nothing more persuasive than a 4 year old who has discovered their new favorite cereal which they can not live without.
When you get to the grocery store, know that most of the things you need will be along the outer walls. Grocers know that the more you see the more you buy. That is why they put the milk in the back corner of the grocery store so you have to pass everything else on the way.
When you are in the isle look up and down. You can often find better deals from smaller manufacturers that can’t afford to pay for eye level placement. Along with this don’t be afraid to try the grocery store brand. These brands cost less because they don’t spend millions on advertising like the name brands do. Some are home runs and some are duds but give them a try for yourself. If you want to know more about grocery store brand you can check out Laura Heller’s article for Forbes.com. Click here to read Laura’s article.
Do you have a money saving grocery tip? Leave it in a comment below. I would love your feedback. If you have a question, ask it! I will answer it or find you a better source. Thanks in advance for being a part of our community.
About the Author
Chris Martin is not your traditional money expert after graduating from SCI-arc with his Masters in Architecture, Chris enrolled in the school of hard knocks. He quickly became an expert at the financial free fall. Now he is turning his finances around and teaching others how to live while on the path to being debt free. Read more articles by Chris at www.OurDebt.net
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