Saturday, July 21, 2012

Handy Dandy Tips: Grocery Shopping

Anyone can save money on their groceries, you don't have to be one of the extreme couponers to do so. I'm not, and in fact, I'm not a big fan of the extreme couponers and I'm always able to keep our grocery bills lower than I ever used to be able to by just following a few simple tips.

Keep in mind, I'm barely scratching the surface here. Everyone had their own tips for saving money, these are just the ones that I tend to follow. If you have any others, as always, please feel free to leave comments below!

1. Make a list.

You don't necessarily have to stick to it exclusively, but it helps. Do some planning before you ever leave the house. Plan some meals. You'll spend less if you are shopping for something specific, not just wandering about. This will also save on the number of trips you take to the store. For example, lets say you get to the store and decide you want to make spaghetti this week. It easy to forget to pick up one key ingredient and then have to go back for it the day you decide to make your spaghetti. Just a little planning ahead can save you the drive (and the gas money).

2. Do some research.

Read the store ads every week. I usually try to take special note of the items that I try to keep on hand so that I can stock up. It's also a good idea to actually do the math. Figure out the price per unit for items that you buy frequently at several different stores. This will give you a better idea of who has the better deals.

3. Shop more than one store.

You are not going to find a store that has the best prices on every product on their shelves, it's just not going to happen. We typically do three stores: Aldi, Sam's Club and Hyvee. I feel like this way we are getting the best variety at the best prices. For example, we can nearly always expect to get the best prices on milk at Sam's.

4. Go online for coupons.

Of course you can still find them the old fashioned way, cutting them from your paper, but technology is a beautiful thing. One good thing you can do is to find the products you use frequently and "like" them on Facebook. Many times the manufacturers will give you coupons through their Facebook pages. You can also sign up to receive their emails. This is another way to get the coupons directly from the manufacturers. Sometimes you also get coupons when you receive samples. My experience has been that these are typically the coupons with the highest value.

There are also many places online you can go to print off coupons. My favorite is The Krazy Coupon Lady. This site compiles tons of coupons in one easy location. It's also a good idea to follow a few blogs like this on Facebook, particularly if, like me, you are better about following Facebook than a lot of other things.

5. Don't be married to the name brands.

Sometimes, coupon or not, the store brand is going to be cheaper. Now, food is not like medicine. The generic medicines have to be just as good, just as effective as the name brands, but it doesn't work like that with food. This something that is just kind of trial and error. Try the store brand, sometimes it will be the same or better. Other times, it won't. Just give it a shot. When we first started shopping there, I was skeptical about Aldi, but it turn out it was an awesome decision. So far, I've been impressed with most of the things we have purchased. Not all, but most. Be flexible.

6. Buy in bulk when you can.

We don't have a deep freeze, nor do we have space to put one, so this one can be a little tricky sometimes. I try to buy dry and canned we use quite a bit in bulk when they are on sale, but there are certain things we can freeze that I like to have on hand, like ground turkey or whatever is on sale in the meat department. Our Hyvee does 10 or $10 sales now and again, so I try to to take advantage of this. With only two of us to feed 10 pork chops can last us quite awhile. Broccoli is another one of those frozen items I like to always have around. Just judge carefully. You don't want to buy more than you have freezer space.

These are just a few ideas to help you keep your food budget manageable. Please, let me know if you have anything to add!

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