Everyday Money

Saving Money On Groceries

September 25, 2019

Groceries. Some people love going grocery shopping, others absolutely despise it. For most, it’s just a necessary part of our weekly routine. But how much we actually spend on groceries varies dramatically from one household to the next. According to a USDA report released in July of 2018, Americans spent between 12.4% and 33% of their household income on groceries per month. For a household that brings in $2,000 per month, that’s up to $660 just on groceries!

Interestingly, GO Banking Rates conducted a survey of 1,009 people and found:

  • Women spend 11% more per month than male respondents
  • 57% of women clip coupons compared to 41% of men
  • People making more than $150,000 annually spent $450 per month, 66% more than the lowest wage earners
  • People living in the Midwest had the second highest average grocery bill at $305, the South was #1 at $308
  • According to average food prices on Numbeo, the Midwest and the South have the lowest grocery prices nationally and the highest rate of obesity according to the CDC

So groceries are an expense we can’t avoid completely, but an expense we actually have quite a bit of control over. By shopping smarter, there are ways to stretch your grocery dollars when you’re shopping, and even after you get your food home. We’ve compiled a list of tips from huffpost.com to hopefully help you save a couple bucks the next time you’re roaming the aisles. 

  1. Plan meals and make a list.
    • Don’t shop on an empty stomach, it leads to impulse shopping, which leads to spending way more than you should.
    • Set aside a few minutes each week to plan meals based on coupons and deals offered in the store circular.
    • Try to incorporate ingredients into multiple meals so you don’t waste produce, dairy and other perishables.
  2. Stick with seasonal produce.
    • Thanks to modern technology and speedy shipping, grocers can stock just about anything, any time of year. But it’s going to cost you to eat asparagus in fall or berries in winter.
    • Know your produce seasons and shop accordingly.
  3.   Shop sales, but read the fine print.
    • If a sale says 5 for $10, don’t feel obligated to buy all 5. Check the store policy. Usually you will get the same discount even if you just buy a single quantity.
    • The same goes for limits. A sale on soda might say limit 6. This is a way to keep the item stocked for more customers, but it also triggers an impulse in shoppers to buy all 6. Only buy what you need.
  4. Ask for a rain check. 
    • Say everyone does go soda crazy, meets the limit and next thing you know, they’re out of stock before you could get your bargain cola. That’s OK. Ask for a rain check. This is a voucher that entitles you to the sale price whenever the item is back in stock.
  5. Avoid the cost of convenience.
    • Just about every time something is peeled, cut or individually packaged, the price goes up.
    • When you get home from the store, divvy a box of crackers into individual portions you can throw in lunchboxes. Or take a bag of carrots, peel and cut them into carrot sticks for an afternoon snack.
  6. Take a chance on chicken.
    • Bone-in chicken is typically less expensive (it’s that convenience factor again)
    • A lot of people are intimidated by bones and opt for the much more expensive boneless chicken breast.
    • The closer the chicken is to its original form, the less you will pay. Learning how to break down a whole chicken will save you big money over time.
    • Boneless chicken breasts cost nearly $2 more per pound according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  7. Befriend your butcher.
    • Ask your butcher what time of day meat is typically marked down. This is meat discounted because it’s approaching its sell by date, but it should still be good if you cook it that night or freeze it for later.
    • Typically, a large cut of meat will be cheaper than the same amount cut into smaller pieces. But some butchers will be happy to cut it up into smaller pieces for free, especially if you’re buddies!
  8. Read expiration dates. 
    • When stocking shelves, they push the older merchandise to the front and put the new items, with later expiration dates, to the back. Go for the back of shelves and read expiration dates to make sure you’re bringing home the freshest, longest-lasting products.
  9. Read unit prices.
    • On the price tag, you will see a price per ounce (or other unit of measurement). This is the best way to compare prices between brands.
    • Product packaging can be misleading, so it’s very possible that the 12-oz bag of chips just looks bigger than the 16-oz. Read unit prices to find out which brand has the best deal.
  10. Family size is not always the best size.
    • Read unit price. Sometimes if the regular size is on sale or if you have a coupon it is actually less than the family size.
    • Other times it’s the same exact price, and let’s face it, most of us would rather store a 2 lb. bag of flour in our pantry than find room for a 10 lb. sack.
  11. Create less food waste.
    • One of the best ways to stretch grocery dollars is to waste less.
    • Many people know that after roast a chicken, you should hold onto the bones and trimmings to make chicken stock. Do the same with your vegetables. Veggie “waste” like carrot peels and broccoli stalks are actually a great way to flavor your broth. Keep a bag in the freezer and load it up till you’re ready to make soup.
  12. Freeze more.
    • Practically anything can be frozen, if stored properly.
    • A vacuum sealer is a great investment piece if you want to get serious about freezing.
    • FoodSaver estimates you can save up to $2,700 a year when you buy items in bulk, on sale and prevent waste by freezing food in airtight packages.

The next time your fridge is getting low, consider one or more of the above tips. It will probably only take you a few extra minutes, but could save you big bucks in the end.

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