When we first got married, our grocery budget was—are you sitting down?—$25 a week. Naturally, we brought our lunch to work every day and didn’t buy extravagant things like soda. Or crackers. A lot of things become a luxury when times are tight!
Thankfully, our grocery budget is a lot more generous these days. But it’s still important to save whenever you can. Here are some easy ways to save money on groceries.
Go shopping with a list. Check your pantry and freezer before you go so you don’t end up with five jars of mayonnaise.
Buy spices in the ethnic foods aisle or in an ethnic market. I’ve seen bags of oregano, parsley, cinnamon, and many others there for less than a dollar. Compare that to the teensy little bottles on the spice aisle that are $2.59 or more.
If the kids want you to buy junk food, have them spend their own money. Too young to have spending money? Tell them that you’re only buying what’s on the list, and that item isn’t on the list this week. I do this often—by the time our next shopping trip rolls around, Jackjack has forgotten all about his request.
Look up, down, and all around. Food companies pay to have their products placed at eye level on the shelf. You can often find a better price by looking on a lower or higher shelf.
Determine which store brands or generics work for your family. We can’t tell the difference between branded and generic long-grain rice, but if I came home with generic mac-n-cheese, there would be a riot.
Don’t go to the store hungry. When you’re hungry, everything sounds good.
Buy drugstore items at the drugstore, not the grocery store. I worked at a grocery store in college and the markup on items like shampoo, toilet paper, medicine, toothpaste, and makeup is outrageous. Get those items at Target or CVSinstead.
Eat vegetarian once a week. Scrambled eggs, French toast, and fruit are popular, as is chili-stuffed baked potatoes. Cheese quesadillas with refried beans and Spanish rice is easy and kid-friendly. Our “resident carnivores” gobble these up without a peep.
Know your prices. We eat a lot of chicken, so I compared prices between the warehouse club and the grocery store. When our local grocery store has a sale, it’s cheaper than the warehouse club!
Stock up when you see a good price. When chicken goes on sale, I buy at least 10 pounds. It’s expensive at the time, but lasts us for a few months. If you can combine coupons and a sale price, you can do even better.
Buy fruits and veggies in season. My grocery store carries fresh strawberries, cantaloupe, and blueberries all year long—but if you buy them in the middle of winter, you’re paying to have them flown in from South America. Ouch.
Know when things go on sale. Turkeys are super-cheap at Thanksgiving; stock up on ham at Christmas and Easter. Get barbecue condiments like ketchup, relish, and mustard in June or July. Diet foods and 100-calorie packs are on sale in January because it’s New Year Resolution time.
Try a couple of these and see how much you’ll save!