Reducing your Grocery Bill

Many of us are on a seemingly constant quest to get more money, save the money we have, or stretch it further to make it last longer.  For several of us, it is a losing battle.  With that being said, come along with me to take a look at five tips to reduce your grocery bill.  If you reduce your overall grocery expenses, then the difference can go to another bill, or even better, in the bank for emergencies or a rainy day.

Plan your Meals: The most important thing to do before taking a trip to the store is to survey your cabinets.  This way you can plan your meals around what you already have in stock, and prepare if you are running low on staples.  This lowers your bill by purchasing less items, and eliminating extra items that you come home to find hidden in the cupboard.  Planning meals will save you time too, and we all know everyone can use an extra few minutes a day for other activities.

Comparison Shop: Look at what is on sale and where.  Many stores have online versions of their store circulars, so you can take time to look as you are making your list.  Before you even leave your house, you will have a plan of action, knowing what items you are going to get from where.  This will save you money on the items you have to buy, and you can save even more by planning your meals based on the best sales in the store, and the online browsing is yet another time saver, too.

Purchase Generics: Okay so this one is a no-brainer right?  Well, not for all people, but if you pay close attention to the product labels of a brand name and a generic, many times you will find that they are the same thing.  Granted, some items you just cannot forego the taste, but for the most part, the taste difference is negligible.  If you have a fussy eater in the house, try putting the generic in the brand name container and watch for a reaction.  I will bet you will not get one. In most cases, you are paying the extra money for the fancy packaging.  Sometimes though, store sales will make the brand name cheaper than the generic, so I always fall back on the basic principle of buy whatever is cheaper.  Unit price is another factor, because cheaper item does not mean better deal.  If you can afford it and know you will use it before it goes bad, spring for the larger container because it will last longer, therefore reducing the overall bill.

Cut Corners:  Follow your list.  Do not purchase the impulse items.  If it is not on your list, you do not need it.  If you planned right, then you will not need something that is not on your list.  Also, buy frozen juices, koolaid packets instead of the stuff with the sugar already mixed, etc.  You are paying extra for water, sugar, and the container.  You could just as easily add the sugar, water, or whichever ingredients to your own container and you have saved money.  Also remember—with things like cleaning supplies, stretch them.  Dilute your laundry detergent (liquid, anyway), dish detergent, etc. and reuse dryer sheets up to three times each.  I am sure I have left some items off this list, but you know what you can get away with to make the money go further.

Make the Most of your Trips: Pick a frequency of your trips.  Basing it on your pay period is the best way, because you will have the most money then.  After setting aside your bill money, make groceries first priority so that you do not overspend on other items and sell yourself short.  Make your list, double and even triple check it.  Stick to it.  No extraneous, unnecessary items.  Little shopping trips will add up over time and you will seem to go through it even faster.  Take the extra time while you are in the store to make sure you have everything you need instead of having to take another trip out to get it.

 Following one or any of combination of these five tips will reduce your grocery bill.  If you do not actually see a decrease in dollar amount being spent, you should see an increase in the amount of items you have on hand or decrease in items to purchase.  Put these tips to the test and see how you do.

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Saving Money with Wholesale Clubs

The best way to stretch your grocery dollar is to use a membership, costing roughly $35 per year to your local wholesale club.  By purchasing items you frequently purchase in bulk, you save money over time. This means you can plan your meals around what you have on hand, making your weekly grocery store trips much less hassle.

So, how do you use these wholesale clubs to your advantage?  Not all the deals you find at your local club store are money savers, so you should pay close attention to unit prices and compare them to places you usually shop for items in smaller quantities.  For instance, toilet paper comes out about the same per roll, so I usually skip buying that item in bulk, simply because I really do not have anywhere to store the extra stock.  The trash bags, on the other hand, only cost me about $1 per month, because I buy a box of 300 for $12.00, and I never run risk of running out without knowing it.

The best way to shop at a wholesale club is to purchase your meat and canned vegetables.  Sometimes, you can get great deals on rice, pasta, and other side dish items too, so you can stock up on those when prudent, and have a stock up of dinners available.  Using a wholesale club is often the best way of shopping for your Once A Month Cooking, too.  If you walk into a wholesale club with $100, you will get enough meat and side items for close to, (and maybe even more than) if you are savvy enough, a month’s worth of dinners, and a few other items to use as breakfast and lunch.

For instance, I usually purchase boneless, skinless chicken and ground beef for $1.98 or less per pound, in 7-10 pound packages.  At my local club, you can get a pork roast cut for you, so I purchase a roast and get around 26 pork chops, (5-8 pounds) for about $1.75 per pound.  With this, I feed a family of three (and the occasional fourth guest) no more than one pound per night.  I never spend more than $60 for an entire month’s worth of meat.  With the remaining $40, I purchased $20 worth of sides, (vegetables, pre-packaged rice or pastas with seasonings, stove top, etc.) and the remaining $20 of my budget goes to bulk purchase of oatmeal, cereal, and burritos (or something of that sort) for breakfasts and lunches.  Averaging $25 a week, I have nearly everything I need for the month.  I spend another $25 each week at the discount grocery stores to get my milk, bread, and other items.  At $50 per week, I have beaten the suggested guideline of $1 per person per meal by $13/week, and I end up with that as money in the bank.

If this does not convince you, try it yourself, and I bet you will save money.  The bigger your family the more you will save by buying in bulk.  The annual membership fee will pay for itself in no time!

Coupons

In a quest to save money, many shoppers use coupons. The question is, do these coupons really save you money? Are they worth the time you put into them finding them, clipping them, and remembering to use them at the store?

While the answer may have been yes before, I believe the answer is no. Many grocery stores have their own savings programs that require the shopper to have a membership card to take advantage of the savings they offer. These savings are advertised weekly, and each item is flagged on the shelf. This means that even if you were not aware when you came in the store, you now can see that an item is on sale, and many times opt for that one over all others. These sales sometimes make the generic items more expensive, and as long as you are not meticulous, you will save money somewhere. Because of these in store membership savings, many stores have changed their policies on accepting and redeeming coupons. For instance, a local store used to double all coupons up to 50 cents regardless of the amount of the total purchase. Upon instatement of their internal savings program, they mandate that only three coupons are redeemable per $10 of purchased merchandise. It seems to me that using the savings from the membership would be much easier than keeping track of all that!

Another reason coupon promotions do not offer the savings people think they will get, is because you only save money by using a coupon on a product you always purchase. For instance, if the coupon is for savings on a product like toilet paper or aluminum foil, you may save some money, and it may be worth it. However, if the coupon is for a name brand product that you do not usually buy, or for a product you generally opt for the generic version of, you are not saving yourself anything, but rather costing yourself. If you use the coupon to save money on a product you would not normally buy at all, how is that saving yourself anything? The only time I would consider this handy is when you have promised your children a special treat.

In addition, coupons are becoming more notorious for requiring the purchase of multiple items before you get the savings. So, if you cannot save the item and use the bulk later (as in a save 55 cents on two boxes of cereal coupon) then it is not worth it.

So my advice to use is to toss all those coupons out the door, unless you find them on items you frequently purchase, and if they are frequently on sale through your local store’s incentive program, then that is even better for you. Ultimately, though, in my experience at least, the better way to save money is through planning your meals around what you already have on hand and what is on sale.