Here’s the final post in my Grocery Shopping 101 series! If you missed the first four parts, here they are:
So far, I’ve covered a bunch of the tricks that I use for saving money at the grocery store. This post shares even more ways to save!
Buy Reduced Produce
Confession: I have a reduced produce problem. I buy a lot of it.
As soon as I walk into the grocery store, I check out the reduced produce section with the hope of finding some good deals on ‘damaged’ produce. Usually, what I find is considered imperfect, but still totally edible. Some weeks I find a lot; other weeks, not so much. It’s definately hit or miss.
A long time ago, my mom taught that fresh produce is good as new with a swift cut of the knife– just cut off the bad part! In fact, my mom and I only make her famous Apple Crisp with B Grade apples. I mean, we’re just going to cut them up, right? Might as well discard the bad parts and save a few bucks on the process!
Another one of my favorite reduced produce tricks is to buy a bunch of bruised bananas and freeze them for smoothies and Banana Soft Serve.
Just make sure you peel the bananas BEFORE you freeze them. Otherwise, it’s a complete disaster!
Reduced produce is great and all, but if I buy it and don’t end up using it, I’m just wasting my money. So, I only buy produce that I plan to use right away (or plan to freeze).
As you know, I hate seeing food go to waste, so I’m constantly trying to use it up before it goes bad. Buying cheap produce encourages me to get creative in the kitchen, add extra nutrients to my meals, and I save money. It’s a win-win.
Lower Your Standards
This tip goes hand-in-hand with buying reduced produce. I’m not saying eat food that has gone bad, but you can save money if you lower your standards. At home, for example, I eat yogurt that is past its expiration date and give life to flimsy broccoli by roasting it in the oven instead of throwing it away. Part of the reason food doesn’t get wasted in our house is because I’ll eat just about anything—as long as it’s not moldy or rancid, of course!
Learn to Live Without
If Mal and I run out of something mid-week, we live without it until we go shopping again. A lot of times, it’s easy to make a food or ingredient substitution, so we don’t end up spending more money at the grocery store. Plus, it’s not like we’ll starve to death without cheese or bread or whatever else we’ve run out of! Same goes for fresh berries in the dead of winter. I’d love to have fresh blueberries in my oatmeal, but I live without them until the summer.
Buy Store Brand
We all know that store brand products cost less, but most of the time, their quality is the same as that of name brand products. In fact, sometimes the same manufacturer makes both the name brand and store brand products, so I almost always buy the cheaper, store brand. I rarely (if ever) notice a difference between name and store brands.
Shop the top and bottom shelves
I’ve learned that the best deals are found on the top and bottom shelves of my grocery store aisles. Big items that tend to provide the most bang for my buck (hello, unit price!) are usually placed on the highest and lowest shelves. Smaller size products, which are often more expensive per unit, are usually placed at eye level, so I spend a lot of time scouring the top and bottom shelves!
Use Coupons: Part II
I already talked about using coupons to save money, but here are a few more ways to effectively utilize them.
Keep them Organized
I have a love/hate relationship with coupons. Of course, they save me lots of money at the grocery store, but keep tracking of them can be a lot of work, especially since my coupons were a disorganized mess!
I used to keep my coupons in my wallet, but my collection got out-of-control. I’d open my wallet and they’d spill out all over the place. It was awkward and embarrassing, so I needed a new method of keeping my coupons organized. Now, I store my coupons in a mini expanding file. (Office Depot has some good ones!)
I organized the sections of the file according to how my local grocery store is set up, so I can easily grab coupons as I walk through the aisles. For instance, the produce coupons are in the first compartment while the ones for frozen foods and bread are in the very last one.
Cut Coupons for Products that You Already Use
I love coupons, but I only cut the ones for products that I already use. For instance, the coupons in this week’s Sunday newspaper included one for $1 off Kettle chips and a Buy One, Get One Free coupon for Mal’s deodorant. Both of these coupons were keepers because we already buy and like these products. In fact, we already cashed them in!
I typically avoid cutting and using coupons for new products or those I’ve never tried, unless it’s a really good deal, like a free item. For example, coupons for $1 off two items usually isn’t a good deal unless you already buy that product. Even though you’re saving a $1, you’re buying two of it. What happens if you don’t like it? The second product typically goes to waste. Wasted food = wasted money.
Sign Up For Your Grocery Store’s Newsletter
I mainly shop at Whole Foods and Stop & Shop, so I signed up for both of their email newsletters (The Whole Deal and S & S Weekly Circular) to keep me up-to-date about their weekly sales. In addition to letting me know about sales, the newsletter also offers coupons, recipes, info about new products, and other great deals. So, be sure to sign up for your grocery store’s newsletter. You’ll definitely save some money being in the know!
Follow Your Grocery Store on Twitter
If you’re on Twitter, follow your grocery store for their tweets about upcoming sales and specials.
- http://twitter.com/WholeFoods (There are lots of individual store accounts too!)
Buy Romaine Hearts for Salads
This one is kind of random, but I save quite a bit of money buying a bag of romaine hearts instead of fancy (and often-expensive) salad greens. Just one bag of romaine hearts lasts me all week, and I get a ton of it!
Use Reusable Bags
Most stores will take $0.05 or $0.10 off your bill for each reusable bags that you use for your grocery shopping. In addition to benefiting the environment, you’re saving money.
If you always forget your reusable bags at home, try leaving them in your car. I leave all of my reusable bags in the backseat of my car, so I never forget them. I also keep a foldable bag in my purse.
Shop More Often
If you have trouble eating the fresh produce that you buy at the grocery store, try supplementing your major weekly shopping with a small trip mid-week to restock your produce. This way, your fruits and veggies will not go bad before you’ve had a chance to eat them. Throwing out food is just like wasting money!
Take Advantage of the Competition
Most supermarkets will match other retailers’ sales, but many don’t advertise this. Ask your grocery store’s manager if the store has a policy. You could save a few bucks!
Don’t Buy Health and Beauty Products
Health and beauty products are usually much more expensive at grocery stores. Instead, I buy them at stores like CVS, Walgreens, or Target. I also check for coupons in the store flyer when I shop at these stores.