With prices rapidly rising on everyday items, perhaps your savings plan has gone by the wayside. These tips will help you find more money in your budget –starting with saving at the grocery store.
Plan Before You Shop to Save on Groceries
Know what you have to spend. Set a budget or a dollar limit for each trip to the store and keep a running tally as you shop to avoid cost overrun.
- Make your grocery list. One of the most important parts of grocery shopping is pre-shopping planning. Before you go to the store, take inventory of what you already have, and make a list of what you need. If possible, plan meals you will prepare and check to see if you have all the necessary ingredients. Choose meals that use items that are affordable and ingredients that can be used in multiple ways –often if you can buy in quantity, you can save money overall. Plan for leftovers to take for lunch, or to eat later in the week.
- Make your list complete. A complete list is easier to stick to when you’re in the store. Plan for meals, snacks and needs that will carry you through until the next time you intend to shop. (If you shop every week, or every two weeks, buy what you need to make it that long.) Remember to also check on things like cleaning supplies, personal toiletries, or other household items you might need.
- Cross-reference your list with deals and sales. Making your list first sets you up to stick to it –stay strong and resist the temptation to buy something that’s not on your list, even if it seems like a good deal. But still take the time to compare your list with sales, coupons, and specials to see if you can win a few extra savings points!
- Eat before you shop! Shopping while hungry (or in the company of hungry and grumpy children) tempts you to stray from your list. Plus, it’s not very fun.
Shop Around – Compare Prices from Different Stores
You have tons of grocery shopping options. Looking closely at them and finding the mix that works for you can help you balance your personal preferences, the kinds of things you need, and the price you are willing to pay. You may find out that by splitting your grocery list between stores gets you the best deals.
- Compare apples-to-apples by using the unit price as your comparison number: calculate the price per pound, ounce, or use: Price divided by pounds, ounces, uses (i.e., loads of laundry, rolls of toilet paper), etc.
- Remember to include the delivery or shipping costs for online orders versus transportation or fuel costs if you’re shopping in person.
- Traditional supermarkets and superstores are familiar and convenient choices where you can compare pricing.
- Bulk retailers or wholesale clubs, like Costco or Sam’s Club might be a good way to stock up on quantity for a lower per-use cost.
Stick to Your List, Stick to Your List, Stick to Your List
Sticking to your list is probably the most important thing you can do to save money on groceries and stay on budget. Your list is your plan. When you buy something else, you are spending your money on something you didn’t plan for.
Treat your list as a mission: complete it and get yourself out of there! Make note of the things you wanted or felt like you needed that weren’t on your list, and when you’re safely away from temptation, re-evaluate. Ask yourself, is this a need or a want?
Beat Your Budget: Find the Best Deals on the Things You Need
You know what you need to buy because you made an awesome list. But how can you get the best deal on each of those items? Balance your total budget (how much you have overall to spend at the grocery store), with the best per-unit cost for each item. For example, if you only have $25 to spend, a years’ worth of toilet paper for $50 is not that ideal. But, if you can get a weeks’ worth of toilet paper for $1 less than normal, you just saved yourself a $1 for your budget
- Know what things cost. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. If you know that bananas cost 59 cents/pound, a $1 banana “sale” is not a good deal.
- Shop the sales for what you need. Watch for unadvertised specials that might get you a better price. Wait for something to go on sale to buy it.
- Buy things in quantity when it makes sense. The larger bottle of mustard is probably a lower price per ounce than the small bottle. Calculate the cost per ounce and compare.
- Save money by prepping things yourself. For example, a whole chicken might be less expensive per pound than boneless, skinless chick breast. Prepackaged items often are more costly.
- Give the generic or store brand a try. Often they are lower in price and if you don’t like it, many stores will refund your money.
- When you check out, make sure you are being charged what you expected. If you think you are being overcharged, speak up. It never hurts to ask.
Stick to Your Plan at Home, Too: Use All of What You Buy
Stretch those dollars even further by reducing or eliminating waste, so you can buy less often. And maximize your grocery purchases for the foods and supplies that meet your needs, and make your life easier, happier, and healthier.
- Process and store food to maximize shelf life. Store things in their ideal conditions to make them last. If it’s something you won’t prepare for a week, freeze it to keep it fresh.
- Organize your storage so you can easily find things. Label and date things and/or store them in containers that you can easily identify. When you take inventory before your next shopping trip, check the corners, drawers and hidden places.
- Stick with your menu plan! Make the recipes you planned for and use the fresh ingredients you bought when they are at their peak flavor and quality.
What to Do If Your Grocery Bill Is Putting You Underwater?
If you find that paying for groceries or other necessities is financially difficult, we recommend that you explore your options for creating a financial plan. This can relieve a huge amount of stress and anxiety, and help set achievable goals. Don’t forget that we have several success guides at NextMark that can help you assess your situation. NextMark success guides can work with you to assess your specific situation and create a personalized plan to achieve your goals. You can also reach out to GreenPath, our financial wellness partner, who works with thousands of people each week to pay off debt, improve credit, and get on a path toward a financially healthy life.