While the American economy is still struggling to rebound, a record-breaking Midwestern drought threatens to drive food costs even higher through 2013. Saving money at the grocery store is now an absolute necessity for many families, as budgets tighten and gas prices continue to skyrocket. While there’s nothing you can do to combat the rise of grocery store prices, there are steps you can take to shave money off of the monthly food bill.
Clip Coupons – It seems like an obvious choice, but coupon clipping is a money-saving tool that many families simply don’t take advantage of. Don’t limit yourself to just the newspaper for coupons either; coupons are available from more sources than just the newspaper. Look for printable coupons online, those that can be attached to a grocery store loyalty card, and those included on the packaging of foods that you frequently purchase.
- Use Lists – Planning your shopping list ahead of time and refusing to deviate from it will eliminate extra costs from non-essential impulse purchases, sometimes resulting in significant savings.
- Eat Before You Shop – Tucking into a good meal or snack before embarking on your grocery store journey will help you save money, especially if you’re not sticking solely to a dedicated shopping list. When you’re hungry everything looks appealing, and the likelihood of purchasing more than you intended rises.
- Leave the Kids at Home – Shopping for groceries with children in tow will invariably result in pleas for sugary snacks that you wouldn’t ordinarily purchase. It’s easy to cave to their demands in hopes of staving off a public tantrum, but you’ll end up spending more than you intended on items that are ultimately unhealthy choices.
- Look for Sales and Specials – Just like department stores, most grocery stores run sales and specials on select items. Keeping an eye on what’s going on sale will help you save money in the long run, but only if the sale items are things that your family will actually eat.
- Consider the Unit Price – Sometimes a higher dollar amount for larger portions is actually a better buy, depending upon the unit price. Larger quantities of staple items may result in a higher price at the register, but they’ll reduce the frequency with which you’re forced to purchase those items and will save you money in the long run.
- Opt for Generic Products – In many cases, purchasing national brands at a higher price is only paying for advertising costs. A surprising number of items are of virtually identical quality at a generic level, but significantly less expensive.
- Skip Prepared Foods – The convenience of prepared foods is undeniable, but you will pay for that convenience. These goods can also be filled with chemical preservatives and additives that would not be present in the same dishes if you prepared them yourself, at a higher price than the individual ingredients required to make the same meal. Buying the ingredients and preparing meals yourself will also yield a larger amount than the pre-packaged alternative, leaving you with more than enough to prepare ahead of time and freeze. Similarly, salad mixes that are washed and chopped can be up to three times more expensive than their individual ingredients. While it’s certainly easier to tear open a bag than to wash and chop a variety of lettuces and vegetables, it’s much cheaper to do the work yourself.
- Invest in a Water Filter – Bottled water is outrageously expensive when compared to the initial purchase price of a water filter and tap water. Rather than shelling out money for ecologically irresponsible plastic bottles of filtered water, you can save some green while living green with filtered water from your own tap.