Although housing and transportation are often the most costly pieces of the average household’s budget, food isn’t too far behind. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the average American family spends nearly $4,000 per year on groceries, or about $330 each month! I’ve looked into ways to lower your monthly grocery bill, and have put together five tips to help you save.
1. Stick to Your List
Before heading to the grocery store, put together a shopping list. It’s easy to end up impulse buying when shopping without a list, and even more so when you’re hungry. With strategically placed displays, samples, and all the sweets near the checkout lane, it can be difficult to ignore those temptations. Every grocery store is laid out differently, but you become familiar with it after a few trips. If you know the layout, try to write your list in the order that you will find the product in the store. This will prevent you from any backtracking and reduce your temptation to grab other items not on your list. Sticking to your list will give you a better estimate of your cost at checkout, and can help prevent you from leaving the grocery store with too much food and too little money.
2. Take Advantage of Coupons
Coupons are essentially free money, and they’re pretty easy to find! The most common places to find them is in your Sunday newspaper or online. Also, don’t just march right in the entrance of your local grocery store without checking the entryway for coupon machines or racks first. Many stores have a coupon exchange box, where other shoppers can place coupons that they can’t use. And much like with everything else today, there is indeed an app for that. Grocery iQ, Cellfire, Favado, Checkout 51 and Ibotta are all great coupon apps that can help with food costs, and are all available on both Apple and Android devices. Collect as many coupons as your can before shopping and combine coupons when allowed to maximize your savings. Just be mindful of the expiration dates so they don’t go to waste!
3. Bring a Calculator
Set a target budget for each trip to the grocery store. To help you stick to that budget, bring along a calculator to add up your expenses as you shop, or use the calculator on your smartphone. You’ll be more aware of how much each item is adding up. A calculator is also very helpful for when you leave the debit or credit cards at home and only use cash. Leaving your cards at home can help you from falling for temptations and spending more than you previously budgeted. An added bonus: If dyou’ve added up your list with a calculator while shopping, you’ll be able to quickly tell if you’ve been incorrectly charged at checkout.
4. Buy Generic
Often the only difference between brand-name products and store-brand products at the grocery store is the packaging. Oh, and of course the cost. You can save a ton of money by deciding to purchase the generic brand. By looking beyond the label and comparing the ingredients, you’ll find that they are sometimes exactly the same. You’ll save an average of 25% by buying generic, and those savings add up quick.
5. Be Mindful of Produce
Fresh produce is delicious, but your favorite fruits and vegetables aren’t always in season. And when they aren’t in season, the prices are considerably more expensive. This cost of travel and shipping increases, and the stores pass the cost on to customers to balance out their return on investment. When you do buy fresh produce, make sure you stick to what’s in season. Strawberries and grapefruits are at peak season in the spring, while apples and pears are at their peak in the fall. Also, don’t be afraid to substitute fresh produce with frozen. It sometimes costs less and has the same nutritional value. If you find that your produce spoils because you can’t eat it in time, choosing frozen fruits and veggies can prevent that. Just be sure to move the bag around before your purchase anything. If you hear ice crunching, that may be a sign of freezer burn. Frozen fruit can last up to a year, and vegetables ten months to a year.
I’ve been putting these tips to use when I go grocery shopping and I’ve been saving! What tips do you have for cutting your food costs? I’d love to know!