Personal Finance 

How to Save Money on Groceries

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I’ll admit it. I’m not good at saving money on food. My wife and I love to eat at fancy overpriced restaurants and although we try to cut and save coupons, they normally expire in the coupon organizer before they make it to the store. People that I know have the same problem so I wanted to see if there was something I could do to save money at the grocery store that didn’t involve a ton of prep work. Extreme couponing would take more time than my schedule and attention span would allow so I set out to find another way. Here’s what I came up with.

Buy Quantity

Tyson makes these amazing frozen quesadillas that come with some of the best salsa on the planet. Last week, Target had them on sale. I saw one dollar off and I switched from a basket to a cart. I bought 10 bags and put them in our garage freezer. I don’t live on them but I normally purchase a bag each time I’m at the store so it made sense to buy in bulk this time.

I used to think that buying more meant paying less per unit but I was wrong. Sometimes it’s not a good deal so I started looking at the unit price for everything.

Crockpot, Baby!

Here’s my formula: Buy a bulk pack of chicken breasts when they have that manager’s special sticker on them. (Meaning that Salmonella is about 24 hours away) Then, break them up in to generic ziplock bags and freeze them. Put two in the crockpot in the morning and by the time the evening rolls around, they’re so tender that they easily break up making any number of great meal ideas possible. I used to buy those precooked frozen chicken breasts or that chicken in a can but this method is so much cheaper.

I find that anything can be put in to a crockpot and there are a ton of recipes online allowing me to save money by purchasing ingredients at the grocery store instead of already-made meals.

Portion Control

Seems a little obvious, I know, but when was the last time you got a food scale out and portioned out a serving of each item on your plate? I decided that I could cut my food costs and lose weight at the same time by preparing a meal that I could eat for a few days by making sure my portions were the correct size. I didn’t need to eat as much as I was and that caused the higher dollar items like meats to go further.

This idea spoke my language because as business owners we learn that it’s easier to cut costs than it is to make money. In this case it was easier to make the food go further instead of trying to engineer a cost cutting strategy.

Bottom Line

We knew we weren’t going to use coupons enough to make a difference and we don’t get a Sunday paper or open those ValPak coupon mailers that show up each week so we had to find other ways to cut costs at the grocery store without the traditional methods.

I’ve read enough stories of the wealthy people in the world and although the big spenders of the world make the news, many of the wealthiest people are penny pinchers. If it works for the billionaires, I’m thinking we should try it too.

How do you cut costs at the grocery store?

{ 15 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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15 Responses to “How to Save Money on Groceries”

  1. Matt says:

    Good advice in the article, one thing I find is that healthy foods are a much better buy then unhealthy foods as you will have fewer health problems later on. But with the percentage of fat Americans it seems people don’t care.

    • Kathy Brown says:

      VERY good point; it’s way cheaper to stay healthy; healthier food may cost more now, but save you TONS of money down the line…and give you a better quality of life.

  2. Good tips for cutting costs. I don’t always have time to use coupons and these will help.

  3. Melinda says:

    Making something from scratch or with few ingredients is always cheaper – couponing is hit or miss for me…rarely are there coupons for whole foods (chicken, milk, eggs) so it’s not always worth it – I avoid most packaged foods and keep my pantry stocked with inexpensive staples like rice, pasta, and beans. Although I don’t always clip coupons, I do check out the weekly sales for my local stores. If there is a product I know we like I will look for online coupons for those and then use them when they go on sale at the store for a double savings – that only takes a few minutes when making your grocery list.

  4. Shirley says:

    Buy Quantity – most definitely – but only if it is something you have tried and liked before this purchase, and you know you have the time to repackage it in smaller portions (if needed) right away. If not, your ‘good deal’ might very well be garbage.

    Crockpot, Baby! – this one is a lifesaver for me in $, time and convenience. Cheaper cuts of meat turn fork tender, set it and forget it convenience while you do something else, and the choices of easy and quick recipes are unlimited. (Sometimes I almost feel guilty that I have spent so little time on my family’s dinner!)

  5. Scott says:

    Consumer Reports just did a feature article on grocery shopping this month. What I found interesting is that they showed that buying generic at your local grocery store was cheapest overall, followed closely by warehouse clubs like Costco, followed more distantly by coupons for name brands at your local store. So in general… buying generic seems to be the #1 thing that will save you money on groceries.

    To expand on your crockpot paragraph, cooking anything yourself is almost always cheaper than buying something that is prepared. If you have the time to cook things from scratch, you stand to save a lot of money doing so.

  6. Kathy Brown says:

    Since grocery stores run on a very lean profit margin, and Target’s prices on packaged goods generally seem to be cheaper than grocery stores, I stock up there with coupons AND I get an extra 5% off because I have their credit cards. Every three prescriptions I buy gets me another 5% off. I wait till I have both, go in with coupons, AND buy the items that offer a gift card with purchase.

  7. Kathy Brown says:

    There are some good shows on the food network for cheaper cooking. $10 dinners with Melissa d’ Arabian is really good; she lived in France and has great, EASY, cheap recipes. Another good one on the Food Network is Sandra Lee. I think she feeds four for under $20 AND has a second meal for the next day that comes from the first.

  8. Chuck says:

    Generic is the way I go for almost everything. There are exceptions though. I always look for that little sticker underneath the item for the cost per pound or unit cost. It saves me the confusion of what something really costs.

  9. Marilyn says:

    Please don’t forget that Wal Mart and other local stores will match competitors ads. So if XYZ has an ad for something you like then you can buy it at Wal Mart, they will match XYZ’s advertised price. Wal Mart doesn’t miss very often but sometimes…

    • Scott says:

      Actually, we’ve found that our Walmart misses quite often on basic items. For example, toilet paper is always more expensive there than elsewhere (at least around us). We used to price match but finally just gave up going there when we found we were spending way too long waiting in line just to spend extra time price matching once we got to the front.

  10. What about just examining the weekly/monthly menu? As you mentioned, meats tend to be one of the more costly food items. Having a simple meal with rice/quinuoa/lentils/etc. in place of meat once or twice a week can shave a few bucks off the ole budget, and is most likely more healthy.

  11. Louise says:

    My husband and I shop with a grocery list. If it’s not on the list, we can’t buy it. Saves time and $. We do use coupons but only for items we normally buy and we never buy prepared meals. When I cook, I cook at least enough for 4 meals and then freeze 3 meals for later.

  12. govenar says:

    “we don’t get a Sunday paper or open those ValPak coupon mailers that show up each week so we had to find other ways”.
    Yeah, opening your mail is pretty difficult…

  13. Wilma says:

    I go with coupons, a list and a calculator. I get the Sunday paper so I get coupons. My list is made up with meals for this week in mind and the coupons and sales in the circular. Name brand is a few must have exceptions. Generic and sale price is the usual. I compare the coupon with the regular prices. I buy meat in bulk on sale and divide it up into one meal zippy bags. I usually cook once a week a one pot meal. Sometimes I’ll make several and freeze in one serving size containers. This way I have a choice of a different meal and nothing goes bad. During the summer months I grow my own vegies and freeze them. I freeze corn too but I get that at the farmers market. Makes great soup or casseroles in the winter.

    The extreme couponing does take a lot of time. I did it in the 80’s before it was popular. I ended up buying meat in bulk and visiting Amish farms that had dented cans of food and out date stuff. I really saved a lot. Today it’s harder but planning and being vigilant with your calculator is key.

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