Grocery shopping isn’t the most fun thing to do in the world but it’s a necessary evil. I don’t really mind doing it, except having to part with a large amount of hard earned money every week.
When my parents were alive, I had to buy groceries for them too, along with helping them with their health care, their home, etc. I was also working full time, had a part time business and had 3 active teenagers still at home.
I had to come up with the most efficient way to do things and still save as much money as possible too. Here are the tips I came up with over time.
Limit the Stores
I know some people go from store to store to store to save money. That’s fine if you have loads of time, and gas is cheap. Unfortunately that’s not true for me or anyone else in today’s world.
I do comparison shop but I only do it for 3 stores that are within a 2 mile radius of me. One is just a block away. The other two are about a mile and a half away and are very close to each other. 2 of these stores have loyalty cards that I signed up for. When I signed up for them I gave them my email address so now they email me their weekly sales.
You can also get these sales in circulars in your weekly newspaper too if you prefer. Go through these sales while planning your weekly meals and plan your at least some of your meals according to what’s on sale that week. As I’m doing my grocery list, I put the initial of the store where the best sale price is by that item on the list. For instance, W for Walmart, FF for Farm Fresh and FL for Food Lion.
Plan the Route
Plan your driving for your grocery shopping. It’s usually best to go to the furthest store first and work your way back home.
And since you are doing several hours worth of shopping, you may want to invest in some insulated shopping bags or a cooler to keep your perishables fresh while you are going from store to store.
I go to Walmart first, where I get at least half of my shopping done. Then Farm Fresh is next since it’s very close to Walmart where I’ll get my meat and produce, just because the quality is better. Lastly I’ll hit Food Lion which is very close to my house and on my way home. I’ll usually just pick up the stuff they have on special there.
Always Use a List and Make a Meal Plan
It goes without saying, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Always make a weekly meal plan and from that, make your grocery list of what you need to buy. Not only will it make things easier for you when it’s dinner time, it will save you money. You won’t have to wonder what to make for dinner at the end of a long day. You won’t have to make multiple stops through out the week to the grocery store or waste money at fast food places.
Buy in Bulk and Plan Ahead
Buying in bulk is only a good idea if you have the room to store it so decide that ahead of time. Even apartment dwellers can buy a long plastic under the bed storage box to store canned goods or other sale items.
One of my stores, Farm Fresh has the best meat so when there are good sales on meat, I buy as much as I can. Then when I get home, I’ll process some for quick meals later. An example of this is I’ll cook up a big batch of ground beef, and then repackage it into sandwich bags and put them into a gallon size freezer bag. Then it’s easy to pull one out of the freezer when I need ground beef for a recipe.
I do the same for chicken. Usually to get the good prices on chicken, you have to buy the large packages which is fine by me.
I’ll cook up a package of the chicken in my stock pot with some water. When it’s done, I’ll put the chicken in my heavy duty mixer and use the shredding attachment and shred the chicken. Then I”ll repackage the shredded chicken into individual sandwich bags and put them into a large freezer bag.
Some of the chicken, I won’t cook, but I’ll repackage each breast (I only buy the boneless, skinless breasts) into individual sandwich bags and put them into a large freezer bag and freeze.
Some of the breasts, I will cut into cubes, cook them up and package them too, the same way I did the other meat. I also save the broth I cooked the chicken in by freezing in ice cube trays, then adding them to a large freezer bag after frozen. Then when a recipe calls for chicken broth, I just pull out a few ice cubes and add them to pot.
All this preparation ahead of time takes an hour or two out of my week to do but it saves countless hours of prep time on those week nights when you want your meal preparation to be as easy as possible.
Something many shoppers don’t know about is if you come across a sale that says “Buy 2 for $1” or whatever the price is, in most cases you don’t have to buy 2 to get the sale price. You will still get the sale price for one item. It’s just a sales gimmick grocery stores use to try to get you to buy more.
But, just to be safe, check with your store about their policy on this. One of my local stores has now started to charge full price if you don’t get the full amount the sale states.
Of course if the item is something you will use in the future and something you can safely store or freeze until you need it, go ahead and buy two (or whatever amount the sale is for).
Before your grocery trip, pull out all your coupons that you will be using. I have them clipped to my list. But I also have my little accordion coupon holder in my purse since sometimes I come across a good sale or see something I forgot to put on the list. I often have a coupon I can use for it.
If you are lucky enough to still have stores that offer double and triple coupon days, by all means, do your grocery shopping on those days.
One thing I have had to train myself to watch out for is the “instant savings” coupons sometimes attached to grocery items. It’s really frustrating to get home and find the instant savings coupons on your food as you are putting it away, knowing you could have saved more money if you had noticed them in the store. Been there, done that.
If this does happen to you, take the coupon back with the cash register receipt the next time you stop at the store. They will usually reimburse you.
If you notice the sale item has been sold out, ask the manager or cashier for a rain check. Some stores do this, others don’t. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Most people know this but I didn’t for awhile. You can use coupons on sale items too! Even clearance items!
While shopping, don’t just look at eye level for the products you need. That’s typically where supermarkets like to put the most expensive brands. Look at the upper levels and lower levels to see they cheaper products.
Don’t discount store brands. They are often made by brand name companies but packaged for the store. Give them a try to see if you like them. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Never go shopping on an empty stomach. You will always end up spending more.
Most grocery stores are laid out the same with the fresh and frozen foods on the perimeters of the store and the packaged stuff in the middle.
So I make my grocery list sort of the same way. I always list my produce first since that’s the area I see first when I go into a store. Then I do meats, then most of the other stuff. At the end of the list, I have toiletries and cleaning items and then frozen stuff. It just makes it easier when shopping.
Next time you go shopping, notice how the store is laid out and write your next grocery list accordingly. It may feel weird at first but now it’s such a habit, I just do it without thinking.
That’s all I can think of now. Please share in the comments if you have a grocery shopping tip I don’t have here and I’ll add it to this article.
Article by Cathy Ratcliffe