Thursday, August 8, 2013

Slashing the Growing Grocery Bill

It doesn’t take much to notice the price of groceries is sneaking up again. Different packaging yields less for the same price. I’ve found myself spending $20-$25 more at the grocery for the same food. Many stores have done away with double coupons thanks to the extreme couponer frenzy. Many of the manufacturer’s coupons are becoming less and less. How can you slash groceries costs?

  1.       Watch where you shop. Thursday is my day for grocery ads and I check to see who has the best prices. This means I do shop at different stores. Aldis is still the cheapest, but doesn’t always have what I want. Trader Joe’s is owned by Aldis that makes them another bargain-shopping venue.
  2. Going Natural. I found to my surprise that Whole Foods is cheaper than Earth Faire. They even sell $3 wine.
  3. I’ve seen the commercials about if you bring your shopping list to Wal-Mart, how much money you save. I beg to differ. This applies only if you buy things not on sale. I am not sure if I ever bought something not on sale.  I do buy charcoal at Wal-Mart and some toiletries because they are cheaper.
  4.   Make a list first and stick to it. This means you are going to have to plan a menu and check your cabinets. Once you have a weekly menu, you’ll probably stick to it with minor variations. This has helped me not to buy items that end up freezer burned since I had to base menus on what I have.
  5. Skip convenience foods, most of the time. I laughed the first time I saw cut up celery stalks in the grocery store for the same price as an entire package of celery. The pre-cut vegetables and fruit are not only more expensive, but they rot faster.  The only exception is if they are on clearance and you’ll use them that day.
  6.  Forget about prepared soups. Have you seen how much soup is? A typical can is over $2 and some are as much as $5. Even though the can generously announce itself as having about two servings, it is only one. You can make your soup cheaper on your own. Be prepared to make a big pot and freeze some for later.
  7. Clearance items or sale price stock up bonanza time. Occasionally, you’ll see something you normally buy for rock bottom sale prices. When should you blow aside your careful shopping list to stock up? Decide if you'll it use in the coming month. Dry pasta is good for six months while cereal usually only lasts a month. Prepared freezer food should stay in the freezer no longer than six months to avoid freezer burn.
  8. Do not buy toiletries or cosmetics at the groceries. You can buy these items at the dollar stores. Our area has Ulta stores, which carry $3.50 coupon off any $10. Look for these in the Sunday paper. Ulta loyalty members get additional coupons too. Don’t forget to check out Walgreens & Wal-Mart for their generic copies.
  9. Look down or sometimes up. The most expensive brands are at eye level.
  10.   Try going meatless for a meal or two a week. Meat is often your major expense.
  11.  Make your own casseroles without the help of a box item. Lay in some macaroni and cream of mushroom soup and you have the basis for the boxed entrees. However, when Hamburger Helper is a $1 on sale and you have a coupon. It is hard to beat that price.
  12. Use discount groceries-I used to have one of these by me, but no more. They buy up items that didn’t sell well in the regular groceries such as gourmet items and price them low.
  13. Cook in bulk and freeze it. This allows anyone in the house to fix dinner without resorting to pricey convenience foods.
  14.  Use everything. Freeze your ham bones for bean soup. Use your chicken carcass for broth.
  15. Scale back your meals. Do you really need a dessert or bread? Your waistline will benefit from bypassing these items.
  16. Use actual portions printed in the cookbook or on the package. You can save money and calories at the same time.
  17. Shop the day before the grocery ad changes. Often you get the tail end of the sales and clearance items marked down for the coming day.
  18.  Ask for a rain check, when an advertised item is missing. Krogers and Walgreens are both good at honoring rain checks.
  19.  Buy only food at the grocery. It seems like a no-brainer, but it is so convenient to pick up laundry soap or medicine when you are already in the store. Convenient, but not cost efficient. Surprisingly, my local Walgreens runs great sales on everything from soft drinks to laundry detergent. Check your Sunday sales ads.
  20.  Take it back if it’s spoiled. I have bought stale bread, sour milk and steak that was green when I unwrapped it. I took it all back and received a refund. It is more important for a grocery to keep you as a customer as opposed to making a $1.75 off milk.
  21. Check your receipt. Ever feel like your groceries were higher than they should be? Often sales items don’t ring up as marked. I bought clearance jerky that rang up full price despite the markdown price. I brought it back to customer service, which refunded me the full price and gave me the jerky free since it was the store’s fault. That was an unexpected bonus.

Unbelievably…there are even more tips, but I will save them for another blog.  

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