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10 Ways to Stay Frugal at the Grocery Store

10 Ways to Stay Frugal at the Grocery Store
Justin Stewart Oct 5, 2019
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Finding ways to save money at the grocery store might seem like a lost cause because of the nature of a grocery store.

You’d imagine that the lowest available price is already listed on the shelf, but that’s not always the case.

Just like with most other purchasable items, there are ways to cut the corners off of your grocery costs.

You’re probably thinking “I don’t want to go through the lengthy process of extreme couponing”.

Well, I have good news!

You don’t have to go through extreme couponing, unless you really want to.

Instead, there are a ways to cut corners that will not leave you cutting up weekly coupons in bulk to save a few cents here and there.

There’s definitive concern with the rising food costs in stores, and the issues with the food trade today isn’t helping anyone.

As stressful as this may be, there are different things that you can do individually or ideas that you can mix and match together to bring the cost of your groceries down at the store.

The best way to get great savings anywhere is to plan ahead, and grocery shopping is no different.

Extreme couponing might sound like the best way to plan for grocery shopping.

After all, it has been demonstrated that when you go through the process of extreme couponing, you can leave the grocery store with an overall price that is so low it feels like you paid nothing at all.

One major problem with this process is time itself and how long it takes to locate, cut out, and compile an absurdly large amount of coupons.

Another major problem is being able to purchase what you’d actually like to purchase. With extreme couponing, you’re only able to purchase what you can with the currently available coupons.

You do not get to select what is ideal for your weekly grocery list, you can only purchase the items you have coupons for to receive the extreme savings.

A third important issue we see with couponing is that its limited to mostly non-perishable food items, such as canned goods, which means that the costs of fresh produce, meat and dairy products are not usually matched up with discount coupons.

This makes buying the things that you really need with coupons not entirely possible.

Considering the importance of having food on your table that is healthy and fresh, couponing isn’t the way to go.

That being said, using coupons shouldn’t be completely cast away, but as your only mode for staying frugal at the grocery store, it won’t work in the long run.

Instead of trying your hand at extreme couponing, take a look at this compiled list of different ways you can save money at the grocery store and still buy things you actually want and need.

Tips For Frugal Grocery Shopping

Trying to find ways to stay frugal at the grocery store might seem like a lost cause at first, but with a little time, focus, and dedication to saving money, you’ll be able to figure out a system that works for you.

Frugal grocery shopping truly starts at home with your planning process.

If you want to find the best deals, save money, and lower your food waste, it’s a good idea to be prepared before you walk into the grocery store.

During your shopping excursion, you should stick to your plan and steer clear of impulsivity.

With a little thought, reasoning and selective choice making, you’ll be able to save money every time you step into the grocery store.

Here are some tips for staying frugal while grocery shopping.

1. Make a Need-Based Grocery List

It’s easy to make a shopping list with all the things you like to eat and all the items you find yourself craving, but this isn’t the smartest way to plan a grocery list if you’re a frugal shopper.

Finding out that you’re actually losing money in the long run by purchasing food items that aren’t going to be consumed before they expire is a good way to make you think about how you’re spending your money at the grocery store.

It’s easy to think that just buying what you like means that you’ll eat it, but if you look through your fridge now and notice that you’ve got food sitting around, and it’s been sitting around, you may want to consider switching up tactics.

The Grocery List How To

Going to the grocery store unprepared is not a good idea.

The chances of you over spending because you’re walking through the grocery store compiling your grocery list as you come across items is high.

Instead, build a grocery list at home on your phone or in your favorite notebook as the week goes on.

Take notice of the food items you’re purchasing that usually go bad before you consume them, and cross them off the list unless you know you will actually eat it all in time.

When you start building your weekly grocery list, consider how many people you’re feeding daily and how much your budgeting for each individual for the week.

Keeping in mind how many mouths you are feeding can help you stay away from overspending to compensate for what may or may not be the right amount of people.

It’s always a good general rule to go to a grocery store with a well prepare shopping list.

Think of your list as a plan and how deviating from the plan will end in your metaphorical doom, aka an empty wallet.

The best part of having a shopping list is that you also save time because you know what you need, you’ll be able to locate it easily, and get in the aisle to pay quickly.

You’ll make your trip in and out of the store in less time than you usually do, and you won’t be tempted to impulsively buy things you don’t need because they won’t be on your list.

Surprisingly enough, there are apps that you can download for your phone that serve as a stand alone shopping list.

Download an app dedicated for your shopping list, and you’ll eventually build a relationship with the app that is habitual and will keep you organized over time.

Changing your grocery planning routine will help you save money easily.

2. Plan Your Meals for the Week

Everyone knows that healthy eating isn’t a fluke that happens on a whim without conscious deliberation.

Everyone might not know that meal planning is one of the key elements to healthy eating every day.

You might not be a star athlete that has a scheduled diet and know how to meal plan, but you don’t have to be scared to dive into the process.

You’ll be happy you did, and so will your wallet and your body.

Meal planning may sound like a time intensive idea, but it’ll save you time and money in the long run.

Plus, once you’ve got a planned out meal schedule, you can develop a routine that alternates at your leisure to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your grocery shopping.

Once you’ve found the recipes that fit your budget, your lifestyle, and your palate, you can build a grocery list around what items you’ll need to make your meals.

Planning your meals also gives you an advantage in your cooking habits, especially if you’re not an avid in-home chef.

You’ll be able to learn new recipes, find ones that are quick and simple to execute, and learn new cooking techniques if you want to be adventurous and switch up your meal plans.

It’s a great way to experiment with foods that you already like and purchase while thinking ahead to the value of your meal when you finally sit down to dine.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys the notion of meal prepping, you can use the planning portion of your weekly meals to compile recipes you can cook in bulk to help you cover a few days or meals at a time.

If you plan your meals ahead of your grocery shopping, you’ll only buy what you need and save money doing it.

3. Go to the Store With Cash Only

You might not think this is the best move, especially if not having backup payment options give you panic, but with grocery shopping in particular it may be the best bet.

Go to the grocery store with cash only.

This is the best way to ensure that you’ll do what you said you would in reference to your spending.

With your planned meals and grocery shopping list in-hand, going with cash only is a safe idea that will round out your grocery planning.

If you manage to get into the grocery store with just a wad of cash, you’ll be limiting yourself to the amount of money you have with you for purchasing items.

This can be a saving grace if you are an impulsive shopper and know that nothing else will save you from overspending.

Take a little more than what you think you need in the event that there are items priced differently, but not too much so you will not be deterred from buying those Pepperidge Farm cookies you like to indulge in late at night.

Having a hard budget can be hard to stick to if you’ve got credit cards and debit cards in your wallet while you’re at the grocery store.

Head to the ATM before you go to the grocery store and leave your debit card in your car or take it back home if you need to hardline discipline yourself.

Not all of us can control the urge to buy an extra tub of ice cream, and being honest with your ability to stay disciplined in the grocery store will save you money in the end.

4. Eat Before You Go to the Grocery Store

This might seem like a silly step, but if you haven’t notice the effects of your rumbling tummy at the store then it’s one thing you should take note of.

Before you step foot into the grocery store to do your weekly grocery shopping, you should stop and eat a satisfying meal.

A snack might suffice, but for the sake of full blown safety, you should feed yourself well before going into the store.

You may have heard it before, and although it may not be scientifically proven, it is still a valid point based in the psychology of our natural impulses.

The notion is that going to the grocery store hungry will cause you to buy more than you normally would because you’re eyeing the food on the shelves with the mentality of consumption.

Being hungry at the grocery store is a bit maddening because you’ll want to eat the food your seeing and buying, and that natural physical drive to keep yourself fed will lead to you pulling more down off the shelf than you should.

Another risk of buying groceries on an empty stomach is potentially purchasing unhealthy snack items.

You might begin thinking that bag of chips will tide you over on your way home or that it’s just an item or two that you’d like to chow down on later when you have a moment to fill the ever-expanding hole in your stomach.

It’s the world’s most dangerous game.

You should always head into the grocery store with your hunger pangs curbed or else you’re bound to slip up on your grocery plans and overspend.

Be the pro grocery shopper you want to be and eat something substantial before you go through the tempting grocery store isles.

5. Only Buy What You Actually Plan To Eat

In every well-stocked grocery store we see all kinds of food that we like or think we’d like to try at every turn.

There are different versions of certain favorites you have, the cousins of your favorite vegetables that are suddenly in season, or new brand that looks like it might be better than the one you’ve always bought.

This can lead to you purchasing food items that are not in the region of food you’ll end up loving on the first try.

This’ll add up to higher food costs and wasted money.

Instead of buying things you want to try or food that usually ends up in the trash bin at the end of the week, only buy food you know you want to eat.

This means purchasing your favorite vegetables and leaving the experimental foods behind.

It’s not a bad idea to attempt new things every once in a while, but making a habit of purchasing food you don’t know you’ll like over food you are guaranteed to enjoy will be bad for your wallet in the long run.

Make a point of finding a recipe before you go to the store that includes the food item you’d like to experiment with and try a new dish once a month.

This will keep your adventurous side happy and also make sure you don’t stray far from your grocery planning habits.

If you only buy vegetables that you’ll eat, meat and fish that you love, and dairy products and fruits that you’ll use in various ways, you’ll save more money in the end.

It’s ok to experiment once in a while, but plan for that as you would any other aspect of your grocery shopping and you’ll stay within your budget.

6. Head Over to the Deli

When you’re in the grocery store and you head to the meat section, you’ll notice that the cold cuts are nicely packaged up and priced to match that.

This means that you’re paying for name brand cold cuts and not really for the food itself.

This little detail can cost you more in the long run, especially if your go-to lunch is a cold cut sandwich with a soup or salad.

Instead of spending extra money on packaging, head over to the deli in your grocery store and purchase fresh cold cuts from the counter.

Doing this will mean that you get the perfect amount of cold cuts for the week.

You can choose to purchase your cold cuts in whatever increments you would like, from a quarter pound to as many pounds as you’d like.

You’ll also be able to choose from a much wider selection of cold cuts, including different variations of your favorites.

The prices will be marked in the window or over the deli itself so you can choose what brand of cold cuts you’d like and at what price.

The cold cuts won’t come sealed in an air-tight package, but you’ll have more bag for your buck.

On occasion, your deli will also carry butchered meat that is sold by weight.

This means that you’ll be able to purchase meat cuts that you prefer directly from your grocer, eliminating the price mark up of packaged brand named meats.

You will also be able to purchase other items from your deli or deli area like spreads, cheese, and bread.

These items will be sold by weight or by the piece, making the deli a great way to cut costs on your grocery shopping.

7. Choose Generic Groceries Over Name Brands

It is easy to find brand name products in a grocery store.

Usually these products are at eye-level, within reach, and packaged elaborately to draw your attention to them.

These are all tactics to get you to spend more on names that you know rather than spend wisely on items that are better priced.

You may be surprised to learn that a lot of grocery stores plan their shelves like this to support their customers shopping habits, but there’s another secret that you might not know.

Most major grocery store chains have their own brands that they distribute within their locations.

These items are usually priced lower than the brand names because they aren’t marketed and packaged in the same way that brand name companies do.

The most surprising part of the generic store brand items that you see on the shelves is that these items are usually packaged for sale in the same places as the brand name items.

This means that it’s essentially the exact same food, just wrapped up differently.

What effect this has on cost is simple.

The generic brands aren’t marketed and packaged in the same ways as brand name selections, so there is not inherent price mark up.

There’s also a part of the human psychology that expects brand name items to cost more than generic ones, and the brand name companies know this.

When you go to the grocery store, look away from the middle shelves and search above and below what you want to purchase to find the generic store brand items.

You’ll find the same food at a lower cost and you’ll save a ton of money on your grocery shopping.

8. Buy In Bulk

Going to a grocery store, you’ll notice that the more of a product you buy at once, the cheaper it is overall.

Places like Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s are excellent places to go if you’re looking to purchase items in bulk to cut costs.

At these stores, you can buy milk, cereal, meat, cheese, and many other food items in larger quantities at lower costs.

This will help you overall because you can make on trip to the store and stock up for a week or two to a month or more.

Meat is the most expensive food item you’ll buy individually, and buying it in larger quantities can help you keep that aspect of your diet securely supported.

Make sure to freeze perishable items that can be frozen to preserve them and your investment will be well worth it.

9. Understand Best By, Sell By and Use By

When you go to the grocery store and look at the packaging to see how long your food will last, there are three common statements that can be chosen from to date your item.

These three simple statements have three different meanings and can drastically change the intention of how your food is to be stored and by when it should be consumed.

These three statements are:

Best By – This indicates that an item is going to be best in flavor and texture until this day, and afterwards may change do to natural processes but will still be safe to consume.

This applies to foods like honey or other non-perishable items that can last a long time but are usually better within a certain window.

Sell By – This is the date that the grocery store will pull the item off the shelf.

This doesn’t mean that the item has gone bad, it just means that this is how long they are willing to sell this item.

These items may still be perfectly edible for a few days or even a few weeks after the sell by date.

To stay on the safe side, take extra caution with meats and other foods that are known to possess harmful bacteria if you plan to take a chance after the sell by date.

Use By – This is the only indicator on a product that directly correlates to safety in reference to the consumption of this food item.

These are hard dates that should not be ignored for the sake of avoiding food-related illness.

These products are not safe to eat or use by the date that is written on the package.

Knowing these different allocations of time on the food items you buy can help you determine if it is worth the asking price to purchase.

Avoid items where the use by, sell by, or best by dates are not far enough away for you to safely consume them in time.

10. Cut Back On The Most Expensive Items

We all have food items that we love and splurge on when we can.

It’s ok to treat yourself once in a while if you’re really feeling it, but for the sake of habit and keeping a tight budget it is a good idea to look at your overall shopping list and reduce the number of items that cost much more than the others.

This will definitely include items like meat, which can add up quickly and take a chunk out of your budget, expensive brand name snacks, and pre-packaged food kits.

Instead, make items like salad or a smoothie from scratch, eat a more environmentally friendly plant-based diet, and avoid unhealthy brand name snacks that cost more without adding a lot of nutritional value to your diet.

Justin Stewart

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