Saving money at the grocery store doesn’t require switching to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches three meals a day.
Try these ways to cut the financial fat from your supermarket list:
Create weekly menus
Planning meals in advance allows you to know how much flexibility (or not) you have in your budget before you shop. By selecting recipes, you’re able to create a firm list of what you need before you set foot in the grocery store.
Do a quick sweep of your fridge
Are there any items that you can or should eat—frozen chicken, leftover stir fry, a jar of sauce that’s near its expiration date—that you can use as a basis for a new meal or to recreate something different? If so, look for simple recipes with what you have first.
Shop your pantry
Once you’ve got your list together, double check your kitchen for products or substitutions you may already have. This will prevent you from wasting money on items you’ve got tucked away already.
Lose the coupon stigma
These days it pays to clip (or click) coupons. Redeeming the savings can be as easy as a click of the mouse. For instance, online sites like couponsurfer.com offer two ways to save: online coupons for Web sites like buy.com or printable coupons that can be used at your supermarket.
Visit multiple stores
Brand loyalty won’t get you far in a struggling economy. To get the best deals you need to shop around. Know who has the best prices on the items your family uses, particularly higher-priced goods like detergents, fresh produce and meats. A little extra leg work can translate into big savings.
Buy the right foods in bulk
Size can matter when it comes to savings. Items packaged by the bundle will likely save you a few dollars. So will foods you can buy in bulk such as brown rice, cereals and coffee. Many items are easy to freeze (including nuts, fresh herbs, breads), which means you don’t have to worry about using them immediately.
Stick to the list
One of the fastest ways to watch your grocery budget dwindle is to purchase last-minute, unplanned items. If you know you’ve got no willpower, allow yourself just one spontaneous grab from the shelves (preferably not the caviar or champagne sections), then focus on checking off the items you’re allowed to buy.
Beware of temptation
The key impulse zones are near the checkout lanes and the center aisles, where small, but tempting purchases—a can of mixed nuts, a jar of salsa or a handful of magazines—can quickly bulk up your bill. Don’t linger at the sample table, just get what you came for and move on.
Shop happy and sated
Mood shopping can be a budget killer, especially if you’re an emotional eater. If you’re anxious, angry or depressed, take a walk, phone a friend or hit the gym first, then shop when you’re clear headed. The same rule applies to hunger. Walking through aisles and aisles of enticing foods while your stomach is grumbling is like strolling through Bergdorf’s shoe department on payday. You can’t be expected to exercise smart spending under extreme conditions of vulnerability. Don’t even try it.