If you’re on a tight budget, finding ways to save money seems to be a constant pursuit. And while it’s great to be able to save money on one-time purchases, saving money on regular purchases, like groceries, is even better.
In the past, I’ve tried cutting coupons, but I found that it just wasn’t for me. Most of the coupons were for things I wouldn’t regularly buy, and when I did find good ones, they usually expired before I could use the. In addition, I found that the time spent clipping coupons was just not worth the savings, so I looked into some other methods of saving money on groceries, and here are my top three:
Read the Circulars
Don’t just throw the grocery store circulars in the trash with the junk mail—actually look at them! I get circulars from four different local grocery stores every Tuesday and I always look at all four. Typically, I’ll plan our weekly meals around what’s on sale. If there’s an especially good deal, I’ll stock up. My family eats a lot of cereal, so if there’s a good deal on cereal, I’ll buy a bunch. If there’s a good deal on meat, I’ll buy as much as I can afford and use some during the week and freeze the rest. I always double wrap any meat I freeze (wrapping each individual piece in plastic wrap, and then putting them in freezer bags) and I haven’t lost any meat to freezer burn since I started doing so.
If I’m looking for a specific ingredient, I’ll go to My Grocery Deals, where you can type in an ingredient and your ZIP code and find out what store has it for the best price. I’ll typically do this when I need a large amount of a type of meat, because prices on meat can vary quite dramatically from store to store.
Know Your Prices
It’s important to know what’s actually a good deal and what’s not. Just because something’s on sale, doesn’t mean it’s a good price. I keep a list in my phone of the things we regularly eat, along with the lowest price I’ve seen for that item and reference it whenever I’m in the store or looking through the circulars. For example, my family loves roasted chicken, and I know that whenever whole chickens are priced at less than $1.00 per pound, I should buy them (and I usually buy more than one).
Meal Plan and Cook from Scratch
This isn’t a shopping tip, but it can potentially save you tons of money on groceries. Plan meals that you can cook from scratch. I know, I know, prepackaged meals are super convenient, but they’re typically less healthy and will also cost you more than the ingredients to make them from scratch.
I try to plan ahead for all of the meals I’ll make for the week on Sunday afternoons, and also go grocery shopping that day. When I get home from the store, I do as much prep work as I can for the week—chopping vegetables, marinating meat, etc.
When I meal plan, I also plan what I’ll do with any leftovers. Usually, we’ll eat them for lunch, or we’ll schedule a “leftover night” later in the week where we plan on eating any extras. This also helps to clear out the refrigerator for my next shopping trip, and saves us money, since nothing goes to waste.