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Want to save money on groceries? Of course, you do! It’s the 3rd largest household expense in the US. Saving money can be challenging but with a bit of effort and thoughtful planning it can become second nature.
Save Money on Grocery Essentials
Every household has grocery items you cannot survive without. Our home would crumble to the ground if we ever ran out of milk, bread, bananas or eggs. Ok, maybe not literally but it would if our house was made out of those items. Those 4 items make our weekly grocery list every time. Have you ever considered how much money you could save on these essential food items by making sure to 1.) buy them only on sale, 2.) buy them in bulk or 3.) at a cheaper grocery store?
We save nearly $500 a year buying the exact same chicken at a cheaper grocery store – not a big name grocery store. In our area there are several smaller, lesser well known grocery stores to explore for better pricing options. Familiarize yourself with these stores and their prices.
1. Save Money Buying Groceries on Sale
Assuming you’re a meat eater you can save big money on groceries when buying animal proteins like fish, chicken or steak on sale. In additional to chicken, shrimp is another staple in our home. The well-known grocery store down the street has great sales every month and boy, do we stock up. A two-pound bag of shrimp regularly cost $18. On sale we can get it as cheap as $12.
We use half a bag for dinner for the 4 of us plus get 1 leftover lunch out of it. For a regular priced bag that means we’re paying $9 ($18/2) for 5 meals. Alternatively, on the sale priced bag, we’re paying $6 ($12/2) for 5 meals. That’s a savings of $3 each time we cook shrimp which is usually twice a week. Saving on proteins can go a long way!
We eat a ton of couscous too (it’s similar to rice for those who aren’t too familiar with it). We used to buy the pre-packaged boxes that had a spice packet included. Each box cost at least $1.99 on sale, and we’d go through it in one family dinner for the 4 of us and have enough for 1 lunch.
We’ve started buying 2-pound tubs of couscous for $1.99 and those last for at least 5 nights of dinner, probably more. Of course, we have to add our own spices but when you buy spices in bulk that probably only adds $0.10 per dinner. For simplicity sake I’m not going to include that in my following calculation. Every night we eat couscous, we save $1.60 ($2 per packages verses $0.40 for 1/5th of the tub of couscous).
Bonus: regular couscous (not pearl couscous) is the quickest cooking grain I know of, so it could save you a bit of time if you’re in a hurry (re: hangry kids!).
For us, simply buying chicken, shrimp and couscous wisely saves roughly $21.40 per week ($3 on shrimp x 2 days, $4.50 on chicken thighs x 2 days, and $1.60 on couscous x 4 days) or $1,112.80 a year.
2. Save Money Buying Groceries at a Warehouse Store
Another good option is a membership to a warehouse grocery store like Costco or Sam’s Club. If your household is large enough (probably 2 or more people) and you don’t have a membership currently you should consider one. You will be hard pressed to get a better deal elsewhere when buying household essentials in bulk like white rice or garlic powder.
Know Your Price Points
We can always get eggs for $0.13 each at our warehouse grocery store. This is the same price I can get them on sale at the local well known grocery store. As a rule of thumb, I always buy eggs at the warehouse grocery store. 9 out of 10 times it’s the cheapest option.
I do, however, make a habit of skimming the weekly sales ad and occasionally, I can get eggs for as little as $0.08 each at the local well known grocery store so it’s good to know your price points. When the sale is really good, it’s front and center of the sales ad and hard to miss.
Buy Spices in Bulk
Common spices can be found at the warehouse grocery store for a steal compared to the well known grocery store in my area. The well known grocery store has many spices in these tiny little bottles (less than an ounce) for $3+ and while they look cute, they are a total rip off! You can find 26 oz containers of garlic powder, red pepper flakes, chopped onion, lemon pepper and many other spices for under $9.
Sometimes you can find 2 oz containers of these common spices for about a $1 at the local grocery store, but they are hidden on an end cap somewhere. Dollar stores are another good place to find cheaper prices on common spices. The warehouse grocery store is hands down the best deal I’ve found though.
3. Shop at the Lesser Known Grocery Store
Check out the lesser known grocery stores in your area to see what they may be selling for cheaper than the well-known grocery store. You may find a perfect gem smack dab in your own town that has fantastic prices on one of your weekly must haves. We found one a little over a year ago and almost buy our produce exclusively from there. Even when the well-known grocery stores have sales on produce, the lesser known grocery store is still better. We easily save $50 a month shopping there for produce now.
This is also where we save the most on the chicken I previously mentioned. We can get the chicken for $1.50 less per pound (unless there’s a sale at the well known grocery store) almost all the time. With the amount of chicken we eat, this is a huge savings.
Additional Methods to Save Money on Groceries
4. Generic Brands
Don’t be afraid to try a brand your local grocery store chain sells instead of brand names. In most cases you will save yourself money and the quality will be about the same. I mean, really, how much different could a can of beans from two companies taste. And those spices I mentioned earlier aren’t McCormick® but I can’t taste the difference.
5. Farmers Market
If there’s a farmer’s market near you stop by near closing time. Sellers are likely eager to sell what’s left on their table. With a little negotiation, you are likely to get a good price and fresh food. Knowing the food is fresh is a nice bonus!
6. Grow Veggies
Skip the grocery store or farmers market all together and grow your favorite veggies. We don’t live in a climate where we can have a garden year round but in the summer months we have a thriving garden full of tomatoes, cucumbers, gigantic zucchinis (seriously they can get as big as a person’s calf) and lots of cilantro.
We eat a cucumber/tomato salad at least twice a week in our home, so this most certainly saves us money. I also pickle cucumbers and make tomato sauce with our garden veggies that we slowly eat throughout the winter and spring. As for those gigantic zucchinis, we store them in our basement and they easily last for a few months.
If you live in a small apartment and don’t have much space, you could grow herbs by a well lit window or grow tomatoes in a pot. Of course, gardening requires time which not everyone has. For the right person though, gardening can be a great stress reliever and well worth the time and effort.
Final Thoughts for Saving Money on Groceries
Put that list of grocery must haves together and start paying attention to the prices on those items where you shop. Look around your regular stores to see if you are getting the best deals. Take it a step further and look around your town to see if there’s a store you’ve never shopped at. There may be a steal of a deal waiting for you inside.
This will require up front work and take a month or two before you have a good handle on what’s a good deal, but soon enough it will all come together and you’ll start seeing serious savings each month. The knowledge you’ve gathered in that month or two will make the journey forward smoother and less time consuming as the information will already be stored in your head. Subscribe here and join me in stepping into more time and money.