Do you ever feel like your bank account gets noticeably smaller after you’ve gone to the grocery store? It may not be your imagination. The food we eat isn’t cheap, and it costs a lot of money to keep our families fed.
Although there isn’t a magical grocery tree where free food is available for all to enjoy, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some practical things you can do to lower your bill at the grocery store.
Yes, it is possible to go grocery shopping, fill up your cart with the things you need, and not spend a small fortune. And you don’t have to become a full-time coupon clipper, either.
How to Save Money on Groceries
Here are 10 ways you can save big on your next grocery shopping trip:
1. Use the Ibotta App
Ibotta is a free smartphone app that gives you cash back on your grocery purchases. It works for name brands as well as generics. The amount you earn with Ibotta per item varies. It could be a few cents for a generic or as much as $3.00 for a name brand item. The savings can really add up.
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After installing the app, you use it by first locating the store where you want to do your shopping. You can then see which items are cash back eligible. You then shop normally – but make sure you get an itemized receipt when you check out.
After you have finished shopping, you need to upload your receipt to Ibotta. This can be done one of two ways. The first and easiest way is to just scan the barcode on the receipt. You can also take a picture of the receipt and manually record the cash back items. You may also have to scan the barcodes on the items themselves.
To qualify for the cash back, you will also be required to perform some quick and simple tasks. You might be required to watch a video, write a comment on a product, participate in a poll, or read a fact.
It may take a few hours for Ibotta to review and approve the receipt before you can access the cash back funds in your Paypal account.
One of the great things about Ibotta is that it is not limited to just grocery stores. Other types of stores you can use Ibotta with include restaurants, over 300 retail chain stores, convenience stores, movie theaters, pet stores, home improvement centers, and pharmacies.
Ibotta will pay you for going shopping, it's that easy and you can get a $10 bonus after uploading your first receipt.
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2. Buy the Store Brands
Name brand foods are almost always more expensive than generics. One of the easiest ways to save big on groceries is to skip the name brands in favor of store brands and other generics. The savings can be substantial, and most won’t even notice the difference in the meals you prepare unless you tell them.
Many are surprised to learn that store brands are often name brand foods with different labels on the packages. That’s it. Many grocery stores contract with name brand food companies to create their own line of products. This practice is called private labeling, and it’s very common.
3. Shop at Discount Grocery Stores
Many skip discount grocery stores in favor of the big chain stores. This is unfortunate though because you can really save a lot at these places. Discount grocery stores include ALDI, Save-A-Lot, Fareway, Grocery Outlet, and others.
Discount grocery stores are usually very simple and don’t have all the flash or pizazz of the big chain stores. But the simplicity is one of the reasons their prices are lower. Do you really want to pay higher prices just to shop at a fancy store? I don’t.
Discount grocery stores also tend to carry more generic brands than the big chain stores, which is another way you save when you shop at these places.
4. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk at Costco and Sam’s Club is another way to save big on some grocery items. You have to be careful, however, because it can be tempting to buy more of an item than you need. Do you really need 50 tubes of toothpaste?
It’s important to keep in mind that you won’t always save money by buying in bulk on each and every item. In some cases, you’re better off shopping at a discount grocery store. To be a successful bulk shopper, you need to compare prices to know if buying in bulk will really give you a better deal.
Buying in bulk makes the most sense for items you use a lot. This includes things like cereal, dried beans and pasta, canned foods, laundry detergent, soap, toilet paper, paper towels, and diapers.
5. Stick to Your List
Before you go shopping, take some time to prepare a list of the things you need. And when you are at the store, stick to your list. Avoid buying anything not written down – unless you just happen to remember something that should have been on your list anyway.
Stores present their merchandise in a way that makes it appear as attractive as possible – pretty product displays, bright lights, the position of products on shelves, etc. All of this is designed to get you to spend more money. It’s a science known as marketing psychology.
Sticking to a list when shopping is a great way to avoid the temptation of buying things you don’t need. It makes you a savvy shopper. It’s a way to beat the stores in the game they play where they try to get you to spend as much money as possible when you walk through their doors.
6. Watch Your Grocery Budget
Do you have a budget for how much you’ll spend each month on groceries? If not, then perhaps you should. Sticking to a set budget is a great way to avoid impulse buys. It’s also a great motivator to look for discounts and other bargains.
How much you budget for groceries is entirely up to you. Factors to consider include your income, the size of your family, your needs versus your wants, and others. Keep in mind that budgets are guidelines. They aren’t written in stone. Adjustments can always be made as needed.
7. Time Your Shopping Trips
The day of the week you do your grocery shopping matters, and Wednesdays are one of the best. The middle of the week is when many store managers mark down products that are getting close to their “sell by” date.
Stores also usually put out their sales circulars on Wednesdays for even more savings. These circulars are often found at the store entrance when you first walk in. Not all stores start their sales on Wednesdays, however, so it’s crucial to learn which day is “mark down day” for a particular store.
8. Shop at Your Local Farmer’s Market
Your local farmer’s market is another place where you can find some great deals on produce. This is not always the case though. It really depends on each individual vendor. Some will have great prices while others will charge a premium.
One of the best ways to catch a great deal at a farmer’s market is to shop late of the evening, right before it closes. It’s a lot of work to load and unload a lot of merchandise, and vendors prefer to take home as little as possible. If you catch vendors just as they are about to close shop, they might offer deep discounts on products to sell as much as possible. You might even be able to score some freebies.
Buying from your local farmer’s market ensures you are getting the freshest produce possible and that you are supporting your local economy. Also, knowing where your food comes from is important. It means you know you won’t be buying food that was imported from countries that may not have strong safety regulations on the production and harvesting of food.
9. Avoid Prepared Foods
We live in a world of convenience that our ancestors couldn’t have possibly imagined. Need a quick meal? Just hit the drive-through. Need some info on an obscure fact? It’s probably on the internet. Need to take a quick picture of something? Just use your smartphone.
Many of the products found in grocery stores are also designed for convenience. Frozen dinners, canned sauces, cakes, and pies are just a few of the many prepared foods that line store shelves from wall to wall. But all of this convenience comes at a high price.
Prepared foods typically cost more than the individual ingredients used to make them. A fresh pie, for example, might be $7, but the ingredients used to make it can be bought for much less.
One of the easiest ways to save big on your groceries is to skip prepared foods in favor of buying ingredients and making your own meals, sauces, and so forth. Not only will you save money by doing so, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing the foods you eat are the freshest possible – straight out of your own kitchen.
10. Skip the Packaged Foods
There are many food items that can be bought either packaged or out of bulk bins. The packaged foods, as you can imagine, are more expensive than the bin items – often much more expensive. Do you really need a pretty glass jar for your mixed nuts?
All of that packaging costs money, and you can really save big by always opting for foods out of the bins instead of those that are prepackaged. Just fill up those little plastic bags with all of the fruits, nuts, veggies, herbs, and other bin items you need.
You can also save containers that you have previously purchased and then reuse them with items from the bins. If you have a pretty glass jar from a previous purchase of mixed nuts, for example, why not save the jar and just refill it? It’s not just about saving money. It’s also about recycling and reusing perfectly good containers.
Saving Money on Groceries: Easier Than You’d Think
Saving money on groceries isn’t difficult at all. All it takes is a little planning and maybe changing a couple of hold habits.
You can really save big on groceries by being strategic about your shopping. And by all means, feel free to use coupons to lower your bill even further. Every little bit helps.