Grocery shopping can be the most tedious task and with today's inflation, EXPENSIVE! My goal is give you 3 tips that I use every week when grocery shopping to help me save money and time. As always, I suggest starting small and working your way up to fully being able to do all of this.
1. Sign up for those perk cards at the grocery store!
I cannot tell you enough but sign up for those cards! They are absolutely free to you and here are 3 big perks to these loyalty cards.
They allow you to take advantage of the in-store discounts. You know those signs that say "Use your ____ card to get this discount"? Yeah, those discounts add up.
Most grocery stores send out extra coupons that can't be found in store. We shop at two grocery stores (Festival and Pick'N'Save). Our favorite is Pick'N'Save because they send us monthly coupons based on what we buy. We buy a ton of fresh produce and the occasional meat or spice there and we get tailored coupons giving us discounts on produce we specifically buy, meat, spices, free eggs, percentage off all produce department. I am not kidding when I say these coupons alone easily save our family $20-40 a month. Festival sends out a generic pamphlet of coupons every 6ish weeks that we can use during certain weeks of the month. We don't use this one as much but they typically have a $10 off a $75 or more purchase. So once we run out of Pick'N'Save coupons we go shopping at Festival and take advantage of this coupon.
Let's be honest gas is super expensive right now and if you can get 10-50 cents off a gallon you better believe that it is worth it! Many of these loyalty cards offer gas discounts. I spend around $400 a month in groceries, and for every $100 I spend I get 10 cents off a gallon. So at the end of the month I get to fill my car up for 40 cents less a gallon! Towards the last week of the month I usually get my car as close to E as I can, then after that last monthly grocery trip I go straight to the pump.
2. Buy non-perishable household staples in bulk
I know buying in bulk can be expensive, but it saves you money and time in the long run. Typically, it's cheaper per can/ounce/etc. This in the long run will save you money. Yes it will be more expensive up front but if you plan it strategically you can make it less expensive a trip. There are certain foods that I have been able to figure out a basic timetable of how long it takes us to use them, 2 months/4 months/6 months/8 months/longer. From there I have been able to stagger my bulk buying so I only need a few things when I go to my store (Sam's) at a time, but this keep those costs savings. I have about 1 bulk buying trip every 1/5 -2 months. This allows me to have less things I need to buy at the grocery store, saving me time on my weekly shopping trips and saving me money. A lot of these stores also offer cash back, so again getting free money for things you are already buying!
3. Freeze as much as you can
This is dependent on how much freezer space you have. If you can afford a smaller freezer to have in your basement or garage, do it! This allows me to bulk buy meat and other frequently used foods in bulk. One thing most people don’t think about is freezing the food in their fridge. Big thing I suggest freezing is onions! I have a nifty chopper that dices them so I spend an extra 10 minutes dicing a bulk bag of onions and freezing them for future meals. I typically store mine in whole or half onion sized portions so I can just grab and dump in the meals I’m cooking.* This saves me on the dreaded onion peeling and chopping when making meals so this saves a bunch of time in the long run. If I have fruits that are probably a day or two away from me just throwing them, I put them in a reusable bag and freeze them for smoothies, yogurts, or a breakfast meal. This allows me to reduce my food waste and save money from not having to buy more as quickly.
*I suggest using fresh onion if it will not be cooked.
4. Make a meal plan
This was probably the hardest trick I have had to learn! I was a pro at just shopping and getting whatever sounded good or try to buy for meals off the top of my head. I wasted soooo much money doing this. I would typically end up throwing out food that I wouldn’t end up using because I bought extra or just bought something because it sounded good. I would forget things so more trips and money to go back to the grocery store (save more gas!). Lastly, I wasted so much time trying to figure out what to make based on what we had. Spending 10 minutes at the beginning of each week or before I went grocery shopping to quick pick meals for the week has saved me SO much headache and money!
There are so many apps out there to help with picking meals and putting together grocery lists. I currently use Mealime and I have loved it. We use the basic free version but it lets us pick meals (healthy meals) and when we build our weekly meal plan it populates a grocery list for us. I can go in and add any of the weekly fruit or snacks I need to buy and I stick to that list. It has been a game changer for our grocery budget!
5. Buying healthy food is not more expensive.
I can testify that when we were buying all the junk we were spending WAY more on our grocery bill a month. It was less a shopping trip but we were taking more shopping trips. This happens because we were eating through all of our “snacks” and we would need to make another trip to buy more food. This food wasn’t as filling so we were buying double the food because we were always hungry! Since switching to mostly fruits and veggies as snacks we don’t need to buy nearly as much food to keep us full throughout the day.
Pro-tip: Try to do most of your shopping on the outside perimeter off the grocery store. I only go down about 2 aisles in the grocery store when I go grocery shopping.