We are always looking for ways to save money – especially on groceries. It is crazy how much food costs these days. Five years ago I was complaining about how much food costs “these days,” and now they cost even more. Five years ago, my base price for cereal was 25 cents per box. If I couldn’t get it for that, I wouldn’t buy it. Now, I’m happy if I can get it for 75 cents.
There are a plethora of sites out there all teaching various ways to save. We also teach several ways to save even more money than what this article will discuss. These 5 ways to save more on groceries is getting back to basics. So let’s get started:
Make a Master Menu List
There is nothing more frustrating than going to the grocery store without a list. You wind up getting stuff you don’t need and forgetting the stuff you really need. Shopping without a list is a grocery budget killer. All those items you purchased that you didn’t need will have you scratching your head wondering where all your money went, and how you’re going to feed your family for the next week.
We want you to create a Master Menu List. A Master Menu List is not the same as a weekly menu list. A weekly menu list, although helpful with planning, doesn’t help you save money. Let’s say I create a weekly menu list. It may look a little something like this:
Needed: Tortillas, meat, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, & cheese
Needed: Spaghetti noodles, sauce, meat, bread, & salad
Needed: Chicken, garlic, potatoes, veggies, & salad
Needed: Meat, marinade, veggies, chips, & drinks
Needed: Roast, potatoes, carrots, & salad
Sounds like a great week of eating right? The only problem with this is you are now at the mercy of the grocery store. You now have to pay whatever the current prices are for these items. You may get a few things on sale, but you definitely won’t get a majority of these items on sale. And even if you use coupons, you aren’t maximizing their use if you are pairing them with a full price item.
Let’s compare this to a Master Menu List. The concept of a Master Menu List is learning what your family eats on a regular basis and stocking up on those items when they are on sale and keeping them on hand for when you need them. Sounds simple enough and guess what?!?! It is!
Start creating a Master Menu List of meals you eat on a regular basis. What are your go-to-meals on a busy weeknight? What are your favorite meals that the family begs you to make frequently? Once you have a basic list down you can get an idea of what you need to start stocking up on those items.
Make your list of what you need to get by this week, but bring your Master Menu List and look for great stock-up prices on those items as well. Soon, you will be cooking meals that cost you a lot less money!
Eat Before You Shop
Um, yeah. I’ve killed my budget so many times by shopping hungry, it’s not even funny. I’m like an addict, throwing carbs in my cart as if I were a contestant on a 5 minute shopping spree. I go home after spending hundreds of dollars only to find out I have nothing to make for dinner.
Create your weekly menu around sales. Don’t have tacos this week, if you have to pay full price for all of your ingredients. Have chicken instead because it’s on sale. If you use coupons, maximize your saving by pairing coupons with sale items not full price items. Go through the ads, match your coupons before you get there, but bring all of your coupons with you in case you find unadvertised sale items.
Shop by Season
I’m not just talking about fruits and vegetables, which are always lowest when they’re in season. Everything goes on sales in cycles – usually every six to eight weeks. However, there are also “seasons” when you can get other grocery items drastically cheaper – soups in the fall, baking supplies during Christmas, condiments and paper goods for Memorial Day weekend, etc. Buy what you need when you need it, but plan on stocking up during the lowest time of the year.
Stock Up on Savings
The cheapest way to build up your pantry to is to stock up on items when they are drastically reduced. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
My family eats meals that use spaghetti sauce on a regular basis. I’ve figured out that I need five cans of spaghetti sauce per month to make the meals that my family loves. We like Hunt’s spaghetti sauce. At my local grocery store, I can usually get it for about $1.28 per can. At my local Walmart, I can get it for $1 per can, which is where I usually buy it. I can usually get a coupon or two for 25 cents off per can and will get a few at the discounted price and pay $1 for the rest. That’s easy enough.
The key to the Master Menu is to only get what you need at the moment when you have to pay full price, but to stock up when you can get it for a great price. I mentioned before that the spaghetti sauce we like is usually $1.28 per can at my local grocery store, so I never look to purchase it there since I can get it cheaper at Walmart. However, there are several items that I always get at my grocery store and not Walmart. I just like the quality or item better. So one night while I was at the grocery store getting my couple of items, I passed several grocery carts of the spaghetti sauce that my family enjoys. I looked at the cans to see what was going on and they all had a manager’s special price tag of 39 cents. Woo Hoo!
I looked at the expiration date and they are good until late 2015. So a grabbed some – about 20 cans. I didn’t even make a dent in one of the carts there were so many. I went along my way and realized with as much as we eat, I needed more. So I grabbed another 20 cans. You may be thinking, what a hoarder. I would normally agree, but like I said, I didn’t even make a dent in these carts. There was still plenty for others. And when I got home, I posted on Facebook about the deal so my friends could save too if it was something they were interested in.
So I spent $15.60 instead of $40 and I don’t have to worry about shopping for that item for a while. Win, win!
My spaghetti sauce was 70% off! You can find sales like that all the time once you start looking for them.
Similarly to learning how to drive a car – look in front, check your mirrors often, look over your shoulder – meal planning, budgeting and trying to save time and money on groceries seem overwhelming at first. But in no time, this will become second nature and you will LOVE to see how much you can save each and every time you go to the store.
We’d love to hear what strategies you use to save more on groceries.