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How to Cut Grocery Costs

June 24th, 2008

save-money-grocery.jpgWith all the talk lately of recession and rising fuel and food prices, families are struggling to find ways to save money and make ends meet. This article by Joanie Raisovich shows you how it’s possible to drastically reduce your grocery costs and not sacrifice good taste or good nutrition.

1. Plan your meals. The first step in saving money on your grocery bill is taking time to plan your weekly meals. Plan each evening meal’s entree as well as side dishes. Select several items that are cheaper to fix to easily save money on your groceries. Good examples of inexpensive meals are spaghetti, meatloaf, soup or stew, and meatless meals.

Planning ahead also allows you to take advantage of using leftovers for meals or for packing lunches. Both can save you quite a lot on your grocery bill.

2. Shop once a week. Each time you go to the store, you’re tempted to buy more than you need. Limit that temptation by only shopping once a week. As a bonus, you’ll save gas and time. This is one reason for planning your meals; you can easily buy everything you need in one visit.

If you really feel that you need to go back for milk, bread, etc., then force yourself to just buy those things.

3. Buy in bulk. The key to buying in bulk is being familiar with what items normally cost at the supermarket. Many canned goods are cheaper when purchased at the big box stores, but you do need to double-check since some items are actually more expensive. Take some time and jot down the prices of items you typically buy so you can do some comparison when you start buying in bulk.

Be careful about buying perishable goods in bulk; they often spoil before you can use it all. Many times the big box stores sell only name brands, and while they’re cheaper, you might still be able to beat the price by buying generics where you normally shop.

4. Freeze leftovers. You may be accustomed to tossing leftovers, but don’t. Instead, freeze them and use them for easy meals when you’re too busy to cook. This is a much better and cheaper choice than takeout. You can also take leftovers for lunch and save even more. While you’re buying your weekly groceries, buy plastic wrap and bowls to put your leftovers in so you won’t have an excuse not to save them.

Many meats, rice, bean dishes, and soups freeze well. Frozen vegetables and fruits are quick and healthy choices.

5. Buy cheaper brands or generics. You may be used to buying certain brands, but keep an open mind. Try a cheaper brand or even a generic. Often these are just as good as the brand you’ve been using. Generics are particularly good when you’re mixing them in with other items. For example, while you may notice the difference in generic lunch meats, you’re not likely to notice when you change to generic sugar, oil, or flour.

When trying a new brand, buy only one or two just in case you don’t like it. After all, if you won’t eat it, it’s not saving you anything.

6. Buy less meat. Meat is one of the most expensive items on your grocery list, but you don’t have to fix meat for every meal. Instead, try bean, pasta, or rice based dishes. You’ll save money and eat healthier at the same time. As a bonus, these dishes often freeze well and make great lunches and leftovers.

7. Shop at local markets. Fruits and vegetables are often cheaper and fresher at local markets than at the grocery store. Many markets offer deep discounts on fruits and vegetables that are over-ripe. These are still good, as long as you can use them within a day or so. They are also great options for freezing.

8. Buy only groceries at the grocery store. Don’t buy laundry detergent, shampoo, cleaning supplies, etc. at the grocery store. You’ll spend a lot more than you should. Instead, buy these items at a dollar store and you’ll save money. Don’t forget to explore cheaper brands and generics for these items as well.

9. Avoid boxed convenience foods. Ready-to-eat foods are real budget busters. A precooked box of beef and gravy can cost five or six dollars. For the same amount of money, you can buy twice as much meat that you’d cook yourself. Take the time to prepare your own meals and you’ll save a lot of money. As a bonus, you’ll avoid all the preservatives that these foods contain.

10. Make your own desserts. Instead of buying cookies, cakes and candy pre-made, make them yourself. For example, a pre-made frosted cake can cost $7-$10, but you can make one homemade in less than an hour for about $3.

11. Clip coupons. Coupons are a great way to save money on your groceries as long as you don’t let them tempt you into buying items you normally wouldn’t use. Also, coupons are typically for boxed convenience foods that are already more expensive. Use good judgment and only buy items that are real money savers.

With a little time and effort, you can see a big reduction in what you pay for groceries. Cook more, use leftovers, and explore cheaper brands. You’ll soon find even more creative ways to save money and feed your family.

One Response to “How to Cut Grocery Costs”

  1. comment number 1 by: PennStJeff

    Might I also suggest looking into finding a local meal assembly store. If you have one close by, and the food is good, you can save a good amount of money off your monthly food budget all while enjoying much better variety, overall healthier dished, lots of saved time, and less impulse buys at the grocery store from making fewer trips.

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