For most families, food is one of the biggest money suckers in the budget. It takes a lot to feed a hungry family. And I’ve found that the bigger the kid, the bigger the appetite. So with seven kids, and three of them being teenagers, I’ve had to find some tricks to staying on a budget at the grocery store.
#1—Check out that unit price. Next time you are shopping at the grocery store, check out the label on the shelf. In most grocery stores, the label will not only have the price on it, but also the cost per unit. This number is the most important one to check out. This gives the price according to the weight or number of the item. For example, one box of cereal (15 oz) is on “sale” for $1.99. A store brand box of cereal (19 oz) costs $2.10. At first glance, the first box seems to be the better buy, but if you look at the unit price you get another story. The first box that is for “sale” is about13 cents an ounce. The second box is about 11 cents an ounce. Read those labels carefully and get a better unit price.
#2—Know what things cost. I have found that most people wander through the grocery store with a list, but very little else. You need to go shopping armed with knowledge of what things actually cost. I have a price beater list that I go by so I know what is really a bargain, and what is not. For example, beside toilet paper, I have marked that a roll with 1000 sheets at 75 cents is a real deal. Anytime it drops below this price, I stock up. Anytime soy milk drops below two dollars for a half gallon, I stock up. When you know what is a good price and what is not a good price, you are able to make better choices at the store (instead of just falling for the sale signs, which leads me to the next tip).
#3—Avoid the promotions. When you see the word “sale” at the grocery store, be wary. Sometimes it’s a real deal, but often it means that the grocery store was paid to do an in-store promotion. This is where knowing your prices really helps out. Walk by the end caps where they often have the most expensive items and look down the aisles (especially down near the bottom where many of the lower-cost items are). Just because it looks like a sale, sounds like a sale, and tastes like a sale, then that doesn’t mean it is. Be smart and know a good sale when you see it.
#4—Go for the canned veggies. Fresh veggies are a good idea, except that they are pretty pricey and they lose their freshness in just a few days. Frozen veggies are also a good idea, except I don’t have that much room in my freezer to stock up. Canned veggies are a real budget saver because you can stock up on them when you find a good price and pull them out of the pantry for last minute meals. Easy, convenient, and affordable—three words that are close to a mom’s heart!
#5—Check out the front of the store flyer. They don’t just put them there for good looks. The reason the stores publish flyers is so that they can advertise their rock-bottom prices on the front. These prices are really low to lure you into the store with the hopes that you will purchase more. So, go shopping with a goal in mind. Check out only the front of the flyer (it will save you time, too). And if there are items you normally purchase and the price is a bargain, stock up! This also means you should shop around. Don’t limit your grocery items to one store. I shop at four different places because I know by now which stores offer the lowest prices on the items that I need. So be smart and shop around!
#6—Plan your menu. Hands down, this has got to be the best way to save big bucks at the grocery store. If you go shopping without a plan, be prepared to spend lots of money on a whole lot of nothing. I’m not talking about a list. I’m talking about a plan. There is a world of difference between the two. A plan is what you use to develop your list. Get a calendar and plan out a month’s worth of meals (quit yer bellyachin’—it doesn’t take that long). After you plan out your meals, you can then use that plan to write out a list of the items you need to purchase. If you don’t have a plan, then you are more likely to pick up convenience foods at the grocery store, which always cost more than cooking from scratch. You can check out Movie Monday and The Laundry Mom’s Menu Plan as our FREE GIFT to you!
Grocery shopping doesn’t need to be drudgery. When you are armed with knowledge and these five little tricks, shopping can become a game. So set your budget and stick to it!