4 Simple Strategies for Saving on Groceries

by Miranda Marquit · 16 comments

One of the popular topics of discussion right now is Extreme Couponing. This show, on TLC, highlights the efforts that some people make to get items for very cheap — or for free. The idea is to use coupons and sales (combining coupons and sales is especially important) to get multiple items, building up a stockpile of products bought for cheap. It takes a lot of planning and effort: Some extreme couponers spend 20 hours or more each week looking for deals, clipping coupons and shopping the sales. On top of that, the stockpiles can take up quite a bit of room in your house.

Do you really need to be an extreme couponer to get good savings? Most experts agree that it isn’t necessary, since while extreme couponing can work for some people, the reality is that many of the items stockpiled aren’t food items. Instead, one should focus on food items. Here are 4 simple strategies for saving on groceries each week.

1. Plan Your Meals around What’s On Sale

Most families plan meals, and then go buy the ingredients, hoping that the items they need are on sale. Instead, you should look through the sales fliers, and look for coupons, and then make a meal plan around what’s on sale. That way, everything you buy is on discount.

2. Stick to Your List

My husband and I used to just wander the store, without a list, grabbing things. Now, we stick to a list. Create a list and stick to it. We keep our list in a visible place in the kitchen so that it is easy to write down what we need when we notice that we’re running low. If we want a treat, we add it to the list. That way, we’re sticking to the list. Since impulse buys can really impact your budget, we try to avoid them by using the list as our guide.

3. Keep a Price Book

If you do want to do a little stockpiling (without going to extremes), you can use a price book to your advantage. Keep track of when certain items go on sale. Pretty soon, you’ll see a pattern emerge. My groceries store has a case lot sale twice a year. I know when it’s coming, so I stock up inexpensive canned goods and other non-perishables. Then, I can use those items over the coming months. Similar examples are everywhere, my friend knows that the chicken at her grocery store goes on sale every other week. So, when it’s on sale, she buys enough for two weeks, and freezes some of it. She doesn’t end up with too big of a stockpile, either, because she knows when chicken will be on sale next.

4. Know Where to Look in the Store

The higher priced items in the grocery store are often placed prominently. Items at eye level are often more expensive than those shelved higher and lower (although in some aisles, pricier items are placed at children’s eye level to entice them). So, go ahead and look higher or lower to see if you can find some better deals, and consider generic brands of some items.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • judith says:

    Doing a little stockpiling can be a good thing. When illness occurs and your income becomes less or job loss occurs you will be able to cut down or readjust your food budget accordingly. Coupons are great for non perishables such as toilet paper, diapers, shampoos, detergents etc. These things are pretty pricey items but good to have extras. Even though processed foods may not be the best for you it may become a necessity when there is no income. If they get close to expiration then donate to your local food bank they even take expired and then decide for themselves whether it is an item that would still be good. Did you know you could freeze milk? So when a store has a sale buy a few extras if you have the freezer room. Most dairy can be frozen just know the texture may change a little, like sour cream or cream cheese but it still works. Even having extra including processed canned foods will help in a disaster. Extra water, tuna, pork and beans will fill dummies when the unexpected happens. Always have 2 weeks of food and non food items just for those kind of days. Even a small backpack in your trunk with water, emergency food ,clothing items, and first aid can all be put together using coupons. Think beyond today!

  • Erik says:

    If you’re using coupons, you need to keep an eye on their expiry dates and plan your purchases accordingly. I’ve more than once assumed a coupon I was planning to use was valid, and then discovered at the checkout that it had expired.

  • youngandthrifty says:

    I’ve been using coupons lately and have been getting some free items, though I definitely haven’t been stockpiling them.

    Keeping to a list is a good idea- I’m guilty of impulse buys at the grocery store.

    Also, I find that if I’m full (and not starving) when grocery store shopping, there is less chance of impulse buying.

  • Matt Binsfeld says:

    I have to say planning your meals around what’s on sale doesn’t sound like a great idea. Usually most items on sale are over-processed, junk food that’s full of sugar or salt. My family eats very healthy (lots of produce, dairy, and meat). It’s pretty tough finding much for coupons on those items. Coupons on junk food are much easier to find, but I wouldn’t want to plan my meals around that.

    • Rachel says:

      Planning your meals around what is on sale can save quite a bit of money – even without coupons. I understand what you are saying about coupons mostly being for processed foods (although I have seen some for $x off produce and meat). If chicken and steaks are on sale this week – I plan that for my menu for the week. If next week it is pork chops – I cook porkchops next week. I don’t realize how much I really save by doing that until I have to cook a specific recipe and have to buy everything at full price. If you combine coupons with sale prices – you can maximize your savings, but just planning your meals based on the sale circular can save quite a bit. Usually some meat and veggies are on sale every week. I’ve not noticed much of a sale on any dairy here besides cheese and yogurt though.

  • LookBeforeSpending says:

    The most basic strategy for saving money is to plan your trip. Try and only buy what is on sale and plan around that. Also, using coupons is a must, it is literally like money in the bank! Extreme couponing has made using coupons look bad, but when done in a normal way, matching coupons with sales can save your family thousands of dollars per year!
    Check out LookBeforeSpending to get your feet wet in the world of super saving!

  • Cassie says:

    We’ve used e-mealz.com (no affiliation) with great success. The website lets you choose your store and then provides you with menus and a shopping list using the weeks specials. The meals we’ve done have been good, consistently using items on special saves money and best of all it solves the “whats for dinner” problem.

  • valetdeals says:

    “20 hours or more each week looking for deals”? Leave that mentality in the past and look to http://www.valetdeals.com for you printable grocery coupon needs. Since we do the searching for you, based on your interests, we save you huge amounts of time. Go and save some time, it’s free.

  • Alex says:

    I agree with some earlier comments that both buying in bulk can save money (through lower prices per unit) as well as not buying more groceries than you can eat (since less food is wasted) can both help in savings. I would also recommend taking advantage of credit card rewards, especially with some revolving 5% cash back plans that often feature groceries. Right now, I believe Discover’s 5% cash back includes groceries and drug stores and American Express has a card that gives 3% cash back on groceries all year round. These can help add up additional savings throughout the year.

  • Deette says:

    I use coupons, and the weekly loss leader coupons from the grocery store to buy what is on sale, and stock up my pantry. If items are on sale and I have coupons, I really stock up. I believe that if you have a nicely stocked pantry you will never have to “run out to the store, and pay full price” ….. In the summer I have a garden and enjoy eating my home grown produce. I also clean out the fridge each week and make “crock pot soup”. There are lots of ways to eat cheap and utilize what you have on hand in order to save money and pay down debt.
    Have a Fabulous & Frugal Day!!!!

  • Bankruptcy Ben says:

    Can I disagree here and say I shop every day? I work around the corner from the supermarket, so I just buy all the fruit and vegetables every day on the way home. Saves me a bundle on vegetables because I don’t buy too much and end up throwing them out because they’ve gone bad.

  • Amy Saves says:

    Looking at the flyers to determine what to buy is a great idea. I try to stick to my list but sometimes get sidetracked by snacks!

  • Aamer says:

    We are spending about 500-600/month for two people (groceries, *bucks, fast food or other dining out), which I think is very high.
    Desperately need more ideas :S

  • Melissa @ MangoMoney.com/blog says:

    Another useful for tip is buying in bulk and avoiding prepared foods. I know that when I splurge on chips, individually wrapped granola bars, and frozen meals, I see the my total cost of grocery trip jump quite a bit. Sticking to whole foods (fruits, veggies, breads, etc.) keeps my bill down.

  • Justin says:

    That price book method sounds like a great idea for a smart phone app. Wish I had some extra time to develop something like that.

  • Patrick R. Carlson says:

    These are all great pieces of advice for saving money on groceries.

    I use the same strategies to save on other items throughout my house. For example, extra percent off sales at Dillard’s and other department stores are fairly consistent with their timing.

    Also specials on other things, like tires, oil changes, and other vehicle maintenance are fairly easy to track. It’s something that has to be done and you might as well do it for less money.

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