It seems like grocery prices go up all the time, so it can be tough to stay within your food budget. But with some careful planning and habit changes, you can stretch your pennies a lot further. Here are our top 10 tips for saving major money on groceries.
Schedule Meatless Mondays
Consider regularly having “Meatless Mondays” to save money on food. Protein sources are often the most expensive part of any meal or recipe. Using a low-cost non-meat protein, like beans, or whole grains as the main ingredient of a favorite dish will stretch the week’s food budget. In fact, once you find some veggie-based recipes you enjoy, you just might want to make more days a meatless day.
Bag Bulk Buys to Save Big Time
With perishables, the trick is only to buy things you are going to use before they go bad. It’s important to store foods correctly so they’ll last as long as possible. For instance, bulk grains may only keep weeks in the pantry, but if you put them in the fridge, they’ll last much longer.
You can freeze many other foods like nuts, bread, and baked goods to extend their life. Buying paper goods like toilet paper in bulk is a fantastic way of saving major money on groceries, too. After all, you literally throw that cash away.
Say No to Pricey Pre-Prepped Meals, Vegetables and Fruits
Those pre-prepped products may be more convenient, but that convenience comes at a premium. In fact, pre-prepped produce and meats can cost twice as much. There’s one exception: If you only need a tiny amount of something, getting a small portion at the salad bar is preferable to forking out for the full-size item. Also, plan ahead and use weekends to pre-prep your meals for the week.
Say “Yes” to Those Generic Store Brands
Generics can cost 50 percent less than name brands, but it may take trial and error to find suitable substitutions. If you don’t care for something, try different store brand offerings before switching back to the name-brand product.
Start with something simple like canned vegetables and be sure to check the product label. There may even be a money-back guarantee if you don’t like it. If you can find a favorite, using store brands will save you major money on groceries every time you go.
Go Digital and Use Apps
Stay on top of the latest money-saving apps to find coupons for items you buy most. No clipping required — they are loaded onto your store’s loyalty card. Other apps can help you find the best deals by searching for competitors’ prices. Most of these apps are a few dollars at most, so they’re worth the investment when you consider how much you save in the long run.
Set Sail for the Freezer Aisle
Frozen seafood can cost nearly half as much as fresh, so it’s a great way to save major money on groceries without sacrificing flavor. In fact, frozen seafood may be fresher than the seafood counter fare. Seafood is often frozen right on the boat when it is caught, so the products in the counter were probably thawed from frozen when they got to the market.
Shop Smarter, Shop Less
Do a major shopping trip twice a month and just get staples like milk, bread or eggs the weeks in between. You may not even have to go to the grocery store in those off weeks if you seek out specials. For example, some major drugstores often sell milk as a loss-leader, which is something they sell at little or no profit to bring in customers. Shopping smarter means saving major money on groceries, even if you don’t go to the big box grocery store.
Make Friends with the Meat Manager to Trim Meat Costs
If you see a product at the meat counter that’s getting close to its sell-by date, ask the meat manager if it will be marked down soon. They may mark it down for you right then and there. If not, ask them when they usually put these products on “quick sale,” so you can come back when the time is right.
Use Your Freezer to Save Major Money on Groceries
Many foods other than meats, such as butter, cheese, and nuts, freeze quite well. You can even freeze eggs. Just crack them into a bowl, whisk them, and pour individual portions into ice cube tray compartments. You can also use your freezer to stockpile ingredients for your go-to recipes when they’re on sale so that you never have to pay full price to make a favorite dish.
Time it Right
Most stores issue their new weekly ad on Wednesdays, but some run sales from Sunday to Saturday. So, check the dates in the ad to be sure you’re getting the prices you expect. Also, pay attention to when regular markdowns happen: Many stores reduce baked goods often get reduced after 4 p.m., and they slash meat and produce prices in the morning. You can also time purchases seasonally, such as stocking up on inexpensive post-Thanksgiving frozen turkeys.
Saving major money on groceries is easy when you use these top tips. Why spend extra money when you don’t have to, after all? And, why not take your savings and use them for something important or special?