Grocery Store Tips: How to Get More for Less

January 14, 2013

Photo by Mike Schmid, via Flickr

Going to the grocery store is by far my least-favorite weekly chore. Finding creative and healthy meals to cook every week quickly becomes laborious. Further, grocery prices are constantly rising and, with so many brands and options to choose from, making sure I’m getting the best deal is hard work.

Here are some tips I use to make the most out of my grocery store visit and to stay on budget.

Stick to the Edges: Most grocery stores are laid out so that fresh items, such as produce, meat, and baked goods, are located around the edges of the store. If you stick to the outside edges, you are more likely to grab only what you need, plus you avoid the fattening processed foods and costly household items located in the middle of the store.

Check Unit Price: Labels don’t only display the total price these days.  Upon closer inspection, you will notice that the price per unit is usually displayed in smaller text below the total item price. When you are comparing brands and sizes of products, it is particularly important to be sure just how much you are getting for your money – and the math is done for you! A jar of marinara sauce for $2.50 might seem like a good deal compared to one for $3. But, if you compare unit cost, you might discover that the more expensive jar is actually a better deal because the price per unit (in this case, price per ounce) is cheaper than that of its $2.50 counterpart.

Seasonal Sales: Many stores plan their best sales around certain times of year.  Typically, baking items such as sugar, flour, and butter have the best prices around the end of year as people do a lot of holiday baking. Spices, condiments, and certain meats have the best bargains in summer when barbeque season is in full swing. Living Richly on a Budget breaks these deals down month by month. If you pay attention to these trends, you will know when the best time is to stock up on certain items.

Coupons: I talked the about the importance of e-coupons in a previous post about saving money. They are a really simple way to shave dollars off your grocery bill. A few clicks and savings are automatically loaded to your customer loyalty card. Paper coupons are really easy to come by as well. Look for coupons in your Sunday newspaper or print them from any number of online coupon sites.  Coupons are essentially free money, so it’s silly not to use them.

Go Generic: It may be difficult to give up brand loyalty for a generic version of your favorite item. However, the quality of most generic and store-brand items is top-notch and the price savings compared to name-brand items simply can’t be beat.  How Stuff Works lists the top 10 items you should always buy generic and includes things like cereal, cleaning products, and beverages.

Check the Ad: Grocery stores mail their weekly sales ad to each household in their area usually on Wednesdays or Thursdays. While it obviously doesn’t list every sale in the store, the best deals are always promoted in this weekly ad. Use this ad to plan your meals and build your grocery list. If hamburger is going on sale, plan to break out the barbeque. If the store is promoting their ethnic food selection, add taco night or Chinese “take-in” to your menu. If you plan around the sales, you are sure to save more money than if you go into the store not knowing what is on sale. Also, once you’ve created your list around the weekly sales, stick to it! Impulse buys can quickly drive up your grocery bill, so use your list to ensure you only buy what you need.

What do you do to get more bang for your buck at the grocery store? Share your tips by leaving a comment.

Other articles you may be interested in:
There's an App for That: Cutting Coupons
Simple Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget