Going to the grocery store can be a little depressing sometimes, can’t it? The dollar signs just seem to rack up and yet your cart doesn’t seem any larger than any other time. Obviously shopping is a necessary evil, but here are 5 habits to help you save money at the market.
Many grocery stores will have a section (or sometimes multiple sections) where they stock the items which will be passing their sell by dates. These are often meats or bakery goods which they packaged themselves. Don’t be afraid to investigate these items.
Meat can often be on sale 50% or more off! Suddenly that expensive speciality sausage isn’t quite so out of reach. In some cases, they may even come with marinade. The trick is to think carefully about your purchases. Plan on freezing the meat as soon as you get home or plan to eat it that night. If you are fortunate enough to have an extra freezer, put the meat into freezer bags (consider double bagging to prevent freezer burn) and label them with sharpies. Meat can store for a long time in the freezer. Here’s a huge list of more freezer tips.
Bread products can be much trickier to purchase from a last chance section. Breads and other bakery goods can go stale very quickly or mold very quickly. Freezing also is not always the best bet because it can sometimes dry out bread. Try to look for bakery products you might eat that evening (Italian bread, hot dog rolls, etc.) If you are interested in saving money on bread crumbs this might be a good place to stock up on bread to intentionally let go stale in order to make your own.
We all want fresh vegetables with our meals. Some stores or markets will have a section of vegetables that have been kicking around for awhile. These are vegetables that should be eaten or preserved ASAP. Try to think outside the box and plan ahead. Tomatoes that are overly ripe could be used in chili or salsa, same for green beans. Consider adding them to your broth or chicken stock to make soups.
Be sure to investigate your store’s rain check policy. Many stores still offer them although many customers fail to take advantage. Not only can you often times take advantage of a sale price, stores will often times write the rain check for as large of a quantity as the sale allows. Don’t be afraid to ask about the coupons that are in the store’s flyer. Often times managers will write a rain check to reflect the price+ in-store coupon. (This also may apply at Price Chopper with their Fuel Points program.)
Many stores have small sections of discontinued items that can be purchased for a small amount. Obviously these items are not going to be around forever, but in many cases you can find an awesome deal on some great foods. So even though these discontinued items may only be good deals for short periods of time, you may find some useful items.
Keep in mind that these items are often being discontinued for a reason. That is NOT to say they are expired, however, they may be strange combinations, unique flavors, or not packaged in a sensible way.
One of the best ways to shop is to come prepared with a list. Using a meal plan can also keep your spending on track by reducing your chance of unnecessary and wasteful purchases. Keep an eye on sale prices for foods and then choose your meal plans according to what sales are going to be available.
When in doubt choose staples that can be used for multiple meals such as rice, pasta, vegetables. Also, try to purchase items that can be preserved. (or maybe frozen?)
This might be the most important one! Stick to a routine.
Routines become habits and habits can sometimes be a good thing. Shopping with:
Those habits will help prevent splurging and random purchases. A lot of people may find that when they decide to ‘try out’ a new store they often come home with many items they hadn’t intended on purchasing!
Be aware of your surroundings and stick to your list. Stores are a business and they are all for encouraging spending. Displays are often designed to appeal and attract attention. Pay attention to the prices per quantity and unit pricing. Compare ingredients and make the best decision for your family.
“End Cap” purchases. A lot of times the items that are displaced on the ‘end caps’ of aisles are the sale items. Did you know that sometimes, despite being on sale, these items may not be the best value? Be patient and be sure to investigate the other options for these items. Keep in mind that some items can appear in different locations in the store for different prices.
These five tips are some simple ways you can try to help yourself save money while shopping. What are some of your favorite savvy shopping tips?