Have you noticed that grocery prices seem out of control? In today’s world, we need a plan to save as much as we can and live within our budget. If we can figure out how to save money on food, then we may have to charge on our credit cards just to survive. Here are the top 10 grocery strategies that can help you save money and live debt-free when it comes to buying food.
1. Never shop without a list. To gain the most savings, you must have a game plan. Make your plan according to the weekly specials. Your list is your action plan. Without a list, you will be much more influenced by marketing strategies which encourage you to purchases higher profit items. Food companies spend more than $7 billion a year on advertising. Studies have shown that most shoppers make 2/3 of their purchase decisions in the store, often spending twice what they had anticipated.
2. Know a good price. This is a skill you need to use every time you shop because it only develops over time. Did you know that 20% of the highlighted items in specials are at or close to normal prices? You don’t want to fall victim to the illusion of a good deal. You want to shoot for items that are 25% off or more. Don’t assume bigger packages are a better deal. Sometimes small and medium size packages sell faster, so stores will accept a lower profit margin on them. Pay close attention to unit pricing.
3. Buy high value sale items in the largest quantity possible. The goal is never to pay full price. The more you stock up when prices are low, the less you’ll need when prices are high.
4. Stock pile items before you need them. When you wait to buy things until you need them, your ability to save money is decreased. When you can buy three month supplies of items, especially those you use frequently, you have a much greater purchasing control. For example, if you see an item you use a lot at the lowest prices in three months, buy a three month supply. By the time your supply is used up, the sale price will probably return. Also, focus on stock-piling expensive items such as meat, cheese, peanut butter, and coffee. Keep your freezer 2/3 full so you have room for unexpected bargains. Fill the other 1/3 with plastic bottles of water. In addition, save most of your freezer space for buying meat and cheese instead of frozen vegetables or dinners.
5. Be careful about buying non-food items at the grocery store. Grocery stores will get you in with low prices on food and try to make money on things like toothpaste.
6. Consider joining a warehouse club like Sam’s. Of course you can save money buy buying in bulk. However, this one depends on how much you spend. Don’t join a warehouse if your annual purchases won’t be more than 20 times the cost of the membership fee. For example, if the fee is $30, you’ll need to spend $600 annually to get the most benefit.
7. Buy store brands. There are 3 types of brands that you can buy. They are national brands, store brands, and economy brands. National brands are the most expensive. For example, 50% of the price of a box of cereal pays for the national brand advertising. Store brands are typically the same quality as national brands. However, they spend much less on advertising. Store brand products are typically 20% less than the national brand. Economy brands often cost 20% to 40% less, but they can be lower quality or irregularly sized.
8. Watch the cash register like it’s your money. Because it is! An investigation my Money magazine found that because of scanner errors, as many as 30% of supermarkets may overcharge their customers. So if you don’t watch carefully as your items are rung up, some sneaky scanner may eat your lunch!
9. Avoid Prepared Foods. Prepared foods include items like frozen dinners, canned stews, or hot foods from the deli. While these items are convenient, they are generally more expensive. If you like convenience, here is a suggestion. When you cook, make double batches and freeze half of it for future convenience.
10. Learn to substitute ingredients and experiment. If a recipe calls for a spice you rarely use or don’t have, substitute something else or omit the item. This helps avoid trips to get a single item. It saves time and money because most people can’t go to the store and just get one item.
Even though grocery prices are out of control, there are steps you can take to get your budget under control. Use these top 10 strategies to help plan your next trip to the grocery store. By making a few slight changes, you can live within your budget without whipping out the credit cards.