I am always looking for ways to save money on groceries. As you know from my 10 Tips for Saving Money on Groceries post, I can go to great, strategic lengths to ways to save money. I didn’t have space for all my tips in my last post, so here are six more tactics to save you money on your shopping trips.
Make a list
This may seem like a basic idea, but the reason I have to make a list is so that I don’t forget something and have to go back to the store. If I go back, I’m more likely to pick up additional items that weren’t on the list in the first place. (Hello, Almond Snickers, I think I’ll take you home.)
Since I ad match a lot of what I buy, I know the cost for 75% of my groceries up front. I determine, before I even leave the house, how many cans of chicken broth, gallons of milk, and boxes of cereal, I’m going to get. A list works as my second brain because sometimes my first brain is busy keeping kids in line.
Keep a Running Total
Even though I know 75% of my costs, there is still 25% of the list that is estimated. Estimations can be low and rarely are they high. Therefore, I keep a running total of my bill.
Don’t worry about having it to the penny. I like to round to the nearest dollar. That way, tax is included and I’m not taken off guard at the register. I’ll usually start in my head. The longer the shopping list the more likely I am to switch to writing it down.
When I gather my first item, say two bottles of shampoo, I hold on to the total, say $5. Then as I add things, I simply write down the next full number. So, let’s say I pick up three gallons of milk (at $2 each) and I write an 11 (5+6=11) at the top of my shopping list. Then I grab 5 boxes of cereal at ($1.25 each.) My total goes up to $18. I write it down and move my focus back to my list. You’ll see why it’s so important for me to keep a total below.
When all I have in my wallet is a stack of bills – no debit card, credit card, or checkbook for back up – I force myself to stick to the budget. There’s no way around it. I can’t possibly walk out of the store with more than say $150.00 worth of food. It is impossible.
Because of the self-imposed limit, I find that my purchases are more thoughtful. Feeding my family comes first. Instead of spending grocery money on things that won’t be of use but look fun, I make sure I’m getting the most out of every dollar.
Menu Plan According to Sales
When I first started shopping for our little family, we had a lot more resources and fewer people to spread them out over. Shopping was easy. I bought what I wanted, when I wanted it. Fun right? Oh, if only I could take back the money I wasted on those carefree days!
The next step in my maturity was actually planning a menu. This was during the young mother years when I was determined to be the perfect housewife and mother. (I’ve since found out that perfection, though admirable, is unattainable. Now, I go for sanitary and semi-healthy with a dash of joy thrown in. :-)) In the early years, I planned what we would eat for two weeks and bought the ingredients.
As we added more children to the mix, our belts began to tighten. I started to notice that my money would go farther if I watched for sales and stocked up. My menu planning changed from planning what we wanted, to what can I make from the on-sale ingredients. Not much changed in our eating habits and we saved a lot of money.
Check “Price Per”
Just last week, my local store had 25 pound bags of flour on for $13.65. It looked like a great deal, until I compared it to the price of 5 pound bags. The 5 pound bags were on for $2.60. Most people would buy the larger bag because it looks like more. When I figured out how much I was paying per pound (52 cents for the 5 pound bag and 55 cents for the 25 pound bag) I could see that the better deal was in the smaller bags. It happens that way sometimes and if you don’t watch out for it, then you end up paying more than you have to.
Yes, quality may cost you a little more upfront; however, if it lasts longer than the cheaper version, you will be saving money. This whole process is about having long-term vision; seeing past this shopping trip to the ones down the road. Keep in mind that having a name brand stamped on an article doesn’t mean it is higher quality.