It takes money to keep a family well-fed. The average American spends $150 a week on groceries, and if your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables (as it should be), you’re probably spending more. If the cost of food is wreaking havoc on your on budget, here are some ways you can save money on groceries without compromising on the quality of the meals you’re serving up:
Some people get to the store, see what’s on sale, and make purchases based on what they think they need for the week. By doing this, you’re more likely to waste both money and time. Instead, plan out your meals before shopping and make a list of the ingredients you’re missing. This will enable you to stay focused when you hit the supermarket and help you avoid having to go back later in the week.
Track Your Inventory
A lot of people waste money on groceries by buying things they don’t actually need. One way to combat this is to keep an inventory spreadsheet of the things you have in your pantry and fridge. Print out an alphabetized, easy-to-scan copy before heading to the store, or make sure it’s accessible on your mobile phone. This way, you can compare what’s on sale to the things you already have stocked and avoid spending money on unnecessary supplies.
Get a Store Card
It’s usually not a good idea to open too many credit cards at once, but store cards aren’t like that. It makes sense to get a store card for every supermarket you shop at, including the ones you visit infrequently. Often, you need a store card to take advantage of sales and promotions. Some supermarkets, for example, offer holiday bonuses, like free turkeys around Thanksgiving time, for spending a certain amount of money the month before—a perk only available to cardholders.
Check for Digital Coupons
You may be used to checking the circulars that come in the mail for weekly sales and specials, but how often do you go online to look for deals? Many supermarkets offer additional savings via digital coupons, which you can find online and load to your store card. Remember, you won’t save money on groceries with coupons if you buy stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily buy just because you have a coupon.
Buy in Bulk, But Only When it Makes Sense
Buying in bulk can save you money if you do it wisely. If there are certain staple items that you use frequently, by all means, stock up if the price is right. But if the on-sale bulk item in question is not a popular one in your household, you’re probably better off passing up the so-called deal. Remember, even canned goods and pantry staples have expiration dates, and if you wind up throwing out food, you’ll have wasted money for no good reason. If the bulk price is truly unbeatable but you’re not sure you’ll use up your purchase before it goes bad, try finding friends, family members, or neighbors who might be willing to split the goods—and the cost.
Embrace the Season
Seasonal items tend to go on sale to coincide with consumer demand. Barbecue staples and condiments, for example, are usually available at a discount before holiday weekends, and baking supplies are often reduced in the weeks leading up to the holidays. If you start running low on non-essentials, before you restock, think about whether waiting a few weeks will bring you closer to a lower price.
Never Shop Hungry
It’s a tried and true piece of advice: The hungrier you are when you hit the supermarket, the more likely you are to make impulse purchases. Do your shopping after a meal, or grab a quick, energizing snack before you go. Otherwise you could wind up buying things that are not only bad for you, but bad for your wallet.