Small but Significant Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

As a twenty-something newlywed, I’m finding that it’s somewhat necessary to prepare healthy, regular meals. As a graduate student, a can of carrots warmed on the stovetop counted as dinner. Now, with a hungry husband, canned dinners just don’t cut it. So of to the grocery store I go to shovel all kinds of ingredients into a squeaky buggy and onto the automatic conveyer at the cash register. By the time I get home and unpack everything, after spending nearly two hundred dollars, the refrigerator still looks empty, and I still have no idea what to make for dinner. As I’ve become more experienced in the grown up world of grocery shopping, I’ve learned a few important lessons:

— I should not under any circumstances shop while hungry. It’s amazing how many times I’ve come home with chocolate donuts or salt and vinegar potato chips I hadn’t planned to purchase. This leads me to my next lesson. I have gone back over my receipts from times when I shopped hungry vs. times when I shopped on a full stomach. One receipt for the trip when I was hungry had a total cost of $167.87. The second receipt, my next shopping trip where I made sure I was not hungry, had a total cost of $143.16. My average savings added up to 15% of my grocery bill. It’s astonishing!

— I need to always, always, always make a list before I go shopping. Once I get to the store, I will not allow myself to put anything in the buggy that is not on my list.

— Before I make my shopping list, I take the time to plan a rough menu for the week. If I can decide what kind of dinners I plan to prepare, it is easier to make sure I list all the ingredients I will need.

— I am a much quicker shopper when I shop without my husband. This rule doesn’t always work out for the best though because he is much more patient at checking per ounce prices and getting us the best deal, regardless of brand. This in a way leaks into the next rule.

— I avoid buying brand name grocery products unless it makes a huge difference. Salsa? Who cares. The grocery store brand may be a little bland, so I just grab medium or hot instead of mild. Ice cream? That may be worth getting a brand name, especially since it is something we get very rarely as a sort of treat. Also, when I’m shopping and I see all these buy one get one sales, I always check the per ounce price on the sale item as well as the cheapest brand item. Sometimes the off brand is still at least five cents per ounce cheaper than the seemingly really great sale.

— I always try to use coupons. Certain grocery stores print off a bunch of coupons based on what I buy. Many people ignore the coupons and walk off without them. Employees just throw them in the trash — and I’m not above fishing them out and deciding which ones I’ll use! I have often saved up to $23.00 just using coupons (more than 10% of my grocery bill every two weeks), and I’m not even an ultimate couponer.

— Lastly, I never try to bring in all the groceries from the car in one trip. This has resulted in several broken jars of delicious pasta sauce.

Okay, so the last tip isn’t really a tip for everybody. Maybe I’m the only one who tries to carry twenty plastic handled bags at a time so I don’t have to go back out to the car again. At any rate, the lessons I have learned have not only helped me hate grocery shopping a little less, I also have fewer groceries going to waste, and my grocery savings average about 20% (about 48 dollars) per month. And sometimes, especially if I’ve done all the grocery shopping on my own, I can even talk my hungry husband into cooking dinner so I don’t have to!