It’s true, using coupons is one of the big things that helps me keep our grocery budget at just $200/mo. In fact, last year coupons alone saved me a whopping $1500! And while I love couponing and in many ways would be happy to see more people using coupons to save on their groceries, I’ll be the first to also say that they are not the only way to save.
I get it that some people just don’t enjoy the whole coupon thing. I realize too, that depending where you live, it may not be very feasible for you to easily coupon. And sometimes, even if you would enjoy doing it, the season of life you are in simply does not allow you the time you need to do it. Whatever the case, there are definitely other great ways to save too!
6 Ways to Save on Groceries Without Using Coupons
1. Use a grocery list
When shopping without a list you are quicker to grab anything that looks appealing and are less likely to think through your purchases and as a result you spend more. Before you head to the grocery store think about the items you need. Look in your cupboards and assess what you are low on. Do you only have a partial box of pasta? Is there just one roll of toilet paper left? Then put those things on your list. Even better, keep a running grocery list. When you open a new box of something, add that item to your grocery list to avoid running out and having to make a last minute trip to the store.
You’ll also want to think about what food you plan to make that week. It might be helpful to jot down a menu so that you know exactly what items you need to purchase. I also like to look over my store’s sales flyer to see what items are on sale for a great price. If it is something I typically use I’ll add it to my list. Are there events you need to take food to? Keep that in mind as well.
Once you are at the store, stick to your list. Don’t let that package of Oreos seduce you into putting them in your cart!
2. Bigger is not always cheaper!
It’s easy to think that bigger packages are always cheaper than smaller ones. And in fact, they frequently are. However you might be surprised to find out just how often smaller packages are actually less expensive. Make it a habit to look at the price per unit (such as $0.98/oz.) which most stores have displayed on their shelf price labels. Compare the unit price and buy whichever size is the least expensive.
3. Buy in bulk
Many stores offer things like rice, pasta and grains in bulk. Often it is cheaper to purchase these items this way than in the traditional packages. Again, check the unit price to make sure, but often you will discover that you can save buy purchasing larger amounts.
I also like to purchase ground meat and chicken breasts/legs in bulk too. Grocery stores will also often give you savings of up to $1.00/lb. for purchasing larger quantities (5 to 10 lbs.) of meat. When I purchase these bulk packages I like to repackage them into smaller portions and put them in the freezer for future use. Sometimes I even take it a step further and cook the meat before freezing it. That one small step can really simplify meal prep!
4. Stock up
I mentioned that I like to look at the sales flyer to see what items are listed at a great price that week. If I have wiggle room in my budget and if it is an item that I can either use before it spoils or that I can freeze, I like to stock up on it. I do this frequently on things like butter, salsa, pasta sauce, pasta, sugar, crackers, and toilet paper. This might not seem like a huge way to save but it really does add up. In fact, it is one of the big ways that I’ve been able to save as much as I do on my groceries.
It’s easy to think, “But I’m only saving $0.40 by purchasing this box of butter on sale now and that’s not really that much.” But look at it this way. Say you use about 8 lbs. of butter a month. If you stock up and buy 8 lbs. of butter when it it is on sale for $0.40 off the regular price, you are saving $3.20! Funny how $3.20 sounds much more impressive than $0.40! And the thing is, if you do this over and over with all the items that you regularly use, it gradually adds up to big savings and gives you a lot more wiggle room in your budget!
5. Only buy what you need
Okay, so I know that sounds like I’m contradicting the stock up concept I just told you about. Trust me though, I’m not talking out of both sides of my mouth!
For perishable items like fresh fruits and veggies, milk and sour cream buy only what you know you can use before it spoils. These items are the ones that people end up throwing out the most. Remember, a great deal is no longer savings if you end up throwing it out.
6. Watch for clearance/markdown items
Stores are always changing out the products they stock and items are continually getting close to their sell-by/expiration date. When this happens, typically those items get either put on clearance or given a markdown sticker, making them a great deal. Clearance items will be found all over the store, usually marked with a bright colored shelf label. For markdowns, I’ve found the best spots to find them are in the meat, deli and dairy departments. Generally those things get a markdown sticker when they are within a day or two of their sell-by date. Don’t let that scare you- the product is still perfectly good. And if you won’t be able to use it right away often you can freeze it and still save the money!
What’s your favorite way to save on groceries? Please share!