50 Ways to Save At The Grocery Store

Thifty Mommy has a good list of 50 ways to save at the grocery store. We knew most of them, and do some of them, but it’s still a nice reminder of what to watch out for. A few favorites:

•Check the weekly sales flyer. Usually the items on the front page is where you’ll save the most. I mostly try to shop the sales and for a few things that I really need. It seems when I shop this way, I don’t need as much stuff because I’ve stocked up when the items were on sale.

• Eat before you shop. If you shop on an empty stomach you will more than likely spend at least $20 (maybe even $50) more than you had planned.

• Plan your meals according to what’s on sale. If taco shells and lettuce are on sale, then you know we’ll be having tacos.

• Try not to shop when you’re tired. Chances are you’ll buy chocolate and other carbs that will make you feel good.

We’d also add that you should avoid big chain grocery stores and check out the alternatives. You may be surprised at how much you can save, especially on quality produce. —MEGHANN MARCO

50 Ways to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill [Thrifty Mommy via Dumb Little Man]

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  1. VA_White says:

    That lady sure likes “mental notes.” How can any person keep track of grocery prices in your head?

    Real tightwads use a price book with the prices of every commonly-purchased item listed for every store in the area, plus the best on-sale price you’ve ever seen, plus the per-ounce or per-pound price for quick reference.

    Amateur tightwads like me have a short list of about 30 items that are either expensive (like diapers) or that I buy every trip (like meat.) The prices on my list reflect the best on-sale price I’ve ever seen and the price I usually see them at. That way, when I’m cruising the aisles at Safeway or even Target, I can tell at a glance if the price is good or not and I can stock up on an unexpected good deal if I see one. The list lives in my phone electronically so I always have it at hand.

  2. Pelagius says:

    You may be surprised at how much you can save, especially on quality produce

    Hear, hear! The best produce in Northern Virginia – in terms both of quality and price – can be found at the Korean supermarkets. Plus, where else can you find durians, lychees, and mustard greens under the same roof?

  3. kerry says:

    I third the comment about produce at non-chain grocers. In my experience the best produce (at the lowest price) comes from small mom-and-pop produce-centric grocers, not the supermarket.
    A couple examples – the best produce in Rogers Park, Chicago can be found at the Rogers Park Fruit Market and, to a lesser extent, the Morse Fruit and Meat market. In fact, when I lived near the store on Morse it was the only market I shopped at for food. I only used the supermarket for beer and wine. Also, smaller grocers will often have a better selection of ethnic foods, depending on the cultural needs of the neighborhood. The Morse Fruit and Meat market, for example, sells labna. Good luck finding that at a chain store.

  4. missdona says:

    This woman must have a freezer the size of Rhode Island.

    I can’t coordinate that much freezing in my life.

  5. BMR says:

    she forgot two tips:

    Make sure you take your change – leaving change with the cashier is like giving money away!

    also, shop with your eyes OPEN. I can’t tell you how many times this has actually saved me money!

  6. WindowSeat says:

    The freezer and the vaccuum sealer are your friend. I buy meat in bulk from my butcher and repackage it for freezing. I’ve also got a farm stand just down the street from me in the summer and between my garden and the farmstand I stock my freezer and pantry shelves pretty good.

    If you have the storage space and don’t mind spending some money up front try buying enough toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, laundry supplies and toiletries to last six months or so. It cuts down on trips to the store because you’re out of something and I can never make it out of the store with just a tube of toothpaste.

  7. VeryFancyBunny says:

    I’ve heard the “don’t shop when you’re hungry” advice more times than I can count, but I’ve also found that it’s not particularly fun to shop when you’re full, either. My husband and I often go out to dinner on either Wednesday or Thursday night, and then sometimes we hit the supermarket afterward to buy food for the week… at least, such is our plan. But we’re so full that nothing on our list sounds appetizing (“ugh… black beans and rice AGAIN?” Nevermind that this is usually one of my favorite meals), nor can we come up with any other meals that we might be in the mood for. Aside from buying a few essentials, it’s basically a wasted trip.

    So I won’t advise people to shop when they’re hungry, but I will say that it works better to shop when food, in general, is appealing to you.

    Also, being a hardcore “couponer” works when you’re fairly undiscriminating about what you eat, but as a vegetarian with a husband who has food allergies, and with both of us working out a lot and trying to eat well, we find that most of the Sunday circular and online coupons are pretty useless to us.

  8. LOL, BMR.

    Yeah. These are all so common sensical it’s ridiculous. (Also — milk comes in name brands? Seriously?) If that’s her definition of “very frugal,” I’d love to see her definition of profligate.

    Also:

    “14) Check out the dollar stores. Sometimes you can find some pretty good stuff in there. I found some really great volumizing shampoo and conditioner at our local Dollar Tree.”

    THAT is frequently disgusting and vile. Toiletries are at the Dollar Store because there was something wrong with the batch — the viscosity is way off, for the shampoo has separated (like a vinaigrette separates), or the panty liners have no stick-um on them, or the smell of the batch is disgusting …

    Name brand toiletries at the dollar store is just gross. You can’t know until you open it if you got an okay bad batch or an unuseable bad batch.

  9. I’m with VeryFancyBunny about shopping while full. It’s hard to plan what you want the next week. But then again, I have shopped hungry, and bought stuff that later became lab experiments in my refrigerator.

    So maybe just have a snack before shopping?

  10. RandomHookup says:

    I’ve managed to move grocery/basics shopping from a cost center to a profit center, but it hasn’t been easy. I do have enough food shoved into my pantry to last through the next hurricane/blizzard/mooninite attack. Damn, I’ve become my mother!

  11. karmaghost says:

    I work part-time at a grocery store and I want to flip out on people who buy one or two rolls of toilet paper. Toilet paper is one of the things that you will always need more of, so it only makes sense to pay as little per unit as you can, i.e. large 8 packs or 10 packs or more if you have the room.

  12. Eat before you shop
    In the same vein, if you are trying to save money: Never. Shop. Stoned.

    If you have money to burn, though, it can be pretty fun.

  13. etinterrapax says:

    VA_White, I can remember the usual price of most of what I buy regularly. If you have a lot of variety in your diet, I think this would be harder. But I’m also not what I’d call a tightwad. I don’t spend unnecessarily, but I’m also careful not to be arbitrary about my savings on groceries. If I constantly feel pinched, I tend to get resentful and overspend to compensate anyhow. So I stay with staples bought at the best price I can casually find between Target, two groceries, and one warehouse, and certain treats at the best price I can find where they are available. It helps that I have several categories where I have no brand preference; I can always buy the lowest priced item on the shelf that day, instead of waiting for one thing to go on sale.

  14. VA_White says:

    etinterrapax said:
    I can remember the usual price of most of what I buy regularly.
    _____________________

    Oh jeez. You’re lucky! I suck at remembering stuff like that. I get to the store and have no idea whether $3.50 a pound for something is a good price or not. I have to look at my price list.

    I only shop at three stores plus the occasional trip into Walgreens or CSV so it is easy for me to jot down the prices off base and the military commissary. We are pretty adventurous about meals but I cook from scratch almost exclusively so there is a core list of staples I stock up on when I find my best price. I also have a huge deep freezer and can store a lot at once. The price list is just a handy reminder.

  15. Hoss says:

    Some more:

    * Only buy food items at the grocery store — everything else (batteries, laundry detergent, etc.) is usually greatly overpriced.
    * If you’re buying chicken, buy a whole chicken on sale (as low at 69 cents/lb) and cut your own breasts, etc.
    * Find the day that the meat counter tags items with an additional $3 off or more because they need to be sold in the next few days. Freeze (or eat) the meat right away
    * Shop at ethic markets (asian markets, for example). They often have great prices and very nice produce

  16. Her Grace says:

    Shopping in the evening is another good way to save on meat and some bakery or dairy items. The grocery stores around here mark down their products with a looming sell-by date after 7pm or so, so shopping around 8 or 9 can land a half-priced steak or litre of milk. When I know I’m going to eat it or use it up by the sell-by date anyway, no reason not to get the cheaper one.

    I second allowing the sales to determine what I’m eating. I buy a few things regularly at the farmer’s market (mushrooms, tomatoes, lettuce of some sort, choi of some sort, often a few potatoes), but what I ultimately do with them and my few other staples (bread, pasta, etc) depends on what’s on sale at the supermarket in terms of meat, cheese, or other key ingredients. Learning to make a variety of soups and stews is a good way to take advantage of cheap meats or veggies that need to be cooked right away because they’re about to expire.

  17. It’s worthwhile to coupon for staples … I’m not crazy coupony, usually only save 30% on my grocery bill, but after a while you start to build up a backstock. I currently have enough whole wheat pasta to last until about May. A year ago I was always in the grocery aisles (still building backstock); now I zip around the outside (produce, meat, dairy) and maybe pick up two shelf-stable staples in the actual aisles.

    I only coupon brands I like anyway; just because some icky brand has a coupon doesn’t mean I’ll buy it. Also a lot less cutting and sorting — I’m only after ONE kind of syrup coupon, so I can ignore the rest.

    (And then in the summer we cut our grocery bill almost in HALF by growing veggies in the garden, but that requires some sort of yard space. And it helps that I go through lettuce like crazy.)

  18. acambras says:

    I like the online sale circulars that some grocery stores make available on their websites. Also, some sites (I know Big Y and Stop & Shop do this) let you click on items to add to a shopping list you can print out. You can also add your own items. I suppose it’s not for everyone, but it has really helped me over the past year.

    I also second (or third) the tip about shopping ALONE. Kids can be bad about putting lots of expensive junk food in the cart, but in my case, it’s the 32-year-old boyfriend.

    I look to save on unit costs, but within reason. Once the boyfriend called me from the store to gleefully tell me that ketchup was on sale — 2 64-oz. containers for $6. How long is it going to take for the two of us to go through a freakin’ GALLON of ketchup? We don’t even LIKE ketchup that much. Yeah, it makes sense to take advantage of bulk values for things you know you’ll use (like toilet paper). But to buy a bigass container of something that’ll be with you through your next seven moves doesn’t make much sense.

  19. Tonguetied says:

    Now you get better produce at the mom and pop stores but do you get cheaper produce?

  20. theblackdog says:

    If you’re in Virginia, Maryland, or North Carolina, consider shopping at a Bottom Dollar foods. If you’re like me and you don’t bother with the deli or bakery when shopping, you’d like this store. It’s mostly Food Lion store brands, but they have plenty of name-brand products as well and often beat those prices at other stores if you must have that name brand. They also have some great deal on meats every week, I’ll stock up my freezer with what I can get.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Eyebrows McGee: I have gotten several name brand products at Dollar Tree. Once they even had sweaters from Old Navy. The particular incident I was referring to in this article was where I got “Big Sexy” hair products for $1. Because of this experience, they’re now my favorite hair products and I have been fortunate to find them at other close out stores such as Marshalls. Just because something came from the dollar store doesn’t mean it’s disgusting and vile. Many times the company simply made too many or the packaging did not pass their standards.

    theblackdog: I live in North Carolina and have been able to shop in Bottom Dollar stores. Sometimes they have some really great deals and you can stockpile to save money. Have you tried Aldi?

    Karen @ Thrifty Mommy