10 Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill

Posted on March 10, 2013. Filed under: Finances, Grocery | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

iStock_00001876The future of double coupons may be up in the air with major grocery chains, such as Meijer and Kroger, ending their double coupons in certain markets. For additional details, view the links below:

Meijer
Kroger

The purpose of ending the double coupons is to promote lower everyday prices throughout the store. Sound familiar? (And yes, in my experience Walmart does not double coupons.) Whatever the result, this is the perfect time to discuss how you can get the most bang for your grocery buck. I talked to you previously about couponing but there are other factors that can help you save on your monthly groceries.

1. Set a budget – Groceries are an unfixed expense and are flexible. So what exactly should your budget be? If you are reading this blog, there’s a good chance that you are looking to lower your budget. If funds are limited, you may already have a dollar amount in mind that you need to stick to. If this is the case, set your budget accordingly and I hope to help you get there. If you are just looking to lower your spending, I suggest you start by reviewing your past month’s grocery receipts. Now cut that by 10 percent to begin. (Once you get the hang of it, you can attempt to cut this even further. I was able to cut my spending by 25 percent by sticking to these methods. Results will vary depending on your current grocery shopping habits.) When you make your grocery list, make sure it is budget compliant and when you go to the store, stick to your list! If possible, you may want to have a little money from the budget left over just in case to find some good bargains.

2. Shop multiple stores – View your local sales ads to see where the sales are. You can purchase the Sunday newspaper to get all of your local ads. There are also smart phone apps that you can use. (e.g. I use Weekly Ads & Sales app that I downloaded from my iPhone.) You can also sign-up for store emails and many of them will let you view the next week’s ad in advance. (You will see why this is important shortly). You may find the best deals in some of the most unlikely places. Dollar Stores have a vast variety of items for a buck. The local farmers or fruit markets may be the best locations for deals on fruits and vegetables. I personally go to Joe Randazzo’s in Westland, MI and have found them to be much cheaper than the grocery store. Be prepared to visit multiple stores in order to complete your grocery shopping. If the stores are not within close proximity to one another, try and plan to go when you are in the area or while you may already be out on errands. This will help you save on gas. Remember: we are not trying to replace an expense with another.

3. Buy Generic – Try out store brand alternatives for some of those commonly used items. They are often cheaper than brand products even when those products are on sale. Some store brands taste different than others so don’t be discouraged if you don’t care for a certain store product. I used to only buy Heinz ketchup because any other ketchup I tried did not taste the same. I recently found that Meijer’s ketchup is pretty comparable. In addition to trying store brands, also consider trying other brand names. As a rule of them, there is usually one brand item on sale each week for those commonly bought items. For instance, if Kraft shredded cheese is on sale one week; Sargento will probably be on sale the next week. But at any given week, you will find this product on sale.

4. Know a deal when you see it – The key to truly being a savvy shopper is that you know what a deal looks like. Just because it’s on sale or you have a coupon doesn’t mean it’s a great deal. Some stores, like Walmart, who have everyday low prices may provide a better deal. Stores like these also are the best location to go to when you need an item or when you are trying to use a coupon before it expires and it isn’t on sale . You should make it a priority to know a good price for those items you commonly buy. Because items come in various sizes, it may be easier to determine how much you should pay by measured unit. This is where that middle school math comes in handy! Take the total price and divided it by the measured unit. Toilet paper and paper towel are good examples of where this method would work well. I’ve found that when toilet paper goes on sale, it is usually around 50 cents for one “big” roll. So that is my threshold amount to determine if it’s actually a good sale. It may take several weeks before you can really identify a good sale. Once you can, you will be able to increase your savings even more.

5. Stock Up – The second part of knowing a deal when you see it is to take advantage and STOCK UP! Now this may seem like bad advice when I’ve already encouraged you to create a budget and stick to it. Sticking to your budget is still necessary. Another thing I would consider before deciding if you have a “stock up” deal is to see if it is cheaper than the store brand or its larger equivalent. (Usually the larger items are priced cheaper per measured unit. The more you buy, the more you save.) The week of any major holiday is a great time to stock up on canned vegetables and baking supplies. These will usually be at their lowest prices as people are buying these in large quantities for their holiday meals. If you had extra money left over from your budget, this is where you would put it to use. If not, see if there are any items that you can remove from the list. As you start practicing these concepts more and more, you will find that you are not only saving, but you are able to purchase a lot more. This will make it easier to exchange items off your list for these good bargains.

6. Take Inventory – Know what you have in your pantries and when you are almost out of an item. You don’t want to stock up on something that you already have plenty of. You also don’t want to be out of something and be forced to buy it at regular price. Make sure your family helps with this. Some products you may buy specifically for them so it is important that they let you know before they run out of something. Doing this, will allow you to always to able to fish out the best deals for the things you need.

7. Shop Specials and Clearances – Many grocers mark down foods that they have too much of and need to sell before they go bad. These are marked down significantly. If you can consume them by the desired date, then you should definitely take advantage of these bargains. Also, the health and beauty aisle will mark down vitamins and cosmetic products. Be sure to visit that section as well as these are ideal non-perishable items that you can stock up on. Personally, I love buying new polish from these clearances. I created a pretty good selection for my daughter to choose from. Finally, many times you will see items that are bonus sizes for the same price as the regular size and even some that are two for the price of one. Keep an eye out for these items. Quantities are limited so grab them up if you see them.

8. Select Saturday or Sunday as your designated grocery shopping daysWhy? Well most stores start their new sales on Sunday or Monday. If you shop on either of these days, you allow yourself the flexibility of waiting to purchase items if there is a better deal the following week. This is where getting the ads in advance will work in your favor.

9. Plan meals according to what is on sale – It is wise to have your meals planned out prior to making your grocery shopping list. This ensures that you have all the ingredients you need to make the meal and you are not running out to the store to grab any forgotten items. I want you to go a step further and plan your meals around what is on sale that particular week. If pot roast or pork chops aren’t on sale, then save those meals for the next week. The Internet gives you tons of resources for you to be creative with your meals so no one gets bored.

10. And finally, couponing! I went in-depth about couponing in a previous blog. If you missed it, click here.

So there you have it, ten ways to reduce your grocery spending. I’m sure many of you are using some or most of these already. I challenge you to try them all for maximum savings.

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Fun for Less

Posted on February 24, 2013. Filed under: Family, Finances | Tags: , , , , , |

grouponlivingsocialTonight my hubby and I enjoyed a wonderful night out for free! Well I won’t say that it was completely “free.” A month ago I took advantage of a bowling deal for two on Living Social — two games (per person), two shoe rentals and a pitcher of pop for $10. An awesome deal for our bi-monthly date night and perfect for a family on a budget.

Daily Deal sites such as Living Social, Groupon and JB Dollar Stretcher are great ways to go out with the family without spending an arm and a leg. My family has enjoyed eating out at new restaurants and activities such as bowling and laser tag for half off the normal price. With a family of eight, these deep discounts have become key to keeping us on budget. I have signed up for email alerts to receive daily deals in my area. I review these emails regularly and we pick what we will do based on the deals that are available. I even plan ahead for those special occasions that we like to celebrate out; such as birthdays. I start scoping out the deals well in advance to snag one before the big day.

Additional Savings Tips:

Weekly coupons inserts and ValuPak are also great resources for discounts of restaurants. I keep these in my car so that they are accessible when we’re on the go. See my previous blog – Not So Extreme Couponing – for more tips on how to use coupons to save.

There are plenty of free activities that you can do with your family. Check out the calendars of your local publications (Metroparent.com’s calendar is my fav) to see what upcoming free events are available. I will share more ideas for free and inexpensive activities for the family in a future blog. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, what is the best deal you’ve found for a family outing? What sites/resources do you go to find deals? Leave a comment, I would love to hear how you had fun for less.

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