Inflation is on every mind these days and food prices are definitely taking a bite out of budgets.
To help, I wanted to check in and offer a few tips to cut costs at the grocery store. I want you to eat the foods that match up with your goals, but I don’t want you to break the bank doing it. So here are my top tips for getting the most out of your money at the store.
1. Make a list and stick to it.
A lot of money is wasted on impulse buys and extras that aren’t needed. Don’t feel bad about this: Stores are literally set up to get you to spend more money than you want to. You’ll have to fight your way past aisle-end bins, samples, flashy displays and other “retail traps” to get to the stuff you really need. And then, at checkout, you’re surrounded by items that are priced and designed to get you to grab them while you’re waiting.
So be rigid: Make a list, have a great meal before heading out so you aren’t hungry (or hangry), and then buy only the items on your list.
2. Shop around.
If you look online, you can quickly find items that are cheaper at different stores. Choose the cheaper store or make two stops if the distance between them doesn’t require a ton of fuel.
I did a quick comparison the other day using 10 common items and two stores less than a mile apart. I found a $10 difference between the two stores. When I picked the cheapest items from each store to make a combined list, I saved another $5. That’s $15 that gets to stay in my pocket!
3. Use coupons and loyalty programs.
No one liked clipping coupons from flyers and newspapers. So here’s the good news: A host of apps now make it easy to shop with coupons. These apps will store coupons and give you access to promo codes and some will even help you find the cheapest items or alert you to sales. You can get rebates on some items after purchase and some apps offer cash back on purchases if you meet certain conditions.
These apps are often connected to loyalty programs, which are another great way to save. Many of these programs cover a number of stores, so you can earn points fast. You have to spend money at the store anyway, so you might as well collect points you can redeem for food or other household goods.
4. Choose no-name or in-house brands.
Brand-name items are more expensive—usually about 30 percent more costly. If you always buy the same brand-name items every week, take a look on a different shelf and compare prices. I did this recently and realized I could save $1 on a small jar of peanut butter. Then I realized the house brand was on sale, too. So I saved $2 on one small item! If you don’t absolutely need the name brands, make a switch and save.
5. Buy in bulk at wholesale clubs.
You can often save a ton of money by purchasing larger quantities at bulk retailers and wholesale clubs. You’ll also come home with less packaging.
A few words of caution: Do the math and make sure the larger quantities are actually cheaper. Every so often, bulk buys are a bad deal. If the price is right, only buy an amount that won’t go bad. For example, it’s unwise to buy fresh produce in bulk unless you’re feeding a big crew. Wastage will wash out any savings. But items that keep well are a big win—stuff like toilet paper, canned goods, condiments, spices, baking supplies, coffee, toothpaste and so on.
Remember, your health and fitness are incredibly valuable. So make sure you’re eating well. Doing so will help you accomplish your goals faster.
But if you take my advice, your grocery bill will be lower even if your cart is full of nutritious food.