Not everyone can be a coupon queen like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo‘s June “Mama June” Shannon. While we’re not sad to see her leave our TV sets, we can’t deny that the matriarch of the Shannon clan had some serious money-saving skills when it came to shopping at the grocery store. Most of us don’t have the time or the patience to engage in coupon-clipping, no matter how much it can save us, but all of us would love to save money on what we buy, especially since the prices of some staple foods, like beef and eggs, are expected to increase in 2015. Read on for tips on how to save money at your local grocery without having to drag in binders full of little bits of paper with you.
- Make a list
…Of everything you currently have in your pantry/refrigerator/freezer, and how much you have of each item, that is. After you do, mix and match items to see what kinds of meals you can make from your list — sometimes, all you will need is one ingredient to complete the meal, which should then go on your shopping list. Doing this will prevent any items you have from spoiling or going to waste.
- Create a menu
Working off Tip #1, creating a menu that you will stick to in between your trips to the grocery store will allow you to walk in knowing exactly what you need to buy and in exactly what quantities, and will dissuade you from buying ingredients or products you know you won’t need. Checking your local newspaper to see what kinds of items are on sale that week is a smart way to plan your meals; if beef is being discounted, you’d better look forward to eating beef-inspired meals.
- Sign up for a loyalty card
This is the easiest thing you can do to save money at the grocery store. All those tags that promise lower prices for members? You can have those discounted prices too, and all you need to do is sign up with some basic information like your name and telephone number. Best part? They don’t even have to be real.
- Do research
Think of all the foods and items you buy on a regular basis — toilet paper, cereal, milk, stuff along these lines. Now check out all the markets (you can do this online — no need to leave home for this part) that are within the distance that you’re willing to drive for groceries and compare prices on all those things on your list. The winner — and the place you’ll want to do the majority of your shopping — is the store that has the most items on your list for the least amount of money.
- Go generic
Generic-brand items are always cheaper — this is one of the fundamental principles that describe the reality of supermarkets. Contrary to popular thought, most generic-brand items are not poorer in quality than their pricier counterparts. Where you should splurge, however, are on paper products like toilet paper and meat — both of these items support the age-old saying that you get what you pay for. Since name-brand items are usually placed at eye level, keep your eyes peeled and scan the shelves above and below for cheaper alternatives.
- Eat in-season
Eating in-season produce will allow you to pay less for those items than you would pay during times when they aren’t in-season, while still allowing you to benefit from the nutrition that fresh fruits and vegetables provide.
- Buy in bulk… when it benefits you
Some items, like batteries, rice, and meat, are cheaper by unit price (that little cents/ounce number on the tag at the grocery store) when you buy in them large quantities rather than in small ones. More is better, in this case, but while the unit-price trick is handy most of the time, sometimes it’ll be cheaper/wiser to buy four smaller items than one large one. Look at unit prices very carefully if this is a road you want to go down.
- Make your meals from scratch
When it comes to preparing meals, it’s always cheaper to do so from scratch. When you buy prepared and prepackaged foods, you’re paying for the preparation and packaging, which you can usually do on your own easily. The five dollars it costs to buy a prepared sandwich can easily go towards buying bread, meat, and other sandwich ingredients, and then you’ll have ten sandwiches for the price of one.
- Make a budget
If you go in with a plan of how much you can spend for the week and a list of essential items you need, you’ll be much less likely to overspend or to buy items you don’t need.
- Consider price-matching
This only works at a grocery store that honors price-matching. If you buy a bag of potatoes and remember that the exact same bag of potatoes is a dollar cheaper at a competing grocery store, grocery stores that honor price-matching will often give you the cheaper price, no questions asked and no ads needed (see? we told you this would be a coupon-free post). The key to price-matching is that the units have to be exactly same. So, if you’re buying a bag of potatoes that is priced per pound, the price-matched bag of potatoes from the competing store also has to be priced per pound. No mixing and matching, in this case.
And an extra tip for the road: Always remember to check your receipts after you’ve been rung up! It always pays — or in this case, saves — to double-check.