If you follow the 50/30/20 budget created by Elizabeth Warren, you’ll find that 50% of your income should go toward the essentials — housing, utilities, and groceries. This means that it’s important for you to ensure that your dollar goes a long way so you can save the most money on this essential part of your budget. But how can you do that? Thankfully, there are a ton of tips, tricks, and mobile applications available to help out. Today, we will take a look at 25 supermarket tips and tricks to help you save money.
1. Join Supermarket Rewards
Various grocery stores have supermarket rewards programs that allow you to save a certain percentage on purchases, and receive exclusive offers and coupons. Check your local grocery store’s websites or ask about them in-store. Most of the time, they come in the form of a reward card or simply through using your telephone number. This means that when other family members go shopping, they can help rack up rewards for the whole family.
2. Don’t Buy Heads of Lettuce
A head of lettuce may seem like a cheaper option; however, because they are more likely to rot faster, they may be a wasteful option in the end. In addition, a head of lettuce could be more than you’ll actually need for your weekly meals. Bagged or boxed lettuce is much better than iceberg.
3. Know When to Buy Bulk
If you have certain groceries that are consistently purchased each week or month, you may find that buying in bulk is a cheaper option. Instead of buying a box each week for $2.50 each, you’ll save more purchasing the $6 three pack. This works best with groceries that don’t perish quickly.
4. Create and Maintain a Budget
The only way you can truly save money is to plan before spending, not vice versa. Giving yourself a grocery allowance ensures that you have a spending goal to not surpass. A common practice is to use the envelope method to save money each month.
5. Bargain Shop by Store, not Item
Chasing a coupon or item offer may seem like the smart option for a savvy shopper. But the truth is, you should branch out to other grocery stores to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. The local small-box store may not offer the discounts and subsidies of the big box store nearby.
6. Check Out Grocery iQ
Grocery iQ is a great application for individuals who are trying to formulate a grocery list. Through the use of barcode scanning and auto-suggest, you can create smart lists in no time. In addition, Grocery iQ is powered by Coupons.com, which means you’ll be connected to some amazing deals with the coupons offered through the Grocery iQ website. Grocery iQ is free to download on the App Store.
7. Make Use of Cellfire
If you find yourself at the grocery store without coupons, a common case when you might find yourself at a grocery store you don’t frequent, Cellfire is a great way to discover coupons for various supermarkets. All delivered and easily uploaded from your phone, you can simply tap and show the coupons to the clerk at checkout and discover instant savings.
8. Share the List with OurGroceries
Chances are, if you live in a multi-person household, you don’t entrust creating a grocery list to simply one person. Everyone has an input one way or another, because everyone will be indulging in the groceries. OurGroceries allows you to create group contributed grocery lists that can be edited, marked off, and shared between the various family members.
9. Shop Smartly with Fooducate
When at the supermarket, you shouldn’t sacrifice healthy eating for a good deal. If you are still on a diet and want to figure out the health benefits and drawbacks of an item in your basket, Fooducate is the application for you. This is all complete with an alphabetized food rating that allows you to quickly know if it’s a no or a go. Fooducate keeps you educated on what you eat.
10. Download Ziplist
Through the use of meal planning, you are able to get what you need for the week or month and head out of the grocery store. Ziplist is the application for task-oriented grocery shopping. In the end, through meal planning, you are able to save money and alleviate food waste. Grocery lists can be named, dated, and shared to stay organized. This is a great way to delegate grocery visits. In addition, Ziplist also get you in touch with weekly grocery deals.
11. Ask for Rain Checks
When an item isn’t available, you can ask for a rain check so you can pick it up once it is available again. However, for many consumers, most items aren’t important enough for them to consider doing this. But you could find yourself leaving free money on the table by forgoing a rain check, especially for a bigger-ticket item on sale. Discounts are often still honored once the item is back in stock.
12. Shop on Weekdays
You may find that the weekend is a great time to go grocery shopping, a time when you are off work and can get this “chore” out of the way in a relaxing manner. However, you’d be surprised to find that Wednesday is the best day to go grocery shopping. This is the day of the week when produce and fish is freshly restocked and most supermarkets offer deals.
13. Bring Your Calculator
Having your calculator on hand is one of the best tips on this list. In addition to calculating combined deals between those of the store and those of your coupon, a calculator can truly tell if you will fare better buying in bulk or individually. Many supermarkets bet on their customers not calculating and doing price comparisons, so you may find a price loophole.
14. Look for Clearance Stock
Grocery stores have clearance sections and racks that feature foods that are near their expiration date. While this may not be the place to go for foods you won’t readily make use of, it is a great way to save on that night’s meal or small snacks for the week. With expiration dates within a week or two of being on the clearance rack, this is a great way to save on food that will be consumed quickly.
15. Discover Recipe Alternatives
Certain recipes online are created with the partnership of sponsors. Or they may put taste first before cost. However, you don’t have to fall into their trap by spending more than you should. If a recipe calls for a certain, specific brand, unless it is the only brand that offers that type of food, you’ll be perfectly fine going with the brand that offers the best deal rather than the one the recipe calls for. Additionally, if a recipe calls for an ingredient that notoriously expensive, like saffron, look into comparable substitutes, like turmeric.
16. Discover the Art of Sampling
Sampling is more than just free food. It is in fact an art form. For the supermarket, it’s are a great way to get individuals to spend more on items they may not have considered purchasing before. However, as a consumer you can utilize sampling in many ways.
First off, to prevent impulse purchasing, seek out samples straightaway if you are entering a supermarket hungry. This allows you to shop with your grocery list and not your stomach. Secondly, sampling is a great way to know if an item you have been considering is truly good or not, preventing you from wasting money. Lastly, you don’t have to just go to Costco for the samples. Trader Joe’s has a policy of allowing any customer to sample an item in the store before making a purchase.
17. Shop by Season
Consumers, especially in the Western world, seem to ignore that some foods do in fact have seasons. With a lot of out of season produce being shipped in, you’ll find these items to be more expensive to offset shipping and transport costs. To save money while possibly discovering new fruit, shop for only in-season items. Above, is a chart of some commonly purchased produce and their respective seasons.
18. Check out “The Whole Deal”
Whole Foods Market is seen by some individuals as an expensive option for grocery shopping. However, the myriad of healthy and organic options makes it irresistible. In addition, the many deals they offer show that you are missing out on a great grocery resource. The Whole Deal is a coupon, deals, and money saving resource from Whole Foods Market that allows you to not break the bank when shopping at their supermarket.
19. Understand Grocery Store Geography
If you pay attention carefully, you’ll notice that almost all grocery stores are organized the same exact way. This is all based on psychology to get customers to spend more in stores. To save money, it is up to you to defy these money-draining tricks that use a combination of the customer’s height, product colors, and the assumption that customers are prone to impulse purchasing.
First off, when forming your grocery list, make necessary purchases (milk, bread, etc) the first things on your list. When you enter the grocery store, dart straight to the back of the store. By doing this, you are ignoring the unnecessary, money wasting, and snacking options commonly placed at the front of the store. When looking for healthy or inexpensive options in aisles, look down. Don’t look forward or up — that’s where unhealthy and expensive options are typically found. Also remember that the freshest produce is found at the back of the row or rack they are held in. To sell older produce faster, they are usually put up front. This is the same for eggs as well.
20. Utilize Markets and Ethnic Groceries
Big box stores are notorious for offering more opportunities to save money through a combination of accepting coupons, store rewards, and store discounts. However, for some staple foods, such as rice, noodles, certain spices and teas, you’ll find that you’ll save more by purchasing from ethnic food stores rather than big name stores. The selection may also be grander and some brands may even be more flavorful than those you’re accustomed to.
21. Take Inventory of your Stockpile
Before you go shopping, take a look at what you already have in your pantry. Performing a weekly clean out and inventory of your stock of food will not only prevent you from purchasing unnecessary duplicates. You’ll also find that doing this spot check can allow you to know when some key ingredients are close to expiration. You’ll be forced to either include them in the dish or go out and replace them now before you find yourself in need of it.
22. Discover Healthier Snacking
Spending out of your budget for chips and cookies is not only unhealthy, it can result in a waste of money too. Who knew that eating healthy can actually save you money? If you make use of fruits and nuts for healthy snacks, you’ll be paying less because these are versatile foods. Unlike chips, which don’t find themselves in dishes, you can use fruit for breakfast, as a topping on oatmeal, and nuts can be used as a crunchy topping on salad. Drizzle chocolate over strawberries and your leftover snack from yesterday is now today’s dessert after dinner.
23. Understand Your Credit Card Rewards
If you are shopping around for a credit card that will work for you, or if you are looking for ways in which your current card can help you out at the supermarket, look into their current rewards and cash backs that they offer. With my American Express Blue Cash Preferred card, I get 6% back each statement cycle from supermarkets (up to $6000 a year, followed by 1% after that $6000 limit is met). However, this is only for a select number of supermarkets, including:
- Stop and Shop
- Whole Foods
- Online supermarkets such as FreshDirect
Ensure that you know the places where you’ll get rewards for your card. This can be the best money-saving tactic out there. $9 back on $150 worth of groceries is amazing!
24. Time is Money
Saving money can be a bit of a chore for some individuals. However, there comes a time when you should value time over money when hunting for a deal. While you shouldn’t forgo driving the extra mile (or five) to save money, you should ensure that you make use of good planning to prevent unnecessary trips out of your way. If a coupon expires in two or three weeks, wait until you get to that side of town before making use of the coupon instead of going out of your way for one item. While you may spend $0.50 or $0.60 more on something, you’re saving more than that in gas money.
25. Expand Your Organic Knowledge
Buying organic is all the rage nowadays. However, along with being seen as healthier and cleaner, organic is between 20% and 50% more expensive than it’s non-organic equivalent. While it is proven that buying organic is a good choice, you can save money by selectively purchasing organic. The foods that are most likely to be treated with unhealthy pesticides are those you should look to replace with organic alternatives, including:
- Peppers (Hot and Sweet)
- Snap Peas
You should also ensure that any items that include these ingredients (salsa, fruit salads, prepared salads, etc) are organic as well.
Featured photo credit: Jezebel via i.kinja-img.com