Even if you aren’t a coupon guru, these simple tips will help you spend less at the grocery store. The cost of food is one of the more flexible areas in a family’s monthly budget. When money is tight, these ideas can help stretch your dollar.
Five Coupon-Free Ways to Spend Less at the Grocery Store
When you are looking to save money in your monthly budget, one of the most flexible areas is in your grocery spending. While it can be a challenge at times, it is amazing how much money you can save on food – while still enjoying what you eat – by following a few simple guidelines.
Shop “Loss Leaders”
Go through the weekly Supermarket Ad Sheets* and look for those prices that are so low, they are hard to believe. Those are called “loss leaders.” They are priced at or below wholesale price, which means big savings to you. The store literally takes a loss on those items, counting on you to make it up to them by doing the rest of your shopping there, too. When you see these items, buy them in as much quantity as your budget and personal use will allow. These items often have a limit on how much you can purchase, but don’t let that discourage you too much. Recruit your family members to each make a separate purchase (or more than one) until you have the quantity you need.
I personally love looking for “loss leaders” in the meat department, but I have found them in all areas of the store. I regularly score amazing deals on canned vegetables, tomatoes, and spaghetti sauce, as well as vegetables, meat, and pasta.
*Supermarket Ad Sheets
Supermarket Ad Sheets for your area are sent out in your local newspaper. If you don’t get the paper (we don’t), look online to find the ad sheets for your favorite stores. I typically just Google search something like “Safeway weekly ads” and, well, that particular sales ad defaulted to a store in Ogallala, Nebraska for some reason. Perhaps that is the closest Safeway to me. In any case, when you find the stores you shop, let them know your zip code so you get the ads for your local store. Then you can plan your shopping around the loss leaders you find.
Look for Manager’s Specials
This is, again, something I find most often in the meat department, but not exclusively.
Wherever there are perishable items for sale in the store, you can run into “Manager Specials“. Sometimes the sticker will say “Reduced for quick sale” instead. I often find bags of salad mix, various meats, and dairy items at greatly reduced prices. Just recently, we found large eggs priced 29 cents a dozen, and I’ve found ten pound bags of chicken leg quarters for as low as 35 cents a pound.
Keep a sharp lookout for these deals when you are at the store. If you ask in the meat department, they will often tell you the time of day they mark packages down, so you can be there for the best selection.
Avoid Junk Foods and Convenience Foods
Yes, avoid most junk foods and convenience foods as much as possible. I know that there is a lot of inexpensive junk food out there. I know that there is a lot of inexpensive convenience food, too. I understand how enticing it is, especially after a long day when you really don’t want to cook.
And I’m not saying to avoid it altogether, but choose it wisely. Nine times out of ten, the more natural you go, the less expensive food is. I hear people say the opposite all the time but I just have not found it to be true.
For example: I know people who love to buy Lunchables. Now, I will be the first to admit that those things are cute. Sort of. And convenient – absolutely.
However, those little lunches typically cost between two and three bucks here in Missouri. And even when they are on sale for, say, ten for $10, I can pretty much guarantee that I could take that same ten bucks and buy the lunch meat and cheese and crackers, etc. myself and get more than ten equivalent meals out of it. Or I could buy fresh meat and cook it myself, instead of buying overly processed lunch meat, and make even healthier lunches for the same amount of money. They wouldn’t be fancy and they might not be as cute. But they would taste good and give you healthy energy for your day.
Keep it Simple With Staples
The more you can cook from scratch or with minimally processed foods, the better it is for your grocery budget. I personally like to keep certain simple basic staples on hand as much as possible:
Inexpensive and very flexible. Serve it topped with various sauces, cook it up in soup, or even make a lovely dessert of rice pudding.
I almost always have Pinto Beans, Lentils, and Great Northern Beans in the house. Cook them up in the slow cooker for a tasty, healthy meal that takes little work. Beans are tasty with or without meat, and you can use the most inexpensive meat to flavor them. Neck bones and ham hocks are super frugal and wonderful in beans.
I look for pasta on sale for dirt cheap and buy random bags of different kinds when I can get them for a steal. It is another great item to have around when throwing a quick meal together.
Flour is just so necessary. Even when I don’t use it often, I feel a little unsettled when I run out. You just never know when you might need to dredge some meat or thicken some meat drippings into gravy. But you can also make bread and rolls and pancakes and so many other things, when you have flour in the house.
Eggs are a great and inexpensive source of protein. Even when you buy from conscious sources, eggs are one of the least expensive and most flexible proteins. They start your day off strong, cook up into a nice quiche for an easy dinner, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Healthy and inexpensive, oatmeal can be prepared in any number of ways, which helps to keep it from being boring. Not only is it delicious for breakfast, you can bake it in a number of dessert recipes and even use it as a meat extender in meatloaf and meatballs.
I try to keep American and Colby Jack (blended Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses) on hand. It isn’t always easy, depending on how tight the budget is. But a little cheese really makes a difference to us – especially considering our love of Mexican food.
Onions are one of those foods, if you like them, where you get so much return for your money. Onions are super inexpensive, but chopping one up fresh and cooking it into your recipe will make a world of difference. There are very few savory recipes that won’t taste even better with some onion.
I love canned tomatoes and I stock up on them as much as possible. I buy any kind I find that are on sale and the more variety I can find, the better. Fresh tomatoes are great, but canned are so much easier to deal with most of the time. They are one of the few convenience foods I make a point of having on hand, because you can use them in so many recipes.
Canned beans are also great to have on hand for any number of recipes. Whether you want to throw together a quick pot of chili, enhance a meatloaf, or put together a quick chili dog dinner, stocking up on beans when they are on sale gives you a lot of creative possibilities when you’re trying to come up with something for dinner.
Potatoes are inexpensive, filling, and taste great no matter how you prepare them. You can use them in soups and stews, roast them, fry them, or even throw a couple in the microwave for a quick and tasty dinner.
Shop Multiple Stores
Many people prefer to only shop one store because it is more convenient. But that is not necessarily the best thing to do when you are trying to save money.
Be mindful of all the stores in your area – and all other food sources, as well, such as farmer’s markets. Check the Ad sheets at every store you have in your area. Sometimes, you will find a deal that makes it well worth going out of your way to visit a certain store.
Dollar General is a great source for canned beans, vegetables, and soup. Laundry detergent prices are unbeatable, too. Aldi’s is a wonderful place to get foods you can’t find anywhere else. And at our local bread store, I can pick up two loaves of Oroweat bread for three bucks instead of paying the $4 a loaf it goes for in the grocery store. The more familiar you are with multiple stores, the more you can save.
Coupon Expertise Unnecessary
Even if you aren’t a coupon expert, there are many ways to cut down on your grocery budget. By being mindful of these simple tips, and keeping your eyes open for good deals, you can provide your family with healthy and flavorful meals and spend less at the grocery store while doing it.
What are some of your favorite ways to save money on groceries?