Frugality Wise

Tips, ideas, and resources for living frugally

Money-Saving Tips for Grocery Shopping

on April 6, 2014
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Food is a necessity of life. We’ve all gotta eat to nourish and fuel or bodies. However, the cost of food is ever-increasing. Groceries make up a significant amount of the monthly expenses for many households. While we may not be able to do anything about rising food costs, we can do something about the way we shop for food. The way you shop for food can have an effect on how much you end up spending on this expense. The following are some money-saving tips for grocery shopping.

Use coupons.

I wish I had the time to devote to extreme couponing, but that seems like it would be a full-time job! You don’t need to quit your job to devote to couponing, though. Even if you have a little time to spare, you can find some coupons that will save you a little money the next time you go grocery shopping. You can find coupons by going to online coupon sites, finding tear-away coupon pads in grocery stores, and by checking your local newspaper inserts. Sometimes a product will have a coupon available directly on or inside the packaging. Make sure to keep your coupons organized and in one place, and to keep track of the expiry date of your coupons.

Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach.

In the past when I’ve done so, I am so ravenous walking up and down the grocery aisles that I’m practically drooling at all the food I see! When you’re hungry and grocery shopping your cravings kick in and you think something along the lines of, “I need these cookies; they look soooo good! I think I’ll get a box or twenty!” Don’t step foot through those sliding glass doors without having eaten first. That way you will only spend money on items you need, not items you’re craving.

Buy frequently used items in bulk.

It’s ok to spend more money on a large “family-sized” grocery item (regardless of whether you’re single or you have a family) if you know that it’s a product that you eat or cook with often. Rather than buy multiple cans of a regular-sized item, buy the bulk size that is the equivalent amount of all of those cans combined. The price per unit weight/volume of bulk items can often be cheaper than the price per unit weight/volume of regular-sized items. Are you concerned about your bulk items expiring before you are able to use it all up? Then freeze them, and use only the portion you need when you need it. Frozen foods keep for a long time. However, different types of food vary in how long they can remain frozen and still maintain their quality, so keep that in mind when storing food in the freezer.

Plan your meals ahead of time.

Write down the meals you would like to prepare for the week and write down the ingredients that you need, flagging those ingredients that you don’t currently have and need to buy. When you have a plan it keeps you organized and you end up spending money only on those items that you need. When you go grocery shopping without having a meal plan for the week (“freestyle shopping” as I call it) you might spend more because you have a lack of direction on what you’ll be eating two or three days from now. So you end up buying things that you sometimes don’t need for that week, and if you’re not careful some items will reach their expiry date before you get around to consuming them. Which means you have to toss out expired food, and that’s a waste of money.

Shop with a list.

This is an extension of the previous tip to plan your meals ahead of time. The flagged items on the ingredients list that’s generated once you’ve done so form the basis of your grocery list. Stick to your list and avoid adding a bunch of extras to your shopping cart that weren’t on the list in the first place.

Shop at the cheaper grocery chains.

I love Whole Foods! I feel like a kid in a (organic) candy store when I’m there. I love seeing products you have a harder time getting at regular grocery stores. However, Whole Foods is expensive. I’m pretty much stating the obvious here. It’s a great place if price is not a concern for you, but if you’re trying to tighten your purse strings then shop at cheaper places. In Toronto, chains like No Frills and Food Basics are more budget-friendly. Walmart Supercentres also have grocery aisles, and Walmart also provides the benefit of price matching.

Check grocery websites and flyers for pricing and comparison shop.

Take note of which grocery chain has the item you need for the cheapest price. A particular store may generally have low prices on a regular basis, but a specific item may be cheaper at a more expensive store if they are having a special or sale on that item. These are things you would only know if you take the time to comparison shop.

Make from scratch rather than buy pre-packaged foods.

Convenience foods such as frozen dinners may be convenient time-wise, but it is not convenient for your budget. I’m sure you’ve noticed the ridiculously scanty portion size of most frozen dinners that doesn’t seem to justify the price (I mean, really, a fistful of food with only two small chunks of meat…are they kidding me???). What you’re paying for is not just the food but the packaging as well. Continuing with the example of the frozen dinner, you can make from scratch a fresh version of the same recipe and your ingredients cost will be lower, even if you make twice or triple the portion size of the frozen version. A bonus of cooking from scratch is that you can control the exact ingredients that go into your recipe, which is great if you want to avoid preservatives, chemicals, or excess sodium commonly found in pre-packaged foods; or if you have specific food allergies or intolerances. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve read the ingredients of the packaging of a product I was excited to try, only to see the words “MSG” or “soy” on it. Why must seemingly everything have these among their ingredients? Anyway, I digress. Yes, cooking takes time (prep time and actual cooking time) and effort, but in the end it is worth it. So grab a cookbook and get cooking!

Additional Resources

12 Ways to Save Big on Groceries and Shop on a Budget (Provides money-saving strategies, and offers a helpful breakdown of the percentage and monetary value you can end up saving on an annual basis for each of the strategies.)

Where To Find Coupons (This is a Canadian resource, so coupons would only be valid for use in Canada.)

15 Items Always Worth Buying in Bulk

Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart

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2 responses to “Money-Saving Tips for Grocery Shopping

  1. Valerie says:

    Wonderful tips!!

    • Saundra says:

      Thank you, Valerie! I appreciate your feedback. Feel free to check out my latest post on How to Keep Costs Down on your Utility Bill. Wishing you a happy frugal life!

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