You’ve heard all the suggestions about saving money at the grocery stores. Clip coupons. Buy in bulk. Watch the ads. Skip the name brands. It’s all good advice. And it works â€” sometimes.
Actually, it really only works for people who are diligent and disciplined.
Clipping coupons only works when you buy items you’d buy anyway, and in the quantities you want. If you have to buy four cans of soup, but you only plan to use one now, it’s a waste.
Buying in bulk only works when you plan ahead, stock up on items you need, and use up the whole quantity.
And shopping the grocery sales is great advice â€” provided you don’t load up on a whole bunch of other items while you’re at the store.
Here are some tried and true simple tricks even the less-diligent shoppers among us can use to cut that food bill down to size.
1. Make a list and stick to it. You already know that impulse purchases can ruin your money-saving efforts. To avoid that, figure out what you plan to make for each meal during the week. If you can plan for double meals (making twice as much and freezing half for later) or using leftovers, all the better.
2. Go to the store only once a week. The more times you frequent a grocery store, the more money you will spend there. Simple as that.
3. Buy convenience foods when it’s smart to do so. Sometimes convenience foods can actually save you money.
Consider those individual packages of prepared guacamole vs.a large tub of guacamole. Of course, the individual serving packets cost more. But what if you’re the only one eating the guacamole? What if you plan to use it as a garnish. Guacamole turns brown after it’s been exposed to the air. By opening up an individual packet and using just that, you’re able to save the rest, unspoiled, and use it later.
Why not make your own? Go for it — but it won’t necessarily save you money. Depending on where you live, avocados can be quite expensive. So can fresh cilantro and limes. Add it up, and you’ll likely save with the store-bought guacamole.
4. Shop the farmer’s markets in season. Cutting out the middleman not only saves you money, it exposes you to fresher produce that often tastes better (it didn’t have to sit on a truck or ship for days). And you’ll have a chance to try new fruits and vegetables you’d never find at the local Safeway. Garlic scapes anyone?
5. Buy in bulk only when you know you’ll use what you buy. Toilet paper is something you’ll always need. But a quart-size container of crushed garlic? You’d have to cook a lot â€” and quickly â€” to be able to use that much garlic before it goes bad.
6. Buy frozen fish. Frozen fish is nearly always cheaper than fresh, and the fresh fish you see in the supermarket was likely previously frozen. It’s just thawed for your convenience, which means it’ll go bad faster, too.
7. Use your leftovers. Throwing out food wreaks havoc on more food budgets in the U.S. than you can imagine. Toss that leftover chicken breast with some mayonnaise, sliced red grapes and celery for a tasty chicken salad. Take those scraps of produce and that last bit of leftover pot roast and make fried rice. Take those last few slices of stale bread and make French toast.
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