I had a difficult time deciding what I wanted to write about for my very first "Tip-Worthy Tuesday." The options are limitless. I come across all sorts of amazing "tips" every day, and obviously, I am not the best with decisions.
I finally decided that I would write about something I actually do (instead of something I just want to try).
We all know that couponing and even extreme couponing have become all the rage. I am not against coupons, but I do think some people are taking it a little too far. It seems that some people have turned it into more of an obsession than a money-saving strategy. If couponing works for you...awesome! However, if you're NOT the coupon queen (like me), I have some tips for grocery shopping on a budget without coupons.
1. Plan your meals and make a list - Whether you plan your meals weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly really does not matter, but making a meal plan can help you save money. I do weekly meal plans because that works best for me. When making my meal plan, I take into account what I already have on hand...what's in the freezer? the pantry? etc. I try to plan meals that make the most of the ingredients I already have. Then, I make a list of everything I need (NEED being the key word here), and I stick to my list.
2. Write your list by aisle - I am very familiar with the places I normally grocery shop, and I'm sure you are too. So, when I'm making my list, I walk through the store in my mind and write down what I need aisle by aisle. Sometimes I'm off a little, but it's usually pretty close. This keeps me focused while I'm in the store, so I go down only the aisles I need (there's that word again!). By avoiding other aisles, I avoid throwing extra items into my cart. If I don't see it, I don't buy it. Making my list in this way helps me stick to just the items I actually came to buy.
3. Pay attention to prices - I always look at prices and make mental notes of them in my head. I suppose you could actually write them down if you wanted to. Then I sort of know what things cost at each place I shop. If I know something is much cheaper at another store, I'll make a special trip for that item. If I know I'll only save a few cents, I don't waste my time. Being aware of prices at the places you normally shop can help you make good decisions on future shopping trips.
4. Pay attention to sales ads - Know what stores have on sale and plan accordingly. If a certain item (or items) you know you'll use have been marked way down, buy them...even if you don't necessarily need them right then. This goes back to paying attention to prices. If you are aware of what things normally cost, you will be more aware of when they are on sale. I also try to limit the number of stores I shop at each week (another reason I'm not a fan of couponing) and paying attention to the sales ad helps me decide which place would be best to shop that week.
5. Limit the amount of processed foods you buy - People always complain that eating healthy is too expensive. I agree...IF you are buying all of those so-called "diet" products. It is true that buying things marked low-fat, fat-free, reduced calorie, or any of the pre-packaged meals or 100 calorie snack packs can get very expensive. My solution? Stop buying them...along with lots of other processed foods...and buy fresh, whole foods and ingredients to make your own food. Buying fresh produce can get expensive, but if you buy it in place of processed foods you are buying, it can drastically help your spending, and you eat healthier, too! Have fun in the kitchen and see what "packaged" foods you can make yourself.
6. Don't be afraid of generic brands - I rarely buy name brand anything. Generic brands are usually just as good and sometimes, they are even the exact same foods processed in the exact same manufacturing plant! Don't let the plain packaging scare you away. Of course, there are some things where the generic is just not as good. However, most things, especially the basics (frozen/canned veggies, flour, sugar, pasta, etc.) are just as good and cost much less. Don't pay for the pretty outside when you're getting the exact same thing on the inside.
7. Make the most of what you buy - In general...don't waste! Use what you buy and only buy what you will use. Buy products that you can use or store before they expire. Don't stock up on something just because "it's a good deal" if you know you won't be able to use it before it goes bad. Sometimes, buying in bulk can save you tons. Sometimes, it just creates tons of ways. Get creative and figure out how to use up everything you buy. This makes your food and your dollar go further.
8. Use coupons when it makes sense - If you have a coupon for something you are planning to buy...use it! Like I said, I'm not against couponing. Every cent you can save helps. I always try to find coupons for the items I need or items I buy frequently. I don't go out of my way to clip coupons for products I never buy, never use, and don't need 100 of. Coupons are good, but you can shop wisely without them.
I hope these tips are helpful whether you're a coupon lover or not. What tips do you guys have for saving money at the grocery store? I'd love to hear your suggestions!