To really save money on groceries, one should have a huge garden, cook everything from scratch, raise pigs, kill deer and can/freeze everything.
Most people can‘t do this, for practical, demographic and ethical reasons. But there are some things you can do to save money without having PhD. in couponry.
MAKE A NEW PLAN, STAN:
Never go grocery shopping without a list. When the store flyer comes out, sit down with a good cookbook and plan a week’s worth of menus (breakfast and lunches, too) based on the sale items. Include staples like laundry needs, paper goods, shampoo, pets, etc. You’ll have a long list, but the idea is to shop just once a week. If this task seems too daunting, make your list for just a few days. The important thing is don’t buy anything that‘s not on the list. Impulse shopping adds big bucks to your total.
COOK ONCE, EAT TWICE
Cook double when you spot good deals and freeze a meal for later.
TWO WORDS: “REDUCED RACK”
Nearly all grocery stores have reduced baked goods racks, marked-down produce, dented can bins and sell-by-date meat bargains. Check these areas first and put your imagination to work. Or check cooking websites for recipe features where you plug in what’s on hand and the site spits out a recipe.
A great soup with crusty bread can be made for literally pennies.
EARLY BIRDS GET WORMS: LATE BIRDS GET BARGAINS
With the advent of the 24-hour superstore, many folks find bargains in the wee small hours, when expiring items are deeply discounted. If you’re a night-owl, this might work. If not, check your favorite grocery store a day or so before their new sales week starts. You’ll be amazed at the unadvertised specials available. Whatever time you choose to shop, try to avoid the Saturday/Sunday cattle lines of bleary-eyed, slack-jawed shoppers, usually with kids and spouses in tow (BTW: much as you love ‘em, these folks are guaranteed to run up your grocery total when they tag along). If you want to get in and out quickly, early morning mid-week is best. Interestingly, one study claims that for each minute you spend in a grocery store beyond one-half hour, five dollars is added to your total.
BE A WALLFLOWER
Stick to the perimeter of the store for the bulk of your shopping. This is where most of the essential stuff is: dairy, meat, seafood, produce. When you wander the aisles, look for store-brand or generic items, most of which are essentially the same as their brand-name rivals. Possible exceptions: coffee, ketchup, pasta sauce, condensed soups. Don’t shop eye-level: bargains are usually on the bottom shelf.
COUPONS=CONVENIENCE FOODS: ARE THEY WORTH IT?
We’ve all heard it: woman buys $362.93 of groceries for $1.16. Sounds great, but look in her cart. With very few exceptions, there’s not a whole lot of nutrition going on in there. Coupons are usually for over-processed, over-priced, chemical-laden convenience foods. Of course, we all need to use them once in a while, but if you’re really pressed for time, buy a good knife, learn some basic chopping skills and become an expert at stir-fry.
CONSIDER A LIFESTYLE CHANGE
Want to really save on groceries? Eliminate meat. Or have at least one meatless meal per week.
And why not grow some of your own veggies? Even though there’s a big push to support local farmers, not many penny-pinchers are willing to pay upwards of $3/lb. for green beans. Try making a tee-pee out of a few saplings and plant pole beans. They‘ll be easy to harvest, and the tee-pee is a great place to hide from your kids.
Speaking of which, gardening is a great way to get kids away from the computer and they’ll get exercise while learning where their food comes from. No room for a garden? Even apartment dwellers can have a few patio tomato plants sunning themselves on the deck. Also, many communities provide garden plots for land-deprived townsfolk.
Or join a food co-op: for a few hours of volunteering, you can walk away with beaucoup foodstuffs, much of it organic.
So get organized, grow green and think beyond the box. It can be fun!