Has anyone else noticed that grocery prices have skyrocketed in the past year or two? I actually went grocery shopping today for a few necessities (milk, produce, bread) and a thing or two for a certain someone‘s upcoming 3rd birthday party…and ended up spending over $100!
Oh me. Oh my.
Normally, we shop with a list. And we’re typically pretty thrifty. But today I bought a few extras: a green tablecloth, a number “3” candle, and chocolate frosting with rainbow-colored sprinkles.
Here are 5 things we strive to do to keep our bill manageable:
1. Shop with a list. I know you read this tip on every frugal-themed blog and website, but it really can cut down expenses (and stress). I almost always meal plan ahead of time and send my husband with a list (he does most of the grocery shopping…today was an exception).
2. Think long term, not short term. It can be tempting to buy frozen dinners and boxed snacks. Don’t do it – though that $.99 price tag beckons you. Eating recklessly (processed, high-fat, high-sugar, high-fake) will result in poor health, a weakened immune system, and weight gain. In the long run, that kind of lifestyle will “cost” you more. Besides, making homemade snacks and meals actually can be cheaper if you buy in bulk and watch for sales.
3. Don’t use coupons. Couponing programs and sites fascinate me. The lure of saving hundreds of dollars is promising, but coupons only save you money if you are ALREADY going to buy the item. This is the primary reason we rarely use coupons. The fact of the matter is that most coupons are for ready-made meals and convenience foods. Think about it: how often do you see coupons for fresh blueberries, organic sweet potatoes, and eggs from the local farm? Not often enough.
4. Do use coupons. Tip #3 should be taken with a grain of salt because many people can and do save money with coupons. I know that I need to get better about it – especially for home care products like toilet paper, laundry detergent, deodorant, and paper towels.
5. Try the generic brand. Some brand name foods are just plain better. Take Tillamook cheese, for example. We buy it every single time. Other foods, however, can easily be bought generic. It’s good to experiment. Brand names are not always better.
Another option is to shop at a bargain market…
My family and I recently were given the opportunity to try shopping at Grocery Outlet, an extreme value market of bargains and closeouts. The store was clean and brightly colored, but the carts were dirty and disorderly (aren’t all grocery carts kind of icky though?). The aisles were filled with brand name products – Crest and Hidden Valley, Ocean Spray and Hunt’s, Starbucks and Brawny.
Here’s how the website describes the Grocery Outlet shopping experience: “We search the world for unique and exciting BARGAINS on everything from orchids to wine, from imported cheese to furniture, so every trip to Grocery Outlet is like a treasure hunt.”
That is a fantastic description. Grocery Outlet is kind of like shopping at Ross Dress for Less or T.J. Maxx. Sometimes, you go there and look and look to no avail. Other times, you find EXACTLY what you are looking for. But it’s hit-or-miss, a “scavenger hunt,” if you will. It’s not the kind of place that you show up with a planned list and you can find everything on it (some weeks they might have tomato sauce, other weeks they might not). But it IS a place to find deals. I think it’s a good place to find gifts too – we bought a few bottles of wine, for example, and…some fancy brand name bars of dark chocolate. Be careful to check the expiration dates because we found a thing or two that had expired or that had quickly-approaching dates. I probably wouldn’t buy produce or dairy items at my local Grocery Outlet, but I would buy paper products, pasta, salsa, laundry detergent, snacks, etc.
If you like the thrill of treasure hunting, of finding unexpected good buys…then say hello to Grocery Outlet.
YOUR TURN: How do YOU save money at the grocery store?
WIN IT! One winner will receive a $100 gift card to Grocery Outlet (Is there one near you?). To enter, leave any topic-related comment on this post prior to Wednesday, September 16th at 11:59 p.m. (Don’t forget to follow the rules…all generic comments like “Enter me!,” “Love it,” and “Cool stuff!” will be disqualified.).
*UPDATE* The winner is #16 Debbie. Congratulations!