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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average family spends about $6,400 a year on food alone. That breaks down to a little over $500 a month. This does not include other grocery shopping expenses like household cleaners, toiletries, and various other non-food spending. Grocery shopping is a necessity, but there are things you can do to lower your monthly grocery bill and give you more money in your pocket at the end of the month.
Here are 5 easy ways you can save money at the grocery store.
1. Write a List
Before you go shopping, always write a list. Look around your house to make sure that you don't already have any of the items on your list. Set a goal for how much you want to spend before you shop. An easy way to figure out how much your family should be spending is to allow yourself $100 per family member per month, or about $25 per family member per week. When you write your shopping list, include a price or estimated price next to the items on your list and tally up the total before you shop. This way you can see how much you are going to spend before you go and make adjustments to keep your shopping list within your budget. When you shop, you should try not to buy things that are not on your list, but don't feel like you have to be so rigid with shopping that you walk away from an extraordinary deal.
2. Stockpile When Things Are on Sale
Try to keep track of how much you normally pay for items and when the prices are at their lowest. The best way to save money at the grocery store is to stock up on things when they are at rock bottom prices. Buy enough to last 2 to 3 months. This way, the next time you buy them, they will hopefully be at this price again. Remember you can freeze a lot of grocery items for longer storage. Milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and bread all freeze well. You may also want to invest in a deep freezer.
3. Take Advantage of Manufacturer Coupons and Store Coupons
Clipping coupons may seem like a lot of extra work but it doesn't have to be and can save you money. An investment of 20-30 minutes a week can help you to save as much as $40 or more from your weekly grocery bill. In order to use coupons effectively, you should combine coupons with sale prices. Wait until a product goes on sale and then pair this with a coupon. By using coupons, you can often pay considerably less for name brands than you would for generic versions of the same thing. Your grocery store may have coupons you can use as well. Most stores allow you to use one manufacturer's coupon and one store coupon per product. There are a number of websites that help you plan your shopping by providing lists of sale prices matched with coupons.
Many stores also have programs to get you to come back and spend money in their store. Not all customers take advantage of these programs or even know about them. These programs are known as catalinas, register rewards, and various other names (each store will have its own name) but basically they all work the same way. The stores will have certain offers that are usually advertised in their weekly flyers where you will receive a coupon good off your next order if you buy a certain combination of products. For example, you might get $3 off your next order when you buy 5 boxes of a certain brand of cereal.
4. Compare Prices
Just because something is on sale doesn't mean it is the best price. The same rule applies to coupons. Even with coupons and sales, a generic product may be the better value. Look at the price of a product per unit, and not just the total price. Buying the bigger package is not always cheaper. In particular, if you are using coupons, you may see a bigger savings by buying the smaller sized product. Don’t get preoccupied with how much you are saving off the regular price. If the final cost is still more than the generic, it may be better to go with the generic product.
5. Buy Nonfood Items at the Drug Store
Drug stores offer some of the best deals on toiletries, household cleaners, and other nonfood items. In fact, you may be able to get items like razors, deodorant, and toothpaste totally free by watching for drug store sales and using coupons. Some smart shoppers even get money back. Most drug stores won't actually give you cash back, but they will apply any "profit" to other items you purchase. The money you save at the drug store will allow you to spend more on your grocery store purchases.