According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans spend an average of 9.9% of their disposable incomes on food. If you factor in expired and wasted groceries, and poor money management, you could be spending even more. If you’re looking to stretch your food dollars, here are four ways that can help you save at the grocery store:
Stick to Your List
Before heading to the grocery store, put together a shopping list. It’s easy to end up impulse buying when shopping without a list, and even more so when you’re hungry. With strategically placed displays, samples, and all the sweets near the checkout lane, it can be difficult to ignore those temptations. Every grocery store is laid out differently, but you become familiar with it after a few trips. If you know the layout, try to write your list in the order that you will find the product in the store. This will prevent you from any backtracking and reduce your temptation to grab other items not on your list. You can also avoid grabbing items not on your list by ordering online for pick up. While there may be a small fee, it can be cheaper than impulsively buying a bunch of food you don’t really need. Sticking to your list will give you a better estimate of your cost at checkout and can help prevent you from leaving the grocery store with too much food and too little money.
Bringing your own reusable shopping bags to the grocery store is not only better for the environment, but it’s better for your wallet as well. Some grocery stores offer a discount on your grocery bill if you bring your own reusable bags from home to pack your food in. While a $.10 discount or being charged an additional $.05 here and there doesn’t sound like a lot of money, it certainly adds up.
Keep an Inventory
According to CNBC, the average American family loses around $1,500 a year on wasted food. You wouldn’t throw $1,500 in cash into a garbage bin, would you? However, it’s not uncommon to find something in the back of the fridge or pantry, but have no idea how long it’s been there, or worse, what it even is. To cut back on waste and extra food spending, consider creating and maintaining an inventory of all the items in your kitchen. You can plan cost-effective meals around what’s in the pantry and save money by identifying when you’re running low on something. If you see you’re starting to run low on something, you can plan ahead and replace that item while it’s on sale instead of when you’ve completely run out.
Shop for Seasonal Items
Fresh produce is delicious, but your favorite fruits and vegetables aren’t always in season. And when they aren’t in season, the prices are considerably more expensive. The cost of travel and shipping increases, and the stores pass the cost on to customers to balance out their return on investment. When you do buy fresh produce, make sure you stick to what’s in season. Strawberries and grapefruits are at peak season in the spring, while apples and pears are at their peak in the fall. Also, don’t be afraid to substitute fresh produce with frozen. If you find that your produce spoils because you can’t eat it in time, choosing frozen fruits and veggies can prevent that.