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Cut your grocery budget
Sunday, 01 February 2015 00:00

The Thrifty Frugal Mom.

Sometimes people think that the only way that they can save money on groceries is by using coupons and while using coupons does provide huge savings, there are lots of other ways to save as well.  Here are a few ways that you can save money on groceries without using coupons:

1. Use a grocery list

When shopping without a list you are quicker to grab anything that looks appealing and are less likely to think through your purchases and as a result you spend more.  Before you head to the grocery store think about the items you need.  Look in your cupboards and assess what you are low on.  Do you only have a partial box of pasta?  Is there just one roll of toilet paper left?  Then put those things on your list.  Even better, keep a running grocery list.  When you open a new box of something, add that item to your grocery list to avoid running out and having to make a last minute trip to the store.

When making your grocery list, you’ll also want to think about what food you plan to make that week.  It might be helpful to jot down a menu so that you know exactly what items you need to purchase. I also like to look over my store’s sales flyer to see what items are on sale for a great price.  If it is something I typically use I’ll add it to my list.  Are there events you need to take food to?  Keep that in mind as well.

Once you are at the store, stick to your list.  Don’t let that package of Oreos seduce you into putting them in your cart!

2. Bigger is not always cheaper!

It’s easy to think that bigger packages are always cheaper than smaller ones.  And in fact, they frequently are.  However you might be surprised to find out just how often smaller packages are actually less expensive.  Make it a habit to look at the price per unit (such as kg for kg.) which most stores have displayed on their shelf price labels.  Compare the unit price and buy whichever size is the least expensive.

3. Buy in bulk

Many stores offer things like rice, pasta and grains in bulk.  Often it is cheaper to purchase these items this way than in the traditional packages.  Again, check the unit price to make sure, but often you will discover that you can save buy purchasing larger amounts.

I also like to purchase ground meat and chicken breasts/legs in bulk too.  Grocery stores will often give you savings for purchasing larger quantities of meats.  When I purchase these bulk packages I like to repackage them into smaller portions and put them in the freezer for future use.  Sometimes I take it a step further and cook the meat and then freeze it.

4. Stock up

I mentioned that I like to look at the sales flyer to see what items are listed at a great price that week.  If I have wiggle room in my budget and if it is an item that I can either use before it spoils or that I can freeze, I like to stock up on it.  I do this frequently on things like butter, salsa, pasta sauce, pasta, sugar, crackers, and toilet paper.

This might not seem like a huge way to save but it really does add up.  In fact, it is one of the big ways that I’ve been able to save as much as I do on my groceries.  It’s easy to think, “But I’m only saving R2 by purchasing this box of butter on sale now.”  But look at it this way.  If you purchase two kg's of butter every week you could buy 8 boxes of butter- and stick them in the freezer- save R16 and have enough butter on hand to last you a month.  Funny how R16 sounds much more impressive than R2!

5. Only buy what you need

Okay, so I know that sounds like I’m contradicting the stock up concept I just told you about. 

For perishable items like fresh fruits and veggies, milk and sour cream buy only what you know you can use before it spoils.  These items are the ones that people end up throwing out the most.  Remember, a great deal is no longer savings if you end up throwing it out.

6. Watch for clearance/markdown items

Stores are always changing out the products they stock  and items are continually getting close to their sell-by/expiration date.  When this happens, typically those items get either put on clearance or given a markdown sticker making them a great deal.  Clearance items will be found all over the store, usually marked with a bright colored shelf label.  For markdowns, I’ve found the best spots to find them are in the meat, deli and dairy departments.  Generally those things get a markdown sticker when they are within a day or two of their sell-by date.  Don’t let that scare you, the product is still perfectly good.  And if you won’t be able to use it right away often you can freeze it and still save the money!

7. Choose to do Without
While choosing to do without is not really popular or even always a fun, it honestly is probably one of the biggest ways we save.

Takes sandwiches in your lunch every day to work.  You don't need both meat and cheese so add lettuce instead of cheese to your sandwich. 
Stop buying snack foods.  Talk about a fast way to jack your grocery spending up- this is one of them!  We actually don’t eat many snacks and if we do they tend to be more things like raisins, nuts, fruit or homemade cookies, energy bites and granola bars.  I still buy chips and crackers sometimes if I can get them for a great price but they are not things that we always have on hand. We do several different things to save money on meat.  But one of the big ways that we save is simply by not buying expensive cuts. Which means that we don’t often eat things like bacon or steaks.  But so far we haven’t suffered and I think we still have a great variety!

One of the side benefits to choosing to do without some things is that you learn to appreciate what you do have even more.  For instance, because our sandwiches typically consist only of meat and lettuce suddenly a sandwich with meat AND cheese becomes a real treat and we enjoy it immensely.  Somehow I think doing without helps us appreciate some of the little things in life more fully.

8. Don’t be Brand Snobs
When I began using coupons I started realising that I could save a lot if I chose to be open minded about trying brands than I didn’t typically use.  You don’t have to be very smart to figure out that if your usual brand of spaghetti sauce typically costs R9 on sale but you can get another brand for just R5 by using a coupon that you are going to save a bundle!  I’ll be honest, there are still a couple of products that I am a brand snob about but overall I purchase whatever I can get for the least amount of money.

9.  Cook from Scratch
I grew up in a home where my mom cooked mostly from scratch so I was used to this.  And fortunately I enjoy cooking and baking.  But it was still convenient to buy pre-packaged things to save time.  It didn’t take me long to realise that it also was often a quick way to blow money.

Yes, cooking from scratch might take a bit more time but with a bit of planning ahead I’ve learned that it can be relatively fast too.  One of the things I do that helps save time is to cook up large quantities of ground beef and chicken and then put it in the freezer in smaller portions.  That way whenever I need a pound of ground beef or 2 cups of chicken for a recipe, I’m saved the time of having to cook it up.  I also often make double recipes of a dish and then freeze half of it.  Making twice as much of something doesn’t take much longer at all and when I have an usually busy day it’s so handy to be able to just pull dinner out of my freezer.  I also apply this same principle to baked things like bread, rolls, cookies and biscuits.

And you might be surprised how easy it is to make things like cream soup, Bisquick, Salad Dressing, Shake and Bake and pie crusts from scratch.  It’s probably not as hard or time consuming as you think!

10. Have a Price List
This might seem a bit silly but it does really help.  By keeping track of which stores have the lowest prices on certain items I have been able to save a lot.  And it also helps me know when something is a good stock up price too.  Keeping a price list takes a minimal amount of time and effort, but it really does pay off.   If you want more tips check out my post Save Money by Using a Price List!

Article by parents.com


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