Saving Money on Groceries — Even Without Coupons

by Miranda Marquit · 5 comments

Of course, when you can, you should use coupons when you go grocery shopping. But you don’t need coupons to trim your grocery bill. You can save money on groceries even without clipping coupons if you take the time to study your spending behaviors, and change the way you do things when you go to the store. Here are some ways that you can cut your grocery bill:

  • Don’t shop hungry: Plan your trip to the store for after you have eaten. If you are grabbing a few things on the way home from work, just grab those few things that you need. Plan on a specific time that you can go — after lunch sometime, or even after dinner. My husband and I go first thing Saturday morning, after breakfast, and before the crowds are really out there.
  • Make a list and stick to it: Throughout the week, make notes of what you need. We have a list on the kitchen counter that we add to. Then, the night before we go shopping, we do a look through of the pantry, cupboards and fridge to see if we need more of anything else. This ensures that we get what need, and provides a guide for us while shopping. Of course, the key to this tip is sticking only to what is on the list, limiting your impulse buys. (We add a treat or two to the list, and those are the treats we get for the week.)
  • Resist the temptation to grab things at checkout: 30% of our purchases are impulse buys. Resist the urge to add things to your bill at the last minute. Nail clippers, lip balm, candy bars and magazines are all at the checkout to tempt you. It takes some practice and discipline, but try to avoid grabbing things at checkout. Instead, plan your purchases around what you need.
  • Avoid buying non-food items at the grocery: You’d be surprised at how non-food items can add to your grocery bill. Before you purchase toilet paper, shamp00 and stationary at the grocery store, check other stores. You are likely to find that non-food items cost more at grocery stores. So do your shopping at two separate stores, getting non-food items on discount elsewhere. The only exception is when there is a legitimate sale or special at the grocery.
  • Double check the unit price: We have been conditioned, to some degree, to believe that the bigger package is cheaper per ounce. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Double check unit prices. I was surprised to find that the half-pint containers of heavy cream actually cost less than the pint containers, per ounce, at my local grocery. If your store doesn’t offer a per unit price on the tag, carry a small calculator in your purse to perform the simple calculation yourself.
  • Avoid wasting food at home: You can reduce your grocery bill by the habits you follow at home. If you eat what you buy, rather than throwing it out, you are likely to save more, since you won’t be buying more food to replace what you throw out. Plan meals ahead of time, and incorporate leftovers into your planning. Most of our meals are designed to last two nights, and many of them also provide me with the lunch on the third day. If you don’t like eating the same thing two days in a row, you can freeze leftovers and then warm them up for dinner in a couple of weeks. My mother planned out meals a month at a time (leaving a few days open for flexibility) so that it was easier to see where frozen leftovers could be worked in.

In the end, you can save a great deal of money by altering your poor spending habits. And, of course if you use coupons on top of these savings tips, you will boost your savings.

Bonus Tip:

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin@OutOfYourRut March 12, 2010 at 4:23 pm

One that I like to use is a flat budget. You go shopping with a budget of say $150–you can buy anything you want but you can’t go over the limit. So you buy the necessities and a few luxuries, but before checking out, you tally up the order, and if you’re over the limit, you start putting the luxuries back. Or deciding that a few necessities aren’t so necessary. What it does is enforce trade offs, while keeping you within budget.

Of course, this requires bringing a pad, pen and calculator, which I’m happy to say I’m seldom the only one in the store carrying.

Emily March 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Thanks for posting this! I never think of going to another store for non-food items, yet it’s obvious that the dollar store always has these cheaper. Duh! 🙂

One thing I really love about my local grocery store is the produce clearance rack. We’re always on the lookout for dented apples for applesauce and “older” potatoes for soup and oven-roasting. And when they have something unusual, like the eggplants they had last week, we get to think outside the box and get creative with dinner. Win-win!

Jbuck August 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I hate to admit this but the best prices for non-food items is Walmart. Target is the runner up. Adding just a few coupons as well will drop your non-food item total significantly. My husband didn’t believe me so I did a cost comparison and the difference for one month was over $35 (with coupons). Over the course of a year, that’s a savings of $420!

Lynn October 20, 2010 at 4:22 am

Great tips, thanks! The English major in me feels obligated to tell you that “stationery” is spelled with an “e” (think of “letter”). Stationary with an “a” means not moving. (Think of “stay”) :^)

Katina March 8, 2011 at 9:36 am

Like Kevin, I shop with a specific budget, which I try to stretch each week by taking full advantage of sales and coupons, often at more than one grocery store. But hopefully for him they introduce the scanner guns in his area soon so he doesn’t have to keep bringing the pad, paper and calculator. You just scan and bag your items as you shop and and then your scanned items are uploaded at the checkout and you then scan your coupons, etc. With the exception of the coupons, you know exactly where you are in terms of how much you’ve spent and can easily remove things as well. Best invention ever.

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