Groceries are a necessity but they don't have to break the bank! Usually when you think about saving money at grocery stores, you think coupons. I don't typically use coupons for a variety of reasons: They aren't usually for products I usually buy, I forget about them and they expire, and I'm also not subscribed to a newspaper. Now I know you don't really need newspapers to find coupons. There's tons of online coupons out there, but I just find them annoying and difficult to use on my phone. Maybe it's just me, if you use digital coupons, more to you! I also buy very little packaged/prepared food. I buy mostly produce and meat and cook everything myself. Even though they do exist, produce and fresh meat coupons can be a little hard to find. So, if you're like me and want to save money without coupons, this is for you! And if you do use coupon, this is still for you too! Here are my best tips for saving money on groceries without coupons!
Buy in Season
My best tip is to buy in season. I repeat, BUY IN SEASON. This is good for more than just getting lower prices, you'll also just be getting fresher food. Fruit and vegetables that are not in season have to be grown far away where they are in season and then they have to be shipped to where you are and you have to pay for all of that. I was recently shopping for winter squash because that's the type of squash currently in season. I was just thinking about how amazing the butternut squash looked and what a deal I was getting at $1.49 per squash (and they were huge!) when I looked over and saw the pitiful display of dinky summer squash... It's November! Eat November food. Now I understand that we still need to eat fruits and vegetables in the dead of winter when pretty much nothing is in local season, but stick to this general rule and it will save you a lot over the course of a year.
Buy it when you can get it
Grocery shopping can be a little like the stock market - buy low, sell high! Ok, just kidding about the selling part but completely serious about the buying low part! Basically what I mean is stock up while prices are low! I usually wait for a really good sale and I buy ridiculous amounts and freeze it. For example, when strawberries were on sale for 99 cents a pound this summer, I bought about 30 pounds over the course of 3 weeks and ate my fill and froze the rest. We have bags of frozen strawberries that should last us for at least a few more months. I also do this with chicken. I'll buy about 10-12 pounds at a time when it goes on sale and freeze or can it for later use. This will take you time, but it will also save you money in the long run. It's up to you to decide if you need the time or the money more.
Plan your meals
Planning your meals for the week will not only help your budget, but also just help your life. If you're not planning meals, then you should be. But don't let that overwhelm you! Meal planning is only as detailed as you make it. Some people like to plan their meals so that they know exactly what they will have every day of the week. I do things a little more loosely. I plan what meals I'll have and then play it by ear what meal I choose for what day. I simply make a list of meals and then pick from the list as I go. That way if I ever blank on what we're having for dinner, I just reference my list and go from there.
Plan meals around current sales
Plan your meals around what's on sale. I usually sit down and look at what's on sale and think of meals that I could make that include those items. A great resource for this is an app called Flipp. It has sale papers for just about everywhere, and you can also make your grocery list in the app. It will even show you coupons and deals that are available for the items you need.
Another way to save money is to use what you buy! I can't say that I'm not guilty of buying things and then not using them or leftovers going to waste, but if you can avoid this it will save you money and your conscience. Again, meal planning can go a long way in this area. When you plan your meals for the week, try to think about how you can reuse your leftovers in the next meal if needed. For example, leftover mashed potatoes are great for thickening soup. Soup or stir fry is also great for reusing leftover veggies and meat. Be creative!
Stretch your meals
You can stretch your dollars by using more expensive items more sparingly. I do this mostly with meat since meat is one of the more expensive things you will buy on a regular basis (you know, unless you're a vegetarian). I do this by saving "meat and three" type meals for special occasions and making things like stir fry, soup, and tacos on a more regular basis. for example, I can make a huge pot of soup with only one large chicken breast, and I can add beans (which are super cheap) to my tacos to make it go a little farther.
Use a Rebate app
If you don't use Ibotta, you should be. Ibotta is a really great app that gives you rebates on groceries (including produce!) and a ton of other stores and items. It's really worth it! I currently have around $100 in accumulated rebates on my account just for buying things that I needed to buy anyway.
Looking at prices isn't necessary if money isn't an issue for you, but if you're reading this blog post, it probably is and so you should most definitely compare prices. And I don't mean just comparing the price on the tag. If you haven't noticed before, most price tags on the shelf also show a "price per unit" or "price per ounce" that you should be paying attention to. This tells you how much you are paying for what you are getting. Sometimes the "cheaper item" isn't really cheaper at all, it's just smaller.
So there are my 8 best tips for saving your hard earned dollars in the grocery aisles! What are some things you do to save money on groceries? Let me know in the comments!