How often do you get to the checkout and realize you spent $20-50 more than you expected? I bet it’s almost every week. What about your pantry? How often do you discover that you already had an item you thought you needed? Or you find something has already expired that you never even opened? The spending and wasting of money can be so frustrating, especially if you live on a tight budget. This post will teach you everything you need to know about budget-friendly grocery shopping. That’s not to say you will never make a mistake with your grocery budget again but it will give you the tools you need to get the most bang for your buck. So let’s get started!
Budget-Friendly Grocery Shopping
Start at home
Before you even get to the grocery store, you need to do some things at home to prepare for your shopping trip. You want to make sure you don’t purchase something you already have because you didn’t see it. Things have a tendency to hide in the back of the pantry or in the bottom of the freezer. One of the best ways to not have this happen is to take a pantry and freezer inventory. A little bit of work saves a lot of time later. While you are checking through to see what you have, it is also a good time to rotate your items. Make sure your soonest to expire is near the front. There is nothing worst that discovering something you never opened expired a few months earlier. So aggravating!
Plan where you will shop
Why do you shop where you normally do? I bet you have any number of reasons from location to prices to quality. When you are trying to plan out a budget-friendly grocery shopping trip, you need to consider a few different things. One of the first is location. If you have to drive extra to get there, you need to be sure you are going to save more than you spent on gas to get there. My personal rule is: if I drive to the grocery store that is known for great sales and doubles coupons (but is 30 miles away), I have to save at least three times what I spent in gas to get there.
Second, look at sales, prices, and coupon policy. My local grocery store has the best everyday prices and has some decent sales but not the best coupon policy. The store I mentioned above has higher everyday prices but has amazing sales and an excellent coupon policy.
Third, consider quality. Both the grocery stores I frequent have good quality. I also shop at Walmart but the meat and produce at my local one aren’t very good. I won’t buy those there. Then there are some “discount” grocery stores that, while they have decent prices, it isn’t worth it at all. The quality is too poor. You need to find the “sweet spot” of price and quality.
Check the sales flyers
As you are planning where to shop, check the sales flyers. Most stores have these available online. Makes it super easy to look through them. Look for things that are on amazing sale (typically the front page). Often meat and produce items. Then check for other items that you know you need or will need soon. It’s important that you know your prices or have a price book with the everyday prices of your most purchased items so that you know if a sale is worth it or not.
Utilize coupons and coupon apps
This is a major part of budget-friendly grocery shopping. Coupons can go a long way to helping stretch the grocery budget and really can be done in 30 minutes a week. They can be found in different location online and in print. Coupons can be a world all their own. You can learn more about how to understand and use coupons in my series, Beginner’s Coupon Guide. Coupon/money saving apps are another great way to save money. If you can stack a great sale with a paper coupon and a coupon app you can often “get paid” to purchase an item. Ibotta is one of my absolute favorites but here are four of my other favorite coupon apps.
Stay focused while shopping
This one is huge! I have noticed if I get distracted or am not giving the shopping my full attention, I waste or spend too much money. You would think it’s something simple. I mean, it’s just grocery shopping. Why shouldn’t you be able to daydream or talk on the phone? Because that is when mistakes are made. In fact, if you can leave the kids at home, do it! They can be a huge distraction. If you can’t, check out my hacks for shopping with a baby and a child to make it a little easier.
You also need to make sure you are choosing the best time to grocery shop. This works twofold. First, if it isn’t super busy, you won’t be trying to shop around other people and getting annoyed they are in your way (or maybe that’s just me). Secondly, there will be more stock certain times of day and more marked down items as well.
Another great way to help you stay on task is to group your grocery list with like items together and group in store order. If produce is first in your store then meat then pasta and soup and then juice, write your list down in that order. Trust me. It is so frustrating to get to the end of your list then realize you need something back near the beginning of the store. Especially when you have your kids with you and they are getting sick of shopping.Everything you need to know to save money while grocery shopping! Click To Tweet
Pay attention at the register
Along with grouping items on your list, be sure to group them on the register belt as well. This isn’t just for bag packing, but it is handy for that as well (am I the only one get gets seriously annoyed when the bagger puts all the cold together except for one item or puts cans and bread in the same bag?). The reason here is to make it easier to see if buy one get one free items go through correctly and to make couponing easy.
You also need to pay close attention as items are ringing up. Sometimes, especially at the beginning of a sale, items won’t ring in at the correct price. Or you even realize you may have grabbed the wrong box of something and it wasn’t part of the sale. Or even that a coupon beeped but didn’t actually go through. All these things can add up to cost you a lot of money.
Track your savings
What good is all that work if you don’t know how much you saved? The best way I have found to keep track of savings is to use an Excel spreadsheet. Put in what you spent in the second column, what it should have cost you if you didn’t shop sales and coupons in the first column, and have Excel do the math for you for the amount saved in the third column. So it’s: original amount, amount actually spent, amount saved.
You could even take this a step further and put the amount you saved into a savings account. Some weeks that might only be $5 but others it might be $20 or even $75! Every savings is good savings and does add up.
Budget-friendly grocery shopping does take a lot of steps but it isn’t overly complicated. As long as you stay focused, you’ll do great! As you read, so much of grocery shopping to save money is staying focused and organized. If you’d like more tips on saving money, budgeting, and shopping, be sure to sign up for my mailing list.