Man does not live by bread alone. –Matt.4-4
No matter what your grocery budget is, you can cut it by at least $10 a week…easily…and eat just as well. There are so many options and so many items. Take coupons. Here is a short list of places you can find coupons.
Some people save hundreds of dollars on their monthly grocery bill by clipping coupons. I’ve never gotten into it. Usually the stuff I’m looking for doesn’t have a coupon available, or the store brand is really cheaper or, and here’s the biggie, I don’t have the time. But if the coupons are conveniently available, and they’re for something I need, I use them and save maybe $10 a month. Not much, but every little bit helps.
If you’re not a coupon clipper, or even if you are, I’m going to give you two ways to make a big dent in the grocery budget. They’ll save at least $10 a week, probably much more. In case you don’t think that’s worth the effort, consider that’s $40 a month, $480 a year, $2400 in five years. Whoever said time is money was right.
Buy in Bulk
On the American prairie of the 1800s, there was only one grocery store. Actually, it was pretty much the only store. Every food item, and every household article, every implement, was packed into its 500 or so square feet. It was the town’s mercantile. We have them today. They’re called Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target. But we don’t shop like the settlers.
They didn’t drop into the mercantile every day on their way home like we stop by Walmart for a couple of items and wind up buying ten. The farmer or rancher often lived far from town, and they made the trip once a month or once a season to buy what food they needed to supplement what they grew, as well as other items they required. Beans, flour, meal—all came in huge sacks. Yes, they had to deal with weevils, but things like that didn’t bother them the way they do us.
We could learn a lot from the settlers. Things that come in small volume naturally cost more because packaging and handling add to the price. So, for items you use anyway, buy in bulk and when they’re on sale, stock up. This applies to more than food. Groceries include all those household items we have to have—cleaning supplies, paper products, personal grooming items. Even when they don’t come in large packages, they can be bought in large numbers. If shampoo is half priced, buy a three-month supply.
Some of those store brands are almost always on sale. You don’t even have to look at the sales circulars. If the item is on sale, and you’re not already overstocked, grab it.
Brand names are almost never the best buy. Advertising is built into the product. But I have to admit only one brand of toilet paper will do for me, and it has nothing to do with advertising. It’s habit that keeps me stuck to that brand, but a habit I want to keep indulging, even if it does cost more. I stalk the aisles for this brand, and if it ever goes on sale, a lot of it goes in my buggy.
Targeted shopping requires planning, but not much. You already know your menus. Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need for the entire week. Make a list of all your needs. Is there an app for that? There should be.
Once you have your list, target the store. Your neighborhood grocery store may be a better source than Walmart. If food items are better, fresher, and cheaper at one store, go there. Another store may be a better source for household items.
Consider dollar stores for non-food items, especially those that don’t have an expiration date, like paper towels. Speaking of paper towels, you do know to buy by unit cost? Appearance can be deceiving. Read the labels and compare. You can save big at dollar stores on things like napkins, wrapping paper, candles, foil, etc. But be careful of liquid anything that might have been watered down.
As you’ve probably already noticed, living richly on a budget requires being smart. The advantage of targeted shopping is you aren’t as likely to be lured into buying things you don’t need. Stick with what you know. There’s a reason you’ll find 580 varieties of the same cereal. Companies know people (especially children) want the latest and greatest. If possible, leave the children at home when you go shopping, or take the time to explain to them why they can’t have that cartoon shaped cereal.
Target the time you go shopping. Not when you’re hungry, tired, rushed, or when the stores are crowded. I don’t have to explain why. We just don’t think well under these conditions.
Resolve and Commitment
Success in any endeavor requires resolve and commitment. Developing smart shopping habits certainly do. It doesn’t help to cringe and shake our heads when that grocery budget isn’t stretched enough to cover costs with a bit of reserve.
Man doesn’t live by bread alone. God has given most of us the brains to figure out how to feed ourselves, and I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t want us to waste food dollars. Yes, it takes effort to change attitudes, but it gets easier with time. Let these two ideas get you on the road to better money management. Buy in bulk when possible and target what, where, and when you buy groceries. You might well be able to save enough in these efforts alone to buy a good used car in two years’ time.
Speaking of cars, next week I’ll discuss transportation. For most of us this is another one of those necessary living expenses. So rev your engines.
In the meantime, if you have other ideas for saving on the grocery budget, please share.