On average, we spend about 11% of our income every year on food–from eating out to buying groceries. Cooking at home can be cheaper (and often healthier) than eating at a restaurant or getting takeout, but only if you plan ahead. It’s easy to overspend on groceries, little purchases add up quickly to a huge grocery bill. Luckily, there are some easy ways to cut down on your grocery bill and protect your financial wellness in the process.
Take Stock of What You Already Have
Have you ever gone to the store for an item you need for a recipe, only to find six cans of that very thing lurking in your pantry a week later? You may have overpaid because you needed the ingredient at the moment when in reality, you didn’t need it at all. Before your next shopping trip, sort through your pantry and organize what you have on hand.
Use the Ads to Plan Meals
Before you plan meals for the week, look at the grocery ads to see what’s on sale. Base your menu around low-cost ingredients and sale items. By planning ahead, you’ll not only save time at the store, but you’ll also have a much better idea of what to budget for the week.
Leave Impulse Shoppers at Home
Do you have a child or spouse who can’t resist throwing extra items in the cart when you shop? You might have budgeted and planned down to the last detail, but ten minutes with an impulse shopper can derail your whole plan. Leave over-buyers at home the next time you shop.
Do Your Research
Compare ads from all available grocery and convenience stores. Which consistently have the lowest prices on the items you buy most frequently? Count on those stores for your staples to resist the urge to overpay somewhere else.
Watch Out for Misleading “Sales”
Check original prices before you assume a sale is really a sale. If a can of soup is usually 99 cents and it’s on sale for one dollar, don’t fall for it. Faux sales are a common trick used by a lot of grocers.
Download Coupons to Your Phone
While it still pays to clip conventional coupons, many stores allow you to download the same coupons in digital form and save them to your phone. It saves you from a lot of clipping and applies the savings in one simple scan.
Try a Cash-Back App
There are many free apps that allow you to accumulate points for cash back on your purchases. Download an app, save your receipt, and then simply scan it into the app to start earning points and rewards.
Use a Loyalty Program
Sign up for the free loyalty program for the grocery stores you shop at frequently. Many times, sale prices are only applicable when you use the card. Don’t miss out on savings because you neglected to sign up.
Don’t Shop Hungry
One of the cardinal rules of grocery shopping is to not go when you’re hungry. If you do, you’ll want to buy everything in sight. Instead, eat before you go or pack a small snack or mints to keep your mouth busy while you concentrate on saving money.
Start a Garden
Growing and preserving herbs and certain staples at home can help you save money on your grocery bill. If you don’t have room for a big garden, plant a few herbs in windowsill pots.
Buy in Bulk…When the Price is Right
Many people make the mistake of buying items in bulk and either paying more for them or failing to use them before they expire. Before you buy in bulk, compare the price per unit and make sure the item is something you will actually use before the expiration date.
Skip Pre-Sliced Items
While it might be tempting to grab a package of pre-sliced meat or veggies that have already been cleaned and cut, don’t do it. You’ll pay extra for the convenience. Instead, cut your own vegetables and take a block of meat or cheese to the deli counter and ask them to slice it.
Many stores offer the option to order online and then pick up your order in the store parking lot. It not only saves time, but it also prevents you from wandering the aisles, picking up items you don’t really need.