When you're living on a shoestring budget and still trying to build up your savings account, weekly and monthly expenses can be killer. You cut back on everything you can afford to, from date nights to insurance policies. But the one thing you can't cut out is the groceries. After all, you have to eat. Whether you're cooking just for yourself, eating with a partner, or have growing children to feed it can be difficult to see where cuts can be made in your weekly grocery trip.
Today, we're here to help. This article is all about ways to make your grocery trips more affordable without asking your family to skimp on necessary nutrients and calories. There are three strategies you can implement depending on what works best for your lifestyle and budget.
Coupons and Local Deals
Coupons have been a staple of thrifty grocery shopping for centuries, and there are many different ways to find them.
You might be able to sign up to receive coupons for local stores in the mail, in your email, or through a community center. You can clip them from the newspaper, find them online, or visit your local grocery store and ask what coupons they have available. You can even find them stuck like stickers onto the groceries themselves sometimes.
Local Store Discounts
Many grocery stores also offer membership cards that include special weekly, monthly, and seasonal discounts. Seasonal discounts can also be found in holiday/seasonal displays, but be careful about these. Sometimes the displays are just promotional, to encourage impulse-buys and sometimes they are helpfully discounted. Catch the discounts, resist the impulse-buys at full-price.
Check out your options and use everything available to you.
- Coupon book circulars (arrive in the mail)
- Email list discounts
- Grocery store membership
- In-store discounts
- Seasonal deals
- Online coupons
Surplus and 'Day-Old' Discounts
Another great way to get discount groceries is to look for surplus opportunities. These also come from a variety of sources.
Day-Old Baked Goods
Day-Old discounts are easy to find in your local grocery store, bakery, and certain bread brand outlets. These are an opportunity to snag bread and other (often very tasty) baked goods that are not quite stale. Perfect for big families that eat bread quickly. Or you can freeze the bread and it will be fresh as the day you bought it when thawed on the counter or toasted.
Grocery and other food outlets may also have surplus stock available, things that may expire soon and won't sell in time. You can get these at a discount or even for free depending on the opportunities you find. Check with store managers, clerks, and supply-room managers to find out.
Finally, there is a sharing economy app called Olio where your neighbors can share surplus groceries and large quantities of leftover food. Whether someone's emptying their pantry or had an under-attended BBQ, this is a great opportunity for groceries on a budget. Who knows, maybe you'll wind up sharing your leftovers in the future on the same app.
- Day-old baked goods from any local bakery or bread outlet
- Surplus discounts from grocery stores and restaurants
- Olio food sharing app
Buy Frozen and In Bulk
Our next tips (and those following) is more about strategy than specific discounts. Many families buy food in a way that is less than cost-efficient out of habit, tradition, or not knowing how to improve.
Dry Goods in Bulk
One of the best ways to save on groceries is to plan ahead and buy raw ingredients in bulk. For dry goods, look for the largest possible packages (consider a CostCo membership) that will save. This is particularly effective when combined with your own large sealing plastic bins to keep massive amounts of cereal, rice, pasta, flour, and so on fresh over months.
Frozen Bulk and Freezing Sale Items
Also, frozen food is often (but not always) less expensive than fresh. Especially for seasonal things like berries and specific vegetables. Buying a large bag of mixed fruit and another of mixed vegetables can fuel your recipes all week without the expense of the produce department. As for meat, look at your price options. If a large bag of frozen chicken is cheaper than fresh, go with that. But when fresh is cheaper (on sale or specific cuts of meat), buy in bulk when it's affordable and use freezer bags to stock up.
A note of caution: watch out for price per ounce/pound/unit. Sometimes there is 'filler' (like bread crumbs or fat you will trim) that will determine the actual best deal.
- Buy in Bulk
- Stock Up During Sales
- Buy Frozen When Cheaper
- Freeze Fresh Bought in Bulk