Your local grocery store is one big marketing ploy. From the way the aisles are set up to where each item sits on the shelf, everything in the store is optimized to get you (the consumer) to spend as much money as possible. It’s no accident that when you walk into a supermarket for a carton of milk and some eggs, you end up leaving with a whole cart full of groceries.
In order to save money at the supermarket, you have to be a smart shopper. Know what you’re there to get, and cut down on impulse buying (candy bars, toys for the little ones, CDs and DVDs, etc.). Plan out ahead of time what you need and how much you will spend.
If your grocery store offers a membership card, get one. These cards are almost always free, and entitle you to savings off the listed retail price of many items. Some stores also offer occasional deals, just for members.
One of the oldest tips is also the best – use coupons. Many people scoff at coupons, but they can save you real money. All it takes is a few minutes to cut them out of your local paper, and over time the savings will add up. (Kroger even lets you download coupons straight to your savings card.) Depending on the grocery store, they may also double the value of the coupons, up to a certain amount.
You can also download coupons from the Internet – many sites offer them for free, including MyPoints.com, CouponMom.com, and CouponLoop.com. These coupons can be very helpful, but be aware that some grocery stores (my local Giant, for example) won’t accept Internet coupons.
Watch the newspapers and local circulars for deals. When one store offers a weekend sale on chicken, stock up and fill your freezer. Especially for frozen and non-perishable foods, buy as much as you can store when it’s on sale.
Shop the day-old or discount aisle. Many stores will set aside products that either are not considered “fresh” anymore, or are not popular for some reason. These products are still safe to buy, but most consumers will pass them up in favor of fresh items or name brands.
Buy in bulk as much as possible. A two-pound bag of peanuts is usually much cheaper per ounce than a snack-sized bag. You can always divide it into plastic baggies at home, to portion out either for yourself or your children.
One last tip: buy generic. Many products (such as trash bags, detergent, or spices) will come in a supermarket brand that is considerably cheaper than the name brand. Often, the two products are almost identical. However, there are some cases where the generic product is of significantly lower quality. (For example, generic cereals often lack the flavor of their name brand counterparts.)
If you have children and your grocery store offers automated self-checkout aisles, take advantage of them. These aisles are almost never stocked with candy or toys, which means less for the little ones to yearn after.
Don’t shop hungry. This goes for you, your spouse, and your children – make sure everyone has some food in their belly before entering the grocery store. Shopping while you’re hungry will cause you to buy more snack or junk food than you would otherwise, and you’ll end up spending more money than you planned on.
Using these tips can save you some serious money over time. If you can afford it, put away some or all of the “saved” money and watch it add up – maybe in a few months or a year you can use it for something special that you might not otherwise be able to do, such as buying a hammock or going on a weekend vacation.