Note: this post is Part Three in an ongoing series. You can read previous entries here.
One of the best ways to reduce your spending as a single-income family is to lower your grocery bill. Fortunately, it's not hard, and you don't have to become one of those scary Extreme Couponers you see on TV!
There are a few simple steps you can take to start saving right away. As you become more comfortable with bargain hunting, you'll naturally become more proficient, and your weekly grocery bill will plummet. In a few weeks, I'll also be sharing some frugal cooking tips which should help you save even more in the kitchen.
Accumulate some coupons. There's no need to dumpster dive or use a professional clipping service to start a decent coupon collection. Subscribe to the Sunday paper, check coupons.com a few times a week, and let your friends and family know you'd be happy to have any coupons they don't want. Sort them into a few labeled envelopes (meat, dairy, vegetables, frozen foods, etc), and you're all set.These tips have helped me save hundreds of dollars a month on our grocery bill. The best part is, this is only the first step on your savings journey. Next week, I'll show you how to save BIG TIME on personal care items and toiletries - without a lot of hassle!
Read the weekly circulars. Some people recommend going to every store every week, and buying up all the best deals. Personally, I think that's a waste of time, unless the deals are incredible. You're better off just checking the circulars every Sunday, then visiting one or two stores with the best deals.
Make a list. As you read your grocery store ad(s), take note of any good prices you see, then check your collection for matching coupons. Whether you actually decide to buy an item that's on sale will depend on a few different factors: whether you have a coupon that makes it even cheaper; whether the item is a staple in your family's diet, something you enjoy eating occasionally, or something you would never usually buy; whether you know you can get it for a much better price at another store, and so on. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what to buy. Just be sure to write down everything you plan on purchasing (I like to jot the price down next to each item, as well). Don't forget to include pantry staples you'll need regardless of whether they're on sale (milk, eggs, produce, and so on).
Plan a menu. Take a look at your grocery list, then check your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Ask yourself, "What can I make that uses the sale items on my list, plus the stuff I already have on hand?" You probably won't be able to come up with a complete menu using only those ingredients, and that's okay. Just choose meals that include as many of your sale and on-hand items as possible, then add any additional ingredients you'll need to your list. For instance, if you have ground beef on your shopping list, tortillas in your freezer, and salsa in your pantry, you may want to buy some refried beans and have beef and been burritos.
Don't be brand loyal. Sometimes you'll be able to get your favorite brands at rock bottom prices, by combining coupons and sales - and sometimes you won't. In that case, it just makes good frugal sense to try different brands (including private label or "generic" items). Choosing foods by price, rather than the names on the box, will often save you a dollar or two per item - and that really adds up! Plus, you may discover that you can't taste a huge difference between premium brands, bargain brands, and even no-frills store brand items.
Be vigilant at the store. When you get to the grocery store, buy only what's on your list. Don't roam the aisles checking out new products, and don't give into your kids' requests to buy everything they see. Simply purchase the items you need, and leave. Believe me, those little "extras" (a bag of chips here, a box of cereal there) can really add up!
Stick to your menu. The hardest part of frugal meal-planning is actually following your menu throughout the week. This is why it's so important to choose meals you enjoy, which can be prepared in a reasonable amount of time. Personally, I'm much more likely to order takeout on any given evening if I don't like the meal I have planned, or if it takes hours to prepare.
For more money-saving tips, visit Life as Mom.