Grocery stores are expensive. We go to the store to buy a few items only to realize later we came back home with an empty wallet. There's no way around spending money on food. You have to eat, right? Here are a few ways to save money on that grocery bill:
- Prepare a grocery list. This, in my view, is by far the most important step before going shopping. For one, you won't forget the things you need. More importantly, having a list in hand will keep you honest and avoid temptations of buying something you don't necessarily need.
- Use a credit card with a rewards program. When using a credit card to pay for groceries, opt for a card that has a rewards programs for spending on groceries. A number of credit cards provide a set percentage cash reward on grocery purchases.
- Coupons are your friends. I don't mean the binders of coupons clipped after you spent hours collecting and sorting them alphabetically. Check out sites such as coupons.com and digital coupons at the supermarket. Combine that with sale items at the store.
- Take advantage of rain checks. When an item most people use is on sale, it sells out rather quickly. In those cases most stores offer a rain check to accommodate those who couldn't purchase it during the sale. This means you won't miss the sale price and can save a few bucks (as long as you can wait for that item to come back in stock).
- Don't go to store hungry. We have a habit of making the grocery shopping trip after work but before dinner. This is the worst time to be at the grocery store. You will end up purchasing more than you need and at times unhealthy items you otherwise wouldn't consider buying. Make it a weekend trip after breakfast or lunch with a full stomach.
- Eat what is in the season. By this I mean avoid buying foods that may not be in season. Particular produce you may be buying would have come from a distant or even international market. Those traveling costs add up quickly, and you'll see that reflected in the price you pay for it at the store.
- Stay away from inner aisles. There is a strategic reason why essential food items like dairy, produce, or deli are at the end of the store. The shoppers are forced to walk through all the aisles to get to them and often end up grabbing items they don't need. Make it a habit to go straight to the aisle you need, pick up only the items that are on your list, and get out of there without splurging on that pack of cookies you had intended to stay away from.
- Stay away from brand names. You might like a product of a particular brand, but let us not forget about generic brands. You can usually get them at a cheaper price, and a lot of the time they've got the same ingredients as the name brand. Just check out the labels to confirm it's made of all the same stuff.
- Avoid eye-level shelves. As difficult as it may be, the eye-level shelves consist of the costliest items since we see them first and make a purchase decision. Always look at higher or lower shelves, which often contain similar products at lower prices.
- Shop online and pick up in store. Prepare a list and order your groceries online. Once ready, go to the pickup area and simply load your groceries. This will not only save you time and offer convenience, but you will not have a motivation to go inside the store. There will be no impulsive purchases.
- Use the envelope system. Having a monthly envelope with money dedicated for groceries can help better manage what you buy. You will be in more control of your money and purchases instead of unnecessary items tempting for your attention.
- Avoid buying pre-packaged or prepared foods. By these, I mean pre-cut fruits and pre-packaged lettuce and salad bags. If someone else is doing what you could easily do at home, you are paying a premium price for it. Same goes for grated cheese. Buy a block of cheese and a cheap box grater. You can shred the cheese yourself and save a few bucks.
- Don't explore the international foods aisle. You must know the prices of making the international ingredients conveniently available in one aisle will surely have a hefty price. Consider exploring local ethnic stores which may actually offer better variety of the products at a cheaper price and some knowledge about the product from the regular buyers.
- Leave the over-spenders at home. We all have those around us who are tempted to buy just about everything in the grocery store. Children may often want to buy food that you don't need, and it's not always easy to say no. It's best to buy groceries when they aren't around.
The best one right now is the American Express Blue Cash Preferred. With this card you'll get back 6% at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)..