Everyone wants to save money, right! I don't know about you, but grocery is shopping is my biggest variable money drainer. It's not a fixed amount (like rent or a mortgage) and can vary quite a bit. I'm always trying to save money at the grocery store, but it's hard....because we gotta eat. And, just about 100% of our food is made at home. We rarely, rarely, rarely eat out, Ben takes a packed lunch to work every day,the kids are all homeschooled, so just about all of our food consumption is from the grocery store (or the Farmer's Market or the little bit I'm able to grow at home).
I have a long way to go yet, but here are some tips I've learned about saving money..without using coupons. Not that I have anything against coupons, it's just that I rarely find coupons for things that I buy and it's not worth it for me to buy the papers or hunt for coupons, when I rarely find something I can use.
It's important to keep in mind that the amount of money you spend at the grocery store will vary a lot, it depends on your family size, where you live and what types of food you eat.
Just to tell you a little bit about our diet...we eat a gluten-free diet with almost no processed or convenience food. I tend to buy foods with very few ingredients, and only things I can pronounce and know what they are. Certain foods I am fairly picky about...we only eat sausage without nitrates, jelly and bread and tomato sauce without high fructose corn syrup and yogurt without artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and preferably full-fat. We do not eat all organic, it's too expensive and may not be worth it.
So, here are 7 ways I've found to save money while grocery shopping.
Cut out or limit foods that have high cost to low nutritional value and satiety value. Like bacon. No..wait....don't hit the unsubscribe button just yet. Bear with me here...most "cheap" bacon is terrible for you, full of nitrates and other junk. The natural bacon is more expensive, and sorry...but while bacon tastes great, it doesn't provide a lot of nutritional value, it's not a very filling food, it's basically just an extra. Which is okay in small amounts, but when you are trying to eat healthy and limit grocery costs, you can't have too many extras. We buy bacon only as a "treat" and not as regular food.
Think about the cost/value of a food before you buy it. This is why I rarely buy things like green/red/yellow peppers or a lot of berries. They tend to be very expensive and while they are nutritious and super yummy, we just don't have a lot of room in our food budget for them, except if they go on major sale during season. So, things like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are definitely a "treat food." It's why most of our produce consists of grapes, apples, bananas, potatoes, onions, garlic, kale, mustard greens, lettuce, green beans, zucchini, collard greens...all depending on the sales. Those tend to have high nutrition, but generally are cheaper items. And, we tend to be very seasonal in our produce purchases...I buy peaches in the summer and winter squash in the fall.
Do buy things which are more expensive, but provide high nutritional and satiety vale. Like avocados. Avocados are super filling and super yummy. A $1 avocado is going to go a lot further than a $1 red pepper, so choose the avocado over the red pepper. And then be sure to use it, before it goes rotten.
Sometimes paying more is better. I pay more to buy full-fat Greek yogurt. When I see it on sale, I stock up, but the full-fat Greek yogurt is way more filling and nutritious (about 3x the protein) than regular yogurt. The extra protein is definitely worth the extra price in my opinion. I'm sure I could save even more by making my own Greek yogurt,and I've gone through periods of making my own yogurt, but I just can't get it as thick or as creamy as the store-bought kind. And, we love our yogurt thick and creamy. It helps to think of cost/nutrition, rather than just cost/oz. The full-fat Greek yogurt is much more filling and satisfying than the other stuff, so by paying more, we actually spend less on other things. If we eat regular yogurt for breakfast, everyone is hungry again a little while later, but if we eat full-fat, Greek yogurt, we are satisfied until lunch time.
Stock the sales. If you see non-perishable (or even a slightly perishable) item on sale, stock up...especially for things like peanut butter, natural jelly, tomato sauce. Butter, eggs and cheese tend to last awhile as well, so if you have the space in your fridge, stock up when you can. I've read that most items go on sale every 4-6 weeks. So, if you have the space to buy enough of an item to last 4-6 weeks, you can save a lot of money.
Let the amount you spend vary. Some weeks I spend $250 at the grocery store, and other weeks I spend $50. It really just depends on what we have and what I need and what the sales are. If I see a lot of good sales on meat, I stock up. If we have a full freezer and pantry, then I just buy the necessities. Usually a heavy-spending week is followed by a light-spending week, I try to balance it out over a month, but I don't worry if I spend more one week because there are tons of good sales. I know I will spend less, the next week.
Shop around. There is no one store that is cheapest for everything. There just isn't. Some things are more expensive at one store and cheaper at other stores. So, the best thing to do is shop around and stock up on the cheapest items when you are at a particular store. For example, in my area...Trader Joes is the cheapest for gluten-free pasta, so I go there about once a month and stock up. The Food Lion near us is cheapest for cheese, milk, eggs, peanut butter and frozen veggies so I tend to buy those items there. The Kroger, a bit further away, has the cheapest and the best produce, as well as good prices on tomato sauce, natural jelly, beans and meat so I have started to do weekly shopping there, but buying things like cheese, milk and peanut butter at the Food Lion near us (which is easy enough to do, as we drive past it almost any time we go anywhere, so it's never out of the way).
Buy in Bulk...but only things you use a lot of. I buy gluten-free flour blends in bulk off the Internet, I also tend buy cheese in bulk because I use those a lot. I don't buy things like rice or beans in bulk, because we don't use those enough. I know I should, but we just don't use those things in any great quantity. I figure it's only worth buying something n bulk, if it's something we eat on at least a weekly basis.
Linking up with Jen who wrote an awesome book called Something Other Than God. Actually I haven't read it yet, but if it's anything like her blog, I'm sure it's awesome, so you should buy it, read it (and then let me borrow it. :)).