A Survivor's Perspective

Saving Money On Groceries

Keeping the Cash Out of Your Cart
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It seems like every time I go to the grocery store lately, it is costing me more and more. Most of us are habit shoppers. We tend to buy the same things over and over again, but the prices are going up anyway. I have a few helpful hints, to try to stem the outflow of our hard earned cash.

Never Shop For Groceries When You Are Hungry

This is kind of an intuitive knowledge, but life gets in the way. Many of us shop on our way home from work, when we are most hungry, tired and vulnerable. We grab what is close, colorful and quick, usually without even looking at the cost. Think about it a little, we are in a hurry so we rush up and down aisles barely looking; just grabbing things off the shelf, usually at eye level and arms length. Color attracts us, especially when we are a little tired; bright colors are easy to spot. We also want the convenience of pre-made or close to pre-made so what we are having for dinner will be done quickly. So keep in mind when shopping

Close + Colorful + Quick = Costly

If at all possible, change your schedule so you can shop at a time when impulse buying is less likely and buy plan-ahead items. Incorporate cooking all meals one day a week into your schedule and freeze so you always have something nutritious on hand.

Shop From A List.

I suffer from what I call mustard memory loss. I get to the store in the condiment aisle and say, do I HAVE mustard or do I NEED mustard. I can’t remember which, so I err on the side of caution and buy the mustard. I now have five jars of mustard in my cupboard. (Good news is, mustard doesn’t spoil. Fortunately I don’t have milk memory loss). Shopping from a list also cuts down on the close, colorful and quick method in step 1.

Pre-read the weekly flyers, this will give you ideas of what is on special so you can plan your menus and lists accordingly. Don’t get scared off by the preplanning and using coupons. I know this can be extremely cumbersome for some of us. Hang in there, it does get easier (Maybe I will have some helpful hints in upcoming organizing posts on this subject). PS If you have a super Walmart, they honor all stores weekly specials

Double Check Everything

We have so many things on the market today and a lot of it looks the same. I think they must have twenty different Cranberry Juice items now. Cranberry mixed with other flavors (unless the flavor is vodka, I’m not really interested in these), regular Cranberry, Light Cranberry, Anti-oxidant Cranberry. In “hungry after work mode”, I grab a couple of bottles that are next to each other and get home only to find I have one regular and one flavored Cranberry — and I haven’t gotten the vodka flavored yet — which means I either have to take the item back, drink something I don’t like, or dump it down the sink. Cranberry juice was the one think I could think of off the top of my head, but you know you have done the same thing with other items.

Supermarkets are charging more for fruits, vegetables, meat and fish produced in the US and/or certified organic. The fact that they are charging more is ok, if it is true. But don’t trust store signs, the signs don’t always correspond with the food close at hand. Check the labels directly on the food items for countries of origin and organic certification by OTCO (Oregon Tilth and non-profit organic certification organization) or USDA Organic.

Also, double check the unit pricing. I have been finding lately that the larger items are not necessarily the less expensive by unit price.

Sales and Specials

Everybody likes sales and to think they are getting a bargain, but bargains are not always what they seem. Many times stores will give volume discounts on items; i.e.; 10 for ten dollars. First find out if you can purchase individual units for a dollar, instead of buying all ten. Next, and this is important, CHECK THE EXPIRATION DATES. I’ve been caught more than once buying 10 bottles of marinades or salad dressings to discover that, short of bathing in them, I won’t be able to use half of them prior to expiration.

Don’t buy an item just because it is on sale or you have a coupon. When I first started using coupons, I would buy anything I had a coupon for. (Lucky for me my neighbor had a cat). If you don’t really like Rice Crispies, but they’re on sale and they’re “ok” sometimes, DON”T BUY THEM. Almost guaranteed at least half a box will end up in the trash.

Stay Away from Ready Made

Everything comes ready made now, even pudding, and ready made costs money. When did we stop chopping our own vegetables, cutting our own cheese and baking our own brownies; or more importantly, why? I remember doing this stuff when I was a kid; and it was fun. Pre-cut, pre-packaged and pre-sliced is much more expensive. Yeah, yeah nobody has time for this kind of thing anymore and, after all, time is money. WAKE-UP CALL, time is only money if you are using that time for something that is producing money. Most of us are just watching TV with it. Time is truly a precious commodity so incorporate these functions into family time. Young children would love to help you with some of these chores, it is a great time to talk about daily activities and the house smells great when baking your own cookies. Or, give yourself some alone time. I find it very relaxing cutting up fruit for fruit salad and it gives me a sense of accomplishment when I’m finished.

Buddy Up

Buddying up can mean different things for different circumstances. If you have a young family, buddy-up with a friend. Let her watch your kids while you, SHOP ALONE and do the same favor for her. Your shopping time and frustration level will be cut in half and you won’t have all that fun food that mysteriously shows up in your cart at checkout.

If you are single, or a family of two or three, or seniors, buddy up with another “little” family. My neighbor and I share celery, onions, garlic and other fresh produce. We also split buy in bulk and multi-item sales merchandise.

Checking Out

Leave all the yummy candy bars and pretty pictures on magazines right on their racks. These are extremely high profit items for the store and will add significantly to the cost of your groceries. But you already knew that. Now having said this, you may, just this once, want to grab one those chocolate bars, you may need it. (Oh, Suze Orman is going to love me for this one!)

The Best Way to save money at the grocery store is to PAY IN CASH!
(Yikes!, I can’t believe I just said that)

Sadly it is true. And, why, you ask? Because you are forced to stick to a list, a budget or a plan.

You may say, “but I don’t use a credit card, I use a debit card and that’s just the same as cash”. But I beg to differ with you. If you go up to the register and you are over by twenty bucks using a debit card, no big deal. If you have cash and go over by twenty bucks, you have to decide what to put back, while everybody in line behind you is making a face and emoting loud sighing noises.

So now, let’s see what this cash thing can save you. If we spend an average of $100 per week, going over your limit by twenty percent, or a mere $20, using your debit card (and trust me you will) will cost you $1,044 dollars per year.

Using a credit card and making minimum payments, at 21% interest rate will cost you the $20 extra impulse buying plus an additional $39.20 in interest and take you 2.8 years to pay. So a year’s worth of this extravagance will cost you an additional $3090.20. (No wonder we keep getting caught in the credit card trap)

I know in this economy, we sometimes don’t have a choice and have to use credit cards, but please keep this added cost in mind and trim your list back accordingly and don’t forget to add in the sales tax.

Saving on groceries can take a little time and some effort, but like everything in life, with practice you improve. Try making a game of it – How much did I save this week? What creative things can I make? Am I using more of what I buy and wasting less? In no time, it will become second nature to you.

If this article made you smile a little, you’re still doing ok – so please donate a little to your local food bank and help a neighbor out.

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