Weekly, daily and last-minute trips to the grocery store add up quickly, blowing your food budget out of the water even before you’ve crossed everything off your list. Between fluctuating food prices and your family’s ever-changing needs, it seems frustratingly impossible to save money on your grocery bill. But by tweaking your meal planning, implementing coupons and taking advantage of sales, you can whittle down your grocery bill and still satisfy your hungry family.
Shopping with a list is great, but you can do more to save you money before you hit the food aisles. Start with a thorough check of store sales ads; remember, you don’t have to be loyal to just one store. Shop around for the best deals and let the sales dictate your meal planning as much as possible, advises SouthernLiving.com writer Jennifer Beeler. Plan for leftovers, which can easily be the next day’s lunch or an ingredient in another dinner.
Once your meal planning is complete, MoneyCrashers.com writer Casey Slide advises creating a list of items you always need and keeping it updated so your list is already started the next time you have to shop.
Use paper and electronic coupons
Coupons are like free money, but only if they apply to items that you really need or plan to buy. Slide warns that a coupon does not give you permission to buy impulsively.
Don’t be a brand snob
Some brands are better than others, no doubt, but some generic or store brands can hold their own against a name-brand item. Instead of shopping with your brand blinders on, Beeler recommends looking “beyond the label and compar[ing] the ingredients.”
Resist convenience items
Pre-packaged meals, cut-up produce and prepared veggies will save you time, but convenience will cost you. Instead, focus on ingredients and prepare as much as you can at home, advises TheBalance.com writer Erin Huffstetler.
Be season savvy
Fruits and vegetables are building blocks of a healthy diet, but fresh produce can be a high-ticket item, especially if you shop off-season, explains Beeler. Select in-season fresh greens and fruits to stay on track with your diet and budget.
If you can’t deny your out-of-season craving, Beeler suggests scanning prices on frozen, dried and canned produce, which should ring up as a better deal.
Crunch the numbers
Attention-grabbing sales stickers don’t mean you’re getting the lowest price available. Instead, zero in on unit prices, recommends Slide.
“You need to not only compare different brands, but also different sizes. While buying a bigger package often costs less per unit, that is not always the case,” she writes.
Check the record
In the hustle and bustle of checking out and bagging your items, it’s easy to miss if a price rings up incorrectly. Take a moment to review your receipt for pricey errors, advises Huffstetler.
You’ll save big on your next trip to the grocery store when armed with a solid meal plan built around the best deals, a list that you diligently follow and a keen eye for value.