Best Ways to Save Money on Food

by Leann Harms, Demand Media
    Save money on fruits and vegetables by shopping at your local farmers market.

    Save money on fruits and vegetables by shopping at your local farmers market.

    How many times have you left the grocery store only to retreat to your car and analyze the receipt, trying to figure out how you spent so much money? Chances are you weren’t overcharged, but you likely spent money on things you didn’t really need. Avoid the shock with your next grocery bill by learning ways that you can save money on food.

    Grocery Lists

    Unless you just need to grab a gallon of milk on your way home from work, don’t go into a grocery store without a list. You’ll find yourself getting things you don’t need and making unnecessary impulse purchases. Sit down with a paper and pen, or even better, download a grocery app to your mobile phone. Several grocery-shopping apps on the market make maintaining a grocery list easier than ever. Some can be synced up with other phones, so you’ll know if your hubby already picked up the milk.

    Menu Planning

    Plan meals ahead of time and cook in advance of a hectic workday to resist the temptation of ordering take-out food. Spend an evening together cooking up the week’s menu items and freeze the meals. It is just as easy to heat up dinner as it is to unwrap that fast food burger. Plan your lunches as well, and pack them before you go to bed. If you happen to hit the snooze button one time too many, your lunch will be ready, eliminating the need to spend extra money going out to eat for lunch. Mix it up every couple of days, so you don’t get bored with brown bagging it.

    Coupons and Sales

    Coupons and sales are designed to get people to spend money, so be wary when you see the word "save." Only use coupons on things that you absolutely need; don't buy something just because you have a coupon for it. Compare the savings with other brands to see if the coupone offers the best deal. For instance, if you have a coupon offering 30 cents off a particular brand of ketchup that retails for $2.40, while the store brand of the same size retails regularly for $2, you’re better off just getting the store brand. The same applies for in-store sales and buy-one-get-one-free items. Always compare sale prices with regular priced, lesser brands. On the other hand, you should stock up on sale items that you regularly use. Store the excess food in the freezer until you are ready to use it. Couponing websites allow you to print coupons that are typically found in the newspaper right from your home computer. Check manufacturer websites for specific brand food items that you regularly use or for new items you want to try.

    Shop Around

    Know who offers the best deals in your neighborhood and who accepts competitor pricing. Most grocery chains post their weekly ads for viewing online, so you can preview them before you head out and then itemize your list according to each store. Save time by dividing the list up and sending your spouse to one store while you go to the other. Check with your grocery store to see where they put items that are about to reach their “sell by” date. Many stores will discount these items to avoid discarding them. Buy them and freeze them.

    Farmers Markets

    Cut out the middleman and save on all your veggies in season with a trip to your local farmers market. Besides the money you can save by shopping at your farmers market, you will also be eating fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables that haven’t been exposed to the preservatives that store-bought produce may contain. Fresh produce might not keep as well, so a midweek trip may be needed, depending on how many salads you eat during the week.

    About the Author

    Based in South Florida, Leann Harms has been writing since 2008. Her design, technology, business and entertainment articles have appeared in "Design Trade" magazine and Web sites including eHow. Harms has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Florida Atlantic University.

    Photo Credits

    • farmers market image by AGITA LEIMANE from Fotolia.com