Groceries are a necessity of life, and you certainly can't avoid spending money on them altogether. Luckily, there are ways to save money at the grocery store. Some are old-fashioned ideas, like clipping coupons and buying things on sale, but some money-saving ideas fly in the face of conventional wisdom.
Buy the Whole Chicken
Many grocery stores carry a whole rotisserie chicken, already cooked, for less than the cost of a pair of raw chicken breasts. You'll save time, oven use and money when you buy the whole chicken. If you're not a fan of the dark meat, you can always use it in a soup or casserole. Smaller pieces make an excellent filling for a homemade burrito.
Join the Rewards Program
Most grocery stores and supermarkets have rewards programs. In many of them, you cannot get the sale price on items unless you join the program and present your card. It takes only a few minutes to fill out the paperwork, and the savings are considerable. Some programs also earn you special rewards, like a free Thanksgiving turkey, free milk or discounts on gasoline. Even if you're on vacation somewhere and pop into a shop, join the program to get the immediate savings.
Clip Coupons and Wait for Sales
It might seem like stating the obvious to suggest clipping coupons and buying items on sale, but it is an important, time-tested strategy. Many coupons can now be printed from the Internet. When there are coupons in a Sunday newspaper circular, there's a strong chance the same items are also on sale at the grocery store. Manufacturers deliberately plan it that way along with the stores. Review the weekly sales flyers and learn which items go on sale regularly. Once you know that something tends to go on sale once a month, you can hold off on buying nonperishable items until they're on sale.
Good Things Sometimes Come in Small Packages
While buying a large container reduces the unit cost of most items, it's not always the best buy if you aren't going to consume the whole thing. If a recipe you rarely make calls for bread crumbs, buy the smallest container you need. Check prices carefully since a smaller container on sale may also cost less per unit than a bigger one at regular price.
Bring Your Own Bags
Many grocery stores now offer you a few cents off each time you bring in your own bag and refuse the store's paper or plastic bags. Other stores give you a raffle ticket to enter a free grocery contest each time you bring a bag. Stores in Europe have charged customers for bags for decades, and some American cities have gone so far as to either ban plastic bags altogether or to place a tax or fee on them. This trend is likely to catch on, so get in the habit of carrying your own bags now. Mother Earth will thank you for bringing your own bags, too.
- Jacksonville Business Journal: Grocery Retailers Entice Customers with Reward Programs
- NPR: Consumers Spurn Dining Out for Prepared Foods
- NewsChannel 5: Women Explain How to Save by Coupon Clipping
- Daily Mail Online: The Buy-in-Bulk Deals That End Up Costing More
- ABC News: D.C. First to Impose Fee to Use Disposable Plastic, Paper Bags
Annabella Gualdoni has written newsletters and reports for corporations and nonprofits since 1994. She is a real estate professional and also teaches subjects including international cooking and travel, dating/relationships and personal finance. Gualdoni has a Bachelor of Arts in international development from University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Arts in international relations from Boston University, and a Juris Doctor from Boston College Law School.