Saving Money at the Supermarket

With drought sweeping the nation’s heartland, it’s time again to look at ways to save money on that most basic of human commodities, food. No matter what the price of food, we still need to eat but there are ways to buy groceries that can cut down on some of the predictable price increases.


Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Get Organized

Walking into a grocery store unprepared is just asking to spend more than you need to. At a minimum, have a list of what you need. Not only will that prevent you from having to rely on memory, but it can also prevent you from buying items that you don’t need.

This is just me, but I like to use the list to keep a running total of what I’m buying. When I do that, I can periodically total up my purchases to make sure I’m not going over budget. That also provides an opportunity to make trade-offs — putting back what I don’t absolutely need in favor of what I must have.

Speaking of getting organized, you’ll need to in order to handle this next money saver…

Use All the Coupons You Can

Some people resist using coupons, but when grocery prices are on the rise they can be financial lifesavers. Not using them, in fact, it a lot like throwing away money.

Most of the objections to using coupons center on the fact that gathering them is time consuming, and there’s at least some truth to that. But if you can save 10% to 20% on your typical grocery bill, would that make it worth it? We save about that much and that’s why we use coupons.

Consider that if you spend an average of $200 in a typical grocery run, saving 10% of that is $20. If it takes you an hour to save and organize the coupons, think of it as “earning” $20 an hour for your effort. When you put it that way, it looks more like making money—which is exciting—than saving it, which can be boring.

Take a Pass on Shopping from Time to Time

Here’s an interesting grocery tactic I just learned about recently. It’s called the “empty cupboard method.” The idea behind it is that we all tend to accumulate food items that we don’t use that much and they just kind of collect and take up space. They’re usually non-perishables like dry goods and canned items that we don’t use precisely because we don’t have to.

Every few weeks, take a pass on shopping for the week, and instead concentrate on eating up your collected food items until they’re all gone. You use them, quite literally, until you empty your cupboards.

These items may not be your favorite foods, but there’s some money sitting in them and you don’t need to buy new food if you still have old food in your home. This will also help you rotate your food supplies more regularly, and eliminate the times when you find food items that are so old that you end up throwing them out.

Motivate Yourself — Do Something Constructive with the Extra Money

One of the negatives of saving money doing just about anything is that it can seem like a pointless act, like saving money just to save money. Often, what you need to keep yourself motivated to keep your frugal efforts going is some sort of payoff, as in an answer to the question, what is the purpose of this extra effort?

Think of it in the same way that the bathroom scale validates a dieter’s work to lose weight. The diet is the effort, and the lower weight showing on the scale is the reward.

If you’re trying to cut costs and reduce your spending, you need a similar reward. When it comes to money, the best reward is what you have left after making the effort, like a bigger pile of savings.

Use the money you save from lower grocery bills to make tangible improvements in your financial situation. You can use it, for example, to pay off debt, build an emergency fund or open a Roth IRA. The growing balances (or shrinking in the case of debt) will provide the incentive you need to be really frugal with your grocery shopping.

Sometimes a plan built on a solid motivation is all you need to accomplish your goals.

About the Author

By , on Aug 8, 2012
Kevin Mercadante
Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

Leave Your Comment (One Comment)

  1. Nor says:

    Great shopping tips for those who want an organized shopping like me. Thanks!

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