Number One: The first tip I have for you starts before you even enter the store. Take a look at your budget. Subtract all of your regular monthly bills-rent, car payments, electric, gar, etc-and what every amount you plan to spend on magazines and entertainment like Netflix and going out. The amount that you have left is the amount of money you have to actually spend on groceries for the month. If you don’t think that it will be enough, take from the the entertainment budget, because you can actually do without that. Don’t count on the credit cards. Part of living within your means is figuring out what those ‘means’ are. Now, divide that amount by four. The number that you have is what you have to spend weekly on your food and toiletries.
Number Two: The second tip is also before you you even step across the threshold of any store. Make a list. Go through the house and think about what you need. Keep most of the list generalized. Use words like ‘chicken’, ‘meat item’, ‘bread’, ‘rice’, ‘eggs’, things that will give you mental wiggle room when you get to bargain hunting in the store. Do a little mental planning for cooking. Foods that you cook yourself can be fast and easy just like the more expensive pre-packaged food. They are usually better for you as well as being tastier and thrifty. When you get to the store you will stick to the list.
Number Three: Choose where to shop carefully. If you are used to going to the trendy store full of organic foods and healthy antibiotic free chicken with cute little bags and happy trendy coffee, say goodbye to that store. If you are looking for ways to save money on grocery shopping, one of the big ways is to find the cheapest store that still sells quality produce and good meats. This may take you a couple of trips to find, and do not assume that Wal-Mart is going to be the best bargains because that is often not true. Local chains, regional stores, often have extremely competitive prices and will often have local farming and organic sections if you find that this is in your budget. This might also mean going to different stores for different items. Look for sales on the marques and in the windows of the stores, as well as local papers. A second little tip here. Where do the seniors shop? People with fixed incomes are extremely mindful of every penny that they spend. Shop where the seniors shop. One of my local stores have senior days twice a week and have fantastic sales on a few select items.
Number Four: When you get to the store, stick to the list and stick to the budget. Bring a calculator if you can’t do the math in your head, and don’t forget the taxes which can be as high as 9% in some places, even on food. For each item on your list, find the cheapest type of food that you know you and your family will still eat. Don’t buy something like pigs knuckles when your children will look at you like you’re crazy and your spouse will just end up ordering pizza. It’s okay to try new things and different cheaper brands, but be realistic. You might eat the cheap pizza, but the really cheap sausage that has the texture of sand-probably not. DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THE BUDGET! I capitalized that so that I could virtually yell it into your brain. You need to stick to the budget. If something is on sale, say chicken, sure get two or three and throw some in the freezer for later, but that still counts in the budget. There is actually not any more money that is suddenly going to appear on the money tree. You need to stick to the amount of money that you actually have and that might mean that you don’t eat steak and lobster.
Number Five: Look for the bakers rack of day old bread, and the older vegetable and fruit cart. Almost every store that has a good produce section and bakery will put the stuff that will soon be past its prime on sale. This usually happens in the morning, but not always. Check your local store. You can get significant mark downs and some quality food that you and your family can enjoy right away. Sometimes meat counters do this also, but check all items carefully
Number Six: Expand your the way you look at cooking. I tell this tip to my friends who suddenly find themselves unable to eat out three or four times a week, and the prepackaged meals are either kind of yucky or really too expensive for their suddenly smaller budget. Look for meat sales and add some recipes to your cooking repertoire. Meatloaf and casseroles have been around a long time for a reason. With a good cookbook and a little bit of practice you can make all kinds of truly yummy things that are nutritious and frugal. I like my old Fanny Farmer Cookbook. Plenty of tips and recipes that can be tried out, altered or whatever. You can cookbooks in a used book store by the rack full, or at your local library, or just look around on line for some good, new recipes to try out.