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5 Ways to Avoid Overspending at the Grocery Store

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Woman paying for groceriesIt goes without saying, we all want to stretch our money as far as it can go yet we’re still overpaying at the grocery store. For most Americans, food makes up one of the largest expenses in the budget next to transportation and housing. So, if we could shave just $20 off our weekly grocery bill, it could save us up to $1,000 per year. All we really have to do is look at where grocery stores are making their money and then be honest with the simple fact that we may just have some bad shopping habits.

5 ways to avoid overspending and actually save money at the grocery store.

Big Family, Bigger Store (?)

Well, a bigger store for some things, that is. If your family makes regular purchases of items like cereal, canned goods, diapers, laundry detergent, batteries & pre-cut/pre-made food, you’ll pay less than at a smaller grocery store. The key to saving here is by  comparing price per ounce (use a cell phone to punch in a few numbers). At stores like Costco, BJ’s & Sam’s Club, you will more than make up for your membership if you add up the pennies saved over the year. Why are stores like Aldi’s able to charge lower prices over smaller, local stores? Branding. Danielle Parks with Aldi’s says, “By only carrying our ALDI exclusive brands, we don’t have to pay the marketing and advertising fees that are associated with national brands.” One exception: keep on the lookout at your local grocery store if they offer buy one get one free items as you can rarely go wrong those sales. Overall, your larger food outlets offer lower prices on many high-quality grocery staples. You really can’t go wrong from a frugality sense by cooking your way through a 55lb bag of rice that costs less than $20. The other benefit is their prices remain dependably consistent around the country so no sticker shock no matter where you’re shopping.

Stop Paying For Star Power

Brand name items are usually marked up higher, much higher, than the store brands. Nowadays, store’s offer a great range of high quality products under their own labels. While you may have to do a little experimenting with the generics, you’ll find that brand name foods don’t cost more because they’re better, they’re just better known. Do you really want to pay more for your oatmeal’s popularity? “All food manufacturers follow standards to provide safe food and beverage products of high quality,” says Robert Earl, director of nutrition policy for the Grocery Manufacturer Association. Many well-known grocery companies buy national-brand products made to their specifications and simply put their personal label on the products. Tip: read the ingredient list on the generic brand’s food label and then compare to the name brand item to ensure you’re getting the most for your money.

Do Your Research, Hone Your Math Skills

By doing a little research in local flyers (paper or online) prior to shopping, you could help shave quite a bit of money off your food bills. Usually there are a few grocery stores in your area and by reviewing the sales at each you can decide which one to visit based on what you need. Be more flexible with your eating habits and plan meals around what’s on sale. This can greatly lower your grocery bills, especially if you also use coupons offered from the store. And don’t toss the Sunday paper! Imagine it having a $10 bill attached to it because you’ll find at least that much in savings in coupons. All grocery stores offer “buy one, get one free” items which is a technique to get you to buy twice as much as you need at only half the price. Tip on the BOGO’s: At some markets, the product rings up at only half-price so you actually don’t have to buy more than one to get the savings. And don’t forget to research grocery chains such as Kroger or Publix to sign up for customer loyalty programs. Incentives usually include double coupons, members-only hours, savings on gasoline purchases, etc. Also check out UPromise.com, which is a free service that ties your grocery store spending to college savings accounts for your kids.

Organics

Everyone loves the feeling that eating organic produce provides a health benefit over conventionally grown fruits and veggies, but one thing everyone can’t argue with is: organic comes at a price. Organics can cost us 30 to 50% more than regular produce largely because organic producers are smaller, have smaller markets and don’t receive the same subsidies as other growers. But if you’re still concerned about pesticides then it’s worth paying more on organic items that tend to be highly contaminated when grown conventionally. The Environmental Working Group’s 2012 “Shopper’s Guides to Pesticides”, at ewg.org, provides  lists of produce with the highest & lowest percentages of pesticides. This will help you decide on items worth the extra money and which provide limited benefited to shelling out more. To maximize on organic savings enjoy shopping at local farmers markets and get to know the owners. They may offer regulars special discounts and clue you in on upcoming special products they will be offering.

Convenience = More Money

The closer food is to being ready to put on the table, the more you’re going to pay. When buying prepackaged, sliced, or pre-washed products expect significant mark-ups. We understand, a few convenience items in the cart is a matter of necessity and/or sanity but remember, the less preparation you do at home, the more you’ll pay at the store. So, it’s back to doing that good research thing and find as many coupons as you can on convenience items to minimize overspending. Overall, by engaging in a little more food prep at home, you’ll definitely save money – and boost nutrition – by not shopping regularly for processed foods, cookies, snack foods, and soda.

And allow us to close this with a final warning: Always watch the scanner at checkout and never shop while your hungry. Both could possibly make you spend more than you ever should. It’s less daunting unloading the car when you get home if you’re not fretting over the grocery bill.

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