Frugal Friday: Money Saving Grocery Shopping Tips

Hey ya’ll! Since we’ve moved into our shopping portion of ‘The Plan’, I thought it might be a good idea to brush up on our grocery shopping tips and tricks to help us save a little time and money at the store.
Here’s a compilation of all the shopping tips I could find (well, the good ones anyway :))…

  1. Eat before you go! Duh. But do it! You’re far less likely to make impulse purchases if your tummy isn’t grumbling at you.
  2. Make a list of what you need before you go and then stick to it. Obviously if you see something at the store that should have been on your list but you forgot to write down, then go ahead and get it. But try to avoid any of those impulse purchases that you really don’t need and really can’t afford.
  3. Shop less. Try not to go to the store more than once a week. Not only will this save gas, but it also gives you fewer opportunities to make those blasted impulse purchases.
  4. Buy ‘Loss Leaders’. These are the real bargain items that are designed to get customers in the door (stores often sell these items at or below cost). You can often identify them because they will have a limit to how many you can buy. (But don’t just buy them because they’re there. Only buy them if you’ll use them!) So check the store circulars to see what incentives they’ve got and then add them to your list.
  5. Try store/generic brands. You may like them! And if not, most stores will refund your money.
  6. Coupons. Use them if you can handle it. Some stores don’t even need coupons. You can go online and upload sale prices to their ‘frequent shopper cards’ and then just scan that at the store. Either way, try to take advantage of the discounted offers out there.
  7. Stock up when items are on sale. I know some people say they never buy anything unless it’s on sale. Props to them. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s something I aspire to. 🙂 But I do try to stock up when there is a really good price.
  8. And on that note, know what a ‘really good price’ is. Just because something is in the advertisement flyer doesn’t mean it’s on sale. And 1 or 2 pennies off the regular price doesn’t exactly constitute a ‘sale’ in my book either, although the store will often tell you otherwise. So don’t get tricked by those little gimmicks.
  9. Shop the ‘Unit Price’. Sometimes buying in bulk is actually more expensive than buying the smaller/individual sizes! So check the unit price to find what is actually the better deal. (You can usually find the unit price on the sticker shelf label that lists the package price. If not, use a calculator and just divide the total price by the ounces in the package.)
  10. Remember that higher priced items are usually put at eye-level. So be sure to check the top and bottom shelves for better buys.
  11. Avoid ‘convenience foods’ when looking for the best deal (unless they’re on a fabulous sale). Sometimes I will buy pre-packaged or pre-sliced items because my time is more important than the money. But that is a rare occasion… or at least it should be. 🙂 It is much more cost effective to buy whole items and then cut them up yourself.
  12. Check expiration dates on dairy items as well as sale items. Frequently the items on sale are the ones that are about to expire. So don’t buy it if you won’t be able to use it before it’s gone bad. You’ll just be throwing away your money… no matter how good of a deal it was.
  13. Watch the scanner when checking out. This can be hard to do if you’re still unloading your cart (or if you have two wiggly toddlers running around), but errors occur more often than many of us think. If you catch an error in the price, some stores will give you the item for free. If not, at least you avoided overpaying. If you can’t watch the scanner, you could also check your receipt before you leave the store. But for me, once I’m out of the store, if I overpaid, it’s more of a hassle to go back and deal with the issue than to lose the amount of money I overpaid by (especially if I have kids in tow and ice cream that’s ready to melt). So try to catch it right when it happens.

Alright. Well that about does it. 13 tips. A baker’s dozen. Do you have any tips that work for you? Feel free to share it with the other readers in the comments. In the meantime, enjoy your weekend and happy shopping to ya’ll!

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Food Storage: Purchasing The Food

Alright. It’s time to move on to the next step of “The Plan”, and that is… drum roll please… PURCHASING THE FOOD! This is where it starts to get real, people. We’ve got our ‘year supply’ down on paper, but now we’re going to start putting it on our shelves.
So what does that mean?! It meeeeans… it’s time to go SHOPPING!! Woohoo! This is so exciting! 😀

Alright. This is how it works…
First, you need to do an initial inventory of your food. (Use List #3 for this.) So, taking your ‘Master Inventory List’, go through all your food and write down how much you have and then how much you still need to get for each item. (And try not to get depressed if it starts looking like a lot. :))
Next you need to decide how much time you want to give yourself to acquire the needed items. If you are on a very limited budget, or a fixed income with barely any extra to spare, you’ll want to give yourself a longer amount of time. If you’ve got a decent budget to work with, challenge yourself to get it done fairly quickly. Either way, this part is completely adaptable to your situation.
Then we’re going to break our ‘items needed’ amounts into chunks… we’ll call them ‘Chunk Lists’. The number of Chunk Lists will be determined by how quickly you are trying to accomplish this. If you are giving yourself one year, you will break your list up into 12 chunks (because there are 12 months). Two years would be 24 chunks. 6 months is 6 chunks. You get the idea. How you break the list down is up to you. But here’s something to consider: try not to buy the full amount of what you need for a specific item all at the same time (i.e. if you need 50 cans of chili, don’t buy all 50 in the same month) because then they will all expire at the same time. For me personally, I like to break the list down by taking smaller amounts from each item where there are large amounts needed and dividing them among my Chunk Lists. For the items with small amounts needed, it’s probably easier to just do them all at the same time. Dividing and purchasing this way also helps you to have a more well-rounded food storage at all times. So if you were to need to rely on your food storage 3 months into this, you’re not stuck with only chili to eat… you’ve got a little bit of everything collected so far. Make sense?
And here’s a helpful way to make your Chunk Lists… just get one piece of paper for each month you’re giving yourself and lay them out in front of you. Write the name of each month at the top, and just start dividing and writing down your items. Spread them out evenly across your lists (so no single month is overloaded) and just keep going until you have all ‘needed items’ accounted for. For items that tend to go on sale seasonally throughout the year, put those items on the months they’re most likely to be on sale (so I might divide the bulk of my chili up across the winter months). Easy enough?
Alright. And finally, the last part is to GO SHOPPING! Sweet. Now there are several ways you can accomplish this. Most obviously, you can just take your Chunk List for the current month with you each time you go to the store and pick up some of the items until you’ve got them all purchased for that month. But that can be a little dull and boring. Why not make it fun?! So here’s an idea for you… make a ‘Food Storage Shopping Date’ for yourself! Set the date for once a month. If you’ve got young kids, LEAVE THEM AT HOME WITH HUBBY (or a babysitter, or a neighbor)! This is YOUR day/night/afternoon (whenever) for just you and your beloved food storage. (I know you’ve started dreaming about food storage by now, right? :)) Don’t do your regular weekly/restocking shopping at this time (unless you have to). Take just your Chunk List and then take your time going up and down each aisle, doing price comparisons, checking out the nutritional facts, checking the expiration dates… you know, all those things you never have time to do because your toddlers are in a screaming match at the top of their lungs and you’re racing to see how quickly you can get out of the store. (What?! Your kids scream in the store?! Not MY kids… they’re total angels! I always have all the time I want.) 😀 Um, ya. So like I said… it’s just you and the food. And then when you’re done, you’ve got your Chunk List done for the month and you had a nice little getaway. (Don’t forget to pick up a chocolate bar for yourself while you’re at it.) 🙂

And that’s it! Just keep going… each month pull out your new Chunk List and just keep chipping away at them until you’ve got them all done! And when that happens, I think it’s definitely time to throw yourself a ‘Congratulations- I’ve Got My Year Supply’ party. You’ve earned it. 😉

*But just remember, this will only result in a full year’s supply as long as you continue to replenish what you’re using on a regular basis. These Chunk Lists do not take the place of your regular shopping lists. They are in addition to them. So make sure that each time you pull out a jar of pasta sauce, you write ‘pasta sauce’ back on your weekly/regular shopping list in order to restock your used items. And then don’t forget to keep up with your inventories as well. 2-4 times a year and you’re good. Good luck! And HAVE FUN SHOPPING!

Wow. That’s the end of “The Plan”. I feel a little sad. 😦 *tear* No worries… there will be lots more fun adventures to come! For pete’s sake… we still have to talk about ORGANIZING the food. You KNOW good times are ahead now! 🙂