20 Ways to Cope with Increasing Grocery Prices
I’m noticing a lot of people with concerns about current grocery prices. They’re going up fast in most places. That’s hard on just about any family’s budget.
Time to work even harder on saving money at the grocery store!
That’s not easy to do if you’ve been cutting back for a long time. There’s always a limit to what you can cut back on before the decisions get really painful. So let’s go over some of the basic possibilities.
1. Buy in bulk.
This one can work great, but only if you know that you’re paying less by doing so. It can really pay to compare prices because sometimes foods are cheaper the way you normally buy them.
This also works for things like crackers, although you generally aren’t getting these from the bulk bins. Buy the large boxes rather than the snack size bags, and separate into snack size portions yourself.
2. Know when your stores have the best deals.
In my area, one store has ‘double ad Wednesdays’ where they honor both the current and previous weeks’ ads. It’s my favorite day for shopping there.
I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from knowing when and where to go grocery shopping. I look at all the ads for my area and decide which stores I need to go to. I also shop alone as much as possible so that there’s no one begging for treats or impulse purchases.
You can also ask about price matching if you want to cut back on running around town. Some stores will do this, others won’t. But it never hurts to ask.
3. Cut back on prepared foods.
Many prepared foods are significantly more expensive than the cost of their ingredients. I no longer buy most spice or marinade mixes as I can do just fine on my own for less. I don’t buy premade foods that I can handle on my own.
Fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables also go farther than you may think. On the whole they are much better for you, and cost less. In some areas you can go even cheaper at the farmer’s market. Just check the prices carefully, as some farmer’s markets cost more than the grocery store.
4. Weigh prebagged produce.
When you buy fresh produce, such as apples, onions or potatoes, you often have the option to buy a prebagged selection. They may be labeled at a certain weight, but due to the natural variations in the product, these weights do not tend to be exact.
Pick a bag that looks good to you, and check the weight. You should be able to get a good amount for your dollars this way.
5. Buy generic when reasonable.
Sometimes generic foods are made by the same companies that make the brand name products. If you’re not sure of the quality, buy a package of whatever generic product you’re considering and give it a try. If it tastes good enough to you and your family, you can save quite a bit.
Just remember to watch out for brand name coupons that sometimes bring their prices to below that of generics.
6. Don’t go overboard.
It’s easy to overbuy when you see a good deal, whether it’s a sale or a coupon. But especially on foods that tend to go bad easily, don’t buy more than you need. There’s a lot of food waste that is simply due to people buying more than they and their family can possibly eat before it goes bad.
7. Have storage space for real bargains.
Sometimes you will see real bargains at the grocery store. If you have an extra freezer or a lot of room in the pantry, it can be worthwhile to get extra of foods that either freeze well or take a long time to go bad. You can still go overboard on stocking up if you aren’t careful, but if you’re seeing significant price increases in your area, having some extra on hand can’t hurt.
8. Keep a price book, or keep the numbers in your head.
Anything you buy with any regularity at all, you should know what the normal price is and what the usual sale price is. Most foods go on sale pretty regularly, and you don’t want to pay full price unless you have to. At the same time, if it’s a particularly good sale, you want to know so you can decide what, if anything, to do about it. Maybe you buy extra, maybe you just tell some friends.
9. Avoid non-grocery items at the grocery store.
One thing I’ve long since noticed is that I get much better prices for non-grocery items when I go to Target than when I check their prices at the grocery store. Not every time, as sometimes the grocery store will do a good sale, but often enough that it caught my attention.
Target and Walmart also both have at least small grocery sections in their stores. You may be able to get good deals on food in those areas. I’ve had good luck with Target’s cereal selection when it comes to getting a good deal.
When it comes to cleaning supplies, stores like Target can be a great choice, as can making your own. There are a lot of homemade cleaning supplies you can make for much less than it takes to buy them, and hardly any extra time spent.
10. Know when the meat is marked down.
This one can be challenging, but it can mean significant savings. I know that the Albertson’s in my area used to mark their ground beef down at about 8 every night. Then it changed to around 9 at night. Now they seem to do it first thing in the morning.
This means great deals on ground beef. In my area, ground beef that generally runs over $3/lb gets marked down to $1.50/lb. That’s actually a price increase, as they used to mark it down to $0.99/lb. But it still beats $3-4/lb.
Bakery products also get marked down. You can generally figure out where they keep the rack of slightly older baked goods if you want to get a good deal.
11. Know the price per unit.
Most of the time, buying more means a better deal. This is why people like to buy in bulk.
However, sometimes you actually increase your cost. Fortunately, most grocery stores have the price per unit, pound or ounce on the price tag in small print. Take advantage so that you know where the best deal is. This can be good information to add to your price book so that you know when to buy something other than your usual size.
12. Check your receipt.
Price errors in grocery stores are probably more common than many suspect. Not all of the errors will be in favor of the store, but if they are, you definitely want to get the price corrected.
13. Eat your leftovers!
Sure, lots of people find leftover food boring. But they can make for great, cheap lunches. If you’ve otherwise been throwing away your leftovers, you’re essentially getting that lunch for free.
14. Figure out how to cook around your schedule.
There are a lot of ways you can make cooking dinners at home easier, even if you come home exhausted from work.
You can cook in advance over the weekend. Just prepare the parts of the meal that freeze well, cook them during the week or even a month or more in advance, then place in the freezer.
The crockpot is another great alternative. You can start your food in the morning when you aren’t so tired from a day at work or taking care of the kids if you’re at home, and have dinner waiting for you.
Similarly, you can chop vegetables in advance and store in the refrigerator. It makes things go a lot faster if you don’t have to do all the chopping for a salad or stir fry or any other meal.
15. Don’t shop tired or hungry.
A standard piece of advice, but ever so true. Being tired or hungry means your resistance is down and you are more likely to make impulse purchases.
16. Use coupons wisely.
Don’t use a coupon to buy things you wouldn’t otherwise have bought. Contact the manufacturers of your favorite products and ask if they have any coupons to send to you. Find coupon swap groups.
17. Consider the occasional vegetarian meal.
You don’t have to cut meat out entirely unless that’s your preference, but some vegetarian meals cost less to prepare than those that have meat in them. It can be worthwhile to invest in a good vegetarian cookbook. Even going meatless once a week can make a difference.
18. Buy frozen vegetables.
Frozen vegetables can cost less than you would pay otherwise. They go on sale pretty regularly, and of course they keep a good length of time.
One advantage I find for them is that I can use them when I’m not out of other ingredients and not quite ready to go to the store, but I need vegetables. Since they don’t go bad quickly, they can help me to extend the time between trips. This can help to cut down on excess spending and food spoilage.
Kids often love eating frozen vegetables. Mine will pour a bunch into a bowl and eat them, still frozen. I did the same as a kid. They just taste better that way.
I’m not so fond of canned vegetables. Many varieties have added sodium, although others do not, and to me most don’t taste as good. Your experience may differ.
19. Learn to make your own cake, pancake, etc. mixes.
If you love your pancakes or other such foods that you normally buy a mix for, consider learning how to make a mix on your own. This can save you quite a bit of money, and you may find some variations you really enjoy.
This particularly saves you money if you love frozen waffles and such. A waffle iron can be bought for as little as $30 if you don’t have one already.
20. Start a garden.
Starting a garden costs money, especially the first year when you have no gardening supplies at all. But over time you can save money and enjoy produce far superior to what you can buy at the store.
You don’t have to live in a house with a big backyard to garden, either. Many people have small container gardens in their kitchen to grow herbs such as basil for cooking. Others place somewhat larger containers on patios and grow tomatoes and other vegetables that grow well that way.
If you’re still struggling with your grocery budget after doing everything you can, it’s probably time to cut other areas. I posted some time back about daring yourself to save money, and in times like these it’s something to think about.