41. Save $200-$400 per month – Save money on groceries

This article contains a comprehensive listing of ways for you to save money on food and groceries.

If you have a family, it is probably cheaper not to buy ready-made foods and prepare meals yourself. Don't waste money on prepared foods. Instead, prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them, or double a recipe when cooking, and freeze the second for a hectic day coming up. If you purchase the ingredients in bulk and cook in bulk you save money, however if you live alone and have to buy all the individual ingredients per meal, it may be more interesting to buy ready-made food.

If you live alone, it may be cheaper to buy ready-made foods instead of buying food groceries: buy cheap sandwiches for $2-$3 from sandwich bar, french fries, pizza from store. This is probably cheaper than to buy all the individual ingredients for preparing food, otherwise your meal will cost you $10 per person easily. You can calculate how much you spend on food groceries, and find out how much the cost is per meal over a 30-day period, so you know how much you really pay for food. Even fast food like Burger King or McDonalds, at $6 is sometimes cheaper than buying individual ingredients, preparing meals, cook and end up with $10 cost per meal. However, the traveling is also a cost, so you could go to a fastfood-chain once and buy for 2 meals, so you have enough food for the full day. The time you spend on buying the individual groceries, cooking, and cleaning the dishes is also of consideration. At least, you don't have to cook yourselves when buying ready-made foods.

If you go on a diet and get 3 cheap sandwiches per day, or 2 pizzas per day, you may end up with $10 per day of meals, instead of $20-30 per day when using the purchased ingredients and cook to prepare meals. Trying to eat on 12 cents? Two words: Ramen Noodles.

Check a store’s online price before you go in to the store. Sometimes, the online price is cheaper than the store price. So just have the store match their online price.

Eat less meat. For the nutritional value, meat is very expensive, especially as compared to vegetables and fruits. Simply change around your regular meal proportions to include more fruits and vegetables and less meats – eat a smaller steak and a bigger helping of green beans, for example. Not only is this a healthier way to eat (saving on health costs), it’s also less expensive.

Become vegetarian --you'll live longer, healthier and cut back on all those ridiculous doctor and hospital bills.

Wait for end of season sales: Pick up next year's bathing suit for a fraction of the cost at the end of the summer.
Also buy items in bulk if the discounts are significant, here is an example; Walmart recently had a sale on 2 liter bottles of Coke. Regular price: $1.50. Sale Price: 98 cents. There was no limit on quantity so I bought 12 bottles. I estimated a consumption rate of 2 bottles per week. Our normal purchase was 2 bottles, so I purchased 10 extra bottles. You have to stock up on items that are for sale at great discount.

Buy generic products whenever possible: Does it really matter whether your cereal is made by Kellogg's or is the store brand? Does it matter if your milk is Oak Farms or the store brand? For a few things (like soda in particular), I prefer brand name products. For others, I do not mind generic store brands if they can save me money. Find what works for you and switch to generic brands for at least a part of your grocery list.
For example, you could buy 20 cheap razors for $2, instead of 8 expensive razors for $20.
Or buy cheap hair-gel of $2 instead of brand hair-gel of $6. Buy cheap, non-brand food products rather than brand products and save half on food purchases.

Price check before buying anything expensive: For other items that are expensive, do a price check before buying the item. If you can wait for a while you can track the prices and grab a great deal when it comes along. Frequently available online coupons make it even more easy to save some money. This is especially true while purchasing any electronics.

You can save hundreds of dollars a year by comparing price-per-ounce or other unit prices on shelf labels. Stock up on those items with low per-unit costs. You can also shop with a calculator  to calculate price-per-ounce or price per unit costs of goods at the grocery store.

Avoid impulse buying: Make it a habit to avoid impulse buying. Many of the things you want to buy do not seem all that necessary, if you only you wait for a day or two. Also, waiting means you will be able to check prices and make an informed decision to buy it at the best possible price.

Master the thirty day rule. Whenever you’re considering making an unnecessary purchase, wait thirty days and then ask yourself if you still want that item. Quite often, you’ll find that the urge to buy has passed and you’ll have saved yourself some money by simply waiting. If you want, you can even keep a “thirty day list” where you write down the item and the day you’ll reconsider it, but I prefer just to keep this one in my head – that way, I often just forget about the unimportant things.

Master the ten second rule. Whenever you pick up an item in order to add it to your cart or to take it to the checkout, stop for ten seconds and ask yourself why you’re buying it and whether you actually need it or not. If you can’t find a good answer, put the item back. This keeps me from making impulse buys on a regular basis.

Avoid the vending machines: Almost everything that is dispensed via vending machines has a huge markup (and is rarely healthy). However, if you suffer from snack attacks at work, consider creating a secret stash of snacks. If you like drinking soda and have a fridge at the workplace, save a refrigerator pack in the fridge with a post-it with your name on it. If you have a long commute, consider a stash for the car as well and avoid a quick drive-thru visit.

Drink more water. Not only does drinking plenty of water have great health benefits, water drinking has financial benefits, too. Drink a big glass, or a bottle of water before each meal, and not only will you digest it better, you won’t eat as much, saving on the food bill. You’ll also find yourself feeling a bit better as you begin to get adequately hydrated (most Americans are perpetually somewhat dehydrated).

Do holiday shopping right after the holidays. Most people use this technique for Christmas, but it works for every holiday. Wait until about two days after a holiday, then go out shopping for items you need that are themed for that day. Get a Mother’s Day card for next year the day after Mother’s Day. Get Easter egg decorating kits the day after Easter. Get wrapping paper and cards and such the day after Christmas. The discounts are tremendous, and you can just put this stuff in the closet until next year, saving you a bundle.

Try generic brands of items you buy regularly. Instead of just picking up the ordinary brand of an item you buy, try out the store brand or generic version of the item. Likely, you’ll save a few cents now, but you’ll also likely discover that the store brand is just as good as the name brand – the only difference between the two, often, is the marketing. Once you’re on board the generic train, you’ll find your regular grocery bill getting smaller and smaller.
The highest markup items on the shelves are at about chest level. Reach up or kneel down to select the cheaper house or generic brands.

I use cleaning cloths and handkerchiefs instead of buying expensive paper products. It's amazing how the things we're used to having can be replaced with something else and can save considerably on our shopping bill.

Don’t overspend on hygiene products. For most people, inexpensive hygiene products do the trick – for example, I just buy whichever toothpaste is the cheapest, and the same goes with deodorant and the like. The key is to use this stuff regularly and consistently – bathe daily, keep yourself clean, and you’ll be just fine. No need to buy a $40 facial scrub if you actually scrub your face properly. You do NOT need your nails and hair done, do it yourself and SAVE.

Shopping at Costco of Sam's Club - A local leading consumer magazine recently calculated that Costco and Sam's Club prices were approximately 37% lower than retail store prices for comparable items. I have compared prices myself and agree with this figure. This means that if you spent $63 on groceries at a warehouse club, those same groceries at a regular supermarket would cost $100. In effect, you are saving $37 on your $63 investment, for a rate of return of almost 59%.
Hire someone to shop at Costco for you - If you don't have the time or interest to shop at Costco now, you could potentially pay someone to do monthly shopping there for you. If your helper buys $128 worth of groceries and other necessities that would have cost $200 at the regular grocery store and you pay them $20 for the Costco shopping trip, then you are in effect earning $52 on your $20 expense of labor costs.

Use Sam's Club Click N' Pull Service - Sam's web site has a feature where you can order your groceries online and they do all of the shopping for you. They send you an email when your cart full of goods is ready to be picked up and paid for. Best of all this service is completely free. If you are self employed like me this is a real time and money saver.

Buying necessities on sale. Everybody need things like toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, right? When you buy items at a 2 for 1 sale, you are getting a 100% return on your money. If you buy a tube of toothpaste for $2.49 and get one free, then you are earning $2.49 on your initial $2.49 investment. That is a better rate of return than you can get even in most bull stock markets. This works only if you buy necessities and the price of the item hasn't been increased to cover the sale. Many stores have loss leader sales to attract customers. Take advantage of these loss leader sales and stock up when you can.

Shop for less expensive clothing. One way is to buy off the clearance racks at Kohls, Gordman's, etc. Another way, and this may not be for everyone...is to purchase clothing and shoes at second hand stores and garage sales. My main purchase at these places is shoes. Clothes bought from thrift stores.
Buy clothes at Goodwill, they often have new merchandise. Buy used clothing, or at least shop the sales--and stop trying to be so fashionable.

Donate unused clothing items to charity and enjoy the tax deduction.

Do laundry more often rather than buying more clothes. Buy a few stylish outfits every Boxing Day and wear the crap out of them, then discard them a year later; this way you will always be wearing your most favorite, newest clothing, and need less closet space.

Never shop at the supermarket without a shopping list and the weekly store sales flyer.

Stock-up items. When I see an item(s) on sale that I use a lot, I stock up. That means everything - food, paper towels, toilet tissue, soups, vegetables, etc. Food shop with knowledge. Know the price of thing so you know when a deal is a deal. Stock up when there is a REAL sale. Do not just do all your shopping at one location. That does not mean going from store to store on one shopping trip. After awhile you will have enough of the sale items at home so you do not have to get everything at one time.

Grow your own veggies. And were going to grow our own veggies this year. $5.00 seeds, I'll be eating organic home grown.

Don’t shop while hungry. Don’t shop hungry, and that goes for any kind of shopping. If you’re in the grocery store, you’ll grab more and spend more; if you’re somewhere else you’ll probably spend more than you planned getting something to eat. Carry a snack in your purse or backpack.

My favorite tip is to defer any unnecessary spending and purchases till you can afford to pay it in full. By following this tip, our family has been able to cut down our budget by 30% compared to how it’s been in previous years.

Another great way to save money is to haggle. You can often get a discount just by asking for one. I’ve asked for a discount twice at Discount Tire and each time got an additional 10% off. I blogged about my experience on how to Save Money Haggling At Discount Tire. Reader’s Digest also posted a great article on the subject of haggling titled How to Haggle Like a Pro.
Ask for a discount even if you don't have a coupon at a local merchant. If you are a regular customer of a dry cleaner, a shoe repair store, or even a mechanic, ask "is this the best price you can give me?" The first time a shopkeeper gives you a 20% discount just because you asked, you won't be shy anymore.

Ask a retailer to match another store’s best price.
“It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t shop impulsively,” says Sue, who reads reviews, looks for promotions, uses rebate points from debit cards, and isn’t afraid to ask a retailer to match another store’s best price.

Use Ebates for up to 25% cash back: Ebates is a free online coupon site that offers up to 25% cash back from top online stores like Target, eBay, Barnes & Noble, and the Gap. Registering on Ebates is free and takes just seconds. You can get more details at the Ebates website.

Get cash back when you shop: Technically you’re not getting money, but you’re getting money back on purchases you would have made anyways. The cool thing is, this is on top of any discounts/coupon codes you already have. The two best sites that offer cash back on your online purchases are Ebates ($10 free signup bonus) and Swagbucks ($5 free signup bonus).

Treat yourself every once in a while. Just as with diets, a strict budget plan is likely to cause you to slip and "binge" if you don't treat yourself now and again. Keep it in moderation, but if you've been dying to get that iPod all year, don't go without forever. After all, there should be some reward for saving all that money, remember that you can't take it with you.

Buying a book or CD as a gift? Check out eBay's Half.com - you can typically find the title you are seeking for at least 25% cheaper than in stores. Plus the flat-rate shipping keeps costs down.

Shop for a cheaper pharmacy:
"For the first time, I have collected coupons for grocery store items, transferred my prescription to a new pharmacy to take advantage of a $25 check and cut costs in other ways," says Forte, who is expecting a baby.

Basically there are 4 forms of buying:
- Buying as a need, not an investment (such as toilet paper)
- Buying as a need, investment (such as house, car)
- Buying as a want not an investment (such as ipods, toys, gadgets, most clothing)
- Buying as a want an investment (such as jewelry, collectibles, antiques)

When people learn to only buy on an as needed investment basis only, they can start saving again. Americans, especially women, buy stuff to make themselves feel better. When the mind is right, shopping is not required.

Make enough dinner to bring leftovers to work for lunch. Buying your lunch during the work week can be very expensive. Even if you only spend $5 on lunch, that is at least $125/month.

Make your coffee at home and take it with you in a spill proof mug. Buying coffee on your way to work may cost you $75/month.

If you drink cola instead of coffee, buy it at the grocery store and take it with you to work. If you buy bottles of soda from a vending machine at work, it is generally at least twice as much as buying it in a six pack or case.

Buy a water filter and give up bottled water.

Clip coupons, but compare with generic brands before buying. Many times generic brands are cheaper even when a coupon is used. Log on to your supermarket's online home page for coupons. Try for triple plays. That's when you use a manufacturer's coupon and a store's own coupon.
You can save a ton of money clipping coupons providing that you only use them to buy what you need and match with what your store has on sale.

Always keep a running grocery list on your refrigerator so that your list won’t be missing anything and you won’t be tempted to make extra trips to the store.

Trim your food bill by as much as 19 percent simply by shopping at a couple of different stores. Take in consideration travel time and fuel costs to visit the different stores. If you are going to go to more than one grocery store to save money on certain products, be sure to consider the cost of gas if you are going out of your way.

Shop early in the day. You get through the store faster with your list and spend less.

Avoid purchasing non-grocery items, such as painkillers, contact lens solution, etc., at a grocery store. You usually pay more.

Check your receipts. No matter how careful you or the store staff might be, mistakes happen.

Always send in for the rebate on a purchase whether it's $2 or $50. It all adds up.


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