If you’re paying full price for groceries, you are paying too much! Just ask Sharon Rowley, an avid coupon clipper, blogger and mother of six. “Buying items on sale, stocking up, and using coupons where it makes sense saves me 30-40% on my groceries each week.”
See related calculator: How much am I spending?
For the average American family, those habits could mean savings of about $2,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Groceries may be our third biggest household expense, but unlike a mortgage, these costs are not fixed. There are lots of ways to bring supermarket spending down.
Let’s start with coupons. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’ve come a long way--even inspiring their own reality show! Consumers redeemed nearly 3 billion manufacturer’s coupons last year--with an average face value of about $1.50 in savings.
Whether you clip coupons out of the newspaper or print them from sites like coupons.com, try to redeem them while the product’s on sale to double your savings. You can even send coupons to your loyalty card or mobile device.
Not interested in couponing? Not your thing? There are plenty of other ways to save. It starts with being organized and having a plan, says Rowley. “Menu planning is key.” She sits down every Sunday night and maps out the week’s dinner plans. And to stay on budget, she avoids going to the grocery store more than once a week.
See related calculator: What is the value of reducing, postponing or foregoing expenses?
You can’t take advantage of great deals if you don’t know your own pantry. Otherwise, you’ll likely fall for another common trap--food waste. Each year we throw out 40% of all our food, worth an astounding $165 billion!
Put your freezer to work for leftovers, says Rowley, and don’t stress too much over “best by” dates. The FDA says these manufacturer guidelines take into account extra shelf time at home, and past dates don’t necessarily mean the food has gone bad.
Then, think about how you shop. Look above and below eye level for best prices. And, don’t be afraid to buy the products you really love. “We like brand names in our house,” says Rowley. “And I find that when an item is on sale, and you pair it up with a coupon, you can usually get a better deal on brand names than on generics, unless they’re having a store sale also.”
See related story: Five Healthy Snacks Under $2
Finally, remember to check the unit price. You may not need to buy the greatest bulk to achieve the most significant savings.
Cutting costs does require a little planning, but even if you spend an hour a week, you’ll notice a real difference on your grocery bill.
What’s your savings strategy? Do you have a story you’d like to share? Find me on Twitter @veragibbons and use the hashtag, #costofliving.