The grocery store can be a money pit if you’re not careful. The average U.S. household spends 13 percent of its budget on groceries, and many of us go well over that. With some planning, though, you can take a bite out of that bill and still get the foods you want.
Here are some tips for holding onto your wallet while walking the aisles:
Sit down in advance with your cookbooks and favorite food websites and plan the meals for the week ahead of time. Then go through each recipe and make a note of what you already have and what you need to get. Sites and apps like Food on the Table and AllRecipes.com will help facilitate the process of planning and also give you meal ideas.
Make a List
The corollary of planning meals is making a list. In addition to the list you make while looking at cookbooks, keep a running list on your refrigerator, adding to it as you think of items you need over the week.
Make Fewer, Larger Trips
One weekly shopping trip instead of many smaller trips will save you money, both in what you buy and in the fuel and time you use getting there and back.
This oft-given advice really works. When you’re hungry, you’re likely to buy more — and many items that you don’t really need. Having a good meal before shopping will help you limit those impulse purchases.
Your willpower is greater when you don’t have children, partners, spouses or friends along on your shopping trip. Shop by yourself to stay focused.
Keep a Price Notebook
Keep a notebook of prices for frequently-purchased items like milk, bread, eggs and apples at various stores. This will help you to make an objective choice about where to shop, and it will also let you recognize a true bargain when you see it.
Check out the Farmer’s Market
Just about every community has one now, and it just makes sense to shop there. You’ll be buying directly from the farmer, meaning that prices are lower and the produce is fresher. Shopping at the farmer’s market also forces you to eat foods when they’re in season.
Look at the Unit Price
Most grocery stores list the unit price on the shelf tag, and pay attention to this number when comparing items. Usually, larger containers will have a smaller unit price.
Bring a Calculator
Having a calculator on hand will help you to compare prices and let you add up your total as you go. Inputting those numbers will also make you more aware of what you’re spending before you get up to the register.
Check out the store’s sale circular, and plan your purchases around it. Stores will have several items on the front of the circular that are especially good deals. Consider stocking up on those. And don’t be afraid to ask for a rain check if a sale item you’d like is sold out.
Check out the coupons in the Sunday paper, and use SundayCouponPreview.com to get a sneak peak into what coupons will be in the offing each week. Also take a look at some of the many sites with printable coupons, such as Coupons.com, CouponMom.com and RedPlum.com.
Find a Community
As with any endeavor, it helps to have a support group. Many sites are devoted to frugal living and saving money, such as TheDollarStretcher.com and Living on a Dime. You can also find local frugal living groups through Meetup, on Craigslist, or at the bulletin board at your public library.