15 Expert Tips for Saving Big at the Grocery Store

saving money at groceryThe grocery store is a double-edged sword. It's a place you can't avoid as you need to feed your family -- yet it can cause an undue amount of stress with the strain it can put on your wallet each week. How do you buy quality food and other necessities without breaking the bank?

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Here, experts share their best tips and tricks for shopping wisely and frugally -- so you get everything you need each week and keep a little (actually a lot) of extra money in your pocket!

1. Stack coupons, rebates, rewards, and more: Who says you can only use one deal at a time? The only way you can find out is if you ask. "Never be afraid to ask about using multiple coupons at the register," says Joanie Demer, cofounder of TheKrazyCouponLady.com. "At Target, you can stack Cartwheel discounts with rebate offers, like those from Checkout 51 and Ibotta, as well as your free Target REDcard debit card to get an additional 5 percent off purchases." By simply asking, you can end up saving a lot more than you were expecting.

2. Learn to decode price tags: There's nothing random about how each store reduces the price of their items. And if you can learn their secrets, you can always make sure you're getting the best possible deal. "At Costco, markdowns always end in a $0.97. At Target, prices ending in $0.04 won't be marked down again," says Demer. "And at Gap, prices ending in $0.97 are known as price kills and have reached their all-time low."

3. Don't go to the store for everything: "Grocery shop online and sign up for automatic reordering to get additional discounts. Save an additional 5-20 percent by using automatic reordering from Target.com or Amazon.com," suggests Demer. "Coupons and promotions may be applied for additional savings, plus you don't have to worry about running out of everyday essentials like school lunch snacks or toilet paper."

4. Weigh that pre-bagged produce! We would never suggest that you take something without paying for it, but there are ways to get more for your buck at the store -- especially if you buy pre-weighed, pre-packaged produce. "Ever wonder if every bag of apples weighs exactly five pounds?" explains Demer. "Well, actually, it doesn't! The truth is, producers must fill the bag to at least five pounds, so it pays to weigh your bag to make sure you’re getting the most for your money! Recently, I found an eight-pound bag of potatoes that weighed a full nine pounds. That’s an additional 13 percent -- for free!"

5. Get coupons on social media for big savings. You're already on social media all day long -- why not use it for more than just updates on your high school friends and get some great deals why you're there? Many brands offer free printable coupons. Demer's top five are: Del Monte, Dole, Earthbound Farm, Fresh Express, and Organic Girl.

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6. Set a weekly grocery budget. If you know you have a set amount to spend at the grocery store each week, it will stop your urges for impulse buying foods you really don't need. "Learn to create and use a simple budget that includes categories for basic areas of spending," says Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix Operations for Freedom Financial Network. "Before you shop, determine what your monthly allocation is for groceries, make a list, and then go to the store." And if you still really want to try those expensive gourmet cookies -- just make sure you budgeted for them!

7. Seek out locally grown foods. "You’ll save up to 15 percent by
buying fruits and vegetables that are in season. While there are plenty of choices in the summer, you can do this year-round -- think about beets, Brussels sprouts, squash, and broccoli in the fall and winter, for instance," says Gallegos. "Or find a quick refrigerator pickle recipe for locally grown cucumbers or bell peppers instead of buying prepackaged. For meat, check out local farms. Try your local natural foods market or visit localharvest.org to locate farmers."

8. Prep at home. It's so tempting to pick up that pre-cut onion for your dinner recipe or buy a box of pre-cut fruit for your kids' lunchbox. But you pay for the luxury of not cutting everything up yourself. "It only takes a few extra minutes to rinse lettuce and tear it by hand, or to shred a block of cheese," says Gallegos. "Skip the more expensive, single-serving packages, too. Buy the bigger size and dole out smaller portions into sandwich bags or smaller reusable containers."

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9. Leave your credit card home. We know, paying with cash can be a pain. But if you're on a budget, this gives you the extra insurance you're not going to buy things you really don't need -- or really can't afford. "Studies show that people who pay with cash spend 15-20 percent less than those paying with credit cards," says Gallegos. "And, if you use a credit card and cannot pay off the balance in full each month, you run the risk of paying up to 15 percent interest on your grocery purchases."

10. Skip the cart for quick trips. If your hands are full, you can't grab extra items. If you're running in for, say, milk and eggs -- don't grab a cart. You won't be able to hold -- and therefore buy -- anything else!

11. Do NOT be brand loyal. "When you get caught up on specific name brands, you tend to neglect pricing," says Kyle James, founder and owner of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. "I realize some brands are non-negotiable. For example, somebody that likes Best Foods mayo is not going to buy Miracle Whip just to save 50 cents. But when brand is not a big deal, always opt for the best value, even if that means buying generic. You never know, you may actually like the cheaper brand better."

12. Make your own juice. It sounds like a pain, but making your own juice is an easy alternative that saves the environment (think about all those bottles you're no longer buying) and your pocketbook. "Just buy fresh fruits and veggies from your local supermarket or fresh-food stand and look for easy-to-make juice recipes online. A simple online search won’t cost you any money!" says Leslie Tayne, author of Life and Debt.

13. Go frozen. How often do you buy fresh fruit only to watch it go to waste? Buying frozen fruit is a great way to stretch your dollar and stretch the longevity of your purchase.

14. Ditch the water bottles. If you make a one-time purchase of a water filter (Brita is a great one), then you can stop buying packs of water bottles. "If your filter is running low, simply fill it up instead of spending money on constantly refilling on water bottles for your fridge," says Tayne. "This not only helps you save money on your budget and ensure you have the water readily available for your family but also helps the environment to boot -- a win-win all around."

15. Don't be afraid of buying healthy foods. Produce can be daunting because it can be so costly. But if you want to give your family fresh produce as part of a healthier diet, there is a cost-effective way to do it. "Consider buying lower-cost produce such as cabbage or watermelon," says Tayne. "Lower-cost fruits and vegetables decrease the total daily cost of nine servings a day by 35 percent, from $2.18 to $1.40."

 

Image via iStock.com/Steve Debenport

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