Food · Growing Up · Shopping

Grocery Shopping 101

For the past few weeks, I’ve tried to be smarter when it comes to grocery shopping. I go prepared and try to steer away from things we don’t need. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes come home with Doritos or a bag of M&Ms that weren’t on the list.

Now I know a few people who break up their grocery shopping and go to several different stores—the ones with the best deals. I applaud people who are trying to save money, but I just don’t have the time to hit up four or five different stores and buy maybe 10 things at each in order to save an extra buck or two.

Here are some tips I’ve started to follow when I do our grocery shopping:

  1. Get a membership card at a big box store like Sam’s Club or Costco (we have one at Sam’s). They’re great for buying household items in bulk (toilet paper, paper towels, dog food, diapers, etc.)
  2. Go through your normal grocery shopping routine, then hit up somewhere like Walmart or Aldi the next time you do your shopping and compare prices. Depending on what you’re buying, you’ll probably see quite a bit of difference.
  3. Look through the weekly ad from your local grocery store. There are some great deals in there, and you’ll definitely find things on your list that are at rock-bottom prices. Stock up when items are on sale because lots of things can be frozen—even milk!
  4. Always make a list before you head to the store. And try to stick to that list—you’ll find yourself saving money without really trying.
  5. Make a weekly meal plan. I usually go major grocery shopping every two weeks or so, so I try to plan for that many meals.
  6. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. If you do, you’ll find yourself buying lots of ready-made meals that are pretty pricey.
  7. If you have little ones, try to leave them at home when you do your shopping. Kids are always asking for things at the store, and when they get older, they tend to stick things in the cart when you’re not looking and you don’t realize it until you’re unpacking them at home. Sneaky sneaky!
  8. Set a grocery or food budget. This could also include eating out. On a monthly basis, I probably spend around $250 on groceries for two people (and a dog). That might seem like a lot, but remember, paper products and beauty items count as groceries too.
  9. Do a rough running tally of your grocery bill as you shop. This way, you won’t be surprised when you see the total at the register.
  10. Keep your grocery list on the fridge and write things down when you run out. That way, you won’t be making 100 trips to the store every week. (I do find myself making multiple trips to the grocery store a week, but it’s not as many as I used to.)
  11. Always have the fixings for spaghetti and other easy meals on hand. There are nights that you don’t feel like cooking and going out isn’t an option.
  12. Buy in bulk if it makes sense. There are some things like noodles, pasta sauce, condiments, etc., that you can stock up on and won’t spoil on you.
  13. Buy frozen veggies. They last longer than fresh and almost never go bad.
  14. Eat leftovers for lunch the next day. I’ve never been a big fan of leftovers, but I find myself eating them on a regular basis more often. I’m only cooking for two, but most of the recipes I have are for four to six people. I’m not wasting food, and some meals taste even better the next day.
  15. Set aside one day a week to make “freezer” meals. These are meals that you can prep and keep in the freezer one day and thaw and cook another. If you’re cooking for one or two people, portion your meals so you don’t have to thaw an entire pot of soup for only a few servings.
  16. Get a crockpot and use it. I’m in love with mine. I think I’ve used it more than any other kitchen appliance. There are some great recipes on Pinterest for crockpot meals.
  17. Clip coupons. You don’t have to be a crazy coupon lady, but if you get a newspaper, look through the ads. If there are coupons for items you buy regularly, cut them out and save them for your next shopping trip.
  18. Switch to the store brand. Most store brands are perfect dupes for the name brand (expect maybe when it comes to Doritos…)
  19. Plan your shopping trips when the store won’t be super crowded. I get stressed when there are lots of people trying to do what I’m doing, so I tend to go mid-afternoon or later at night. I don’t enjoy bumper carts.
  20. Sign up for you grocery store’s reward card. Often times, there are sale prices that are only good for cardholders and at some stores, you can load store coupons onto your card that will automatically deduct from the total when the cashier scans your reward card at the register. Kroger, Meijer and Remke Bigg’s have these programs (even Walgreens).

And this isn’t a shopping tip, but if you have the space and the cash, think about investing in a second freezer. The extra space will allow you to stock up on more items when they go on sale, plus you can freeze more make-ahead meals.

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