When last I left you, you were learning how to save money at the grocery store with the first part in this series. Were you able to incorporate any of my tips into your shopping this week? I hope so! Here are some more money saving tips for how to budget at the grocery store.
|Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
1. Store Brands
When I was younger, there was a stigma to buying store brands. The economy is different now, and store brands have, for good reason, experienced a surge in popularity. Still on the fence? I have found that 8 out of 10 times the store brand I’ve purchased is just as good, if not better than the same name brand product. In an article published in October 2010, Consumer Reports found that store brands were often as good as name brands. Try some out and see for yourself. This is a painless way to save money while shopping
How much can you save by shopping store brands? Well, lets use cereal as an example. My local Safeway sells a 12 oz box of Special K with Red Berries for $5.29. An 12 oz box of Eating Right Wheat Flakes with Strawberries (Safeway’s brand) is $3.49. That’s a savings of $1.80 just on that one box of cereal. Imagine how that adds up if you do this with other items as well.
I recommend buying store brands, especially when there is no sale or coupon for the item you wish to purchase. Often times, if there is an item on sale, or you have a coupon, you can get the name brand for cheaper than the store brand. So you see, you don’t have to give up name brands entirely.
5. Convenience Foods are Not Really Convenient
I think a common problem people face is having too much to do and not enough time to do it. I know I suffer from this, and my solution used to be to buy a lot of convenience foods. But I realized that we were paying for the convenience. If you can make/assemble something cheaper than it costs to buy it already made, doing so can save you serious bucks. You don’t have to take this to the extreme and mill your own wheat, but if you can eliminate some of the steps involved in preparing a food, you can save money.
This weekend we were at Trader Joe’s and I noticed that they sold ready made pizza dough in a plastic bag in the refrigerated section. It was $1.29 and we decided to try it. At home we added some sauce, cheese, veggies and a few pepperoni slices. I can’t imagine we added more than $2 of additional ingredients. For a little over $3 we had a 12 inch pizza that was delicious and pretty easy to make. Think of how much it would have cost to buy or order a pizza pie and you can see how all this can save you money.
There are occasions when we are all pressed for time and grab something quick and easy. There is nothing wrong with doing that once in a while, but if you can invest a little time and make something yourself you will see your grocery bill getting smaller each week.
6. Buy in Bulk
Most people I know belong to a warehouse club. Whether you belong to a Costco, Sam’s or B.J.’s, you know that buying bulk can save you money. I am a Costco member so I can’t speak to the other clubs’ experiences, but most operate in a similar fashion. While there is a cost associated with warehouse clubs, smart shopping will make the cost worth it, because of the savings over the course of a year.
Costco has memberships priced at $55 and $110. The $110 membership is an Executive Membership which includes a 2% annual reward on most purchases. $110 is steep for a membership, but it all depends on how much you will be going to Costco and what you will be buying. If you don’t anticipate any large purchases for the year ahead, and you don’t buy a lot at Costco, you will lose money on this deal. Stick with the $55 membership. We have gotten the $110 membership the last few years because we buy a lot of staples for our big family at Costco. We have always gotten enough in the annual reward to make up for the additional cost. If you are one the fence some folks have been told by Costco that if the Executive Membership doesn’t pay for itself they will refund the difference. Check with your local store.
Keep in mind that not everything is a great deal at warehouse clubs. Do some comparison shopping. Sometimes you’ll notice that you will find some items cheaper somewhere else. We have priced out the individual cost of bulk items at Costco (to the point of figuring out the price per baby wipe!) and we only buy items there that are cheaper than they are elsewhere. So be careful what you buy.
A downside to warehouse clubs is that people tend to buy more than they might normally, and perishable items go to waste. It’s easy to go in and buy something you never intended to buy because they were giving it out as a sample. My advice: sample, but bring a list and stick to it. Also, make sure you will can finish everything before it expires or gets stale. You don’t need a 5 pound bag of cheese balls.
If you don’t want to pay a membership fee, but you still want to buy in bulk, check out a store like Smart and Final. This store sells things in bulk, but doesn’t have a membership fee. You may not find everything you would at a big warehouse or the amount of savings, but it will cost less than buying regular sizes at your local grocery store.
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving and we will be taking a week off from Thrifty Thursday. But be sure to join us again on Thursday, December 1st for the final part of this series. We will be covering saving money with Coupons. There will be a lot of great ideas on ways to save, so please come back!