Of all the ways to save money grocery shopping, the one that comes to mind first for most people is probably using manufacturers' coupons. Unfortunately, this is not only time consuming, but it rarely saves you much money. That's because even with the coupon a given product is usually more than a perfectly adequate alternative. Unless you really want the particular brand represented by the coupon, there are better ways to cut your costs. Here are a few examples.
Bring a calculator and cash. If you need to budget for groceries, then bring only what your budget allows. If you have a debit or credit card with you it is too easy to go beyond what you planned to spend. If you have just the cash you want to spend, you'll have no way to spend a penny more. The calculator is necessary, of course, so you don't have to tell the cashier to take half of your things back. Just add things up as you go, and allow for sale's tax if it is charged where you live.
Compare fresh and frozen. There are times when fresh fruits and vegetables are cheaper and times when the frozen version is the better buy. For example, if you are buying strawberries for "fruit smoothies" that you blend up in the morning, it really doesn't matter whether you use frozen or fresh strawberries, but sometimes the frozen ones are a dollar less per pound. Now for the really good news. Frozen fruits and vegetables may have more vitamins according to some studies. This is because they are flash frozen shortly after picking, locking in the vitamins, while the fresh ones travel for days in hot and cold trucks, and then sit for days on the shelves.
Always eat before you shop. People joke about this, but it is absolutely the truth that we tend to buy more when we are hungry, and when we have more food to eat we tend to eat more. Not only that, but the type of foods we buy is affected. When we go grocery shopping on an empty stomach we often buy more snack foods that aren't as healthy for us.
Check those unit price tags. Lately many grocery stores, including the largest, are playing with prices. You might assume that the larger sizes are a better buy, costing less per ounce, but it isn't always the case. Quite often the "family size" actually costs more per ounce. Whether or not this is being done on purpose, it is common now, so check those tags to see which size is actually the better buy.
Follow the pricing patterns. Big grocery store chains regularly change prices of the most popular items for marketing purposes. For example, the 9.5 ounce box of Triscuit crackers in our local Wal-Mart is currently $2.99, the same price as the 13 ounce box. This may seem strange, but there is a reason for it that I'll get to in a moment.
Now, if you are watching those tags you might just think you should always buy the big box, the family size. It comes out to 23 cents per ounce, after all, compared to 31.5 cents per ounce for the smaller box. But here's the catch: In a month or so the price will go back to $2.00 for the 9.5 ounce box, which is only 21 cents per ounce. In fact, the price will go up and down throughout the year, so why not buy an extra box or two when it is low and stop buying when it's higher?
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