Top 5 Ways To Trim Our Grocery Bills

Mar 25, 2014: We decided to optimize our grocery expenses and pull the strings on our food budget even tighter. So we spent some time researching on ways to cut down our grocery bill. In the process we discovered some fascinating facts. Economic Research Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has compiled data showing that an average American spends more than 30 percent of their monthly budget on food. If we crunch the numbers we'll see that our national grocery bill is more than $2 trillion annually!

The first image that comes to our mind when we think of grocery savings is clipping coupons. But that gives us only a limited mileage. From past experience we've seen that we need to be aware of the following to devise a game plan for maximizing our savings:
  • A list of our needs (not wants) for a specific time window
  • Type and quantity of the product(s) we intend to buy
  • Where to purchase it - local store or warehouse
  • Availability of coupons and deals
  • Comparison of unit prices to determine whether to buy small or in bulk

1. Stockpile sale items - Plan to buy grocery for a month or more Stockpile Sale Items

Earlier we used to plan our meals for a week and then prepare our shopping list for groceries. But over time we realized that if we could plan ahead for a month instead of a week, we could take advantage of the non-perishable goods on sale. On further research, we found that most items are on sale just once every 12 weeks. It might be a good idea to save coupons from Sunday newspapers to look for pattern specific to your locations.

Example: We use organic canned lentils for cooking entrees. Usually, the regular price of a 15 oz can is $1.50. Say on a particular week, there is a sale going on whereby these cans are being sold at a discounted price of $0.89 each. We stock up for 3 months which gives us a saving of 40% over the regular price. By the time our stock is exhausted, the 12 week cycle is over and we are ready for the next sale to stock up more cans.

2. Compare unit prices Compare unit prices

We've been conditioned to think that bigger is better. But often we've seen that supermarkets trick us by selling larger sizes of a given item at a higher price. Most of us don't bother to check the unit prices so we end up paying more! Now-a-days most stores have the per-ounce or per-unit price on the shelf tags. So we've made it a habit to check the unit prices before putting the item in our shopping cart. Also, it might help to carry a pocket calculator or smart phone to take care of the items whose per unit prices are not present on the tags.

3. Be alert for pricing errors Be alert for pricing errors

Often we've seen that when a cashier scans purchased items there are discrepancies with respect to the published prices. In such cases we promptly bring the cashier's attention to the errors. Usually, a store associate is called for checking the published price of the concerned item and then a correction is issued. So it pays to be alert during the scanning process.

National Institute of Standards and Technology, a government agency, states that price discrepancies in favor of stores affect 2% of items, costing consumers nearly $2.5 billion annually! Depending on the location of the store, you may be entitled to more than a correction of the mistakes in prices. The state law in Michigan mandates that if a consumer is overcharged, one is entitled to a discount on that item worth 10 times the discrepancy, up to $5 total. Some supermarket chains (e.g. Food Lion) may give an incorrectly priced item for FREE.

4. Skip the supermarket - Shop at more than one store Skip the Super Market

Most of us are often running short of time. So we may end up buying ALL our groceries from a single supermarket. But over time we realized that this habit burns our hard earned dollars. Prices are often lower at stores where groceries aren't the primary focus.

For example, prices for snacks and cereals tend to be lower at super stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart. Nowadays some of these chains are willing to accept competitors' coupons too! Similarly BJ's, Sam's Club and Costco offer some cool bargains on spirits, milk, processed foods, toothpastes, soaps and over the counter medications. However not every item sold at warehouse is a good deal. We need to be careful about what not to purchase.

Sometimes we get great email offers from online vendors. So if we are planning to buy in bulk, we check the prices in the grocery section at or other online stores. Often there's no sales tax, and some purchases qualify for FREE shipping. Online purchases save gas plus the time and energy spent in going to a store to get stuff. The best part is we can shop from the comfort of our home.

5. Read the Fine Print Read the Fine Print

Time and again, life has taught us that it pays to read the fine print. Often we scanned through our Sunday coupons by glancing at the pictures without taking care to go over the words. Thanks to a friend who showed us how we were throwing away savings by doing so. The wording on the coupons have a lot to say. Some coupons say "good on any." That usually means that the coupon is good for any product from the same brand or manufacturer.

Another mistake that we've often committed is that when multiple items are offered for a promotional price, say, two for $5, we went ahead and purchased two items. Unless it is specified in the fine print we're not required to buy the full amount to get the sale price. So if we'd purchased one item instead of two, we should have still gotten the sale price of $2.50!

Adhering to these tips have saved us hundreds of dollars annually. We hope that our findings and experiences help you to save your hard earned dollars.

If you have some cool grocery savings tips, please leave a comment. Thanks for sharing :). Happy Savings!

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