Making Your Grocery Dollars Go Further
We play a game in our family when we go grocery shopping where we all take a guess at the cashier of how much the final total will be – closest guess without going over wins. The winner gets bragging rights until the next shopping excursion. The process can become quite competitive and while the game is inevitably a source of amusement for the store employees, it also underscores the tension and anxiety that can often accompany a trip to the grocery store.
You may not think about it, but how you spend your money on consumables such as groceries and gas can have a direct impact on your overall financial strategy. Cash flow is so important, especially during these days of higher inflation, and you need to be mindful of every dollar spent more than ever before. Now, I am not suggesting that enjoying your life now needs to take a back seat, however there are simple tips on how you can save money on your grocery bill that can pay big rewards with a little bit of effort and planning.
- Have a grocery list: This may sound like a no-brainer, however keeping a list of exactly what you need to buy plays a huge part in keeping your costs down. A list can keep you focused and on track, and it can play a huge part in avoiding the impulse buys that can add dollars to your grocery bill. There are many great shopping list apps that are free and can be easily downloaded to your smart phone. The one we use allows us to share and update lists with other members of the family so no matter who is doing the shopping, they know the list is up to date and complete. It also stores and pre-fills regularly purchased items, a real plus when it comes to updating our list.
- Shop around: Many of us have our favorite grocery store, perhaps because of the employees, we have had a good experience there, or maybe just because it is the most convenient. Loyalty is awesome; however it is important to consider value as well. The grocery business is very competitive, with many merchants vying for your hard-earned dollar. Many of us shop at traditional grocers because they are the ones we have always shopped at. In recent years we have seen some traditional chains open more value focused subsidiaries. Don’t rush to dismiss these locations because they are perceived to be low-end or low quality. The products that they sell are often the same labels you will find in your regular grocery store but at a significantly reduced price. Remember, these retailers are required to follow the same food quality standards as your regular grocery store, their prices are generally lower because of reduced overhead, not reduced quality.
- Consider house brand products: House brand, generic, or private label products have been available for years but as inflation continues to be a struggle, retailers have become mindful of this which is evident in the vastly increased selection private label, or no-name, items. I have bought private label products for years, and find them to be just as good, and in many cases much better quality than the name brands costing much more. I am especially impressed with the proliferation of specialty and allergy friendly house-brand products that are now available. These items tend to be premium priced at the best of times, so having them now available at private label prices is a real win.
- Don’t shop hungry: We’ve all heard it, and likely have all at some point gone shopping on an empty stomach, however grabbing a snack before you hit the road to the grocery store is the way to go. According to the National Academy of Sciences, hunger can have a profound influence on your purchasing behavior. Not only are you significantly more likely to purchase impulse food items you otherwise would not even consider on a full stomach, but studies also show that hunger increases the accessibility and intention to acquire nonfood objects as well, even though they cannot satisfy your hunger. Yikes!
- Buy in bulk: When possible, buying in bulk, especially when items are on sale, can save a significant amount over the long haul. Whenever possible, I buy in bulk where it makes sense, especially with non-perishable items such as household goods, canned goods, cleaning supplies, etc. We have set up a pantry for storage, and it is much easier to manage your supply if you buy in bulk as it is easier to keep track of your inventory.
- Shop weekly: Do you ever find that when you go to the grocery store just to pick up one or two items, you always seem to leave with a couple of unexpected bags of stuff? Limiting the number of times you go shopping also limits the risk of falling victim to those pesky impulse items, or items you think you need but actually don’t. Most perishable items, if selected wisely, should last for at least a week so if you plan your list with the weekly meal schedule in mind, you shouldn’t have to make a quick trip to the store.
- Invest in a deep freeze: I HATE WASTING FOOD! UGH! One of the best household investments I have made is buying a deep freeze. There is no question that buying in bulk saves money, and this is also true for items that you can freeze. Additionally, a deep freeze is an awesome place for leftovers, baking, homemade soups – all those items that too often drive you crazy going into the compost.
- Try Couponing: Couponing is no longer something that your parents used to do. There are real savings in taking advantage of manufacturers coupons and store loyalty programs. Many grocers advertise their available coupons as soon as you walk into the store and it is worth it to take a few minutes to see what is available. Coupons are often available online, especially at big box wholesale shops, and not only do they satisfy the ‘buy in bulk rule’, the savings can be significant. Also, if you haven’t already, sign up for shop loyalty programs and store your card virtually on your phone. I am constantly amazed when standing in the grocery lineup at just how many people say no when asked if they are a loyalty member. It makes me want to show them my receipt and the $35.00 in savings I just earned.
- Use a cashback or rewards credit card: If you use a credit card to pay for your groceries, remember that the average family of four will spend $16,297.20 in groceries this year, according to a joint study published by the University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University, University of Guelph, and the University of Saskatchewan. That’s up $701.79 from 2023. Many cashback and rewards cards available in Canada offer a rebate up to 1.5%. On your groceries alone, that equates to a rebate or value of $244.48, and that is just on your grocery purchases, which is often significantly more than the annual fee for your card. Now, that being said, my advice to everyone is that paying your credit card balance in full monthly is an absolute must! The interest that you pay on your unpaid credit card balance will completely negate any savings you earn – and remember, the goal here is to save money!
Buying groceries is something that is unavoidable, and these days is too often demoralizing with the impact of inflation. If you put some thought into your grocery strategy, plan it out wisely, and take advantage of all the value opportunities that are out there, you can see immediate savings that you can absolutely take to the bank!
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