March 9, 2014

20 Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons

Since returning to full-time teaching a few years ago, I am not the couponer that I used to be. I enjoy using coupons and saving money, but I don’t have much time to match up coupons and sales.  I am still saving a lot of money though and I’m definitely getting my groceries for less money than I would if I shopped primarily at a discount store such as Wal-Mart.

Today’s shopping trip is a perfect example of such grocery savings. My grocery bill before deductions was $251.86. After the sales and savings my bill was $121.43. That’s way more than I normally spend, but I did stock up on some great deals including fish, six bags of Carribou coffee, four jars of peanut butter, and lunch meat. The coffee alone would have cost over $60.

harris teeter feb 17

We could all use some help in cutting our grocery bill so here are some ways to save without coupons:

1.  Use the buy ahead principle.  I am a firm believer in the stockpile shopping method. When things that I regularly use go to rock bottom prices, I buy extra and save it to use for later when the prices are not as low.  Many food items are at their best prices during specific times of the year. For instance, I know that in November and December, I need to stock up on cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, and chicken broth.  In January, I usually stock up on soup supplies and canned beans.

Each week, I scan over the sales flyer for Harris Teeter and I plan to only purchase the sales. Of course, I have to buy a few items each week that are not on sale, but those items are few and far between.

2.  Get rainchecks for out of stock sale items. As I mentioned above, my grocery bill today before savings was $251.86. After sales and rainchecks, my total was only $121.43. Rainchecks were a big contributor of the savings. Most rainchecks don’t expire and they allow you to purchase sale items when you need them. This saves room in your cabinets. Rainchecks also give you some extra time to plan ahead and look for a coupon.

3.  Compare prices. Sometimes the generic isn’t cheaper. Pay attention and take a few extra seconds to compare prices on name brands and generics.

4.  Compare price per unit. The larger quantity may not be the best deal. It’s best to compare price per unit.

5. Make a plan. Look through the sales flyer and begin to make a plan of the things you need and the things you want to purchase while they are on sale. Making meal plans saves time and money. I’m guilty of not making meal plans. My pantry and freezer are usually pretty well stocked though, so meal planning does get easier as you build a stockpile.

6. Use what you have. Take a look in your cabinets, freezer, and refrigerator. Make a plan to use the things that are going out of date. If you have a lot of beans and tomatoes, consider putting chili on the menu. If you have hamburger and noodles, put spaghetti on the menu. Then you will just need to pick up a few extra things to complete the meal.

7. Use your leftovers. My hubby and I are known for getting creative with leftovers. One night I made a tenderloin and we had some meat leftover. We took the leftover tenderloin and added it to some scrambled eggs and cheese for breakfast burritos. We froze the breakfast burritos to make mornings easier with the kids. I also like to freeze lunch size portions of spaghetti, chili, and soups to use for my lunches at work.

8.  Look for food mark downs.  I always check for produce and meat mark downs. About a month ago, I scored a $15 fruit, veggie, and cheese tray for only $1! I was so excited! The tray was going out of date that day but trust me, it was good for several more days. Today we bought some lunch meat that was marked down half price and also got a few packs that had store coupons attached.  Sandwiches and homemade lunchables are definitely on this week’s lunch menu.

9.  Buy in bulk. This tip may not apply for everyone, but for families this tip is usually a great idea. My pantry and fridge are running low on lunch items so it is definitely time for a trip to Sam’s Club. When I see kids at school purchasing chips for 75 cents per bag, I want to say, “That costs 25 cents at Sam’s.” I’ve had more than one conversation with my children about why they aren’t buying snacks at school.

10.  Cook in bulk.  It’s almost as easy to prepare two lasagnas as it is one. Just make an extra, don’t bake it, and freeze it for later. I also do this with chicken pot pie. Another favorite is to cook some Mexican style pork or chicken in the crock pot, shred it, and freeze dinner portions to use later for burritos, tacos, and quesadillas.  I wait to do this when I find meat at a stockpile price.

11.  Avoid convenience foods.  It might be nice to save some time, but those prepackaged and pre-cut foods can really add up. Take a few minutes to bag up a bunch of snacks for the week and you can save big.

12. Don’t be brand loyal. I have tried many different brands over the years and I can say that there are very few that I am loyal to. You can find savings in trying other brands that are on sale.

13.  Eat before you shop. If you are super hungry when you shop then you might find yourself spending too much money. Thankfully, Harris Teeter has a few samples in the store so it keeps me from feeling so hungry when I’m shopping.  😉

14. Skip a week of shopping. If you have been using the stockpile shopping method, your cabinets are probably looking great. As difficult as it is to pass up a good sale, sometimes I skip a week of shopping to save money. We use what we have at home and avoid the grocery store.

15.  Give foods more than one purpose. If you are going to have cole slaw with your barbeque sandwiches, plan to have cole slaw the same week with another meal. That way you aren’t wasting ingredients. It also saves prep time in the kitchen.

16.  Keep a list of target prices. You can keep this on your phone or in a small notebook in your purse. Keep a list of items that you regularly purchase and the target price for stockpiling. In an old post about grocery shopping, I wrote about keeping mental notes of these things. Someone teased about it and said there was no way to remember target prices. I honestly don’t keep a notebook of prices. I know that $2 per lb is my target price for boneless chicken breasts. I know that 50 cents per can is my target price for canned beans.  If you need to write it down then do so. Knowing your target prices will help you to know when to buy extra.

17.  Check your receipt before you leave the store. We get overcharged so many times and most people don’t even notice. I was overcharged today. Thankfully I checked my receipt before leaving the store and I was refunded $2.

18.  Avoid sodas, juices, and boxed drinks. We drink a lot of water at our house. We have a water softener and a water filter so we drink it straight from the tap. I have seen people spend half of my grocery budget on drinks. Those drinks add up very quickly. If you don’t want to cut out pricey drinks, budget how much you will spend on them and look for sales. I did buy one 12 pack of sodas today but they were on sale and the 12 pack will last me a few weeks.

19.  Sign up for store sales and emails. Many stores have some sort of extra savings available for customers that hold a special card or for those that sign up for their store emails. I have signed up for Harris Teeter’s eVIC and each week they send me an email with sales that are loaded to my card. Many times (but not always) these are items that I regularly purchase that are offered at discounted prices. Sometimes it might be a sale on milk or bread. Other times it might be yogurt, ice cream, or cat food.

20.  Look over your cart before checking out. Did you make too many impulse purchases? Do you have too many snack items? Sometimes it’s easy to put something in the cart but we don’t realize how many unnecessary items we have.

I know that there are many other tips for saving money on groceries such as gardening, canning foods, eating simpler, etc. Please leave your money saving tips in the comments.

Image by Karen Weideman. The image shown above is not from today’s shopping trip.


Karen

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