How can I save money on groceries?

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Answered by: stacie, An Expert in the Savings on Groceries Category
I think most of us have been there. You are looking for something to fix for dinner only to open up your refrigerator and pantry only to find the shelves empty. To make matters worse, there are still five more days until pay day! Does this sound familiar?

As a stay-at-home mother of two young children, this is a situation that I myself am all too familiar with. What if I told you that I have discovered ways to save money on groceries and keep your kitchen stocked long enough to make it to the next pay day? Well, I have. And don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to spend hours clipping coupons. Not that I am against coupons. I still check the Sunday paper for coupons and savings at local grocery stores.

What I am going to share with you goes a few steps further. I’m not going to lie to you, saving money can be time consuming and requires a good deal of research and careful planning.

For my household, I do a big shopping trip once a month to stock items needed for the whole month. I focus mainly on staple items such as meat, grains and canned food. All of these items are first on the list. I then focus on items that will likely need to be replenished week by week such as milk and produce. After that I sit down with my family to plan meals and determine what everyone wants to eat for lunches and snacks. I then look through the kitchen to see what items are still needed.

After the list is completed, the research begins. I will then go through that Sunday paper to see if any needed items are on sale and/or if there are any coupons available for those items. Here is something very important to remember: coupons are only beneficial to you if they are for something you are already planning to purchase. It is very easy to fall into the trap of spending more than you normally would just because you have a coupon. Coupons are normally for brand name items. If I have a coupon for something, I check to see if there is a store brand equivalent to that product at a better value. I have often found that store brands are just as good, if not better than products sporting a brand name.

This is where careful research comes into play. As part of my preparation for grocery shopping, I look for sales at the local stores where I usually shop . I also take note of which stores usually have better values on specific items. While it is much more convenient, grocery shopping does not need to be done all in one place. My shopping trips will, at times, take two to three hours to complete because I normally go to four different stores. One store may have the best value on meat and another store may have the best value on produce. I also take into account how close the stores are to one another. The four stores I normally shop at are all within 5 miles from one another. I likely wouldn’t travel to another town 30 minutes away to shop at a store with a good sale, because then the money saved would be used on gas, which kind of defeats the purpose.

In addition to careful planning and research, I have also discovered some very helpful websites that assist with saving money and at times even help you to get money back! Here are some helpful sites that have apps that you can download on your mobile device. The two apps I use most are Wal-Mart Savings Catcher and Ibotta. A few other examples are Groupon, Checkout 51 and Savingstar.

By taking my time to research prices and savings as well as utilizing rebate apps and planning ahead, I have developed a great system for saving my family money. I hope you find these tips useful to help you begin to save money on groceries. Happy savings!

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