How to keep the grocery store from draining your wallet

Want to instantly save money? Start by spending less at the grocery store. Here are seven tips to keep in mind when buying food for your family.

How to keep the grocery store from draining your wallet

Want to instantly save money? Start by spending less at the grocery store. Here are seven tips to keep in mind when buying food for your family.
  • Are you looking for ways to stretch your dollars? One of the easiest (and possibly overlooked) ways to save money is to cut back on how you spend money at the grocery store. I've found implementing just a few of these tips when I go grocery shopping enables my family to keep some of that hard-earned cash in our pockets.

  • Buy in bulk

  • Many of the go-through-like-water items (like toilet paper, bread and diapers) are best bought in bulk at club stores, like Costco or Sam's Club. Also, keeping your pantry well-stocked with staple foods will enable you to eat at home more and not resort to eating out as frequently. Word of caution: make sure you price match before shopping in bulk and avoid buying produce unless you know you will go through it before it goes bad. Certain foods, like fruits and veggies, are best purchased on an as-needed basis as they expire sooner than most foods.

  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store

  • Did you know grocery stores strategically place staple food items, like milk, at the back of the store, making you more likely to loiter in the inner aisles and grab unnecessary food items? Shopping the perimeter of the grocery store will not only be better for your health (as you will avoid purchasing things like cookies, potato chips and other processed foods) but you are also less likely to waste money on overpriced impulse buys.

  • Bring a list

  • This seems obvious — but it is so crucial. Take it a step further and categorize your food in sections like dairy, bread and produce. You will save both time and money when you buy the things you need in just one grocery store trip instead of draining your gasoline budget by making multiple trips during the week. Also, having an itemized list will get you in and out — as well as keep you from lingering in the aisles of the non-essentials.

  • Buy fruits and veggies in season

  • You'll pay top dollar for produce that is not in season. Also, try to plan meals around fruits and veggies that will be easier on your wallet. Check out eattheseasons for a list of fruits and veggies currently in season.

  • Price match

  • Some grocery stores, like Wal-Mart, will allow you to price match (which basically means if you find a lower priced item in a competitor's ad, your store will match it). Price matching can save you big bucks, especially on some of the most expensive food items like dairy, produce and meat. Ask your local grocers to see if they take part in price matching.

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  • Make a meal plan

  • We've all heard the saying, "If you fail to plan, you'll plan to fail." This can definitely be applied to the amount of money spent or wasted on food because of lack of planning. If you create a set meal plan, you will know exactly what items you need to buy, thus cutting back on your trips to and from the store and preventing frivolous purchasing. Also, making large quantity meals at home (like soups, pasta or casseroles) can give your family multiple, left-over meals during the week — which will keep you from eating out as often.

  • Shop the weeks you don't get paid

  • It may sound counterintuitive, but grocery shopping on the weeks you don't get paid can definitely cut-back on spending and allow you to be more aware of your purchases.

  • On her blog, Get Rich Slowly, Kristin Wong says "Like most people, I get paid bi-weekly, and I try to do my major grocery shopping on the week that I don't get paid. That way, I don't tell myself, "Hey, I can afford these overpriced air fresheners. I'm rich!'"

  • If you feel like your family budget is taking a hit because you're overspending on your food bill, start making changes today by practicing just a few of these tips. With a little effort and planning, you will discover more money in your bank account and less stress in your home and family life.

Debbie Sibert is a Utah native and mother of three. Contact her at

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