10 Ways to Save on Groceries … Without Clipping Coupons

Hate clipping coupons? There are plenty of other ways to save on groceries.

One of the largest expenses for most budgets is groceries. As much as we want to save money on food, it can feel next to impossible — that is, unless you want to sit and clip coupons.

While using coupons works for many, it is just not an option for some. Of course, if you do clip, these are additional things you can do to increase your overall savings. Here are a few of them.

1. Shop Store Brands

There is a common misconception that store brand means lower quality. This is not true. In fact, many store brands are the exact same name-brand product, just with a different label on the front.

2. Look High & Low

When you shop, the most expensive products are usually placed at eye level. You will often find less expensive items on the very top or lower shelves.

3. Avoid the End Caps

People are drawn here, and when they see items, they often assume that because they are on display, it must mean they are a good deal. Check the original and competitor prices to make sure you’re really getting a bargain.

4. Don’t Fall for Gimmicks

There are some common gimmicks stores use to help trick you into spending more. Here are two you will want to watch for:

  • Buy quantities at a set price. For example, if you see something priced at 2 for $5, you do not have to purchase two items, you can buy one. Be sure to check any details.
  • Purchase limits. When you see terms like “limit three” next to a display, it makes you think that if there is a limit, it is a must-have item.

5. Redefine Dinner

There is no rule that says you have to make a huge three-course meal every night of the week. It is OK to have soup, sandwiches or even salads for dinner. By making simpler meals, you can save on the food you need to purchase, thereby dropping your grocery bill.

6. Shop the Right Day

Many grocery stores offer “short-sales” which are one-, two- or three-day sales. If you shop on one of these days, you will not only get those additional discounts, you will also get the regular weekly deals. Doing this will put you in the store just one day a week, which can absolutely help you save money.

7. Change Things Up

If you have more than one store near you, why not try a different one? If you can split your trip and shop the sales at each of them, you can save on your overall grocery bill. Of course, if they are not close, take into account the time and fuel you’ll spend on making two trips.

8. Make a Menu & Shopping List

By planning a menu and a shopping list, you not only know what you will need to purchase at the store, you’ll feel more organized when you get home from work and need to prepare dinner. You might check out my menu plan and shopping list forms.

9. Shop on a Full Stomach (& Alone if You Can)

If you have ever shopped when you are hungry, you usually find that you toss in additional items you normally would not purchase. If you shop when you are full, you will be more likely to stick to your list.

It is also easier to not purchase additional items when you shop alone. I realize this may not be an option for a lot of families, so just make sure that you shop once everyone has already eaten. You can also ask your kids to help you find certain items, which will keep their minds on what you need.

10. Shop in Season

When you shop produce, only purchase the in-season items. For example, black grapes are in season during the summer months. Sure, you might find them during the winter months, but you will pay a premium, as they are more difficult to get into your store.

Looking for more tips for lowering your food bill? Here’s 7 ways shopping like a chef can help you save. And, for more smart spending reads, visit Credit.com’s personal finance learning center.

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9 Ridiculously Easy Ways to Save Money in the Kitchen

save-money-cooking-meals

If you’ve ever tracked how much money you’re spending each month, you’ll know that one of the biggest categories you can overspend on is food. In this day and age, we love our modern conveniences. But things like pre-packaged convenience foods, going out to eat and just not planning ahead when you go to the grocery store can wreak havoc on your monthly spending.

I’m the mother of 7 kids, and I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past 17 years. One of the ways that we have been able to afford to do this is by cutting corners in the kitchen. Here are some of our favorite tricks.

1. Don’t Wash Produce Until You’re Ready to Use It

Did you know that if you wash your produce it won’t last as long? There’s nothing worse than opening the produce drawer to find the strawberries you were going to use slimy and moldy. Instead of washing it when you get home, just stick it in the refrigerator in the packaging that it came in. This will prevent bacteria from growing prematurely, and will help you to not waste that food that you spent your hard-earned money on.

2. Ditch the Paper Products

Why use paper products when you can use the real deal?  Instead of using paper towels and paper napkins, we use cloth napkins, dish rags and dish towels. We just throw them in the laundry and reuse them as needed. We rarely use paper plates either, unless we have a large gathering of friends come over for a meal.

3. Shop at the Less Expensive Grocery Store

In our area, we find that Aldi has the lowest prices on most everything. But in other areas, you may find that it’s a different store. Take some time to compare prices on the products you use the most. For an easy way to do this, make a list of your most-used grocery items, and then visit each of the stores and write down the prices at those stores. You’ll find the grocery store where you should be doing most of your business quite easily.

4. Eat Leftovers

If you don’t get into the habit of eating your leftovers, you’re leaving money on the table. You could take them to work for lunch, serve them to the kids, freeze them as TV dinners or recycle them into a whole different meal (like a roast into beef stew). Whatever you do, don’t waste that food! For me, I like to make a Crockpot Freezer Meal and get my husband a portion out for tomorrow before I feed everyone else. That way, we’re guaranteed to have a little bit left over.

5. Re-use Foil, Baggies & Old Food Containers

If you regularly use these items, you may want to try this little trick to save money in the kitchen. I grew up watching my mom do this, and know that if I need to cut corners, these conveniences are one of the first to go.

6. Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent

Have you ever tried making your own dishwasher detergent? You can make it using ingredients you can find at the grocery store. Making your own is like paying pennies on the dollar for dishwasher detergent.

Try this recipe:

1/2 c citric acid OR LemiShine
1/2 c non-iodized salt
1 c borax
1 c washing soda

Mix together well, and use 3 tbsp per load. Be sure to use vinegar in the rinse compartment.

7. Buy Store Brands

Store brands are typically canned, boxed or jarred in the same factories as the more expensive name brands. They typically taste the same, too. Try switching out some of your nonessential name brands for the much cheaper store brands and see if you notice a difference.

8. Meal Plan

If you go into a store without a plan, you’ll come out spending a whole lot more money than you were planning. Be sure to make your meal plan at least a week at a time so you’re not making several trips to the grocery store throughout the week. If you think you don’t have time, I already have a One Week Freezer to Slow Cooker Menu that you can try out for free, so no excuses allowed! When you plan your meals regularly, you save yourself a lot of money. It means you eat out less and eat less boxed and convenience foods, which in turn saves you money.

9. Buy Food in Bulk

There’s certain foods that it pays to buy in bulk. You can find food at drastically reduced prices by watching the sales circulars, shopping the big box stores (like Sam’s Club and Costco) and by using coupons strategically. For our family, we buy our ground beef from a local farmer, our produce and canned goods from Aldi, and our cheese, peanut butter and other dairy products at Sam’s Club. We save $1.50 to $2 a pound by buying our cheese in this way. It really does pay to watch the prices at more than one store and to continually check back for sales.

I hope my tips on saving money in the kitchen pay off for you as much they have for me.

[Editor’s Note: You can use this free tool to track your financial goals, like building good credit scores, each month on Credit.com.]

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5 Pricey Groceries You Can Grow In Your Own Garden

grow-in-your-own-garden

If you’re lucky enough to have space for a vegetable garden, not to mention the time and inclination to do the gardening, you’ll want to be sure to get the most out of your efforts. That’s because gardening isn’t necessarily the most cost effective way to get your veggies.

It turns out some vegetables are actually cheaper to buy at the grocery store, particularly when bought in season. So, if you want to grow your own vegetables to save money, you’ll need to be selective in what you grow. Here are five vegetables that are cost effective for growing in your own garden.

1. Bell Peppers

Green bell peppers can cost $1.50 or more each at the grocery store, and yellow, red or orange peppers can be even more expensive. Pepper starter plants at your local gardening center, however, typically average about $1 each. Given that bell peppers also are reasonably hardy and easy to grow, they can end up saving you plenty of money, even when you consider costs for water, fertilizer and any necessary pesticides.

2. Lettuce

Lettuce can be really expensive at the grocery store, particularly if you’re buying it pre-washed in a bag or plastic container. But if you grow your own lettuce from a package of seed, typically costing $2 or less, you’ll easily recoup the expense within just a few weeks of your plants maturing. Leaf lettuces are particularly good because you can harvest the amount you need while still allowing the plant to grow, meaning you can have lettuce from just a handful of plants throughout the growing season.

3. Squash

Summer squash, zucchini and winter squash are all hardy and easy to grow, and the plants tend to be very productive, meaning you’ll have an abundance of them in no time. The initial cost for starter plants is more than for peppers or lettuce — typically about $2 each — but well worth the investment.

4. Garlic

If you love garlic, this is a no-brainer. Depending on whether you’re buying conventional or organic garlic, prices range from $2 to $4 a pound. You can easily grow your own for a fraction of the cost. It’s also very easy to grow, but you’ll need to properly cure the bulbs so they will keep for a longer period of time.

5. Tomatoes

Tomatoes come in so many varieties that it can be hard to decide which kind to plant. And because of that variety, it’s also hard to accurately estimate just how much you may save by growing your own. But because tomato plants typically yield a large number of fruit, you’ll likely have plenty for eating now plus enough left over for canning or freezing.

As you plan your garden for next year (or perhaps even this fall) keep in mind that you’ll not only be saving money, you’ll be providing your family with some of the absolute freshest produce available. If saving money is a big consideration for you, also keep in mind that you can save money on interest rates on loans and credit cards by improving your credit score. If you don’t know what your credit score is, you can check your two free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.

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