7 Ways to Cut Your Food Bill Without Clipping a Single Coupon
Another new year, and many have embarked on annual quests to save more money. Brown bag lunches are back in style and there are fewer trips to Starbucks. Would-be coupon mavens pore over the coupon inserts with scissors in hand. Give it a few weeks and many of these same people will have already fallen back into their spending ways of 2009, thinking about new savings strategies over a Tall Caramel Latte.
As for the would-be coupon mavens, I'll be honest, I like to clip coupons, but it's not for everybody. It takes time to clip, sort, file, match, shop, then repeat week after week. Since groceries take such a big bite out of the monthly budget, here are seven ways to cut your food bill by at least 25% without using even one coupon.
1. Shop the Grocery Circulars
Everything on the front page is half off. Buy one, get one free deals are big too. You probably won't see prices as low for two or three months, so stock up. If you don't get the newspaper (the circulars are often in the Food section), head to Sunday Saver and search for stores in your area. Cherry-pick the best deals at a couple of stores. Sure, this involves some driving, but you're already saving time by not clipping coupons, so grab your keys.
2. Make a Shopping List
Study after study has shown that shoppers are less likely to make impulse buys and purchase items already lining their pantry if they shop from a list. It can be as simple as a piece of notebook paper taped to the refrigerator. Or, try out a free online service like ZipList. iPhone and iPod Touch users can also find a variety of free and paid shopping list apps like Grocery Gadget and Shopper.
3. Keep Your Loyalty Card Current
Most of us use store loyalty cards (e.g., Kroger Plus Card) to take advantage of weekly specials. Just make sure the grocery stores you shop have your current mailing and email address on file, or you may find yourself missing out on even better specials promoted to members only, like free product deals. At some stores, like Harris Teeter, you'll need to take the extra step of registering your card online for the most exclusive weekly deals.
4. Be Brand Flexible
I'll be honest, there are some brands, like Pampers and Pantene, which I'll stay loyal to forever. But there are many more that I don't mind straying from if I can get a better deal elsewhere, even with the store brand. Toilet paper and shave gel spring to mind for me here.
5. Befriend the Butcher
As a mother of four, meat is one of the biggest parts of my weekly food budget, so making friends with the butcher is a must. Find out what time of day and which day of the week the must-go priced meats are set out for purchase. These can be a fantastic bargain. I received a chest freezer for Christmas this year, and no doubt it will be filled with meat specials this year.
6. Shop Alone
I love to grocery shop alone, mostly because it enables me to hear myself think once a week. On a more thrifty level, I shop alone for two reasons. One, I reduce the temptation to cave to little voices asking for fruit snacks and cookies. Two, I'm more aware of the prices ringing at the register. Kerry Taylor at Squawkfox estimates that every 12th item in her cart is scanned incorrectly, and not in her favor.
7. Make a Weekly Food Run
All those quick trips to the grocery store every few days add up, so shop once a week to keep the food bill in check. Try to shop early in the sale cycle since the most heavily discounted items can get scooped up quickly, and many times the shelves are not re-stocked.
How do you save money at the grocery store?