This is the second part of a three part series on saving money on food. If you missed the first blog post, you can find it here.
Shopping at the grocery store
- I shop at the same grocery store for gas rewards
I know some people like to shop at different places to get the best deal, but I’m really not interested in doing that. I’m sure I’m no more or less busy than other people who use that strategy, but I really don’t like to be going to three or four different stores, so I stick with the one closest to my house. The benefit of doing this is racking up rewards points, which equates to discount on gas.
- I go shopping alone
Going shopping by myself helps me to concentrate and only buy the things on my list. Additionally, it gives me a chance to concentrate on prices. Sometimes what I’ve planned needs to be switched around because items are on sale that weren’t on the store’s ad. It usually takes me about an hour to do the grocery shopping and I’ve found the slower I go, the better decisions I make.
- I always buy a frozen dinner
In our household I am the only one who cooks. I am also human so I know that there are days when I am going to be so exhausted or stressed out or sick that I’m not going to cook. We plan for those instances with frozen dinners. Usually I buy a couple of pizzas which I can get on sale for less than $4 and if the week goes well and we don’t need to use them, then they roll over to next week. But eating a $4 pizza is a lot cheaper than feeding our family of 4 (the baby is still breastfeeding) at McDonalds.
- I use cash to pay for my groceries
I just started doing this and it’s hard! When I say use cash, I mean I allocate a certain amount of money to spend on groceries for the month and then I take out that amount from the ATM. Anytime I go to the grocery store, I use cash instead of my debit card. This has a few benefits. The first is that I only go grocery shopping with intention. If I don’t have the cash on me, then I can’t swing by the grocery store for the random donut I am craving or a bucket of fried chicken on my way home from running errands. The second is that I actually stick to my budget. The first two or three weeks of using cash are easy because I don’t worry quite so much about how much those bananas weigh, or how much the yogurt costs after I’ve used my coupons. But that last weekend when I only have $40 left to spend on groceries for the week is nerve wracking. I have to weigh all my produce, make sure I have the right coupons and even leave the bag of chips behind. But it’s good practice to be disciplined about my budget and that way I buy much fewer processed snacks and foods because those tend to be a little more expensive than buying bananas for the week.
- I go through my receipt item by item when I get to my car
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked an item based on its sale price only to have it ring up at a different price at the register. It’s really annoying when you’re on a cash budget to calculate your costs and then get a different number at the register. And since I also try to be a polite person, I don’t want to read the receipt right there and hold up the next person in line, so I wait until I get in my car. I’m not in a rush there, so I can take my time to read item by item to see if I got anything wrong. This past week I picked up a bottle of olive oil, having read the price per unit price tag as lowest amongst all the other bottles of olive oil. When I got to my car, I realized that the price I read was not the price that rang up (it was almost double ). Since I was in the parking lot, I was able to bring the bottle back in and get a refund. Evidently between the time I put the bottle in my cart and checked out, the sales tag had been ripped off. While it’s annoying that it happened, I would have been even more annoyed had I gone home and realized that I paid way more for olive oil than any person who doesn’t have a show on the FoodNetwork should.