Grocery shopping is a ritual that everyone has to go through. Unfortunately, this ritual can sometimes get expensive and in a time when saving even the smallest amounts of money matters, grocery shopping offers an opportunity to save a lot.
When you're talking about saving on groceries, the first subject that comes to mind is using coupons. Save 50 cents here, 75 there and a dollar here and you'll start getting somewhere. Because of this, coupons can be dangerous if you're looking to save money.
Most of the time, coupons are for name brand items. Name brand items are usually so much more expensive than store or generic brand items that even using a coupon won't bring them down to the same price. If you're going to use coupons, do the math and ensure that you'll be saving money by using them.
You should also be on the lookout for weekly specials (buy one get one free, 50% off...). Like coupons, ensure that the sale will actually save you money rather than just make you buy a brand name item that is still more expensive than the generic competition.
If you've never tried generic or store brand items now is the perfect time. They're cheaper and taste pretty much the same. Try them once and if you don't like them, all you did was save some money. Store brands are usually cheaper because they aren't marketed or advertised as heavily as brand name items, not because they are inferior in quality.
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk can save you money if done properly. Non-perishable food items are the best to buy in bulk since you don't have to use them in a certain period of time before they expire.
Sometimes people that buy food in bulk end up eating more simply because they have more of it. If this sounds like you, don't buy in bulk. You'll end up gaining unwanted weight and wasting money. Sometimes, the amount you save at wholesale clubs (Sam's Club, Costco, BJ's Wholesale Club...) won't justify the membership rates they charge. If this is the case, don't buy in bulk. Again, make sure you do the math.
Eat Before You Shop
One of the biggest ways to waste money at the grocery store is by going shopping when you are hungry. The best way to go shopping is on a full stomach. When you go hungry, you'll get cravings for everything inside the store. You'll end up wasting money on foods you don't usually eat.
Learn to Cook
Buying processed, ready to eat foods can be convenient but it's unhealthy and usually more expensive than cooking a meal yourself. If you aren't cooking the meal, someone else is which means that person is getting paid. This results in higher costs which get passed down to you, the consumer. Instead of wasting your money on unhealthy processed foods, buy a cookbook and learn to make healthy and delicious meals yourself.
Going to the store with no list or plan is a recipe for wasting money. Instead of walking up and down the aisle grabbing whatever you think you need, make a list of what you actually need so you can get out quickly. Stores plan their layout around keeping you inside as long as possible. Their studies have shown that the longer you stay, the more money you spend. A list will help you stay focused on the items you need.
Leave the Kids at Home
If you have kids, leave them at home. All they do at the store is ask if they can have that. Stores have done their research on this too and place items marketed to kids on the bottom shelves closer to a child's eye level. This way they can bug you non-stop in hopes that you'll give in.
The main reason why people don't eat healthy foods is because of money. Eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk, at least in the short term. While you may want to save money by buying cheap, unhealthy food, doing so over a long period of time can put your healthy and the health of your family at risk.
The Bottom Line
Long term, eating unhealthy foods can cause heart disease, lead to diabetes and even cancer. Eating healthy foods such as whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables can go a long way in preventing many diseases which will save you on hospital bills, prescriptions and doctor visits.