You’ve likely seen the same money-saving tips for grocery shopping over and over — but you already know to make a list and to not shop hungry. However, that advice never stops the temptation to pick up that package of Oreos, nor does it stop your 7-year-old from begging for the chips with their favorite superhero on them.
It also seems as though no matter how precise your list or how well planned your budget, every trip to the store usually involves surprise spending. Well, with some creativity and a few new ideas, you can combat those surprises, temptations and maybe your 7-year-old’s demands by using these grocery-saving tips.
Map your coupons
Everyone knows coupons can save you money at the register, but if you use them in tandem with a super-organized list, they can go even further. Check out our cash back offers, then write out your shopping list aisle by aisle, noting where these items are.
Grocery store designers map out their stores specifically to distract you: Essentials sit in the back of the store (so you can’t easily pop in for that gallon of milk) while the most popular items sit in the center of the store, so you must walk past them.
But a shopping list organized by aisle can make for a more efficient trip. Mapping the coupons you print, clip or download to the item’s location in the store can keep you from venturing down an unnecessary (and potentially impulse-buy-ridden) aisle.
Build flexibility into your list
Planning ahead like this is critical when it comes to money-saving tips for grocery shopping, but you should also leave room for flexibility. For example:
- For coupon and cash back offer items, note a cheap substitute in case the discounted item is sold out.
- For any recipes, note potential substitutions in case an alternative ingredient is on sale. Maybe you can swap out navy beans for pintos, for example.
- For family favorites, it’s important to know what can and can’t be changed. Maybe your family doesn’t care whether potato chips have ridges, but swapping out dark chocolate granola bars for their milk chocolate counterparts is not okay.
It’s important to know when you can mix it up and when you need to stick to the standards; this can keep you from wasting money on something that won’t get eaten. Meanwhile, the flexibility to try out on-sale items will help shave some money off your grand total at the register.
Give the kids a job
Most children love going to the grocery store, with its bright lights and new faces. But bringing kids on a shopping trip also means resisting the constant requests for little extras: candy bars, fancy cereal and “Ooh, can we have hamburgers for dinner?” It feels like they teamed up with all the colorful store ads to wear down all your willpower.
Cut that begging off at the pass by giving them a job while you shop. For younger kids, it can be something simple like: “Can you tell me how many items we have in the cart?” School-age kids will be able to help by grabbing some items on your list themselves. Older kids might need a little extra motivation. So, establish a reward for their help, or get them excited about a planned meal ahead of time, so you can focus on shopping your list.
Track your staples
If you’re like most people, your shopping list probably only notes what items you need to buy this week. But keeping a second list of items you might run out of in the next two or three weeks allows you to take advantage of any in-store discounts as you shop. If ketchup is on sale or a surprise coupon for popcorn pops up, you can grab it now while the price is low.
Predicting upcoming deals each week is basically impossible, but a second “staples” list increases your odds of snagging a favorite when it’s on sale.
Check your store’s ad day
Finally, for anyone with a flexible schedule, shopping on the same day the grocery store’s new weekly ad comes out (often Wednesday) can be a great idea. Many of the previous week’s items will still be on sale because the store wants to sell out of their extra product. Meanwhile, the new week’s sales have already started, so you can double any potential discounts.
Strategic shopping for smart savings
Between kids that need a snack every few minutes, packed lunches and cooking the kinds of meals that leave everyone smiling at the dinner table, feeding a family can get expensive — and exhausting. These are only a few tips to try to make things a little easier.
Whether you have your kids riding along in the shopping cart or you’re running in to pick up ingredients for tonight’s dinner, it’s important to think strategically while grocery shopping. That way, you don’t overspend while you try to fill up a 14-year-old who just played two hours of soccer.