I am no expert shopper, but I do have a few tricks that I thought I would share. Using a weekly menu plan has made getting dinner on the table every night much easier, but unlike many people, I do not shop from my menu. I do my shopping FIRST and then write a menu based on what I have in the house. I also give myself permission to juggle the nights on my menu to fit our day to day needs.
I do not get the newspaper, but I keep the coupons that I get at the checkout and I use shortcuts.com and P & G esavers.com to get online coupons downloaded directly to my Kroger Plus card. The advantage to this for me is that I don't buy things just because I've got a coupon and it comes off my total automatically when I check out without having to remember to actually bring any coupons to the store and give them to the checker.
There are certain products I will only buy if they are on sale, things like boxed mac & cheese, boxed rice mixes & other convenience foods that I can do without if we run out between sales. Once a month, I also stock up on whatever dessert things are on sale, sometimes it is cake mixes, other times it is pudding. I like to keep things like that on hand in the pantry, it has helped me to avoid going out & splurging on sweets when a sweet tooth hits the house. I also keep white rice, flour, yeast, baking soda and baking powder well stocked, buying more whenever it is on sale whether I'm running low or not.
I check unit prices on all packaged foods I buy. Sometimes the bulk packages are the best deal, but I often find it is cheaper to buy several small packages than it is to buy the biggest size. The grocery store I shop at has unit prices on the shelves, they sometimes try to be tricky by using cost per ounce on some packages versus cost per serving on others. You have to be alert to those types of tricks. I also avoid picking things up from the end caps, if it is something I need, I go to the section it is in to compare it to the other package sizes available.
I generally buy meat twice a month, concentrating on what is on sale. Usually, if beef is on sale at the beginning of the month, chicken will be on sale in the middle of the month, so I buy a LOT of whatever is on sale. Recently, I've also bought meat that is on clearance, I cook it right away & have gotten some pretty expensive cuts of beef for less than half the original price. Once the meat is cooked, you can freeze it for longer than uncooked meat. I'm hoping to buy an upright freezer in the next few months to be able to really take advantage of good sales. I'm looking on craig's list for one and I've also been pricing new ones at Home Depot and Lowes.
Other than apples, bananas and potatoes, I don't buy a lot of fresh produce in the winter, it is too expensive and really doesn't seem worth the money. Instead, I stock up on canned veggies and fruits along with whatever frozen fruits and veggies are on sale. I don't buy any veggies that come in a sauce or fruits in syrup.
I am not good at budgeting, so I try to pay all my bills first and buy groceries with whatever I have left. This way if we are having a good month I have extra money to stock up and if we are having a tight month I can rely on my pantry, just buying the absolute essentials.
I have three personal rules that I have been trying to stick to when it comes to grocery shopping:
- Don't shop hungry
- Don't shop tired or distracted
- Don't go to the grocery store more than once per week (trying for every other week, but not there yet).
I know this method won't work for everyone, but I hope you take something from this that will be helpful, it has taken me 20 years to figure out what works for me.