One of our larger expenses on a regular basis is food.  Whether it is going out to eat or shopping in the grocery store to prepare and cook on your own, it is still a sizeable expense to tackle.  (Of course growing some of your own food items will help, but that is a discussion for another day.)  Going shopping and cooking/preparing your own meals will usually save you money in the long-run versus eating out. Before you go, there is some work to be done that can reduce your costs even further.

As with most money related items, much of what you can save boils down to the behaviors you are willing to take on and/or modify that can move the needle towards reaching your goals. Between and (Clark Howard), the following are five of the more effective ways to reduce your costs at the grocery:

  1. Re-think Your Meals
    Especially dinner. Not every dinner has to be a served with a main dish, two sides, a starch (bread), and a dessert.  Some meals can be as simple as a soup and a salad or a BLT.  Often I find my dinner to be two scrambled eggs and some toast or even a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Yes, you want to be healthy and you can still be.  If we plan our meals and recognize we do not have to have a “traditional” meal each time; it can save you some money for sure.Step 1a of Re-think Your Meals; take what you think you might have for meals and put it to a grocery list!  Even if you go no further than this step, having a list and sticking to it in the grocery store can make you more efficient and cost effective on your next shopping adventure.
  1. On-Sale or BOGO
    With a shopping list created you can check the grocery store circular, website, or app to find the items in your list that are on sale or buy one get one free.  You can find increased savings just by matching up items you need on your list with the items already on sale at the store. Stick to your list, though.  Don’t stray from the path!
  1. The Un-branding
    Can you substitute generic or store brand items for name brand ones on your shopping list?  In most situations, this can afford you additional cost savings.  I know many will scrunch their nose at using generics but in a 2009 Consumer Reports study, 29 brand name foods were put up against their generic version.  Of the 29 pairings, 19 scored “equally good” in the blind taste test.[1] So most items will not change the taste of your meal.  According to a 2014 study, when chefs bought staples like salt, sugar and baking soda, they were much more likely to buy the generic than you and me.[2]
  1. Coupons
    Once you have researched the store circular, website or app for the sales, now you may want to find some coupons to match the items on your shopping list. Plenty of websites exist beyond the specific store you are shopping such as that can assist with finding discounts you might not have expected to see.  Many apps (if you are one who likes apps) are available as well; Cellfire, Coupons, Favado, GroceryIQ, Ibotta, and SavingStar.One very important reminder, though, stick to your list!
  1. Try a Different Grocery Store
    Maybe the store you shop in is more costly than the one 2 or 3 miles further down the street but you still go because it is “convenient.”  Often it can pay great rewards to seek out a more cost-effective grocery store.  You will have to weigh the cost (extra miles/time/gas) and savings, but having to travel a little more each way to save on average $20 a trip might be well worth it in the end!

By using a few new grocery-shopping habits, you can lower your monthly costs for food and put yourself on a faster track to completing your money goals.  It might take a little extra time in the beginning and a little getting used to, but when the food costs are reduced and you have more money to save, it will have made it all worthwhile!

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need additional assistance.  I can be reached at (904) 296-3440 extension 139, or [email protected].

[1] In a 2009 Consumer Reports study…
[2] According to a 2014 study