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5 Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

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I have been trying out a new meal planning/grocery shopping plan the last couple of months and it is working really well so I thought I would share. I know all lot of people are trying to save money and be more frugal in the slow economy. I have identified 5 ways to save money at the grocery store that work really well for me and I think they can work for anyone.

1. Have a plan. The first step in being successful at frugal grocery shopping is having a plan. I have found this out the hard way, if you don’t have a plan, you can end up with a cart full of groceries, but nothing for dinner. Print out a calendar and plan out your meals. I like to plan two weeks out. I print out my Yahoo Calendar where I keep my schedule, and put meals for each night on there. That way I can plan meals with my schedule. If I have something going on in the evening, I know I need to make something quick. If it’s an evening where nothing is planned, I know I can fix something that takes longer if I like.

2. Check store ads and coupons. If you get store sale papers in the mail check them there. Many grocery stores now list their sales online and will even email them to you. My grocery store of choice, Kroger, has online ads and will let you load coupons directly to your shopper’s card from their website. Also, sort your coupons and know what you have before making your list. It’s can be annoying to get stuck behind someone in line digging for their coupons.

Day 331: groceries3. Make a list and stick to it. After you have planned out your meals, looked at the sales and coupons, make your list. Be sure to check to see what you do and don’t have before making the list. I don’t know how many times I have thought I had something in the pantry, only to get ready to make it and find that I don’t have it. When shopping, if it’s not on the list, don’t buy it. It also helps not to go shopping hungry, that way you aren’t tempted to buy every tasty looking thing you walk by.

4. Have a budget, keep track of what you are spending and use cash. In the past I have gone grocery shopping and when I got to the check out, I would cringe when I got the final total. It was too hard to keep track of what I was spending as I went, so I thought. Then I discovered Handy Shopper It is a free program that I have for my Palm Treo smartphone and it is excellent. It is also available for Pocket PC. Handy Shopper lets you keep a shopping list and also enter prices and even the aisle for each item. It has changed the way I grocery shop. You don’t have to have a fancy program to keep track though, jotting down the prices and using a calculator as you go works just as well. Also, I have found that using cash helps. If I run out of cash, I quit buying groceries. Sometimes I will put a non-essential item or two back if I’m running out of money.

5. Make fewer trips. The less grocery store trips, the better. The more trips you make to the grocery store, the more money you are going to spend. How many times have you stopped just to get a gallon of milk or a couple of items and come out with a couple of bags full of stuff? Grocery stores spend a lot of money on research to figure out how to set up a store so that shoppers will be tempted to buy more. That’s why milk and other staples are located at the back of the store. If you have to walk past a lot of enticing displays, you may buy a few things on your way to get milk.

Maybe you think this sounds like a lot of work. No one said saving money would be easy, but once you get your process down, it becomes easier. I find it very helpful to have a meal plan through the week so that when my husband and I get home from work, we don’t have to worry about what to fix for dinner, we just check the menu. We also don’t have to worry about whether or not we have the ingredients on hand because we have done our grocery shopping ahead of time and have everything needed.

If you think you don’t have time for this, look at it this way. Putting a few minutes into meal planning and list making can actually save you time in the long run. You won’t have to spend time at the grocery trying to figure out what you need and making trips back and forth across the store because you forgot something. Next time you go to the grocery store, try out these tips for grocery shopping on a budget.

Categories : Personal Finance
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