The Basics of Saving Money on Groceries

by David Bakke

save money on groceriesSo, ready for your regular weekly trip to the grocery store? Tired of the grind of going every week? Want to make it a little more fun and challenging?

I think that it is safe to say that for most people or most households, groceries are probably the second biggest monthly expense, falling in right behind your mortgage/rent and right in front of your car payment(s) or somewhere close. Therefore, it stands to reason that this is one of the areas that if you concentrate, organize yourself, and do a little planning, that you can have a pretty big impact on your wallet. Make sense?

Before we begin, yes I am a guy and yes, I really do the majority of the grocery shopping for our household. Let’s just say I took it on as a little project and it became a challenge.

What I want to do is to go through a few basic concepts that I put to use on a weekly basis, that when all added up, probably save me a ton of money at the grocery store(s).

Expand your base…

You probably don’t need to limit yourself to doing ALL of your shopping at one outlet. Personally, I use four. This will not take your grocery shopping from an hour or so a weekday night to a six-hour marathon-I still do not spend much more time doing it on a weekly basis.
Basically, what I do is to use one outlet (I won’t name them) for the majority of my stuff and a second outlet that has items for a cheaper price. Third, I utilize a local farmer’s market as much as possible. There should probably be one close enough by you and they are definitely worth checking out. Major savings! Most of the time the quality is just as good if not better than a major grocer and it is always at substantially cheaper prices. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Currently, I probably buy 70% of my items at my farmer’s market. Typically, their prices on produce are substantially cheaper than anywhere else, but their prices on everything else are substantially higher. Therefore, just stick to buying veggies there. And finally, I do use a specialty store to treat myself every once in a while.

What I do with my second outlet is to utilize it for items I buy consistently that has them for less. This will take some time in the beginning but becomes easier as you go along. Here, you really just have to pay attention to the items that you buy the most. If you can find a store that sells something for fifteen cents cheaper, but you only buy it once every three months, then who cares? However, if you can find another store that you can save fifty or sixty cents on ten different items that you buy every week, then it becomes worth doing. I wouldn’t know if this concept applies to everyone since we all have different buying habits, but it works for me.


One important concept to couponing is the importance of using one main store, and using it consistently. You see, most grocery stores track your purchases a lot more closely than you might think. The one I use the most started sending me coupons a few years ago for $4 off if I purchase $40 or more. Pretty good deal, right? Several months later, they started sending me the same coupon, but for $6 off when I spend $60 or more. I actually got up to an $8 off coupon when I spend $80 or more. I finally figured out the process. I was probably averaging $25 to $30 per week when the first coupon came out. Then, they got me to the next level and so on and so on. The grocery store, obviously, is always trying to get you to spend a little bit more money. And they know that if you walk in there with that coupon for a discount if you spend more than $60, and you normally only spend $50, then you will probably pick out $10 worth of stuff that you may or may not need. The key is to NEVER buy anything just because you have one of these coupons.

Stock up…

For items that are non-perishable or can fit in your freezer-when you see that they are on sale, stock up! Canned goods, fresh chicken, etc. That way, you NEVER have to pay full price for these items. This is another golden rule of shopping-NEVER PAY FULL PRICE WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TO. Some people who are much more serious about grocery shopping than I am will tell you to never ever pay full price at all. I guess if you are organized enough and sharp enough you could come to this level. What I like to do is check the sale items because sometimes the grocer will list when the sale expires; that way I know how much time I have to utilize the savings.

Check flyers …


This is a good concept to begin learning. That is why I use more than one grocery store. I don’t always check their Web sites for their weekly specials, but it might be a good idea to do this. I would suggest either doing this or checking the Sunday paper or your mailbox for your grocer’s flyer. It is definitely worth your time.

Now that I use more than one grocery store, there is nothing more annoying than to walk into my second grocery store and see something on sale for a cheaper price than I just paid at my first store-all because I didn’t read their flyer.

For example: One week, when I was doing my grocery shopping, I found blueberries that were supposedly on special at all four of the stores that I use. One store had a sign that said, “Blueberries, on special, $3.99” (this was the specialty store that I use). The second store’s sign said, “Blueberries, two for $5.” The third had them on special for two for $4, and finally, my farmer’s market-which really has no advertised specials, no flyers, or anything, didn’t even have any kind of special sign up. They just had the little price tag next to the blueberries for $1.89.

My point is, don’t fall in love with the “on sale” sign-it doesn’t necessarily mean that the price for that item is cheaper than anywhere else.


I don’t know your thoughts on it, but I am going to mention it. If you are serious about saving money, or serious about getting out of debt, I would seriously consider buying store brands or generic brands of food, at least on a temporary basis. Most stores now offer their own version or a cheaper version of just about everything out there. I have another news flash for you-the difference in taste is minimal. Again, make it into a thirty-day trial if you want to, but I guarantee you that you can make an impact on your wallet if you switch to these brands, at least in the short term.

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