Stretch Your Budget with Savvy Shopping
Even if you are on a tight budget, you still have to buy the essentials in life – food, household products, and other basic necessities. But if you are buying for a whole family, the costs add up. Your trip to the supermarket becomes a major expense that seriously dents your bank balance.
Fortunately, there are ways to get those costs under control. By shopping strategically, you can slash the cost of your weekly shop, while still providing your family with good, healthy food – plus all the other products you need to make life worth living.
Here are ten simple strategies you can deploy, starting today, to get the biggest bang for your buck. You will be amazed how far you can stretch your dollars when you do your supermarket shopping the smart way.
Find the Cheapest Supermarket
When you are in a hurry to get your shopping done, it’s tempting to drive to the nearest supermarket and shop there. You might think that any difference in prices is compensated for by the gas you save on the shorter trip.
In many cases, that’s not true. On a big shopping trip, the difference in prices between the nearest supermarket and the cheapest one in your area can be significant. You need to compare prices between different chains to see who offers the best deals overall. It may cost you a little more time and gas to drive across town, but the savings on your grocery bill can make it well worthwhile. Over a year, this can add up to hundreds of dollars.
Make the Most of Grocery Flyers
When you are in a supermarket, grab copies of the latest special offers flyers and take them home. Then plan your meals for the week ahead with these deals in mind. The specials will change regularly, so you will have plenty of variety in your menu.
Sometimes you will see a food product being offered at a discount price, but you won’t know what to cook with it. When that happens, fire up Google or Pinterest and look for recipes with this ingredient. That way, you can enjoy cheap meals and experiment with new ideas, too.
Shop from a Prepared List
When you are walking down aisles stuffed full of interesting food and products, it’s tempting to drop all kinds of items into your cart. It’s all too easy to end up buying all kinds of products you don’t really need…with the result that your grocery bill goes through the roof.
To manage your budget effectively, you need to prepare a shopping list before you leave home. Fill your cart only with the items on your list, and then go to the checkout before you get distracted.
Be Wary of Eye-Level Products
Supermarkets understand that we naturally reach for products that at eye level. These items catch our attention easily, and they account for a high percentage of overall sales. So it’s no surprise that stores place high-margin products here. That’s how they ramp up their profits!
If you are more concerned with your own bottom line than the supermarket’s, look for items that are placed on the highest and lowest shelves. You can often find low-margin products there, which means better prices for you.
Avoid Shopping when You are Hungry
A couple of years ago, I joined a gym that was next door to a supermarket. I thought this was a great strategy because I could do a workout at the gym, then pick up the grocery shopping on the way home.
By the time I finished my workout, I was starving hungry. Walking around the supermarket, I was unable to resist all the sweet and sugary items on the shelves. I got home with a cart full of chocolate, cake, and donuts. As a result, both my grocery bill and my waistline expanded rapidly…
Nowadays, I go shopping immediately after a meal, when my hunger is satisfied. That makes it easy to breeze past the Oreos and Reese’s Pieces on my way to the discount salad section.
Focus on Known-Value Items
In supermarket terminology, ‘Known Value Items’ (KVIs) are items that everyone knows the usual price for. These are the products we buy every week, such as bread, milk, meat, and vegetables. Because everyone is aware of the normal price on these items, supermarkets price them very aggressively.
So when you buy KVIs, you are usually getting a good deal. The supermarket may even be taking a loss on these to attract you into the store. When you base your shopping around these items, you are cutting your expenses to the bone.
Items that are not KVIs are a very different matter. Supermarkets know we are clueless about fair prices for these, so they can push the costs up. The more exotic the item, the higher the margin. You can easily end up paying over the odds for unusual products.
Look for Produce that is in Season
It’s great that we live in a world where we can buy all kinds of fruit and vegetables all year round. If you want strawberries at Christmas or winter veg in July, the supermarkets will provide all you want. But this convenience comes at a price.
Produce that is out of season in your area has to be imported – perhaps from thousands of miles away. Alternatively, it must be grown in unnatural conditions, such as in hothouses. All of this costs money, so these items will be relatively expensive.
By contrast, food that is in season is generally cheap and plentiful. Not only that, it tastes better, too! So when planning your meals, think about the fruit and vegetables that are coming into season in your area, and create menus that take advantage of them.
Avoid Impulse Buys
Supermarkets know how to squeeze every last dollar out of shoppers. That’s why the checkout counters are full of tempting and tasty items that you can oh-so-easily drop into your cart while you wait your turn.
Candy bars, carbonated drinks, magazines…and so on. You don’t really want them, and you certainly don’t need them. So resist the temptation to add them to your shopping. You are better off without them.
Eat Less Meat, More Fruit, and Veg
You don’t have to become a vegetarian to save money, but cutting back on your meat consumption makes good financial sense. Meat is not only expensive, it has a limited shelf life. You can easily end up throwing away meat that cost a big chunk of your budget to buy.
By contrast, fruit and vegetables offer excellent value for money and generally last longer in the kitchen. By cutting back on meat and eating more fruit and vegetables, you will be making your dollars go further – and doing your health a favor, too.
Look for Bargains in the ‘Reduced’ Rack
This is the only exception I allow myself to the ‘buy what’s on your list’ rule. I always look to see what items are being offered at reduced prices to clear them. Later in the day, you can often pick up some real bargains here, as the store is happy to take whatever they can get for perishable items.
The important principle here is to only buy items that you have a genuine use for. Don’t buy products just because they are cheap. Only buy items that you have a real use for.
Shop Like a Pro
Remember that supermarkets are designed to part us from as much money as possible, and they are very good at doing it. They have billions of dollars of research and marketing expertise on their side. So we need to fight back with smart thinking and savvy shopping.
But when you learn to shop like a pro, you will be amazed at how much you can save on your weekly shopping trip. You can enjoy good food, tasty meals, and a great home life – while still keeping your bank manager happy, too.
Have a money saving tip you use when to save money when shopping?
Share it in the comments below.
About the Author
Mandy May is a busy American Mom who loves to help other women save money, make money and manage money more effectively. She loves living in today’s hi-tech world where we have so many apps, tools, and opportunities to improve our finances. You can check out her blog at Mom.Money.