100+ Smart Ways to Save Money on Groceries Every Week
The cost of feeding an American family of four a healthy diet can range from $146 to $289 a week, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA uses national food intake data and grocery price information to calculate the different costs for a healthy diet at home. Here are the latest numbers for a four-member family: a thrifty food plan, $146 a week; a low-cost food plan, $191 a week; a moderate-cost plan, $239 a week; a liberal plan, $289 a week. (Please note that some food waste is built into these costs.) While you may have little control over your mortgage or property taxes, food costs are still one of the most flexible areas in the family budget. This hub teaches you over 100 smart ways to save money on groceries every week.
For your convenience, I have divided the article into the following categories:
- How Are Your Grocery Math Skills?
- How to Plan Your Trip to the Grocery Store
- How to Shop Smarter at the Supermarket
- Miscellaneous Ways to Keep Your Grocery Budget Fiscally Fit
- What You Need to Know about Shopping at Dollar Stores, Aldi Foods, and Non-Traditional Stores
- Some Parting Words
How Are Your Grocery Math Skills?
Keeping your grocery budget fiscally fit requires a constant use of basic math skills. Being able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide is essential if you want to live better for less. Using a calculator can save you lots of time and energy; however, knowing how to use one effectively can be the difference between success and failure. Our 20-question math quiz will let you know if you need to brush up on basic computation skills.
You will find the correct answers at the end of the quiz. Take your time and good luck.
1. The electric company charges a $1.95 late fee for all payments made after the due date. Over the course of a year, you make five late payments. How much are you charged in late fees?
2. Your supermarket doubles manufacturer's coupons up to 99 cents. On a weekly shopping trip, you redeem six coupons. The face values are 25 cents, 40 cents, 50 cents, 55 cents, $1.00, and $1.25. How much money did you save by using these six coupons?
3. Which is the better price? A 42-ounce box of oatmeal that costs $3.99 or an 18-ounce one that costs $1.69?
4. Your supermarket's fuel perks program gives you 10 cents off a gallon of gas for every $50 you spend on groceries, prescriptions, and qualifying gift cards. In a given month, you spend $547. How much money did you earn in fuel perks?
5. Which is a better deal? 60 multi-vitamins that cost $5.99 or 200 that cost $21.99?
6. The regular price for a pound of cabbage is 79 cents. It goes on sale for 33 cents a pound. You buy five pounds at the reduced price. How much money do you save over the regular price?
7. Bananas cost 54 cents a pound at the grocery store. You purchase 2.5 pounds. What is the total cost of the bananas?
8. A 5.5-ounce can of white albacore tuna normally costs $2.29. It goes on sale for 97 cents a can. You purchase 10 cans. What is the total savings on the 10 cans?
9. Gasoline costs $3.49 a gallon and you purchase 12 gallons. What is the total cost of the gasoline?
10. A 16-ounce jar of peanuts normally costs $5.89. It goes on sale for $4.49 a jar. You buy two jars and also use two manufacturer’s coupons worth 75 cents apiece. Both of these coupons are doubled. What is the final cost for the two jars of peanuts?
11. Referencing the math problem above, what are the total savings for the two jars of peanuts?
12. Bananas cost 49 cents a pound, strawberries cost $3.00 for a one-pound package, and red seedless grapes cost $2.99 per pound. If you purchase five pounds of bananas, two packages of strawberries, and three pounds of red seedless grapes, how much do you spend?
13. If you purchase three pairs of socks at the regular price and get two more pairs for free, what is the percentage of savings on all five pairs?
14. If there are 60 seconds in a minute, how many seconds are there in a day?
15. 24x = 4,896
What is the value of x?
16. If you purchase one pair of shoes at the regular price and get a second pair for 50% off regular retail, what is the percentage of savings on both pairs?
17. Which is less?
59 x 475 or 525 x 55
18. How much is 1.75 + 3.25 + 6.50 + 2.25?
19. If you buy two bottles of soda at the regular price and get a third bottle for free, what is the percentage of savings on all three bottles?
20. Vidalia onions cost 79 cents a pound and mangos are priced at four for $5.00. You buy three pounds of onions and six mangos. How much do you spend?
Here are the correct answers:
3. The box that sells for $1.69.
5. 60 multi-vitamins that cost $5.99.
17. 59 x 475
If you need to brush up on everyday math skills, go to Math.com. Here is part of their mission statement:
Math.com is dedicated to providing revolutionary ways for students, parents, teachers, and everyone to learn math. Combining educationally sound principles with proprietary technology, Math.com offers a unique experience that quickly guides the user to the solutions they need and the products they want. These solutions include assessment, on-demand modular courses that target key math concepts, 24/7 live online tutoring, and expert answers to math questions.
How to Plan Your Trip to the Grocery Store
1. Agree to a weekly or monthly grocery budget and stick to it no matter what.
In addition to keeping a grocery budget, you should get into the habit of writing down every cent you spend on groceries. “Every cent” means the $13.99 that you spent on a pound of Brie cheese as well as the $1.77 that you spent on three pounds of bananas.
Once or twice a week, go over your list of grocery expenses and decide which ones can be eliminated or reduced. You will have more money left over at the end of the month or between paychecks and will not have to struggle to make ends meet. When implemented properly, writing down every cent that you spend on groceries will become a winning strategy for your entire household.
2. Join over three million people who use SavingStar e-coupons at over 25,000 grocery and drug store locations throughout the country. Here's how it works:
-- Membership is free and there is no coupon clipping or printing.
-- Find participating stores near you by entering your zip code into the search box on SavingStar’s homepage. For example, I entered zip code 43952--Steubenville, OH--and found four participating grocery and drug store chains (CVS, Giant Eagle, Kroger, and Rite Aid). I also entered zip code 19148--Philadelphia--and found six participating chains (Acme, CVS, Pathmark, Rite Aid, ShopRite, and SuperFresh).
-- Link all of your qualifying grocery and drug store loyalty cards to your SavingStar account.
-- On the SavingStar.com web site, select the e-coupons you want and link them to the grocery and drug store loyalty cards that you have registered with SavingStar.
-- Use your loyalty card at the checkstand. The total on your receipt does not change at checkout and the savings are not printed on the receipt. Your money is added to your SavingStar account within 2-22 days depending on the store where you shopped. Saving Star notifies you by email when your account has been credited.
-- Once your savings reach $5.00, you can choose from these payout options:
- A deposit into your bank or PayPal account
- An Amazon gift card
- A donation to charity
-- SavingStar adds new e-coupons every week on the brands you love. Here are some of the participating labels:
Classico®, Green Giant®, Pillsbury®, Betty Crocker®, Old El Paso™, Progresso®, Chex®, Cheerios®, Mountain High®, Wheaties®, Right Guard®, Little Debbie®, Purex®, Smart Ones®, BUSH'S®, Truvia®, and Diamond Crystal®.
-- Here are some of the participating grocery and drug stores:
A&P, ACME Markets, Albertsons, BI-LO, Buehlers, Copps, Country Mart, Country Market, CVS, Dollar General*, Farm Fresh, Food City, Fred Meyer, Giant Eagle, Giant Food Stores, Hy-Vee, Ingles, JustSave, Kennies, King Kullen, King Soopers, Kings Super Markets, K-Mart, Kroger, Nob Hill Foods, Owen’s, Pathmark, Pick n Save, Piggly Wiggly in SC and GA, Piggly Wiggly in WI and IL, Price Chopper in KS and MO, Price Chopper in the Northeast, QFC, Rainbow, Ralphs, Rite Aid, ShopRite, Stop & Shop, Super Fresh, Target*, The Food Emporium, Tops Markets, Village Market, Waldbaums, Walmart*, Wegmans, and Winn-Dixie.
-- Here are some of SavingStar’s offers for May, 2017:
- Save $1.00 on any one (1) ACT® product. This excludes trial and travel sizes.
- Save $3.00 on any one (1) Children's Allegra® allergy product.
- Save $1.00 on any one (1) Cortizone 10® product. Offer includes items one ounce and larger.
- Save $1.00 on any one (1) Gold Bond® product. This excludes one-ounce powder and healing lotion.
- Save $1.00 on any one (1) Unisom® product.
- Save $1.50 on any one (1) Kaopectate® product.
- Save $1.50 on any one (1) Rolaids® bottle. This includes tablets or liquid.
- Save $1.00 on any one (1) Selsun Blue® product.
- Save 50 cents when you buy five (5) cups of any variety of Yoplait® yogurt. This includes original, light, light thick & creamy, thick & creamy, Whips!®, or lactose free).
- Save 25 cents when you buy one (1) cup of any variety of Yoplait® custard yogurt.
- Save 50 cents when you buy two (2) boxes of any flavor or variety of Cascadian Farm™ Granola Bars, Protein Bars, or Soft-Baked Oatmeal Squares.
- Save 50 cents when you buy one (1) cup of any variety of Yoplait® Dippers.
- Save 30 cents when you buy one (1) cup of any flavor of Liberté® yogurt.
- Save $1.00 when you buy two (2) boxes of any flavor of General Mills Big G or Nature Valley™ cereal, Cheerios™, Cinnamon Toast Crunch™, Chex™, Lucky Charms™, Cocoa Puffs™, Trix™, Reese's Puffs, Fiber One™, Cookie Crisp™, Golden Grahams™, Kix™, Total™, Wheaties™, and Dora the Explorer™.
- Save $1.00 on any one (1) Centrum® or Caltrate®. (Must be 40 count or larger).
- Save $1.00 on any one (1) Preparation H® product.
- Save $1.00 on any one (1) ThermaCare® product. (Must be two count or larger.)
- Save $2.00 on any one (1) Parodontax® product.
- Save $4.00 when you spend at least $16.00 on any Little Debbie® Little Muffins products.
- Save 60 cents when you buy any two (2) GOYA® Blue Label Beans (15.5 ounce or larger) and one (1) GOYA® tomato sauce. (Must be part of one single purchase.)
- Save 60 cents when you buy any two (2) GOYA® refried beans.
- Save 40 cents when you buy any one (1) GOYA® Chipotle or Jalapeño Peppers that are seven ounces or larger.
- Save 50 cents when you buy any one (1) GOYA® Ripe Plantains.
- Save $1.00 when you buy any one (1) Our Little Rebellion® Bean Crisps™.
- Save $4.00 when you spend at least $16.00 on participating Butterball® Products. This excludes items sold at club stores, Butterball® service deli, whole turkeys (fresh or frozen), Farm to Family™, Butterball® Turkey Jerky, and random weight products.
- Save 75 cents when you buy one (1) Musselman's® Squeezables Apple Sauce (any flavor).
- Save $1.00 when you buy two (2) Old El Paso™ products. This excludes Old El Paso™ seasoning, refrigerated, and produce products.
- Save 75 cents when you buy any one (1) Sunbelt® bakery product.
- Save 75 cents when you buy one (1) Post® Cinnamon PEBBLES™.
- Save $5.00 when you spend at least $20.00 on any SheaMoisture® product.
- Save $1.00 when you purchase any one (1) Finlandia® Creamy Gourmet Cheese Product.
- Save $4.00 when you spend at least $15.00 on any Ortega® Mexican food products.
(Author's note: The preceding list has been made available courtesy of SavingStar.com.)
* This is a receipt-scan store that requires the SavingStar mobile app for iPhone or Android.
3. Always comparison shop. Consider reading two or more advertising circulars before you do the grocery shopping. You might want to do part of your shopping at one store and finish it up at another.
4. Join over six million consumers who print free grocery coupons at CouponMom.com. You can save money on hundreds of products.
5. Here is another reason why you should read your supermarket’s weekly circular: Some grocery stores put high-priced merchandise that isn’t on sale in front of the store or at the end of aisles. They try to trick you into buying it at the regular price.
6. Swap unused manufacturer’s coupons with friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors.
7. The Sunday newspaper is still a very good source of manufacturer's coupons.
8. Many grocery stores have e-coupons on their web sites that you can download to your loyalty cards. There is nothing to clip or print. Just click on the coupons you want, use your loyalty card at checkout, and save.
9. Before you go to the grocery store, be sure to read your supermarket's advertising circular. Plan your shopping around what is on sale. Always take advantage of "buy one, get one free" offers, especially on big-ticket items like vitamins and meat.
Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle recently had a "buy one, get one free" sale that was hard to beat. Here are some of the items that were featured: boneless center cut pork chops, roasting chickens, fresh broccoli and mushrooms, liquid laundry detergent, 24-packs of AA batteries, disposable razors, solid and gel deodorant, body wash, thin crust pizza, country French bread from the bakery, sandwich buns, turkey franks, mustard, marinades, and long grain rice.
But that’s not all. Giant Eagle had a 99 cent produce sale early in 2017 that was anything but garden variety. Here were some of their 99 cent produce picks:
- Avocados – 99 cents each
- Baby-cut carrots – 99 cents for a 1 lb. bag
- Broccoli crowns – 99 cents per pound
- Cole slaw mix – 99 cents for a 1 lb. bag
- D’Anjou pears – 99 cents per pound
- Gala apples – 99 cents per pound
- Grape tomatoes – 99 cents per pint
- Green beans – 99 cents per pound
- Jazz apples – 99 cents per pound
- Mangos – 99 cents each
- Red seedless grapes – 99 cents per pound
- Roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted) – 99 cents for a 10-ounce bag
- Seedless cucumbers - 99 cents each
- Sweet onions – 99 cents per pound
- Whole white mushrooms – 99 cents for an eight-ounce package
- Yams – 99 cents per pound
10. Find out how your supermarket calculates "buy one, get one free" offers. Some supermarkets and drug stores require you to buy both items in order to get them at the "buy one, get one free" price. If you buy just one, you automatically pay the regular price instead of 50% off.
For example, if you purchase one unit of a BOGO promotion at Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, you will pay 50% of the regular retail price. On the other hand, if you purchase one unit of a BOGO offer at CVS, you will automatically pay regular retail.
11. Shop at supermarkets that have fuel perks programs. You can save 10-20 cents off a gallon of gas for every $50 you spend on groceries, prescriptions, and qualifying gift cards. You can learn more about fuel perks here: How to Get Free Gas at the Supermarket.
How to Shop Smarter at the Supermarket
12. Instead of buying pre-cut fruit such as watermelon or pineapple, buy the entire fruit and save money every time. Likewise, don't buy packaged coleslaw or salads. Why pay $2.19 for a 16-ounce package of coleslaw if you can buy a head of cabbage for as little as 49 cents a pound?
13. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less meat. For example, you can buy oranges for as little as 20 cents each when they are in season. Compare that to $4.99 for a pound of 85% lean ground beef.
14. Combine manufacturer's coupons with advertised specials. If your supermarket doubles coupons up to 99 cents, combining them with weekly specials can save you even more money. Here's an example:
Suppose that the regular price for a six-ounce size of brand-name yogurt is 75 cents. It goes on sale for 50 cents, a savings of 25 cents per cup.
You have four manufacturer's coupons, each for 40 cents off when you buy four yogurt cups. Let's say that you buy 16 yogurt cups and use all four coupons.
At the regular price, you would pay $12.00 for the 16 yogurt cups (16 x 75 cents = $12.00). With the weekly special of 25 cents off per yogurt, you save $4.00 when you buy 16 cups (25 cents x 16 = $4.00).
Then, your supermarket doubles each 40 cents coupon to 80 cents. You now have an additional $3.20 in savings (4 x 80 cents = $3.20).
Your total savings with the weekly special and doubled coupons are $7.20 ($4.00 + $3.20).
15. If your supermarket is out of an advertised special, always get a rain check. Even if you have to wait for several minutes in the customer service line, you will feel better about doing it in the end.
16. Less expensive grocery and household supplies are sometimes found on the top or bottom shelves. Stretch a little and save a few dollars.
17. Get to the supermarket as early in the day as possible. You will find a better selection of advertised specials which lessens the need for rain checks. You might also spend less time in the checkout line.
18. Never do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach or when you are tired. You are more likely to buy high-priced deli items and snack foods you don't need. You might also ignore your shopping list because you're in a hurry.
19. Instead of buying expensive glass cleaner, buy windshield washer fluid. I compared prices:
The 28-ounce size of brand-name glass cleaner costs as much as $4.49 at the supermarket or drug store, while the 64-ounce size of windshield washer fluid costs as little as $2.09 at Target.com.
That's a difference of $8.17 plus applicable sales tax.
20. Buy bone-in and skin-on meat because it is usually cheaper per pound than the boneless and skinless varieties. You can always remove the skin and bones prior to freezing or cooking.
21. Instead of using a high-priced whitening mouthwash, consider using a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. We checked the prices on both. At the drug store, you can pay as much as $7.99 for a 32-ounce bottle of brand-name whitening mouthwash. At Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, you can pay as little as $1.19 for a 16-ounce bottle of generic hydrogen peroxide.
22. Use manufacturer's coupons only when it's cost effective. If you can buy a 15-ounce bottle of brand-name shampoo for 99 cents when it goes on sale, don't use a $1.00 coupon for a more expensive brand.
23. Always buy paper towels and toilet tissue in bulk because it is much cheaper than buying them by the single roll. Why pay $1.19 for a single roll of paper towels when you can buy eight rolls of the same brand for $4.99?
24. Don’t buy frozen dinner entrees that you microwave because you are paying extra for convenience.
25. When buying dairy products, select items in the back. They are usually fresher.
26. Some supermarkets give you credit for using your own bags. Here are eight retailers that reward you for bringing your own bags:
- Brookshire’s - Bring in reusable grocery bags and receive a $0.05 discount per bag with no bag number limit.
- Foodland - Bring in reusable grocery bags and receive a $0.05 discount per bag with no bag number limit.
- Kroger (Ralphs, Tom Thumb, King Soopers, Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, QFC, and Fry’s) - Some locations will give you five fuel points for every reusable bag you bring in to use with a 10 bag limit per shopping trip.
- Lowe’s Foods - Bring in reusable grocery bags and receive a $0.05 discount per bag with a 20 bag limit.
- Reasor’s Foods - Bring in reusable grocery bags and receive a $0.06 discount per bag with no bag number limit.
- Target - Bring in reusable bags and receive a $0.05 discount per bag.
- Trader Joe’s - Some locations give you a $0.05 discount for each reusable bag you bring in to use.
- Whole Foods - Bring in reusable bags and receive a $0.05 discount per bag.
27. Buy coffee in the 28-35 ounce can when it goes on sale. You can pay as little as $4.99 for a 30-ounce can of brand-name coffee at the sale price. Why pay as much as $5.49 for a 12-ounce one at the regular price?
28. Over the past couple of years, peanuts have dramatically increased in price. Always buy them on sale and in bulk.
29. You can buy Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Cameo, Red, and Delicious apples for as little as 99 cents a pound when they are in season.
30. Avoid traps like "Buy one and get one 50% off." You're only saving 25% on both items.
31. Many supermarkets feature unadvertised specials in the meat and produce departments. Keep an eye out for these pleasant surprises.
32. Some supermarkets also mark down meat and bakery goods that are about to expire. Buy and freeze them for later use.
33. Avoid making last minute impulse buys (magazines, tabloids, candy, chewing gum, etc.) while in the checkout line.
34. Don’t be fooled by "2 for $5" or "10 for $10" advertised specials. The supermarket is only tricking you into buying more.
35. Many supermarkets have special clearance areas. You can find terrific markdowns on everything from olive oil to cake mixes.
36. From time to time, certain grocery items have “instantly-redeemable” manufacturer’s coupons attached to them. Examples include household cleaners, laundry stain remover, spray starch, skin care products, vitamins, and mouthwash.
Combining advertised specials with "instantly-redeemable" coupons is another excellent way to save money at the grocery store. What’s even better is when your supermarket doubles the face value of the coupons.
Here is an example of how well this strategy works:
At Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, the regular price for an 18-ounce bottle of brand-name mouthwash is $4.99.
One week, the mouthwash was marked down to "buy one, get one free." Each bottle also had a 55 cents manufacturer's coupon attached to it.
If you bought two bottles of mouthwash at the regular price, you would have paid $9.98.
If you bought two bottles at the sale price ($4.98), and had two 55 cents manufacturer's coupons doubled ($2.20), you would have paid $2.78. That's a savings of $7.20, or 72%.
37. Always look at the unit price (price per ounce or pound). Sometimes the larger size isn't the most economical.
38. Find lower-cost alternatives to expensive items. For example, buy chicken breasts instead of pricey ground sirloin.
39. Try to go grocery shopping alone. Your "little helpers" might persuade you to buy items you don't need or want.
40. Buy ground chuck, ground round, ground sirloin, or lean ground beef only when it goes on sale. Traditional ground beef might be cheaper, but it's also a cardiologist's next BMW.
41. Never go to the supermarket without:
- A shopping list and calculator
- Your manufacturer's coupons and perks card
- Your supermarket's weekly circular
- Rain checks (if applicable)
42. Before getting into the checkout line, look at your cart or basket and decide which items you don't really need (potato chips, cookies, etc.).
43. Pay for your groceries with cash instead of a debit card or check and you will generally spend less.
44. Always check your receipt for accuracy. If you catch a pricing error, some supermarkets will give you the item for free. For example, Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle will give you the first improperly scanned item for free.
45. If your supermarket "price matches" its competitors, take advantage of this fringe benefit. You won't waste time and money going to several different stores for the best prices.
46. Skip the deli and give your wallet some time off. Why pay $10.99 for a pound of roast beef or $4.99 for eight ounces of bagel chips?
47. Why pay $1.29 for eight ounces of sour cream when you can buy 16 ounces of the same brand for $1.69?
48. Why should you pay $3.99 for 24 ounces of brand-name pasta sauce when you can buy a comparable size of the store brand for $1.49?
49. Why pay $1.19 for a single roll of paper towels when you can buy eight rolls of the same brand for $4.99 when it goes on sale?
50. Why should you pay $1.99 for a can of solid white tuna when you can buy it on sale for $1.00 or less?
51. Instead of buying instant oatmeal, buy quick oats. A 12-ounce package of instant oatmeal costs up to $2.99 while a 42-ounce box of quick oats costs as little as $2.49.
52. Why pay $1.99 for a box of facial tissue when you can get it on sale for 99 cents or less?
53. Why should you pay $2.99 for six ounces of shredded cheese when you can buy eight ounces of chunk cheese for the same price?
54. Why pay 75 cents for six ounces of yogurt when you can buy 32 ounces of the same brand for $2.69?
55. Why should you pay $1.49 for four rolls of bath tissue when you can buy 24 rolls of the same brand for $4.99?
56. Buy generic or store brands instead of brand names. For example, the price for a 42-ounce box of generic oatmeal is $2.69 at one Ohio supermarket. Comparably, the store brand is $3.99 and the brand name is a whopping $5.99. Is your calculator available?
57. Buy in-season produce. You can pay as little as 99 cents for a pound of red seedless grapes when they are in season, and as much as $3.99 a pound when they are not.
58. Why pay $4.29 for 10 ounces of potato chips when you can buy a pound of nutritious bananas for as little as 39 cents?
59. Why should you pay $2.49 for a six-ounce box of macaroni and cheese when you can buy a comparable size of the store brand for 59 cents?
60. Why pay $1.99 for nine ounces of dish detergent when you can buy 25 ounces of the same brand for $2.00 when it goes on sale?
61. Why should you pay $3.99 for a six-ounce breakfast entrée when you can buy a 42-ounce box of healthy oatmeal for $2.69?
62. Why pay $2.29 for a 20-ounce can of spray starch when you can buy it on sale for 99 cents?
63. Why should you pay $4.29 for 32 ounces of brand-name window cleaner when you can buy a gallon of windshield wiper fluid for $3.49?
64. Why pay $2.99 for a 16-ounce bottle of salad dressing when you can make it from scratch for much less per serving?
65. Why should you pay $2.49 for 16 ounces of cottage cheese when you can buy 32 ounces of the same brand for $3.00 or less?
66. Why pay $1.49 for a 15-ounce can of brand-name kidney beans when you can buy a comparable size of the store brand for 79 cents?
67. Why should you pay $2.19 for a 15-ounce can of chili when you can make it from scratch for much less per serving?
68. Why pay $6.99 for brand-name hydrocortisone cream when you can buy a comparable size of the store brand for $2.99?
69. Why should you pay $4.99 for 15 ounces of canned coffee when you can buy 35 ounces of the same brand for $6.99 when it goes on sale?
70. Why pay $2.19 for 25 ft. of aluminum foil when you can get on sale for 99 cents?
Miscellaneous Ways to Keep Your Grocery Budget Fiscally Fit
71. Don’t forget to shop at the drugstore. You can find terrific deals on grocery and household supplies at CVS and Walgreens. If you sign up with SavingStar.com (please see above), you can link your all of your drug store loyalty cards to your SavingStar.com account for additional savings.
Recently, I saved a lot of money at my neighborhood CVS by combining advertised specials with an in-store coupon. Here's how it worked:
CVS reduced the price for an eight-pack of brand-name paper towels from $8.79 to $5.00. I bought two packages. They also reduced the price for a 5.5 ounce can of solid white albacore tuna from $2.19 to 88 cents. I bought 10 cans. I also used a $5 in-store coupon that was good on any qualifying purchase of $10 or more.
I ended up paying $14.15 for the paper towels and tuna. If I had purchased everything at the regular prices, I would have paid $40.71. The difference is a whopping $26.56 or 65%.
72. The average American household wastes about $500 worth of food every year. What are the best ways to cut back on food waste?
- First, always check the expiration dates on perishable foods before you buy them. Even if the dates expire during home storage, perishable foods should be safe for several days or longer if they are stored properly in the refrigerator.
- Next, put perishables into the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible.
- Finally, organize your pantry. From time to time, perishable items might be lost in disorganized pantries.
73. Join a warehouse club like Costco because the membership fees pay for themselves.
74. Invest in a crock pot. According to TheSimpleDollar.com, a crock pot "is perhaps the best deal on earth for reducing cooking costs in a busy family. You can just dump in your ingredients before work, put it on simmer, and dinner is done when you get home."
75. Stay away from vending machines because the merchandise is generally overpriced. For example, a six-ounce size of brand-name yogurt costs up to $1.50 at a vending machine. You can pay as little as 40 cents for the exact same yogurt when it goes on sale at the supermarket.
76. You should also avoid 24-hour convenience stores because of significant markups on almost all of the merchandise.
77. Clean your windows with newspaper instead of paper towels.
78. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets.
79. Use rags whenever possible. This cuts back on using paper towels.
80. Make your own salad dressing. For example, thousand island dressing is a combination of mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle relish, salt, and pepper.
81. Make a 50/50 combination of fresh milk and powdered milk for everyday use.
82. Eat more cabbage. It's one of the healthiest and most economical vegetables on the planet. Make cabbage soup, coleslaw, cabbage rolls, stuffed cabbage, etc.
83. Don't waste dish detergent because it is not going to get your pots and pans any cleaner. Instead, invest in a quality scrubbing brush.
84. As long as your physician allows it, eat a banana every day. Add it to your oatmeal or enjoy it as a snack. Bananas are nutritious and economical.
85. Onions are one of the cheapest and healthiest vegetables. Add them to salads, stews, chili, pasta dishes, and seafood. You can buy a three-pound bag of yellow onions for as little as $1.49 at Aldi stores throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.
86. Cook a simple and economical meal like soup or stew at least once a week.
87. Over 24 million Americans suffer from some type of eating disorder. If you are eating too much white flour, white sugar, and saturated animal fat, changing your dietary habits could also lower your grocery bill over time. For example, a 10-ounce package of potato chips costs as much as $4.29. On the other hand, a pound of bananas costs as little as 39 cents.
Here is a list of “energy-draining” and “weight-boosting” foods that you should eliminate from your grocery shopping list:
- Alcohol (I am including alcohol on this list because certain states--including my native California--allow grocery and drug stores to sell alcoholic beverages.)
- Fatty meats
- Fruit juices (including all-natural fruit juices)
- Hoagies (I am including hoagies on this list because they generally contain white or whole wheat flour as well as fatty meats.)
- Muffins and pastries
- Packaged cereals
- Potato chips, corn chips, cheese curls, popcorn, etc.
- Soda (diet or regular)
- White and whole wheat bread
- White potatoes
By contrast, here is a list of "energy-boosting" foods that you should have on your grocery shopping list at all times:
- Almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts
- Brown rice
- Peanut butter
- Sweet potatoes
88. If you've been eating out more than twice a week, consider eating out once every two weeks or even once a month. You will appreciate eating out more and you will also be amazed at how much money you can save. Now which is more important? Building up your emergency savings fund or spending $75 a week on take-out pizza and pepperoni rolls?
89. Use meat as an "accent" and save money every time. Homestead.com points out:
In the typical U.S. diet, a pound of meat serves four because meat is an American luxury, but in Latin or Oriental cooking, a pound of meat will serve eight or ten. Oriental cooking in particular uses meat as an accent, and I think you’ll find, as we do, that you’ll even feel better after a meal that makes heavy use of grains accented by small bits of meat as opposed to a plate covered by a slab of steak or roast. Again, besides saving money, you’re saving your health.
90. Use instant and mail-in rebates whenever possible. Whether the amount is $2.00 or $20.00, don't lose another minute and claim your free money.
91. Recycle old meals. Neil Shelton suggests that “Monday’s Casserole and Tuesday's Roast can become Wednesday’s stew with a little stock and some seasonings. Likewise, a large piece of meat can be stretched a lot further, as well as be more tasty and healthy if you use it in several different dishes with many bite-sized morsels.”
92. Invest in a deep freezer. You'll be glad you did.
93. Chop and shred foods yourself.
94. Here are some of the biggest markups at the grocery store:
- Batteries (Buying tip: Frequently, you can purchase batteries at CVS for 50% off regular retail.)
- Bottled water (The markup is about 4,000 per cent.)
- Cold soft drinks at the checkout line (You are paying extra for convenience.)
- Gourmet cheese (Bypass the deli and head to the dairy aisle for better prices.)
- Household supplies such as laundry and dish detergent, bleach, fabric softener, glass cleaner, disinfecting wipes, kitchen and bathroom cleaners, air fresheners, and light bulbs. (Buying tip: You can find better deals at Target and Walmart.)
- Name-brand spices and seasonings (Buying tip: Drug and dollar stores as well as Aldi have terrific prices on store brands.)
- Plastic beverage bottles and storage containers (Buying tip: Try Target or Walmart.)
- Pre-sliced meat (Once again, you are paying extra for convenience.)
- Soy and whey protein powder (Buying tip: Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi have much lower prices.)
95. Brown bag your lunch. Jennifer Derrick confirms:
This is an oldie but goodie which applies just as much today as it ever has. If you pack your own lunch instead of going out or buying from vending machines, you are going to save a lot of money throughout the year. If you never seem to have enough time to make your lunch in the morning, make it the night before.
96. Acquire a new hobby and grow some of your vegetables.
97. According to Dr. Oz, sweet potatoes, bananas, and oatmeal are three “super foods” that give you the biggest bang for your buck.
98. Instead of making a needless trip to the grocery store, use what you have on hand. At BigOven.com, you will find leftover recipes for chicken, ham, eggs, tomatoes, and much more. Just enter any ingredient and Big Oven searches over 300,000 recipes to find out what you can make.
99. You do not need to buy the $12.99 bottle of shampoo that your hair stylist recommends because "expensive" does not always mean better. You can buy a 15-ounce bottle of brand-name shampoo for as little as 79¢ when it goes on sale.
100. If a recipe calls for an expensive ingredient such as nutmeg or vanilla beans, throw the recipe away. (Author’s note: Did you know that the cost of vanilla beans ranges from $50 to $200 per pound, with the highest quality coming from Madagascar and Mexico.)
What You Need to Know About Shopping at Dollar Stores, Aldi Foods, and Non-Traditional Stores
101. As I mentioned above, grocery stores generally have huge markups on spices and seasonings. You can almost always find lower prices on store brands at the drug and dollar store or at Aldi.
Here is an up-to-date list of the low-priced spices and seasonings that you can buy at Aldi, CVS, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Rite Aid, Trader Joe's, and Walgreens:
Aldi- basil leaves, chili powder, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, garlic salt, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, Italian seasoning, minced onion, onion powder, oregano leaves, paprika, parsley flakes, seasoned meat tenderizer, and steak seasoning. Aldi also carries a variety of organic spices and seasonings that are over 60 per cent cheaper than what you would pay at a traditional grocery store or even at Target. Here is their selection: cayenne pepper, garlic granules, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, and Italian seasoning.
CVS - basil leaves, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, garlic salt, ground black pepper, ground cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon, Italian seasoning, lemon pepper, minced onion, onion powder, oregano leaves, paprika, and parsley flakes.
Dollar Tree - bacon flavored bits, cayenne pepper, chili powder, chopped garlic, chopped onion, cinnamon sugar, crushed red pepper, dried basil, French fry seasoning, garlic pepper, garlic powder, garlic salt, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground pepper, ground sage, Italian seasoning, kosher salt, lemon pepper, minced garlic, onion powder, oregano leaves, paprika, parsley flakes, poultry seasoning, salt-free seasoning blend, and seasoned salt.
Family Dollar – Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, garlic salt, and ground black pepper.
Rite Aid - crushed red pepper, garlic powder, ground black pepper, ground cinnamon, onion powder, and parsley flakes.
Trader Joe's - Basil, cumin, garlic powder, ground cinnamon, Himalayan pink salt, organic oregano, pumpkin pie blend, rainbow peppercorns, red chili pepper, smoked paprika (very highly recommended), South African smoke seasoning, and Spanish saffron.
Walgreens - chili powder, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, garlic salt, ground black pepper, ground cinnamon, Italian seasoning, minced onion, onion powder, oregano leaves, and parsley flakes.
In addition to spices and seasonings, here are over 50 dollar-store bargains that you can’t afford to miss:
- Artificial flowers
- Baby oil
- Baking soda
- Bath fragrances
- Best-selling books
- Bingo markers
- Bubble bath
- Clay pots
- Clothes pins
- Coffee filters
- Coloring and puzzle books
- Corn starch
- Cotton balls
- Craft supplies (poster board, construction paper, etc.)
- Decorative gift bags and baskets
- Drinking glasses and mugs
- Fake snow
- Fly swatters
- Gardening gloves
- Glue sticks
- Greeting cards
- Hand sanitizer
- Handy wipes
- Holiday decorations (Author's note: Never buy holiday light strings or metallic Christmas garlands at the dollar store.)
- Hula hoops
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Ice cube trays
- Kitchen dish clothes
- Large bowls for chips, snacks, etc.
- Masking tape
- Office supplies (paper clips, ruled index cards, security envelopes, highlighters, calculators, etc.)
- Packing tape
- Painters drop cloths
- Party supplies
- Petroleum jelly
- Picnic supplies (packages of napkins with American flags, paper plates, etc.)
- Plain white socks
- Popsicle sticks
- Potting soil
- Rubbing alcohol
- Scotch tape
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Shaving cream
- Small picture frames
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Wrapping paper
Here are 30 items that you should never buy at the dollar store:
- Aluminum foil wrap
- Canned goods
- Chewing gum
- Detergents and cleaning products
- Electronic accessories (for example, power strips, USBs, chargers, and ear buds)
- Hair accessories
- Holiday light strings
- Metal children's jewelry
- Metallic beads
- Metallic Christmas garlands
- Oven mitts and potholders
- Paper products (paper towels, toilet tissue, facial tissue, napkins, etc.)
- Perishable foods
- Pet food and treats
- Plastic cooking utensils
- Plastic food containers
- Plastic food storage bags
- Plastic wrap
- Pregnancy tests
- Silly straws
- Skincare products
- Vinyl floor coverings
- Vitamins and supplements
102. If you have an Aldi store near you, don’t waste another minute and start saving up to 75% on many of the groceries that you would normally buy at a traditional supermarket or drug store.
Aldi currently operates nearly 2,000 stores in 35 states, including Southern California, Florida, and Texas. Several years ago, Aldi opened a store in the Friendship area of Pittsburgh which is not far from my Squirrel Hill neighborhood. The store was an instant success and attracts thousands of customers every week from various Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
More information about Aldi store locations:
Aldi stores are located in the following USA states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. Aldi also operates stores in the District of Columbia.
Here are over 50 metro areas in which Aldi stores are located: Anaheim (CA), Bakersfield (CA), Long Beach (CA), San Bernardino (CA), New Haven (CT), District of Columbia (DC), Boca Raton (FL), Gainesville (FL), Miami (FL), Orlando (FL), Tampa (FL), Atlanta (GA), Des Moines (IA), Chicago (IL), Indianapolis (IN), Topeka (KS), Wichita (KS), Louisville (KY), Plymouth (MA), Worcester (MA), Baltimore (MD), Silver Spring (MD), Ann Arbor (MI), Battle Creek (MI), Detroit (MI), Minneapolis (MN), Saint Paul (MN), Kansas City (MO), St. Louis (MO), Charlotte (NC), Omaha (NE), Cherry Hill (NJ), New Brunswick (NJ), North Bergen (NJ), Amherst (NY), Bronx (NY), Brooklyn (NY), Buffalo (NY), Syracuse (NY), Akron (OH), Cincinnati (OH), Cleveland (OH), Columbus (OH), Dayton (OH), Toledo (OH), Oklahoma City (OK), Erie (PA), Pittsburgh (PA), Philadelphia (PA), Providence (RI), Columbia (SC), Greenville (SC), Sioux Falls (SD), Knoxville (TN), Memphis (TN), Nashville (TN), Dallas (TX), Ft. Worth (TX), Houston (TX), Alexandria (VA), Fredericksburg (VA), Milwaukee (WI), and Charleston (WV).
Here is a partial list of Aldi’s scheduled grand openings for 2017: Santa Fe Springs, CA; Vernon, CT; Jacksonville, FL; Decatur, IL; Plainfield, IN; Lapeer & Troy, MI; Maplewood, MN; St. Ann, MO; Hackensack, NJ; Gallipolis & Newark, OH; Broken Arrow, OK; Burnham & Lebanon, PA; Charlotte, Gastonia, Kinston, Thomasville, & Winston-Salem, NC; Greenwood & Indian Land, SC; Fredericksburg, Manassas, Midlothian, & Stafford, VA.
Here are some facts about Aldi that you should keep in mind:
- In order to maintain their reputation for rock-bottom prices without compromising quality, Aldi is strictly a “no frills” operation. In addition, their stores are smaller in size than a traditional supermarket such as Safeway, Kroger, or Giant Eagle.
- Aldi keeps their carts in one convenient place. You put a quarter in the cart, shop, and then return the cart to get your quarter back. This helps to keep prices low because Aldi doesn’t have to spend time retrieving carts.
- Aldi stocks both private labels and name brands.
- Aldi brands do not contain any trans fats, certified synthetic colors, or added msg.
- They do not have a rewards card or a fuel perks program.
- Aldi does not accept manufacturer’s coupons and is not a member of the SavingStar.com e-coupon program.
- At the check stand, Aldi accepts cash, debit cards, most major credit cards, and food stamps. However, they do not honor checks. If you pay for your groceries by debit card, you can request cash back at the point-of-sale.
- You must bag your own groceries as well as supply your own paper or plastic bags. As a convenience, Aldi sells both paper and plastic bags (each with the distinct Aldi logo) for a modest price.
- Aldi stores do not have pharmacies, wellness centers, in-store bank branches or ATMs, butcher shops or fresh seafood departments, in-house bakeries or delis, floral departments, fax services, or a dry cleaning and shirt laundry service.
- You cannot purchase money orders, postage stamps, lottery tickets, public transit passes, or tobacco products at Aldi.
- They do not have a greeting card or magazine section.
- Most Aldi stores have a designated clearance area for merchandise that has been reduced for quick sale.
- Unlike some Giant Eagle locations, Aldi stores in Pennsylvania do not sell alcoholic beverages. (Author’s note: Please note that I am unable to clarify Aldi’s policy on the sale of alcoholic beverages in the remaining 34 USA states in which their stores are located.)
- Aldi does not have a check-cashing service.
- They do not sell gift cards for major retailers like Target, Macy’s, or Best Buy.
- Unlike traditional grocery stores, Aldi does not have a wide selection of health and beauty aids as well as vitamins and nutritional supplements. For example, the only vitamins and supplements that you will find at the Aldi store in Pittsburgh’s Friendship neighborhood are multi-vitamins and fish oil.
- Aldi's hours of operation are more limited than a traditional grocery store. For example, most Giant Eagle stores in the greater Pittsburgh area are open from 6:00 AM to midnight seven days a week. On the other hand, most Aldi stores are open from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM Monday through Saturday and from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Sundays. In addition, Aldi stores are closed on New Year’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
- Some of Aldi’s private labels are marked pareve. Examples include yellow mustard, tomato ketchup, distilled white vinegar, dry roasted peanuts, steel cut oats, pasta, potato chips, and their 16.9-ounce bottle of extra virgin olive oil. (Author’s note: “Pareve” is a Yiddish word for neutral. Foods called pareve do not contain any meat or dairy products or their derivatives and may be used when preparing and serving meat or dairy meals. Examples of pareve products are fish, foods that are grown in the earth, and non-animal manufactured products such as artificial sweeteners. To further clarify which food products are pareve and which are not, let’s use ground cinnamon as an example: The Aldi brand of ground cinnamon is not marked pareve because it “may contain milk.” On the other hand, both the CVS and Rite Aid brands of ground cinnamon are marked pareve because they do not contain any dairy products or the derivatives of such.)
Most Aldi stores have a “Special Buys” section in addition to their range of everyday grocery products. “Special Buys” can include anything from electronics (for example, DVD players) to clothing and kitchenware. Here are some of the “Best Buys” that I found recently at the Aldi store in Pittsburgh’s Friendship neighborhood: 4-piece bath sets, 5-quart colanders, baking pans, cook, fry and serve pans, folding trunk organizers, glass cutting boards, high-reach cleaning kits, kitchen mats, kitchen towels, mesh bins, muffin pans, pet food containers, pizza pans, popcorn makers, rotary graters, soup crock sets, suction mirrors, and toilet seats.
Here are some examples of Aldi's rock-bottom grocery prices:
(Author’s note: Grocery prices at Aldi, Giant Eagle, and CVS are subject to change at any time. In addition, Giant Eagle is the major grocery store chain for the greater Pittsburgh area.)
- A 32-ounce bottle of private-label lemon juice costs $1.99 at Aldi. You would pay as much as $3.69 for the same size of the name brand at Giant Eagle.
- A 16-ounce can of store-brand pork and beans costs 49 cents at Aldi. You would pay up to 99 cents for a comparable size of the private label at Giant Eagle.
- A 16-ounce can of private-label chili beans costs 59 cents at Aldi. You would pay as much as $1.39 for the same size of the name brand at Giant Eagle.
- An eight-ounce package of store-brand refrigerated cheddar cheese costs as little as $1.49 at Aldi and as much as $2.99 at Giant Eagle.
- A 4.25-ounce jar of private-label ground cinnamon costs $1.19 at Aldi. You would pay up to $1.99 for 1.87 ounces of the store brand at CVS when it is not on sale. That’s a potential savings of almost 74%.
- A 4.25-ounce jar of store-brand paprika also costs $1.19 at Aldi. At CVS, you would pay up to $1.99 for 1.87 ounces of the private label when it is not on sale. Again, that’s a potential savings of almost 74%.
- A 20-ounce jar of store-brand yellow mustard costs 79 cents at Aldi. You would pay up to $1.99 for a comparable size of the name brand at Giant Eagle.
- A 5.75-ounce jar of private-label pimento olives costs $1.29 at Aldi. You would pay as much as $2.99 for the same size of the store brand at Giant Eagle.
- A 42-ounce box of private-label whole grain oats costs $2.39 at Aldi. You would pay up to $4.99 for the same size of the name brand at Giant Eagle and even more at CVS.
- A 16-ounce jar of store-brand dry roasted peanuts costs $1.99 at Aldi. You would pay as much as $4.99 for the same size of the name brand at Giant Eagle and much more at CVS.
- One dozen eggs cost as little as 69 cents at Aldi and as much as $1.99 at both Giant Eagle and CVS.
- A 32-ounce bottle of private-label distilled white vinegar costs 79 cents at Aldi. You would pay up to $2.99 for the same size of the name brand at Giant Eagle. That’s a potential savings of nearly 74%.
- A one-pound bag of radishes costs 99 cents at Aldi and as much as $2.49 at Giant Eagle.
- You can buy three cucumbers for as little as 99 cents at Aldi but pay triple the price at Giant Eagle.
- You can buy an eight-ounce package of whole mushrooms for $1.29 at Aldi but pay up to $2.99 at Giant Eagle.
- A 10 ¼-ounce bag of store-brand potato chips costs $1.49 at Aldi. You would pay as much as $4.29 for a comparable size of the name brand at both Giant Eagle and CVS.
- At CVS, you would pay $2.99 for a 32-ounce bottle of Fabuloso household cleaner. At Aldi, you would pay the exact same price for a 56-ounce bottle. That’s a potential savings of nearly 61 per cent.
103. To keep your grocery budget fiscally fit, you might also want to shop at non-traditional stores. Jennifer Derrick explains:
Bread outlets, farmer's markets, butchers, ethnic stores, and ding and dent stores are all sources of less expensive food than traditional grocery stores. The same is true within the store. If you go to the ethnic section within your grocery store, you will often find the same spices for less money than they are selling in the spice section.
Some Parting Words
This hub has taught you over 100 smart ways to save hundreds of dollars on groceries every week. To live fiscally fit, pay all of your bills on time to avoid late fees. A late fee--also known as a past due fee--is a charge levied against a person by a company or organization for not paying a bill or returning a rented or borrowed item by its due date. Late fees are assessed on your mortgage, cellphone, cable, utilities, insurances, credit cards, library books, traffic tickets, and of course Uncle Sam.