How to Shop for the Cheapest Groceries

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Woman with cart shopping for groceries.
Woman with cart shopping for groceries. (Image: gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images)

If your grocery budget is tight, you may need to adopt some new strategies for reducing your grocery bill. The overall key to saving money on groceries is planning. You should plan what you are going to buy based on what is on sale and your available coupons. In addition, stocking up on canned goods, staples, and frozen food when they're on sale are excellent long-term savings strategies. Plan to invest some time into comparing store prices, reviewing store ads, creating menus and clipping coupons to maximize savings.

Things You'll Need

  • Notebook
  • Coupons
  • Store ads
  • Menu plan

Use weekly sales ads or circulars to plan your menus for the upcoming week. This will allow you purchase mostly sale items each week. Also, if you notice an item is on sale at a store you do not regularly frequent, take the ad with you to your preferred grocery store and request a price-match.

Review your local stores' coupon policies. If you use coupons often, and you should, you will probably want to shop at a store that doubles coupons up to a certain amount.

Collect and organize coupons weekly from the Sunday newspaper and online store or coupon sites. You may want to buy more than one copy of the Sunday paper if the coupon insert includes coupons for products you buy often. Go through your coupons periodically to weed out those that are expired or are for products you no longer care for.

Buy three to six weeks' worth of grocery items you use often whenever they go on sale. Use coupons for items when they are on sale. This will allow you to stockpile enough of them until they go on sale again.

Pay attention to unit prices. Many people incorrectly assume that a larger package, a bulk package or a store brand will be cheaper, but that is not always true. Some stores post the unit price or the price per ounce on the shelf price sticker; some states require this by law. If the unit price is not listed, divide the total cost by the number of items in the package or the number of ounces in the package. Buy the product with the lowest per-item or per-ounce cost.

Avoid being dedicated to only one brand of a certain grocery item. Buy the brands that are on sale or that you have coupons for.

Compare prices at local grocery stores. Make a list of items you routinely buy vertically down a page in a notebook. Write the name of local grocery stores horizontally across the top of the page to create a chart. Fill in the price of each item at each of the different stores. You do not have to visit all the local grocery stores in your area, but you may want to compare at least two or three of the grocery stores you visit regularly. Do not automatically assume that discount store, dollar store or warehouse prices are lower than other stores' prices; compare their prices as well. After comparing prices, plan to buy grocery items wherever they are cheaper by making two or three grocery stops at different stores each week. Do not make too many trips or drive all over town looking for the cheapest groceries because the price you pay for gas to make multiple stops may offset any money saved on groceries.

Buy fruits and vegetables at a local farmer's market. Often, their prices are lower than prices at grocery stores. If fresh vegetables often spoil before you eat them, you will benefit from washing and freezing them as soon as you get them home. Otherwise, it may be more economical to buy frozen vegetables.

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