Even though experts say we won’t be feeling the brunt of the recession until sometime in 2023, most of us are tightening our belts now. There are actually six, little-known, but vital shopping and cooking skills which will help you get through the tough times ahead.
Although politicians and economists express varied opinions on whether we are – or are not – in a recession right now, the truth is, we probably haven’t hit the top of the price increases or the bottom of the markets. So, what are some ways you can prepare for the next few months or years?
There are, of course, a number of ways to lower your grocery bills. But, let’s talk about specific, often overlooked ways you can shop to stretch your food dollar and cook to make your food go farther.
To see us discuss each of the six strategies in this post, click on the video below.
Tip #1: Know how to use the sales flyers.
It’s vital that you know exactly what is on sale at the best price before leaving home. This single habit will allow you to consistently spend less at the store. If you don’t have physical copies, the major grocers all have their weekly sales flyers available on-line.
Although a lot of people look at the flyers, the key to using them most effectively means planning your weekly menu around items which are on sale.
It is very common to find items at their lowest price when they are in-season. Ultra-low priced items in the sale flyer are called loss leaders.
This term is derived from the idea that technically the store may be taking a loss on these items. However, they are using those items to lead you to shop at their location.
This marketing strategy banks on the effectiveness of simply getting you in the door. Statistically, since they are already at the store, the vast majority of shoppers will buy all the items they need, meaning that the store actually makes more money in the long run, not less.
However, savvy shoppers will walk into the store, purchasing only heavily discounted items, and then planning an week’s worth of meals centered around those sale-priced ingredients.
Here’s an example. Take a look at this week’s Aldi flyer.
This ad features a variety of squash is on sale for a great price – You can get spaghetti squash, butternut squash or acorn squash – all for just 59¢ per pound. This means, you can buy four butternut squash with a total weigh a total of 18 pounds for just $10.62.
When the squash are roasted, they can provide the base of your dinner recipes for that week. You could consider making creamy squash sauce over elbow macaroni, chunky squash marinara sauce over spaghetti, spicy squash bowls, or curried Squash soup
Here’s the great part about these recipes – they make very generous portions which can feed a family of four for two nights each.
Here’s the bottom line. By starting with an ingredient which was on sale at a great price as the base of your weekly meals, you have just dramatically lowered the average cost of these meals.
Tip #2: Evaluate your receipts when you return home.
This simple task will take no more than fifteen minutes, but it’s a game-changer when it comes to lowering your monthly grocery costs.
Grab a pen or highlighter. Look at your receipt critically. Circle, underline, highlight, or put brackets around items on your receipt as you answer these questions.
- How many items did you buy for full-price?
- What percentage of your total bill was meat or prepared foods?
- Did you buy snacks?
- Flavored Waters?
- Did you buy anything that you didn’t really need?
- Did you buy something which would have been easier and cheaper to make it yourself?
As you work your way through the questions, make notes for yourself on a separate piece of paper.
The purpose is not to cause yourself to feel guilty. When you see how you’ve spent your money, you can then begin to make changes the next time you go shopping. Keep your receipt notes in a special place.
On your next shopping trip, complete this exercise in the same way, comparing notes from previous receipts in order to create a list of goals for how you’d like to spend your food dollars and save money on groceries in the future.
Tip #3: Figure out the number of servings from each ingredient.
Look at each ingredient in terms of NOT just the total price or even the unit price. Instead, consider the number of servings. Instead, ask yourself:
- How many recipes (or meals) will this serve my family?
- Does this ingredient require me to add other (maybe expensive) ingredients to it to make it into a meal. For instance, hamburger helper may be cheap, but we all know that the meat you have to add is expensive.
- Are there ways I can stretch this ingredient to go further?
Tip #4: Do more cooking from scratch.
It’s almost always possible to spend less on groceries if you do more cooking from scratch. The portions are nearly always larger for an at-home version rather than the boxed, bagged, or canned varieties from the store.
Although it’s necessary to remember that you are trading time for savings, many recipes can be made at home for half the price of the “made for you” varieties.
Additional advantages are that cooking from scratch can often save you from an extra trip to the store and you can make larger batches and freeze extras or use them over several days.
Tip #5: Know how long food you regularly buy lasts you.
Date items when you open them, so you know how long they last. This is especially effective if the ingredient will be used over a long period of time.
This practice also makes easy to challenge yourself to make that item last longer.
For instance, a quart of maple syrup will last us about one month. Because we’ve made a habit of writing the date in black ink on the side of the bottle when it was opened, we now know when we need to replenish our supply. We also cut back on how much syrup we used on our homemade pancakes and found we were able to stretch that syrup to last us at least two more weeks.
Tip #6: Consider areas of compromise.
Unless you’re already tried off-brands, buy generic where you can.
Although we love a premium cup of Joe in the mornings, we have discovered that Kroger and Aldi brands of coffee are very good. Our boys have gifted us with both of these brands and we have enjoyed both. We would not have normally tried either type, but we were very glad to discover that there were less expensive substitutes.
These six tips just skim the surface of the ways that we save money on groceries. If we’ve “whetted your appetite” and you’re ready to dig in, then check out the Grocery Super Savings Bundle.
I’d love to hear your best, little-known tip for saving money on groceries. How do you consistently spend less at the store? Leave a comment and let me know.