Shopping for Groceries
- Plan ahead: don't shop while hungry, plan your meals, make time to prepare meals, get a store membership card, etc.
- Avoid sales tricks such as certain brand names, the eye-level ploy, and higher unit prices.
- Pay attention when you're shopping: buy in-season foods, watch the screen at checkout, and don't buy more than what you need.
- Shop around for deals, including free food available on campus.
Grocery stores can be a money trap, but they don’t need to be. If you plan ahead and follow a few strategic tips, you can save more and still have enough to fill your cupboard (and your 20 square inch section of the fridge).
- Never shop while you’re hungry because almost everything will tempt you. Eat a meal or grab a snack beforehand.
- Plan your meals for the week. Make a list or what you’ll need and stick to it! You’ll avoid unnecessary purchases.
- Don’t fall for the pre-sliced, pre-washed, pre-chopped, grated gimmick. Block cheese is cheaper than the bags of shredded cheddar. Washed, bagged lettuce is nearly three times as much as an unwashed bundle. Putting in a few minutes at home to wash and chop your fruits and vegetables can save you money each week.
- Get a store membership card. The other week at checkout my total was $58. I had the cashier scan my store card, and it instantly dropped to $49. Usually all you have to do is fill out a form, and then they issue your card and/or key ring card. Scan it each trip to the store, and depending on the store, you might also get points for savings at the gas pump.
- Decide what items to get generic and what items to get name brand. Some name brand items taste better than generic, and some taste the same.
- Compare the price per ounce. Deciding whether to get the 16 oz. bag of chocolate chips or the 32 oz.? Look at the price per ounce on the price tag. This is an easy way to see which item is less expensive, and it is another way of determining whether to get the generic or name brand item. Click here for more tips on successfully using unit prices.
- Beware of the eye-level ploy. Stores strategically place the most expensive items on the shelf at eye-level so you are more likely to buy them. Look higher. Look lower.
- Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season. Sorry, oranges are more expensive in summer, and berries are double the price in winter.
- Buy some things in bulk. Flour—yes! Oats—yes! Rice—yes! Spices—NO! Fresh items—NO!
- Throw in a few coupons. If they already come in the mail, and you know it’s something you eat, why not? Also, know what sales are going on that week and stock up.
- Avoid microwave mayhem (aka, processed food). It generally costs more than what you can make from scratch in your own kitchen, not to mention it is full of preservatives and artificial additives.
- Share staple items with your roommates. Make the baking shelf the community shelf. This way, you won’t have to purchase cinnamon, flour, powdered sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and spices all on your own dime. (And you won’t have to frantically try and use it all on your own).
- Watch the screen at checkout. A lot of people don’t get their two-for-one deal if they aren’t paying attention. Sometimes the store has computer errors and things don’t ring up at the right price. Don’t lose where you should be winning.
Eat well on a tight budget
It is possible to eat well and keep costs low. It is important to do both of those things, especially in college! Click here for a great list of sources you can use for delicious and inexpensive recipes.