Wednesday, February 12, 2014

4 Tips for Saving Money on Groceries Without Using Coupons

A couple years ago, I needed to significantly cut our budget.  I later wrote a series of posts on the "15 Changes that Save us Over $13,000 a Year."  One thing that I did really well for a long time was coupons.  The upside was that it helped cut our consumables budget by 70%.  The downside was it took a significant amount of time for a busy mom of 3, and also added a considerable amount of stress when coupon shopping with three kids, which happened a lot.  At some point, I realized that I wanted to stop using coupons; however our financial situation had not changed, so I had to find another way to keep our budget low ($300/month for the then 5 of us).

I started to shop differently.  And over time, I learned to keep our food budget just as low as when I had used coupons, but with no coupons, and much less stress.

Here are my top 4 tips for keeping your food budget low WITHOUT using a single coupon.

1.  Don't be choosy with your stores. 
If you have a very favorite store out there, I get it.  I do, too.  But, if you are trying to save money, being store loyal is not always the best route.  Some of the stores tagged "expensive" often have some of the best sales.  Many store sales, even at "expensive" stores will leave you with lower prices than the prices you'll find at Walmart.

2.  Pay attention to store circulars.
I personally choose one store with the best sales or my preferred menu items on sale each week.  Depending on what I want on my menu, the store that I choose to shop at may be different each week.  Occasionally, I will shop at two stores if there are really great deals at both stores and my kids are in a happy mood.  Watch for your store circulars and browse through them to pick a store (or two) that has great sale items.

3.  Menu plan using sale items.
Using those store circulars, plan your meals.  If ground beef is on sale, plan some meals using ground beef.  If it's chicken, plan for chicken.  If apples and oranges are the fruit on sale, plan to have those for snacks that week.

Menu planning saves us a ton of money.  By having a plan, you can avoid mid-week shopping trips where you might be tempted to pick up "a few extra things."  Stick to a carefully planned menu and avoid deviating from it.

4.  Stock pile foods. 
When you see those really great sale prices, stock up.  Buying even one or two more pounds of ground beef than you need at the moment it's on sale and putting it in your freezer will allow you to eat ground beef in your menu on a week when it is not on sale, and still see the savings.

Another way to do this is to pay attention to "case lot sales."  Kroger brand stores do these regularly (in my area these are the Smith's stores).  One of the items I stocked up on at the last case lot sale was canned corn.  If you bought a case of 12 cans of corn, it was only $4, which is $.33 per can.  Every time these sales come around, I stock up on enough to last me to the next sale.

Stock piling food is something you'll likely need to take slow at first, as you won't see the savings right away.  Once you've gotten into a good groove of stockpiling items to last you to the next sale, you will start to see huge savings since you will rarely need to pay full price for anything!

Using these 4 tips, you will be able to majorly lower your grocery budget over time.  It may take a little bit of time to adjust, learn, and successfully lower your budget, but you can absolutely do it...WITHOUT coupons!  

What are your non-coupon, money-saving tips?

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