1. Keep a Price Book
Monitor the costs of groceries you buy regularly by jotting them down in a notebook. You can see how often things go on sale and plan accordingly. For example, if you find chicken is discounted every three weeks, buy three weeks’ worth when the price is right and freeze what you can’t use immediately.
2. Time Your Shopping Trips Right
Most grocery stores’ sales cycles begin on Wednesday. Avoid the first two days of the month, when government-aid checks are issued, as some stores raise prices then. Consider shopping after 4 p.m., when you might be able to nab half-price baked goods. And know the best times of the year to buy things that can be frozen or stored in your pantry. Turkey prices are slashed after holidays, for instance, while cereal manufacturers often offer deals during back-to-school season.
3. Use Grocery Shopping Apps
Want coupons for items you buy regularly? Use Grocery IQ to find them and load them onto your savings card. On the hunt for rock-bottom prices? Grocery Pal determines whether the store you’ve input has the best deal and notifies you if a nearby competitor does instead. For deals on organic foods, tap on BerryCart, the only rebate platform dedicated to organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO items from more than 100,000 stores.
4. Know Where to Shop For What
Supermarkets don’t always have the best deals. Milk is a loss leader at drugstores, so it can be 20 percent (or more) cheaper there than at the grocery store. Similarly, you can find lower prices on fish and meat at warehouse clubs and on canned and boxed goods at big-box stores. Shop for cleaning products and paper goods at dollar stores.
5. Take Full Advantage of Your Loyalty Card
Each time you sign up for a new card, visit the store’s website to find out what benefits are available. And be sure to fill out the form requesting your snail mail address, email address, or both, so you’ll be sent coupons for items you buy often. Can’t keep track of all your cards? Use the CardStar app to import all the bar codes and scan your phone at the checkout instead of your card.
6. Hit the Stores Alone
Taking the kids along means 1) you might give in to their demands for things you would not buy otherwise and 2) you might linger over items you’d typically speed past. That could add as much as 40 percent to your grocery bill, industry experts say.
7. Befriend the Butcher
Ask him which days he puts out the “quick sale” items (discounted meats that are nearing their expiration date) so you can snap them up to use now or freeze for later. And when cheaper roasts go on sale, have him grind one into hamburger for you. You could save up to $2.50 a pound over regular ground beef.
8. Beware the Deli Counter
You often can do better shopping elsewhere in the grocery store for deli items. For instance, American cheese might cost up to 30 percent more at the deli counter than in the dairy case. And a 7.5-ounce container of sliced ham can run more than $10 per pound, while a larger smoked ham that you slice yourself usually costs far less — as little as $3 a pound.
9. Consider Frozen Over Fresh
The nutritional value is similar, and when fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season, frozen produce is a better bet for both flavor and price. Frozen seafood is a deal, too — up to 40 percent less than what you’d pay at the seafood counter. And oddly enough, the freshest fish and shrimp can usually be found in the frozen-food aisle. Fish frequently is frozen immediately on the boat, whereas seafood labeled fresh might actually have been frozen and then thawed improperly.
10. Don’t Let One Good Deal Drive You
If you decide to make lasagna because ground beef is 30 percent off this week, you could end up buying full-prize tomato sauce and noodles. Instead, grab just the beef and freeze it. Continue to collect the ingredients as they go on sale, then pull together meals using items from your pantry and freezer.