How much did you spend on groceries last week? Between wallet-busting shopping runs and last-minute trips to pick up frozen pizza, the cost of chow can take a bite out of anyone’s budget. But there’s good news. You can save money at the checkout counter tonight – without resorting to scarfing down canned pasta or day-old bread.
We asked two retail experts for the scoop.
Consider what you’re buying
It sounds obvious, but a lot of people are on autopilot when they shop and hardly notice what they’re spending, says Kimberley Clancy, owner of Frugal Shopper Canada in Mississauga, Ont. So start paying attention to the cost of your staples like milk and apples. “That way if there’s a change in price, you’ll actually know if it’s a good deal,” she says. No more taking the store’s word for it.
Go big then go home
Instead of swiping a couple of potatoes, onions or carrots from the bulk bin, pick up prepackaged bags for a savings of up to 50 percent. Or bypass the stewing beef and opt for a cheap roast. When we tried it, stewing beef was going for $11 per kilogram while a hunk of roast was only $6.59 per kilogram. And it took only five minutes (and a sharp knife) to cut it up for a homey stew.
The small picture
“Think about the money in your pocket, not the money in your bank account,” advises Philip Graves, a consumer behaviouralist and author of Consumer.ology: The market research myth, the truth about consumers and the psychology of shopping. Studies show that when people focus on the cash in their wallet instead of their salary, they spend less. So, if you budgeted $100 for groceries that week, then stick to your budget.
Hit the coupon stand
Most grocery chains stock coupons right in the store so they’re easier to use than ever. And if you find yourself turning up your nose up at the old clip-and-save for fear of looking cheap at the checkout counter, get over it, insists Clancy. “If you save only $10 a week, that works out to $520 a year. These little savings really do add up,” she says.
Organize your list
Ever find yourself running back through the store because you didn’t see the cucumber at the bottom of your shopping list? Do what Susan Zutautas, a 53-year-old mom from Orillia, Ont, does and categorize the food on your list by aisle. Not only do you save time, you’ll be less tempted to grab a bag of cookies on your way back to produce.
No list? No problem
Wandering the grocery aisles looking for meal inspiration? Guaranteed you’re going to walk out the door with way more food than you need. Instead, make a beeline for the store’s magazine rack and find a quick, yummy recipe. For the price of a $3.99 publication you’ll save yourself mega-bucks that you might have overspent on prepared food.
Don’t be fooled
Four limes for a dollar? Sounds like a great deal, but what if your recipe only calls for one? “Think of special offers and even bulk buys as being ‘what the supermarket wants to sell you,’ rather than ‘what you want to buy,’” cautions Graves. So don’t be bamboozled by this old grocery store trick. In most cases you can buy that one piece of fruit (or box of cereal instead of three) and still get the sale price.