If you’re like me then you spend way too much money on groceries. And I’m the worst at coupons. I’ll save them, right? But then some magical force in the universe will make the one I actually need before a trip disappear. It’s maddening. I’ll know without a shadow of a doubt that I saved that coupon for crackers but when I go to find it, all I’ll find is just hundreds upon hundreds of coupons for cat litter. And then the next trip (when I’m desperately in need of cat litter), I’ll think, YES, finally I have coupons I can use. But then every single coupon for cat litter will mysteriously have morphed into coupons for laundry detergent. It has to be something I’m being punished for that I did in a past life. I refuse to believe current me deserves the universe’s mockery to such a degree.
But regardless of the cruel curse that is obviously upon me, I know I can do better at saving money on groceries if I’m just a little bit more organized and if I put just a little bit more thought into my trips. Because there are some easy tricks you can follow to save big money on your grocery spending.
1. Study the contents of your pantry more thoroughly than your mom studies your Facebook page to learn all of your secrets.
We waste TONS of money every year by simply forgetting that we already have a half used container of say, vanilla and then rebuying it to make cookies. Every week before you shop you should take stock of what you already have. Then, when you make your weekly grocery list, you won’t be wasting extra dollars on ingredients you totally own. Having trouble remembering what you have in there? Try a mnemonic device! Let’s imagine you have raspberry jam, pasta, saltines, tomato soup, chocolate cake mix, tea, and brown sugar in your cupboard. Well just turn them into a simple word using the first letter of each item. Like Rpstctb. See how easy and fun it is? You’ll remember Rpstctb as long as you live.
2. Then consume EVERYTHING like you’re at an open bar and you only have an hour left.
Now, that you’ve looked in your pantry and discovered, yes, you DO already have the breath of a thousand babies bottled up and at your disposal for all your witchcraft needs, you need to become serious about using it all up. As Americans, we let so much food go to waste every year. So spend some time googling recipes that will use up that coriander or spells that will totally curse your terrible boss with that toadstool you have sitting around. You’ll be cost effective AND save the environment at the same time (Unless you’re doing spells to cast about the end of days in which case, you just keep doing you).
3. Plan your meals based on sales and not based on a recipe you saw in a magazine at your dentist’s office.
Lots of grocery saving tips tell you to plan your recipes first and THEN go shopping. But that will lead to you buying lots of items at full price. The better way to plan your meals is to see what’s on sale and then Google recipes around those items. Like maybe you find great deals on chicken and beans that week. So now you know you should make a chicken chili. Or fill a bathtub full of beans and bathe in it, yelling, I made it! I’m the king of the beans! Look Ma, no hands. All beans! I’M THE KING OF THE BEANS!
4. Know your Route like you’re preparing to be a contestant on Supermarket Sweep.
We tend to pick up unnecessary items when we wander aimlessly down every aisle. So know your local grocery store inside and out and only go down the aisles with foods on your list. It will keep you from grabbing things you totally don’t need “because they’re on sale” or “because you suddenly remembered that the dog next door told you in a dream to poison everyone in your family and also, ‘could you pick up some peanut butter?’”
If I had a nickel for every time a grocery item in an aisle (I wasn’t supposed to be in!) reminded me of the cryptic murder instructions given to me by a dog and then I bought said unnecessary items to satiate him? Then OOOOH BOY. I’d be a rich lady.
5. Store out of a sale item? Scream “Raincheck” over And over again until you either get one or are forcibly removed from the premises.
It’s easy to simply give up when a sale item is out of stock! But stores will actually give you a raincheck so you can come back and get the item at its sale price the next time you’re in. So take advantage of that. You deserve that sale, just like you probably deserve to be banned for life for taking off all your clothes, curling up in a fetal position, and sobbing for three hours when you saw they were out of the brand of marshmallows in the “2 for the price of 1″ deal.
You were going to have S’mores for weeks. WEEKS.
6. Always Go To The Cheesecake Factory For A Full Meal Before You Shop.
They say you should never shop on an empty stomach. You’ll pick up all sorts of things in your desperate “haven’t eaten in at least an hour” state. So make sure to eat a full meal when you shop because then you’re more likely to stick to your list, and skip the fattening empty, expensive snack foods that look so good when you’re super hungry. (You don’t have to have that meal at the Cheesecake factory, but why wouldn’t you??? What? You have a problem with the Cheesecake Factory? Monster).
7. Stock Up Extreme Couponing Style When Things Are On Sale.
This one you have to be careful with. Yes, you should stock up on things when they’re on sale so you can avoid having to buy them again at full price. Buy an extra couple of packages of chicken to freeze when they go on sale or stock up on pasta if you know you like to have a good bowl of pasta every week. But you also shouldn’t buy things specifically because they’re on sale. Like don’t buy 16 bottles of Worcestershire sauce even if it’s the best deal on the planet. You just aren’t going to use it. A good rule of thumb is to buy the amount of a sale item that you’ll be able eat in 10 weeks. Any longer and you’ll probably forget about it or let it go bad.
So it might be worth it to buy 10 boxes of mac and cheese if you eat it like it’s your job. But if you only eat it once in a blue moon? Stick to one or two. Unless you’re building life-sized macaroni sculptures of the full cast of Law and Order SVU in your living room to surprise them in case they ever visit. In which case, you buy as much macaroni as you can get your hands on, you American hero, you.
8. Watch The Cashier Like A Hawk Or A Falcon Or Some Other Bird That Really Knows How To Save Money.
You might feel stupid quibbling over a ten cent difference in a can of soup, but all those little charges can really add up. Keep track of the sale items you have in your cart and then watch as they’re rung up to make sure the charges are reflected properly. It’s actually amazing how many mistakes you’ll catch when you watch the register. Also, stores actually have to accept their own prices when they’ve mismarked a sale. There are people who literally study this.
Just be super polite about it when you point out any discrepancies to the cashier. If you’re a dick to them about it then you deserve to be over paying for your soup. NO CHEAP SOUP FOR YOU.