Skimming through the weekly ads is always helpful to save money on groceries, and since I have to do it for my family anyway, I thought I would share a few “don’t miss” deals I’m finding at Wichita grocery stores this week.
Grocery deals will help you save a lot of money on meals if you buy judiciously and try to get the most nutritious foods for your dollar. If you have some freezer space, you’ll be able to preserve many items and keep on saving in the months to come. At the bottom of this article I’ve shared some ways my family and I save money – there’s nothing extreme (I don’t have time for that) and I tried to share tips that would apply for most families.
One of the ways we keep the grocery budget low is by shopping the sales and stocking up (not apocalypse-level, just buying a few extras) when food is cheap. We store in the freezer or pantry if we aren’t going to use something right away. Rule of thumb: use common sense and if you’re not sure whether you’ll use it, do not stock up.
Tips for Saving on Meat
I’m seeing fewer and fewer deals on meat these days but there ARE some still available, if you’re willing to work a little bit. On a recent week, I got two amazing deals. Your mileage may vary because these deals could go away at any time.
How We Save Money on Groceries -Our Methods
The key to saving money on groceries, – at least for me – is simplicity. Whenever I have a complicated plan it always seems to blow up in my face.
This means making really basic meal plans (nothing complicated!), keeping a stocked pantry, having goal prices for staples, perusing the weekly ads, and maybe taking advantage of a few coupons or app deals. And just so you know – occasionally I flunk (bad) frugal dining 101. Everyone probably does at some time or another. We just deal with it, and the consequences aren’t as bad as if you weren’t even trying to get your meals in under budget. So give yourself a pass and start again tomorrow.
(By the way, it’s smart to plan a restaurant or takeout night in your meal plan! Because you thought about it ahead of time, you can probably save money by using a coupon, taking advantage of a deal, or going during the early-bird special time.)
We don’t use extreme coupon methods here because I’ve never been able to make it work on a consistent basis. However, I am not above using a coupon if it’s for an item I am going to buy anyway, especially with the ease of digital coupons.
What I don’t try to do anymore is clip and match and stack and go for rebates and register rewards. It always got to be too much for me! Your mileage may vary; I know people save a lot of money that way and they love it. I usually get frustrated and spend more time than I have trying to figure it all out.
If you shop frequently at one particular store, it’s probably going to be worth downloading the store’s app so you can use all of its features. I find this to be particularly true of the Dillons app, where I can make my shopping list, find coupons for items on my list, view the ad, and even let the app help me navigate around the store.
Other apps you may consider include shopping apps that give you cash back for items you’ve already purchased. Most apps like this have you scan your receipt and choose applicable offers. When you’ve reached a certain dollar amount – say, $20 or $50 – the company will either mail you a check or you get a digital gift card of some kind. The particulars vary depending on which app you’re using.
The most popular of these shopping apps right now seems to be Ibotta. Dillons recently added cash-back offers on its app too; they are more like coupons, but the money is added to your shopper’s card.
You may be able to stack coupons with cashback offers to increase your savings. It’s a great bonus when it works, but this is also where couponing starts to get complicated and crazy-making.
It’s worth spending a few minutes every week skimming the grocery ads for good sale prices. You’ll find that certain items are always on sale around the same time every year. As an example, I get the best deals on baking items in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, so that’s when I always restock my supplies. You’ll also begin to see sale cycles, so you can start to make educated guesses about how much you’ll need to buy so it will last you until the next sale.
Shop Multiple Stores
We have a few favorite stores that we shop regularly. All are within a few miles of our home, so there isn’t a lot of extra time or gas involved in buying things from different stores. (If I lived in a rural area with one grocery store, I would definitely adjust my strategy.) Shopping at different stores helps us save on particular items; for example, at the time of this writing, milk is much less expensive at Dillons than it is at Sam’s, but Sam’s is where I buy almost all my paper goods, trash bags, tortillas, frozen fruit, and cheese (among other things). Other things I’ll try to get at Aldi, which we visit a little less frequently.
If you can develop a routine for shopping multiple stores, you can shave some dollars off your grocery budget each week.
In addition to all the methods above, one of the easiest and most fool-proof ways I save money at the grocery store is to have what I think of as my “buy price” for different categories. The reason this is so easy is that when I find myself at the store without a list or a plan (it happens), I’ll know whether the prices I’m seeing are good or way too expensive.
How this works is you set yourself a goal price for, say, meats. My goal price for boneless is $2 per pound. Some people think I’m crazy to have a goal price that low, and I’ll admit it’s getting harder and harder to find. But it still helps me make some decisions when I’m standing there in the grocery store. My goal price for bone-in meat, by the way, is 99 cents per pound.
If you’re strictly into organic, or free-range, or grass-fed, then obviously your “buy price” is going to have to be a lot more than mine, and that’s okay! You just decide what it is, and then when you go shopping or look at the weekly sales, you’ll know a good price when you see one.
Similar to having a “buy price” or goal price, comparing prices is another essential tool for saving money on groceries. But you need to know how to compare accurately. If you already understand how to find the unit price, you can skip this section. If you’re like me and need a reminder from time to time, read on.
For most food, I think in terms of price per pound (lb.). I mentioned above that $2 per pound is my goal price for meat, and that’s easy because fresh meat is usually priced and sold by the pound. But so many other foods aren’t! Think of chips, dairy items, bread, frozen vegetables, condiments like ketchup, mustard, peanut butter, etc. The package sizes of these items vary so much that it’s pretty much impossible to compare prices unless you are a human calculator.
Enter the electronic calculator. It’s perfect if you, like me, do not have a calculator in your head. Here’s how to find the unit price of any item:
price divided by units equals unit price
So let’s say I see a 30 oz. jar of brand-name mayo for $3.99. Is this a good price? Or should I choose the 12 oz. generic squeeze bottle for $1.99. At first glance I think the generic one is probably cheaper but I don’t really know until I calculate the cost of one ounce of mayo in each container.
$3.99 / 30 = .133
$1.99 / 12 = .16583
That’s quite a difference, actually. The larger name-brand mayo is 13 cents per ounce and the smaller generic squeeze bottle is almost 17 cents per ounce. If you need a squeeze bottle, it’s not enough of a difference to wreck your grocery budget but if all you were looking for is the cheapest mayo, it isn’t the generic squeeze bottle!
(Of course, on that same shelf is a 30 oz. generic mayo for $2.29 so you really don’t need to “math” here if you don’t want to. Where this skill of calculating the unit price really comes in handy is when you’re comparing one store’s price with another store’s price.)
Stocking up is another technique for saving money when you shop, and it’s also something I personally do not do in the extreme. My family has an extra freezer in the garage, but most of the time it isn’t full. (I should probably do a better job of stocking up, to tell you the truth.) But I do have several pounds of butter in there that we paid $1.99 for when it was on sale with a digital coupon. We also have a favorite brand of toilet paper and we buy it in a gigantic pack from the warehouse club. What we don’t try to do is have our own warehouse of supplies. I don’t have the space for that, and I’m also just not interested in that level of preparation. When we stock up, it’s usually to carry us through to the next sale cycle, so we’re only talking about several weeks worth, and just enough for our family – not for the whole neighborhood for twenty lifetimes.
I’m awful at meal planning so please don’t picture a cute internet printable with breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks all pre-prepped and outlined for each day. I start (and sometimes end) with a few basic meals that I know our family will eat and that I will actually cook. No pan-seared halibut with focaccia-crusted roasted artichoke hearts and fresh mango salsa. 🙂 Or whatever. I’m talking spaghetti, grilled cheese, nachos, fish sticks, lol! It’s not that simple all of the time, but I want to emphasize that a meal plan is something that is supposed to work, and it won’t work if you’re challenging yourself with difficult recipes and long grocery lists of ingredients at 5 p.m. every single weekday evening when the kids are needy, you and your spouse are tired, and everyone’s hangry.
You don’t have to Instagram every night’s meal. No one will know if you fall back on prepared spaghetti sauce or breakfast for dinner for the third time this week. And yes, they are doing it too.