Ultimate Guide to Saving Money at the Grocery Store

Food is one of the biggest expenses after housing, so finding ways to save money at the grocery store can mean the difference between saving and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Here are some of our favorite strategies for saving money at the grocery store.


Find the Best Coupons

It used to be that you could only get coupons through your newspaper or mail, and you had to hope that there would be a coupon for something you actually wanted. Thankfully, we don’t live in that world anymore. If you need it, odds are good there is a coupon somewhere online for it. Here are some of our favorite websites to find coupons.

One note about looking for coupons. You might find one and think “What a great deal!” but remember, it’s not a great deal if you didn’t need it in the first place.


Shop Items by Unit Price

Looking at item prices isn’t a trick, we all comparison shop, but manufacturers know this and will make packaging that deceives the eye. Heck, we’ve all opened a bag of chips to realize we purchased packaged air.

save money by shopping by unit price at the grocery store

To find the best deals, look at the unit pricing for items. Typically this will be below the price and will show cost-per-ounce. The best deal might be purchasing an item in bulk, so make sure that you know how to properly freeze produce or other goods to make them last.


Get Grocery Store Loyalty Cards

Almost every grocery store will offer a loyalty card. These cards will grant you discounts or savings on certain items in order to reward you for being loyal to their brand. The thing is, you aren’t limited to only having one loyalty card. If it is a store that you shop at, get the loyalty card. Keep them all in a drawer somewhere so as to not clutter your wallet and just grab the ones you need before you hit the store.


Search for Grocery Store Specials

Grocery stores need to move inventory. If something goes bad or can’t be sold, that hurts their bottom line. In order to help keep merchandise moving, they will run specials. When you are doing we weekly meal planning, check out what specials the store is running and build your menu around them. If you feel like you really can’t use the special this week, ask the cashier for a rain check. This will usually only work when they are out of a given item, but it is always worth a try. You can compound these efforts by finding manufacturer coupons for the item and stack the savings.


Don’t Buy Everything at One Grocery Store

Imagine this week you feel like experimenting. You want to make an authentic Indian curry. You might be able to find the ingredient and spices you need at your usual store, but the prices are likely to be pretty high. These items aren’t as popular, so they occupy shelf space for longer and thus need to be sold for more. You’re better off trying to find a specialty store.


Avoid These Grocery Store Tricks

save money at the grocery store by looking at the bottom shelf

  • Grocery stores have refined store layouts in order to make it easier to buy the most expensive items and items you don’t need. For example, the most expensive items will always be at eye level, making them the first thing you see. Look at the bottom shelves for the better prices. Stores also put common essential items, like milk and produce, on opposite ends of the store so that you will wander down the aisles. Focus on going directly to what you came for.
  • Going hungry or indulging in samples is a surefire way to end up purchasing things you don’t need. Always eat before you shop, or, if you can’t grab a meal, then carry around a pack of mints. Sucking on a mint while you shop will help kill some of those cravings.
  • Carry the basket. Carts have two tricks that will help you shop. First, they are huge, giving you plenty of room to chuck random items in. Secondly, they are on wheels, so you don’t have the weight to remind you that you’re getting a lot of items. Using a basket will limit both of those and help you to stay focused on your shopping list.
  • Bring your own music. This one sounds like a conspiracy theory, but grocery stores play music with slower tempos to encourage you to stroll leisurely around. Listening to music with a faster tempo will help you speed through.
  • Never shop when you are tired or stressed. We have a limited amount of willpower and we are more prone to caving into temptations when we are tired, stressed, sad, or angry. Spending money you don’t have will only make those emotions worse.
  • Leave the kids at home if you can. Stores position tempting items at child height specifically to trigger the “Mommy, can we get this?” Aside from this being a horrible experience for everyone involved, it also causes you to run the risk of saying “Yes” to something you didn’t plan on.
  • Know thyself. If you’re an impulse shopper, then don’t go to the store. Seriously. If you have a roommate or partner who can go, then send them. Or, if you must, make a shopping list and order the groceries online and arrange for pickup. Searching for the items online will minimize the opportunities to add things you don’t need.
  • Double check the cashier. I’m not suggesting that they are trying to con you on purpose, only that they are humans that sometimes make mistakes. Always look at your receipt and make sure it reflects what you purchased.


Buy Produce That Is In Season

When do you think we have more apples, when they are in season or when they are offseason? Easy, right? Obviously, there is a bigger supply of certain products when they are in season. Economics 101 lets us know that when there is an excess supply, prices drop, and when there is a limited supply, prices increase. Buying produce that is in season also guarantees better quality and freshness. It’s an all-around better way to shop and eat.


Use Cash Back Apps

There are several cashback apps that will give you money back just for shopping. Wild, right? These apps make their money by earning a small affiliate commission off of the items you buy, showing you ads, or providing your data (like purchasing habits) to companies. Assuming you’re okay with that, then these apps can be a great way to save money at the grocery store.


Never Buy These Items At A Grocery Store

There are some items you should just never buy at a grocery store.

  • Toiletries. Drug stores will usually have better deals.
  • Canned beans. Dried beans are cheaper and better tasting. Just soak them in water the night before you want to cook with them.
  • Prepared foods or pre-cut anything. Yes, these things are convenient, but you are paying extra to save yourself how much time?
  • Herbs. Nothing goes bad more quickly than fresh herbs. Make yourself a garden, it’s incredibly easy, your food will taste better, and it will save you money.
  • Milk. Convenience and drug stores, on average, are 30 to 50 cents cheaper.


Meal Plan Like A Chef

Chefs have to be master meal planners. If an ingredient doesn’t get used or goes bad, then that is some of their profits wasted. Here are some tips to meal plan like a pro.

    1. Go meatless one night a week. Vegetarians save, on average, $746.46 a year on their grocery bill.
    2. Cook double batches. Buying ingredients in bulk is typically cheaper and then you can freeze a meal for later.
    3. Plan meals with similar ingredients. A couple pounds of turkey can be made into burgers, meatballs, tacos, spaghetti… you get the idea.
    4. Double check your pantry. Sometimes we buy things we already have but have forgotten about. Americans throw away roughly 25% of their groceries every year. That is literally throwing money away.
    5. Look for the deal, then make the meal. Not the other way around.


Revise Your Strategies

Now that you have some of the basics down, it is time to tweak these strategies to fit your lifestyle. At the end of the month, look through your grocery store receipts and do the following:

      1. Find the most expensive item on your grocery list and research for a cheaper substitute. This might be another brand, another store, or another ingredient altogether. For example, instead of using pine nuts in pesto, try using almonds.
      2. Look at the items you most commonly buy. For me, that is coffee, bread, and peanut butter. Compare prices at different grocery stores to see who offers the lowest price on your most common items. Saving here will really add up.
      3. Write down the cost of ingredients at the top of the recipes. Add them to a binder of recipes and organize by cheap, moderate, and expensive. Now when you need to find a cheap meal, you will know exactly where to look. Or, if you want to impress, you can go to your fancier recipes.

Do you have a favorite trick to saving money at the grocery store? We’d love to hear it. Leave us a comment or feel free to tweet to us @Kasasa. Happy shopping!

Grilling On A Budget: A Blow-Out BBQ That Won’t Break The Bank

Hosting a cookout on Labor Day weekend is an excellent way to celebrate our strong workforce. Like any other party, though, hosting a cookout can get expensive. With summer vacations and college tuition payments memories lingering, it’s an important time to save as much as possible. Here are some handy tips to make your cookout the best it can be, on a budget.
1.) Bakery outlet shopping
There are lots of great deals at a clothes outlet. Garments that are out of season or slightly imperfect find their way to discount racks to be had for pennies on the dollar. It might seem ridiculous, but there’s a system just like that for baked goods.
Commercial bakeries make the same amount of bread every day whether it sells at the supermarket or not. This leaves grocery shelves overcrowded with buns, breads, and desserts. These baked goods are perfectly fine, especially if you plan to use them in a day or two. Still, they’re pulled from grocery store shelves to make way for a fresh supply.
The “old” baked goods are often taken to a day-old bakery, where they’re sold at a significant discount. If you need a lot of hot dog buns for your cookout, this can be an excellent place to save. Don’t forget to pick up mini doughnuts and other desserts while you’re there!
2.) Plan the meal for savings
If you’re buying meat for the whole family, the costs can add up quickly. Fortunately, there are a few ways to knock the cost down a little bit. Get your family to try some new things!
If you have a very large gathering – 50 people or so – consider getting beef by the side. Prices for this vary from region to region, but costs are usually between $4 and $6 per pound. Sides usually contain about 200 pounds of meat. That will include several premium cuts of steak as well as enough hamburger to feed an army!
Alternately, you can veggie up your cookout. Asparagus, zucchini, and potatoes all do well on the grill with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. They’ll absorb some of the cooked meat juices for extra flavor. Veggies are cheap, nutritious, and filling. Plus, it’ll be something new to talk about!
You can even go a step further and offer some veggie alternatives to cookout classics. Meatless patties made of beans, spices, and rice cost half of what a similar-sized beef patty would. These are healthier, cheaper, more filling, and don’t have the same dangers of undercooking.
3.) Mix your own drinks
One of the biggest cookout expenses can be the drinks, especially if you buy individual bottles and cans. Doing so also leaves you with the unpleasant task of picking up dozens of half-empty soda and beer cans. Try this instead:
Large plastic pitchers can be used to store homemade drink concoctions. Loaded with ice and kept in a shady spot, those pitchers will keep your drinks cool for hours. Be sure to label your pitchers with their contents so no one ends up with “grown-up punch” by mistake! This is a great chance to be creative. Mix iced tea and lemonade for a big batch of Arnold Palmer, a wonderfully refreshing summer drink!
Not only will you save on costs, you’ll also save the planet. Using washable plastic cups instead of disposable Styrofoam will reduce your waste and make cleanup easier! Be the host with the most fun, not the most expenses!

Let’s get cooking!

It’s time for a contest!

Did you know… June is both National Country Cooking month AND National Soul Food month!

Hey Good Lookin'!
Hey Good Lookin’!

In honor of both these terrific things, we’re going to have a little virtual cook off. (And because I’m always looking for new recipes!) Submit your favorite recipe by using the form below by June 15, 2016, and you could have a chance to win a $100 Kroger gift card!

From the entries submitted, we’ll select 5 finalists. Those recipes will be placed on the Mutual CU blog on June 23rd and readers will be able to vote for their favorite until the end of the month. The recipe with the most votes wins! The winner will be announced on July 1st. Let’s get cooking!

*Employees, Volunteers, and their immediate family members are not eligible for prizes, though they are still encouraged to submit recipes!