The US Department of Agriculture estimates that a family of two spends about $350 a month on groceries. (And that’s a thrifty budget!) We get it — it’s hard to feed yourselves on a tight budget, especially if you want to eat well (we’re talking nutrients, not loads of Bagel Bites). While many of us are inspired by those tales of women extreme couponing (thanks, TLC), not all of us can put in the time and effort it takes to stockpile 87 bottles of ketchup and 70 boxes of microwave popcorn.
So we asked Jeanette Pavini, household savings expert for Coupons.com, to break down the easiest ways to save. If you put these tips to work, you can easily save $50 a month on groceries. (That’s $600 a year!)
Pay Attention to Product Placement
Eye-level placement generally means “avoid” since companies pay to place products at eye level. A lot of times you can find the less expensive brands and best deals on the top and bottom shelves. Also, just because items are on a special display or at the end of the aisle doesn’t mean they’re the best value. Always check the price tag for the price per ounce to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.
Save Money on Meat
Compare cost per serving, not cost per pound. “That way you’ll be able to take into consideration bones and fat, which may mean that a much cheaper piece of meat is not really a good deal at all,” says Pavini. She recommends looking at larger whole cuts of meat, as they’ll usually be much cheaper than the same amount cut into smaller pieces. “You can always ask the butcher if he’ll cut it into small pieces for free,” she adds. If you have the room, you can freeze larger cuts as well. And when in doubt, use chicken. “If a recipe calls for duck, veal, rabbit or a game bird, you can oftentimes use chicken as an inexpensive substitute,” Pavini explains.
Pack a Punch With Produce
It’s hopefully a no-brainer, but plan your meals around what’s in-season. You’ll find cheaper prices and better quality. For fall? Stick to root veggies, butternut squash, figs and citrus fruits. The price per unit rule applies here: Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy items like potatoes, tomatoes, avocados and onions in bags versus individually. “For example, I saw avocados for $2.50 each, while a bag of four was going for $4,” says Pavini. And avoid precut produce. The convenience seems awesome (and the packaging is usually much more eye-catching!), but you’ll save a lot of money washing, peeling and cutting the veggies yourself at home.
Avoid Impulse Purchases
Avoid impulse buying and plan a menu. Try to incorporate ingredients into multiple meals so you don’t waste produce, dairy and other perishable items, says Pavini.
One big rookie mistake is letting yourself be pressured into buying in bulk to get the “sale price.” “If a sale says five for $10, don’t feel obligated to buy all five,” advises Pavini. Check the store policy — usually you’ll get the same discount if you buy just a single item. The same with limits — don’t take the number as a sign of how many you need to buy because you think that’s an indicator of a great deal. Oftentimes, a place might just be low on stock. Only buy what you need and will use.
Just another ShopRTO Financial Tip.