The Bank Note's savvy readers came through again with smart ways to save on food costs. Thanks to everyone who emailed us. Ten of our readers each received a $25 Nationwide Bank Visa® gift card* for these helpful tips.
My husband and I make a grocery list that covers meals for the entire week. Visits to the grocery store during mid week can add to your impulse shopping and costs, so try to just go once per week. The closer you stick to your list, the better it is for your bottom line.
Our family has learned that we can save a lot of money on food costs based on where we do our shopping. For the larger items that we use consistently, we like to shop at the big box stores where we can get everything in bulk and stock up at a much cheaper price. We also like to shop at discount-type grocery stores for the basics and we buy their store name brand which is usually just as good but much cheaper than the name brands. When we want fresh fruit and vegetables, we hit the local vegetable stand or a farmer's market. Sometimes, these cost-saving tips may mean an extra trip to a different store, but we have really cut our food costs by deciding where we shop, rather than just going to the store that's most convenient.
I believe to save on food costs, you need to shop exclusively at your favorite/local grocery store. By checking their specials, using their bonus card, and getting to know the management and employees there, they will keep you advised of current, weekly and upcoming specials, savings and deliver you excellent customer service and a nice shopping day. Alot of them have double coupon days, senior citizen days, fuel savings, etc. Most of them have a website where you can keep abreast of specials and even coupons. This way you will save on gas and support your local businesses and community.
One of the best ways I've found to save money when shopping for groceries, is to be sure to leave the kids at home. Without kids in tow, it's much easier to take your time and search out the best deals for your dollar and take the time to use your coupons. I always save money when I'm not rushed and the little ones aren't throwing extra stuff we don't need in the cart.
Meal deals. Most people go out on weekends to eat, but if you look online for local restaurant deals or local news ads and coupons you can get great deals – from dinner for two at a set rate to buy one and get the other ½ price - if you chose to go Monday through Thursdays. And, it’s a great way to treat yourself to not cooking.
We avoid the inside aisles where most of the packaged, processed and pricier (and least healthful) food is located. We shop the perimeter of the store for fruits, veggies, meat/seafood and dairy. We always take a list and don't shop when we're hungry. Those 3 strategies keep our costs lower.
Use coupons and double or triple them when possible; watch for weekly sales; visit 2 or 3 different stores to compare prices (pretty soon you’ll get a feel for which store offers better bargains on particular products); and make a list. I stock up on pantry good and paper products when they are on sale – using coupons if available. Getting store loyalty cards is a good way to get the best prices and extra coupons or notice of special sales. It takes some concentration and persistence but I’ve used these tricks for so long now that I don’t know how to stop!
The best thing I have found is making freezer meals. Some of the largest food expenses are wasted food and eating out when I am too tired to cook. There are several free recipes online that teach you how to prepare and store freezer meals. The idea is if you have time to make 1 meal make it times 2 or 3 and freeze the extra ones. Then all you have to do is pull it out of the freezer to thaw and when you get home you place it in the oven. It is also great if you are in a hurry, and also helps because you tend to not waste food by throwing out more than you needed for a recipe.
It is known that you save money by eating at home instead of eating out, so we have taken this savings approach a step further. We plan our Sunday - Thursday evening meals to be meals that will make leftovers so that that can be taken to work the next day and eaten for lunch. Not only does it save money, but it saves time the next morning as we try to get out the door, and we also eat better. Meals that don't make good leftovers are prepared on Friday and Saturday.
I save on food costs by always carrying around my water bottle and a granola bar. That way I never buy beverages, and I never overspend on a snack out of hunger.
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