Stocking the fridge is a recurring chore that sucks up time and constantly threatens to blow your budget. Couponing is a great way cut costs, but there are many, many options beyond clipping coupons. Here are the top 10 things you can do to save on groceries.
1. Become a freezer diva. Stock up on thick plastic freezer bags and bring your best packing skills to the, er, table. Bread, meat, liquids, fruit, stews, soups, and many other food products freeze extremely well. The trick is to wrap everything tightly to avoid freezer burn. Keep a list handy of everything in your fridge so you don’t lose track and start to feel like a freezer landlord.
2. Know what’s in season. No matter where you shop, in season produce is almost always cheaper than out of season. If you cannot remember what is in season price is a good indicator. Also look for country of origin stickers. If fruit is flown in from Ecuador, it’s not in season.
3. Go to farmer’s market’s and chat up the farmers. Befriending the people selling you food is a good way to get information about how the food is grown, if there are any bulk discounts, and what will be on sale in coming weeks. Becoming a loyal customer may earn you a discount.
4. Compare unit prices. Bigger is not always cheaper. Sales on smaller quantities may bring down the unit price and be a savvier purchase than bulk. Look for the unit price calculation in small font next to or below the actual price. The unit price tells you how much an item costs per unit, be it pound, quart, or other measurement. Carry a calculator with you to spend less or use the one built into your smart phone.
5. Read blogs that publish coupon matches for your local grocery store. A coupon match is when you redeem a coupon for an item that is on sale, bringing the price down to a fraction of retail. Google “Vons coupon matches” or wherever you shop plus coupon matches. Coupon matching requires you to save each week’s coupon inserts and file them by name and date, such as Red Plum 8/7/10.
6. Shop at ethnic grocers – If you live in a diverse area, there are likely markets that cater to various immigrant communities. The shopping experience is anything like mainstream grocers, and the prices are fantastic, especially on produce and staple items like rice, oil, and flour.
7. Seek out the about-to-expire bread rack. I bought a 6-pack of day-old poppy seed deli bagels for $2. I cut them in half that night and stashed them in the freezer. I’ve seen artisan loafs on the day old bread rack for $.99. Just make sure to eat within 24 hours or freeze to avoid a mold takeover.
8. Buy coupons from TheCouponMaster.com for about $.10 for a $1 off coupon. Technically you are paying a service fee because buying and selling coupons is illegal. Note the coupon’s expiration date while checking out. If the coupon expires within two weeks, a sale may not come up before it goes bad.
9. Buy a whole chicken on sale and ask the butcher to cut it into 8 pieces for you. You’ll pay a lot less per pound (as low as $.59/lb) and get smaller pieces that you can cook in more dishes than if you roast one bird. Butchers are often happy to do this, though it’s best to ask when the counter is not busy.
10. Look high, look low. Manufacturers pay to get their products placed at eye level, which can boost prices. Items on the top and bottom shelf are often just as good for a bit less.
Bonus tip: Stock up when prices are low so you can ride out the high prices!