Don’t Feed the Alligators

A Personal Finance Blog from a Small-Scale Landlord’s Perspective

Editor’s note:  I am away on business in New York, and so I introduce Mrs. MITBeta, ScrapperMom, who has volunteered to write a guest post in my absence.  I hope you enjoy what she has to say!  — MITBeta
Do you ever feel like all you do is throw away produce that has since gone bad? Are you eating Ramen Noodles even though you have long since graduated from college? Is your pantry full of food, yet there is nothing to eat??

If you want to save money, throw out less or no food, and eat healthier, then the following tips should help to accomplish those goals. It does take a little bit of planning, but in the end, like budgeting your finances, planning your meals and food purchases will also bring great rewards.

Write a list of the meals you are planning to make for the week.

I find that if I plan all my meals on the weekend I am more likely to eat what I have in the refrigerator. It only takes about a half hour to do this and will save you a lot of time mid week (think laying out your clothes the night before). This list can and should include any leftovers you may have. Also, each meal does not have to be unique. You can plan to make a big pan of lasagna for you and your husband and eat that all week for lunch. If you plan for this you won’t end up buying cold cuts at the market and having them go bad when you don’t eat them. The Organized Home website has a great form for weekly menu planning.

Buy on sale.

Base your meals on the sales flyers, which typically come out on Thursday. For example if chicken is on sale this week, plan meals with this in mind. We will talk more about how you can utilize a 3 lb package of boneless chicken or ground beef in Part II.

Use the grocery game or a price book.

A great way to save even more money at the store is to buy things at their cheapest price. The stores put all their products on sale in cycles, you just have to be savvy enough to buy them only when they are at or near this low price. This means you need to change the way you shop. By stockpiling your pantry you can eliminate the need to buy things at the last minute when they are at their highest price. A price book can help you determine what a good price is on each item you buy. The Organized Home also has a great article on making a price book if you want to go this route. This is a time consuming method though and for a cheap price you can play the Grocery Game and essentially have someone else tell you when to buy certain items.

Seasonal Shopping.

We all love the fact that you can get strawberries year round but if you try to eat seasonally you will win financially. Eat foods that are available in the winter months to make stews, pot roasts…. In the spring look to leafy greens… In summer, fruits and squashes… In the fall, carrots and sweet potatoes. The World’s Healthiest Foods has a great article on Seasonal Eating.

Shop on the exterior of the store.

This is more of a tip for healthy eating, but processed, prepackaged foods can add up in the long run. By shopping around the exterior of the store you are only buying the fresh ingredients; produce, meats & poultry, dairy, seafood and grains. Although the fresh foods due tend to be more costly, in the end eating healthy foods will be a benefit to your health and that saves money in other ways.

Don’t shop on an empty stomach!

This one should be a no-brainer, but I am still guilty of it as well. If you are not hungry (try shopping after lunch or breakfast) you will not be tempted to buy snacks and other items you may not need. You also may be able to avoid a stop at the in-store coffee shop, which is becoming more and more common!

Check out the day old bakery items.

I find great deals here. Usually the bread is still very fresh and if you plan to use it that night you can get the items half off. I also like to buy French and Italian bread on sale to cut and freeze for French toast. It doesn’t need to be fresh for this use anyway.

So head out to the store armed with these tips and tricks and watch the savings add up. It becomes a fun and addictive game to see how much your bill will decrease after they scan your rewards card and coupons! I find I average at least $25 to $35 worth of savings at each trip using the tips listed above.

Editor:  So what do you think?  Do you have any tips for saving on groceries and other food items?  Share them with us in the comments section.  Interested in writing a guest article here?  Send me an email.

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One Response to “Saving on Food Part I: Grocery Shopping”

  1. Chris L. Says:

    Another bakery tip is to look for half-loaves. My local supermarket has a few half-baguettes or half-italian loaves. They cost more than half the price of the full sized loaf, but since this type of bread gets hard fast, at least you are only paying for what you eat and not throwing out half of what you bought.