15 Ways to Save Money Grocery Shopping


The cost of food has been steadily rising for well over a year. In February, 2011 wholesale prices rose 3.9%,  the largest monthly increase since November, 1974.

In July 2011 I complained because lemons were thirty-three cents each, more than double the previous year. Today they run fifty, sixty, even seventy cents at some stores!

Meat is out of the stratosphere. It is a rare treat to eat tomatoes they are so expensive these days. I don’t even want to think about gas prices!

The December 2011 Consumer Price Index data is scheduled to be released on January 19, 2012. I am sure we will all experience sticker shock when we see the actual numbers.

It is time to remind ourselves how to save money at the grocery store by shopping smart. While I have updated this piece for today with more information, links, and recipes, I first ran this post on August 13, 2010 as 13 ways to save money.

Shop Smart

1. Eat real food as often as possible. Buy less prepackaged and processed food. Pre-packaged foods are more expensive.

2. Plan what you are going to eat for at least a few days at a time. Use the super market weekly ad to help do this. Build your meal plan around what is on sale. Then make a list of the food items you will need to make those meals. Only buy items on your list. At least that is what the experts say. And I agree. But I would add this caveat. Be flexible enough to take advantage of a great deal or markdown you may run into. I once found packaage of 5 Sweet Italian Sausages for $3.00. Unplanned for steal. I took it even though not on my list.

3. Shop alone. Especially don’t bring children with you. I know this tip is not always practical when you have young children. But the more people you have with you when you shop, the more likely you will stray from your list and end up spending more.

I think having one child at a time would work provided you had them help you with some grocery shopping tasks.  Children like to feel useful and this would be one way to do that. This is a topic worth exploring more. Maybe I will do a post on this.

4. Eat before you go to the grocery store. Don’t go hungry. Research has shown people who go to the store hungry buy more and make more impulse purchases. I have noticed with me that this is all too true.

5. Compare brands. Store brands and generic brands are often less expensive than brand names. Often times these items will be found on the lower shelves or on the top shelves. Stores tend to place the most expensive items at eye level. Also, don’t forget to check the unit price. Sometimes the smaller size package is the better value.

6. Use coupons for the items on your list. Don’t buy something you don’t need just because you have a good coupon.

Try to pair a good coupon with store sales to maximize the savings. Some stores also have double coupons up to 99 cents.

7. Expensive items you should try to avoid if at all possible:

Salad kits*

Individual servings of anything

Trail mix (Make your own. It will be cheaper.)

Powdered and prepared iced teas (But I love Arizona teas. )

Bottled water

Box rice entrees & side dish mixes; again it is cheaper to make your own

Tomato based pasta sauces

I know, sometimes convenience just trumps cost. That’s life. Sometimes I buy these items too. However, even using less of these items will save you money.

*One thing I don’t buy is bagged lettuce. E.V.E.R. Too often it is already wilting and rotting in the bag. Plus there have been too many recalls of these products for me to trust them. Plus I don’t know how fresh they realy are? How long did the bag sit in the back of the grocery store?

8. Use discount bread stores if your community has one.

9. Use discount stores for paper products and staples. Use dollar stores for health and beauty products. Use these discount stores for many food items as well. Many times brand name products can be found in these stores.  The problem??? The ink color in a label may be wrong. A misspelling on the label. That’s all. Nothing wrong with the food.

EXTRA SAVINGS TIP: Paper products like napkins and paper towels are very expensive. Consider using more cloth napkins and cloth kitchen towels if you really want to save money.

I use cloth kitchen towels as much as I can. I do use paper too, just not so often. I have about 30 cloth kitchen towels purchased over several years. That is normally about a month’s worth. So I only have to wash them once a month. Since I started doing this I do save money.

10. Buy day old meat. It is cheaper. There is nothing wrong with day old meat even though it may be a bit brown and not the bright red we are used to. According to the USDA color changes in meat are normal. You can get all your questions about meat color by clicking the following link: USDA Meat.

11. Grow a garden, especially tomatoes. If you have room grow potatoes too. Potatoes are filling, delicious, nutritious and easy to grow. Check out this link for detailed info on growing potatoes even in small places: Potatoes. This link also has a delicious Hungarian Potato Soup recipe.

12. Don’t purchase non-food items at the grocery store. Usually you can find them elsewhere for less.

13. Watch the scanner screen as your groceries are rung up. Sometimes the correct price is not in the check out cash register computer. Let the cashier know right away. Some stores have a guarantee if the scanner price is wrong you get the item for free. Check.

14. Eat meatless at least once a week. Depending on the source of your information you can save up to or more than $250 a year going meatless one day a week. And it is not that hard to do. There are a lot of delicious meatless recipes out there.

Here are links to a couple of my favorite tasty meatless recipes:

Mushroom Toast

Sautéed Baby Bok Choy with Shitake Mushrooms

 Pasta Shells with Tuna, Olives, and Capers

Divine Easy Fresh Tomato Sauce

Mixed Mushroom Pasta

It is probably not practical for most of us in this day and age to do all of these suggestions all of the time. But even if you just try half of these ideas some of the time, you will begin to save some money. And while what you save may not add up to a fortune, in today’s economy every little bit helps.

Featured Recipe:   Fish Tacos Made From Leftovers

I saved Tip #15 for last.

15. Another way to save lots of money is to use up leftovers. Many people do not use up leftovers. That is like throwing money down the toilet. Many dishes, like chilli, are better the second or third day as the flavors meld together. Other leftovers can be made into something totally new and different. Follow this link to find dozens of Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers.

Such is the case with today’s recipe. Except for the sour cream, all the ingredients for this recipe were either leftovers from Friday’s dinner of fish and mac and chese, or already staples in my fridge or pantry.

This is what you will need for 4 people:

Cooked fish    [I used left over tilapia as that was in the fridge.]

A couple of leaves of lettuce

Some tomatoes     [I used cherry tomatoes as that is what I had in my fridge.]

2-4 tablespoons of mayonnaise

2-4 tablespoons of sour cream

4 tortillas [leftover in my pantry]

Fajita or taco seasoning    [I used fajita as an opened package was in my pantry and I needed to use it up.]

Chili powder or other seasoning you like

1 lime    [You can tell by the picture that lime had seen better days. But I ran it under some cold water, rolled it back and forth on the counter a bit, and put it in the microwave for 9 seconds to get it’s juices running again and it was just fine.]

1 teaspoon butter to reheat the fish

Here is what you do:

I started off melting the butter in a skillet and re-heating the fish over very low heat.

Then I sliced my lettuce very, very, very thin and cut the tomatoes in half.

Then I cut the lime into slices. I then flipped the fish fillets at this point.

Then I made my Baja Sauce. I placed about 4 tablespoons each of mayonnaise and sour cream in a bowl. Then I added about ¼ teaspoon chili powder and ¼ of the fajita seasoning. I mixed well and then tasted. The flavor was not strong enough, nor the color what I wanted so I added a bit more chili powder and a whole lot more of the fajita seasoning and mixed again. Finally I had what I was looking for.

By this time the fish was heated through so I cut it up.

Then I began making my fish tacos. First I put a layer of fish on the tortilla and squeezed some lime juice on it. Then I layered on some lettuce, some tomatoes, and a bit of the sauce. I then squeezed a bit more lime juice over everything.

Tah Dah!!!! I present you leftovers!!!!!!

I served with a couple of slices of cantaloupe, also already in my refrigerator.

This made 6 tacos.

Cost = $0.99 Total
Cost per taco = $0.15
This is what using up leftovers can do for you. Save you lots of money!!!

Didn’t taste like leftovers to me. They were absolutely wonderfully delicious!!! And not bad for only 99-cents!!  That was the cost of the sour cream.

Quote of the Day     

I take my pride in making my dinner cost so little.   

Henry David Thoreau


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