Recession Eating: Save Money by Planning Ahead

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Impulse buying at the grocery store is a big problem for many of us. Not only does it sabotage our efforts to eat right, it also sabotages our budget as well. The unstable economy and holiday season provide great motivation for smarter grocery shopping to save money. Do you know how?

Spending a little time preparing and planning before heading to the store can allow you to save money. Here are some planning tips for your next trip.

Plan your menu - Determine what meals you will be preparing and what recipes you will be using for the coming week. This will require a little of your time but is important so you can effectively check your refrigerator and pantry to accurately prepare your grocery list and buy only what you need. Be sure to review the weekly sales ads for the store where you shop and try to plan meals around sale items to increase savings. By getting everything you need for the week in one trip to the store, you will see additional savings on gas by reducing your number of trips.

Make a smart shopping list - Prepare your shopping list based on the path you typically follow at the grocery store. This will allow you to pick up items you need as you go and cut down on back tracking that can increase your impulse shopping opportunities. I would plan my list following this order: produce breads canned foods ethnic/specialty foods cereals baking goods meats frozen foods dairy snacks, listing what I need under each section.

Take advantage of coupons and frequent shopper programs - You don't have to take a coupon file box with you to take advantage of saving opportunities. If you typically shop at the same store, check for and use any frequent shopper programs they provide. You can save 10% or more on your grocery bill with a handful of coupons and selecting foods that are on sale. Using online coupon guides can be a great resource as well.

Take advantage of store brands - Gone are the days when 'generic' means white cans with black lettering. Today, many store brands are equivalent in nutrition to their brand name counter parts and share similar packaging but at a lower price. Just because you have a coupon for the brand name item, don't select it until you have checked the coupon price against the store brand equivalent. Many times you save more money by skipping the name brand with a coupon and selecting the store brand instead. If you don't have a coupon most likely the store brand equivalent will be your better buy. Use unit price information to help you decide which brand and size is the better buy.

Be aware of marketing ploys - Remember that marketing is everywhere and this includes your grocery store. Be aware of product placement intended for impulse buying. Some of the hot marketing strategies include end-of-aisle bins, stand along displays in the center of the walkway, recipe related items and middle shelf item placement. Items in these areas tend to be higher priced items or those that are intended for impulse shoppers. It is best to avoid these display items to save the most money.

Watch the scanner - Be sure to watch the scanner as you check out. When cashiers know you are watching, so are they and are more likely to fix something that rings up incorrectly. Be sure to watch when produce is being weighed to ensure that other things are not on the scale which can affect the weight and increase the price. Don't be afraid to ask for a price check on anything that doesn't ring up as you think it should. Most times the shopper is correct and misses out on getting the price they should because they don't want to speak up. Make sure you scan your receipt before you leave the store. If you find any errors with coupons, in-store discounts or sale items, be sure to go to the service counter and talk with a manager.

What cost saving practices do you use at the grocery store to help get the most nutrition for your dollar?

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I have to admit, I'm terrible when it comes to planning or checking prices and sales. I know I need to improve on this, but I've never been a very organized person. Even when I try to stick to a list, I end up buying things I don't need. This will be something to work on, since I have to admit, I'm feeling the pinch from the bad state of our economy. Some tips I can offer - stop at a grocery store on your way home from work or other errands, so you don't waste gas making special trips. Buy in-season produce, buy cheaper cuts of meat to make stew, chili etc, and stay away from processed or convenience foods. Cut up your own veggies, add your own seasonings to dishes such as rice & pasta, shred your own cheese. These prepared products cost more, and are not always the best choice nutritionally. e.g. brown rice is way better than rice-a-roni. LOL! Report
Our local news cast purchased 14 items that were on the store flyer versus 14 items that weren't (similar items). They found that at all 4 stores the results were the same. Buy off the flyer, pay $80, buy regular price, pay $110. So, it really pays (or saves) to buy only stuff that's on sale, no matter what store you go to. I'm not good about looking at the flyers, but when we go, we always look for what's on sale, and stock up on only those items. Report
I check the flyers every weekend, and shop at various stores to get their specials. But only when I am in that area of the city, so that I don't waste gas.
And I plan my meals around the specials.
Although I am guilty of impulse buying, I find that my shopping and our eating habits have changed over the years. We're eating much more healthy food now.
With a freezer and a second fridge, I can buy some specials in bulk, as well. Report
Those little mistakes do add up. I need to pay more attention to what is being rung up. Report
I used to use coupons when I shopped. I stopped using them because so many people looked at me like I was a freak! I now cut the coupons again, but when I go to the store I forget them at home, or look at the coupon to find it has already expired. Report
When my girls where home I use to save $100+ a week using coupons and buying the meats in bundles that where on sale. Now it 2 of us and critters I wasn't careful until I saw the prices climbing and the packages shrinking, which was on the news last night and no one they questioned noticed the package shrinking deal. I also have been reading labels in another way lately and found that if I by low fat or no fat the salt content is up to double then the regular version, questioning. I know use coupons again and I share. If there is a product I am not going to use I place a coupon there for someone else to save money. I am not saving $100 a week but anything I do helps. I do purchase day after sales and store brands when I can. Report
Coupons are a great way to save money, and some stores are doing promotions where they are accepting competitors coupons. I try to make it a game, it ends up being kind of fun when you get something almost free. Using a list and coupon sites really help to cut the grocery bill down. Report
Today I actually wrote out a shopping list and stuck to it, I only went over 5.77 on my budget and I felt GREAT!!! I know exactly what I'm having all week.

Great article! Report
Very good advice. I try my best to use coupons wherever possible. Also planning around the sales is very good. Report
Great advice in the foregoing article, especially for someone like me who is endeavouring to follow a healthy lifestyle while being kind to my pocket. Report
If you buy weekly gift cards and limit your spending each week to a certain amount, it does not allow for impulse shopping. I get $40 each week for groceries and I am finding that is too much money for me. It will be going down to $30 a week. I don't impulse buy. I stick to what I know works for me and I don't buy extras like cookies, ice cream, pop, chips, granola bars etc. I buy my fruits, veggies, portioned meals and things like cheese and yogurt. I find I don't crave the impulse foods. If I do WANT impulse foods, I have to WALK to the store to buy it so I have to really want it. Limit your spending by using prepaid grocery cards. It does help. Report
There is some really good helpful hints here. I would also add that just because something says it's on sale dosen't mean that it is the best deal. So look at the sale flyers mark your items than when you get to the store look to see if there are better deals. I have found many sales items that wern't as good as regular priced items. Report
Lots of great suggestions, I would like to encourage people to work with coupons. If you just take a few minutes to check your store's Sunday ad, look for any coupons that correspond to any sale items they are offering, and use the store's coupons, you can really make a difference. I went to Walgreen's this past Sunday, and using just these tips, I was able to save $69! There were only 4 things I bought that are not things I normally use or I will not use personally and I will donate those to our local food pantry. Just thinking ahead, and taking the time to collect Sunday's coupons or online coupons can save you a lot over time. Report
There are several things I do. I plan my meals in advance and organize my grocery list making sure to group like items together (i.e. dairy, produce, etc.). I try to buy produce that's in season and generic whenever possible. I also don't shop on an empty stomach -- People tend to purchase more when they go go a store hungry. Another thing I do is cook my own meals, batch cooking whenever possible. Not only does it take the guesswork out of figuring what's for dinner, it saves money. Report
You offer some good suggestions. I don't often check the checker as she scans and most times I don't look at my list after I use. I will try to incorporate these habits. Report
Not only do I carefully plan meals, but I base my menu on the items that are on sale. Super Walmart ad matchs with all our other local stores. I shop at one store and get the sale prices at all the others. I just bought a turkey that was stickered at amost $25 for less than $10. The cashier even commented that she needed to learn how to ad match at my house! Report
I make a list after comparing the prices in the two sales ads for the stores near my house. I try to make my menus around what is on sale and use coupons for those too. Report
I try and stay to list. My husband does not eat like me so I find that difficult at times. Coupons today I organized all the them to make it easier for me to use them. Report
Making things from scratch has saved me $. Also picked up bread maker at garage sale (never pay more than $5 for one). Got flax seed at bulk food store and I throw that in my homemade bread to make it healthier. Also Aldi's is a great money saver; Walmart will match any printed specials from other stores, so instead of running around, I just take the ads in there with me. Report
At the Kroger where I shop, if item scans at the wrong price & you take it to the Service Center after the transaction is complete you get one of the item free and if you purchased more than one you get the correct price for those. If you catch it when the items are being scanned & they correct it then, you don't get the free item. I can never tell what I am actually being charged on things until after I get my receipt anyway. Report
I started in June of this yr using coupons when the items are on sale, planning meals around sale items, shopping with a list, etc. I read 'How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half' from couponmom and it works! My pantry and freezers are full and yet I have spent 700.00 (yr to date) less compared to last yr for the same time frame! And, using her system is not very time consuming. Report
EVERY Saturday my husband and daughter plan the dinner's for the whole week on then on Sunday they do the grocery shopping. I'm not allowed to go shopping, because I like to walk the aisles and remember things not on the list. Report
I have a 5 ingredient or less cookbook that I started using. It greatly helps in saving money and the recipes are all great. You can substitute if need be to make these more healthy. Report
Make sure you shop in season, and I not just talking about produce. Stores always seem to put the same items onsale during a curtain season. An example is turkey is cheapest just before Thanksgiving, so if you use and enjoy turkey, this is the time of year to buy a few extras, (not a freezer full), to use over the next few months. Report
Shop the perimeters too. You'll find staples and produce on the perimeter of stores, while the inner aisles contain more processed, canned, sweetened items. Bottom shelf shopping also helps. THis is where most stores place the least expensive brands. Report
I plan my meals at least weekly, and inventory my basic cooking supplies before going to the store. I never go without a list.

Beth G Report
I have been meal planning for years. It is also helpful in knowing what meals you are having each day, there is no questioning what's for supper or do I have the ingredients to make something. I also like to shop the reduction bins, especially for breads and other baked goods, the store I shop at will often mark down products that are nearing their expiration dates to 50% off, some of these being fresh pasta, I stock up and store it in the freezer. Report
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