I wish I could say that I hated grocery shopping. Really, I wish I could. However, I love food and I love saving money. Put these two together, and that is my shopping experience. I'm still learning, but I do have a couple tricks and tips that help my buy the healthy food that I want, without spending a fortune or hours of time.
Step One: Do Inventory
Before I go to the store, I look through my shared pantry and refrigerator and see what I have. I make a mental note of items that I need. I also look at expiration dates and see what items are about to expire. I try to work these items into my menu for the week.
Step Two: Do Research!
This is probably the biggest way I save money!!! The stores I shop at are Publix, and sometimes SuperTarget. I look at the online ads for both stores, and make a list of what items are on sale. For example, at Publix this week, Green Giant frozen veggies were BIGI free. This is a great deal on healthy veggies, so I stocked up on these. I also look at price per pound on fruits and vegetables. As a rule, I never buy produce when it is more than $2/lb. Even spending $1.50/lb is a stretch for me! Produce that is in season will be cheaper, so I only buy seasonally. Strawberries are delicious, but not in January when they are $4/lb!
I also use coupons (the ones I steal from my mom). I like to use CouponMom, which will compare coupons in the newspaper to promotions in store. This way, you are able to match your coupon with a sale item, getting a great deal. I only use coupons for healthy items, so finding a match is scarce for me. I do find great deals on household items though. This step only takes a couple minutes, so why not?
Step Three: Make a List
I look at my temporary list of items that were on sale, and compare them to recipes that I have. For example, chicken was $1.99/lb at Publix so I looked through my chicken recipes and found a couple that also included ingredients that were on sale. Score! I choose several recipes for the week using this method. Next, I record the needed items for each recipe on my handy checklist. Finally, I go back to the kitchen and record "staple" items that I need, such as milk, eggs, bananas, etc. I tear off my list and paper clip my coupons to it.
Another important part of budget shopping is actually setting a budget. When I walk into the grocery store, I need to know exactly what items I'm purchasing and how much I can spend on them. My budget is usually more of a "goal." Sometimes I go over, but usually I'm under a little since I overestimate.
Step Four: Shop Carefully
Before hitting the grocery store, I make sure that I have everything I need, including a full belly! This reduces the likelihood of making impulse buys. I don't like spending hours at the store, so I move quickly. I try very, very hard to only buy items on my list. Sometimes Publix will have deals that I missed, or provide tear off coupons for promoted items. I check these deals out, but these are rarely for healthy items. Occasionally, I'll find an item that I neglected to put on my list. It happens. I check off items as I go, and anticipate the checkout line. Again, I don't buy anything in the checkout line. I awkwardly stand there and watch the numbers go up up up. Then I do a little prayer, hoping that I stayed within budget.
Honestly, this isn't rocket science. I wish it was, because then I would be akin to a genius. Saving money just takes planning and effort, but I think that anyone can do it! I always feel like such a winner after a successful shopping trip because I know that I stayed within budget and bought items that make me feel good.