Posts Tagged ‘Financial Choices’

5 Rules for Saving Money at the Grocery Store

May 22nd, 2012 2 comments

There are lots of ways to save money, and any method you can add to your money-saving toolbox will help you better achieve your financial goals. Whether it’s putting more money towards retirement, a college fund, a down payment on a home or automobile or that vacation you’ve been dreaming about, reaching your financial goals requires that you make wise financial choices. In other words, reaching financial goals requires you to be frugal.

As humans, we need to eat and grocery shopping typically occupies a big chunk of our budget. This is even truer for larger families or families with special dietary needs. However, you can significantly reduce your grocery bill by employing five basic rules to your grocery shopping tasks:

1. Always shop with a list

2. Plan your meals

3. Buy store brands or generics when available

4. Use the store’s loyalty card

5. Use coupons for additional savings

Always shop with a list

Shopping with a list is vital. While we allocate a certain amount for groceries each week in our monthly budgets (you do budget, don’t you?), we should further regulate food spending by always using a list during our grocery store excursions. A grocery shopping list is a natural extension of the monthly budget. This list is your grocery spending plan just as your budget is your overall household spending plan. It helps you see where you can cut costs, helps you stay on track with your financial goals and helps to curb costly impulse buying.

Plan your meals

A good grocery list will follow a weekly menu plan. Buy items that you can reuse in different dishes and work with your family so everyone agrees on the meals of the week. Schedule dinner so that everyone eats together and make it a habit to save leftovers that will make delicious weekend lunches. Developing your grocery list around a meal plan will also help you avoid dining out, which can be unhealthy as well as expensive.

Buy store brands or generics and use the store’s loyalty card

Buying grocery store brand products will save you money — lots of money. Industry sales research cited by the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) shows that American shoppers save about $15.8 billion annually by choosing store brands over name brands. To test this theory, your trusty writer ventured into a local grocery store with pen and legal pad, walked the various isles and documented actual price differences for 20 common grocery items: aspirin, acetametaphin, ibuprofen, green beans, sweet corn, ketchup, mayonnaise, mixed fruit, sugar, condensed milk, cornflakes, raisin bran, facial tissue, whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate milk, graham crackers, cream cheese, eggs and peanut butter.

Including savings from using the store’s loyalty card (another must-have money-saving tool), I calculated a savings of between 13 and 68 percent with an average 42 percent savings. If I purchased all items from name brand manufacturers, I would have paid $74.41. Foregoing the lure of buying brand name items, the total came to $43.45 – a $30.96 savings for 20 items (an average of over $1.50 per item) just for buying store brands and using my store loyalty card.

The difference in prices is what the PLMA calls the “marketing tax” which you pay so name brand manufacturers can promote their products through advertising and other means. However, many store brand items are produced by the same manufacturers that make competing name brand items. You can save a lot of money by choosing to not pay this “marketing tax” and keep that money where it belongs – in your pocket!

Use coupons for additional savings

In addition to store brand and loyalty card savings, you should make the most of your grocery shopping dollars by cutting, organizing and using coupons (check your Sunday newspaper). Coupons are a marketing gimmick, so don’t buy items you do not need just so you can save a little on the purchase. In reality, that’s a waste of money. Use coupons to save money on items you need and use. Try a different brand if a coupon from that competitor can save you money – even if it’s only a few cents because every penny adds up at the checkout counter. Cut and organize coupons on the same day you plan your next week’s meal menu so you can maximize your savings by planning dishes around coupons.

Don’t limit your coupon clipping to your Sunday newspaper. Try coupon websites, like One website,, even offers a toolbar you can add to your web browser. You can even find people selling sets of coupons on

While it may seem like a lot of planning, the savings add up. Depending on your current grocery shopping habits, you may be able to cut your weekly grocery bill in half – or even more! The key to this strategy, as with any budgeting strategy, is to develop your plan and then stick to it. Once these five frugal habits become a part of your routine, you’ll thank yourself for all the initial efforts you made to develop these valuable money-saving skills.

John Janney