People often ask me how I was able to buy a house on the beach, drive two BMWs (one of them is several years old), and travel at least 4 times per year, while still saving at least 40% of my income.
Obviously, it helps to be a software engineer in this hot economy so I’m not going to pretend that everybody can easily do what I did but the truth is, a lot of the saving comes from cooking at home and not going out so much. If you are curious, you can check out some of the delicious, healthy, and cheap meals I prepare at home.
You might not realize it but eating out if one of the largest items in every family’s budget. I can easily spend 100 dollars for dinner for just the three of us (my wife, son, and myself) if I go out to a restaurant. However, I can make the same and many times better meal at home for less than 10 bucks for the whole family.
Cooking at home has several other advantage such as you can portion your food better according to the size of your family and cooking at home it is usually healthier. Besides, no need to get dressed to go out, get in your car and drive, wait for Uber to take you there, or wait at the restaurant to get a table.
But a lot of the savings of making food a home come from finding good prices at the grocery store.
So here is my list of the 7 ways to save money at the grocery store
- Join your favorite store’s rewards program
Almost every supermarket offers some type of loyalty/reward program. Joining that program can usually be done online and only takes a couple of minutes. For example, here in California, I am a member of the Ralph’s Reward program which offers digital coupons and fuel points redeemable at Shell gas stations. Go to the website of your favorite store in your area and enroll to start taking advantage of the discounts.
- Pay with a credit card that gives you money back for supermarket purchases
Look for credit cards that give you extra money back for buying groceries such as Chase Freedom (gives you 5% cash back in rotating categories) or American Express Blue Cash (gives you 3% cash back every day)
- Check out the supermarkets weekly ads for sale items
Don’t throw away the supermarket flyers you get in the mail every week. They give you pretty much all the information you need. Most supermarkets constantly rotate their sale items, you might be able to buy trip-tip for $3.99/pound this week but fresh salmon for $6.99/pound next week. Time your purchases to take advantage of sales. It is not that hard, just look at the front page of the grocery store weekly ads.
- Buy online whenever you can get a better deal
Don’t assume that you have to buy every food item at your local grocery store. Buy there items like fresh food and vegetables that for other items such a dried or canned foods, look online and see if you can get a better deal. For example, I buy my canned artichokes online at walmart.com. They have 2 day free delivery if you spend at least $35 in your order.
- Buy fresh fruits and vegetables at your local flea market
Local flea markets are usually cheaper than regular supermarkets when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables. You can find the best deals right before they close for the week. For example, I go to my local street fair at around 2PM on Sundays when they are ready to go home, that is when they usually discount their veggies by more than half in most cases.
- Buy ethnic foods at ethnic markets
Yes, I know that these days you can find Thai jasmine rice or sashimi grade fish at most large grocery stores. However, for these special items, you will find better prices and quality if you buy them at your local Asian or Mexican market. Not only do they have a larger variety of these items but their prices are usually much lower as well.
- Buy the right item at the right grocery store
Don’t be afraid to go to several grocery stores on a regular basis. Most of the time, the best place for red meat will be expensive to buy toilet paper, or the perfect place for milk will be expensive for everything else. Stores usually have a few items on sale to get people in the door knowing that most customer will buy everything else there. I try to schedule my grocery shopping around my daily commute or weekend soccer games. I might stop by Ralphs coming home from work to buy tri-tip and go to Walmart on my way to my son’s soccer game on Saturdays to buy frozen foods.
To summarize, with a little bit of planning you can easily save hundreds of dollars a year in your grocery budget. What is your favorite food shopping hack?