Make sure to really have a budget. It ing may not sound exciting, but it is the best way to keep spending in check. Learn to create and use a simple budget that includes categories for basic areas of spending. Before you shop, determine what your monthly allocation is for groceries, make a list, and THEN go to the store. If you buy in bulk, realize that you might spend two months’ worth of budget for some items. Just make sure to allocate appropriately in your budget so you don’t overspend next month.
2. Go local.
Explore what local foods you can find. You’ll also save up to 15 percent by buying fruits and vegetables that are in season – think about beets, Brussels sprouts, squash and broccoli in the fall and winter, for instance. Or find a quick refrigerator pickle recipe for locally grown cucumbers or bell peppers instead of buying prepackaged. For meat, check out local farms (try your local natural foods market or visit localharvest.org to locate farmers).
3. Think beyond meat.
Incorporating plenty of vegetables is good for the body as well as the budget. Get creative and try some interesting recipes that don’t include meat.
4. Take it easy on the drinks.
If beer or wine are on the list, look into locally crafted items. Go with tap water instead of bottled water; make it more interesting with lemon, lime, cucumber (or other fruits and vegetables). For juices, lemonades and sodas, remember that their plastic packaging adds to the cost. Instead, think about buying powdered mixes and making your own at home. You can also use a seltzer maker to make your own cola and seltzer water.
5. Do more prep at home.
For food items, remember that the convenience of bagged lettuce, pre-cut fruit and veggies, and shredded cheese comes with a higher cost. It only takes a few extra minutes to rinse lettuce and tear it by hand or to shred a block of cheese. Skip the more expensive, single-serving packages, too. Buy the bigger size and dole out smaller portions into sandwich bags or smaller containers.
6. Join a club.
If you’re not already a member of a warehouse club, this is a great time to become one. Smaller families may overlook it, thinking everything comes only in bulk. In reality, many things don't come in large quantities and don’t perish easily, and there are many "individual" items, ranging from grocery items to gifts, books and automobile tires. Or team up with friends, neighbors, or family members to split large purchases.
7. Leave credit cards at home.
Paying with cash (or a debit card) helps ensure you stay within your budget. Studies show that people who pay with cash spend 15-20 percent less than those paying with credit cards. And, if you use a credit card and cannot pay off the balance in full each month, you run the risk of paying up to 15 percent interest on your grocery purchases.
8. Find online coupons.
Go online to find coupons, and print them from your computer. A few sites to visit include Coupons.com and TheGroceryGame.com.
9. Pay attention to unit pricing.
Ounce-for-ounce, bigger packages often provide the most value for your dollar -- but not always. Look beyond the price per box. Check the unit pricing displayed on tags on store shelves. Mid-size packages sometimes will be the best purchases.
10. Think outside the box for bulk buying.
Many types of specialty retail stores (think liquor, fabric, pet) often have bulk/volume pricing available. Farms, orchards and farmers’ markets are great places to find excellent prices and savings, especially on large quantities (think bushels of fruit). If you don’t need perfect-looking fruit (maybe it’s for baking, cooking, canning or just eating), ask about “B” fruit or bruised boxes. “B” doesn't mean sub-par in taste or vitamins. These “B” or bruised fruits can be up to half off and taste just as good. Finally, retailers of any kind often will provide bulk pricing upon request for certain items.
*The above tips were provided from national consumer finance expert Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Financial Network.