Grocery shopping is one of the largest costs for early retirees and those trying to get there, because while other expenses can be cut to the bone, we all have to eat.
The first thing to realize is that grocery shopping tends to be the cheapest of all of our food costs, so there is nothing wrong with spending a bit more at the supermarket if it means spending a bit less on junk food or eating out at work.
While it’s great to shop around and get the best price possible and to buy long-life staples in bulk – it’s important to understand that you can’t have both huge savings and your old grocery shopping cart – at some point sacrifices need to be made.
The five vital frugal grocery shopping tips that I use every week
1. Create a price book for every non-perishable shopping item
The basic strategy here is to record the general rise and fall of common items that you buy regularly and to buy in bulk when they reach a particular price point. You might figure out that cans of tuna don’t get any cheaper than 50c per can after watching the price go up and down in your price book over a few months. When they hit that mark or below, buy up!
Preferably buy an amount to get you through to the next sale cycle for that item – every item will have a different cycle, and your price book will tell you exactly how long it is.
2. Don’t shop hungry, and don’t buy snack food
If you don’t buy it at the supermarket it won’t be in your pantry to tempt you later on. Snack food is horribly expensive and bad for your health making it an early retirement killing double whammy!
It takes sacrifice and dedication, but making a shift towards a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, unprocessed carbohydrates, beans, legumes, and so on will do wonders for your health and your wallet.
3. Make a list and stick to it
There is a reason people commonly list this as a top way to save money at the super market. If you can stick to it you become largely impervious to advertising and brand marketing that is so prevalent.
Don’t ever buy anything at the checkout!
4. See how long you can go without going to the supermarket
We do this all the time! Make it a challenge to see how long you can go living from the stuff you’ve got in your pantry and fridge. It’s actually quite fun to get creative with spices and the odds and ends in the cupboard.
It’s one of the best ways to be frugal with your grocery shopping budget because it stops wasting of food and also delays the spending of money at the supermarket. If you can regularly lengthen the time between shopping sessions by eating simple meals at home using pantry items, then you can save a lot of money over time.
5. Try home brand products
I can’t believe that at one point in my life I was embarrassed to take home brand items to the checkout. How foolish I was to be worried by what others thought! If you’re committed to saving for an early retirement or to saving money at the supermarket then you should try plain packaged or home brand items.
These items are for the most part the same as the branded products, even sometimes from the same production line – only they don’t have to pay for a large marketing budget and fancy packaging. The simple fact is that because a large percentage of people will prefer a branded product and pay more money for it the big companies get away with selling the same product for different amounts. It’s really odd, but how it works.
Some products are genuinely different and worth paying more money for. I will buy the following generic versions:
- Canned tomatoes
- Wine (clean skin or a good cask!)
- Cleaning products (better yet make them yourself)
- Toilet paper
- Frozen vegetables
There are many other ways to save money at the supermarket, but the ones I’ve listed above are the ones that I believe lead to the biggest savings for me on a month to month basis.
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