Paper or plastic? Once upon a time that was a standard question asked at the grocery store check stand. Today not only have paper and plastic bags given way to reusable tote bags, but also the way we pay and save at the grocery store has evolved.
Whereas our grandparents might have paid in physical dollars and cents — and handed over a fistful of paper coupons as well — today we can zip through the grocery store via the magic of plastic cards and contactless payment.
We can also save some grocery dollars without clipping a single coupon. Consider these tricks to help lower your grocery bill.
1. Shop your pantry.
How many of us head to the store for more groceries, when we already have the fixings for a great meal at home? They say that Americans waste 25 percent of the food we buy, so probably most of us! Shop your cupboards, fridge, and freezer before you head out for more. This will help you buy less and waste less food. Doing a pantry challenge every once in a while never hurts, either.
2. Check the sales.
This goes without saying, but sales, you guys! Stores have sales and you don't need to clip coupons to take advantage of them. Build your meal plans around what's on sale at the grocery store, not necessarily what you feel like having. You'd be amazed at how much our whims can cost us. If something is on sale that you know you tend to use a lot of (ground turkey, for example), load up now and just freeze the stuff until the mood strikes.
3. Make a list and check it twice.
Before you head to the store, make a list of the things that you really need — and then stick to it. Remember, whims cost extra. Don't get in the checkout line until you've double checked your list. A return trip to the store for something you've forgotten costs more time — and sometimes more money, as we throw a few extras into the cart.
4. Download your grocery store's app.
Most grocery store chains now have apps that alert you to sales, digital coupons, and special personalized saving offers. Learn how the app works and use it to your advantage.
5. See the manager.
Well, you don't really have to hunt down the manager, but do check each department for what's often called a "manager's special." These are items that are still sellable, but for one reason or another are being marked down (often for a killer deal).
6. Check the unit price.
As you're browsing the aisles, be sure to check the price tag's bottom line. Most stores list the unit price of each item in very small print at the bottom. Two seemingly similar bottles of red wine vinegar can vary greatly in cost. Buy the one with the lowest unit price, and you've stretched your dollar a little further.
7. Go generic.
While you're at it, reconsider your brand loyalty. Some products are really just fine — without the fancy-pants packaging and (expensive) nationwide advertising campaigns. Choosing the store brand over a name brand can save you a pretty penny. Trader Joe's and ALDI are two stores that specialize in generic.
More on Generic Products
8. Make it yourself.
There are so many items that folks often buy in bottles and cans that are super easy to make yourself. Consider trying your hand at homemade pasta sauce, or an easy basic salad dressing. They taste so much better than the store-bought varieties and cost so much less.
Or know when it's better to buy it: 10 Grocery Store Short Cuts That Are Cheaper Than Doing It Yourself
9. Bulk up.
Buying in bulk can either mean buying the ginormous containers at Costco, or buying a small amount from the bulk bins at your neighborhood health store. Depending on how often you use certain items, both methods can save you money. If you only need one teaspoon of a certain spice for a recipe, don't pay $5 for an itty-bitty jar — pay a few dimes to buy just what you need.
More on Buying in Bulk
10. Get the rebate.
Remember that we live in the digital age. There are now rebate apps that will give you money back on purchases. Browse what Checkout 51 or Ibotta have to offer — it could be money in your pocket.
Got a trick for saving money that doesn't require coupons? I'd love to hear it!