You don't need us to tell you how easy it is to spend a ton of money at the grocery store. (How is it possible to run in for five things and end up spending an hour in there? And $120?) Instead, we like to give you some pointers on how to spend less. We've given you a lot of advice over the years (here's some! And here's some more!) — and these are our 10 best tips of all time.
1. Know when to buy the store brand.
You've heard it again and again: Store brands can be just as good as name brand offerings — often made by the same company! How can you be sure you'll get quality products? Learn which items are worth the splurge and which ones aren't.
Study Up on Generic Store Brands
2. Bring a must-fill produce bag with you.
In a guest post from The Financial Diet, we learned of this fun tip: "I bring a large bag that is specifically for fruits and veggies, and I cannot get anything else until that bag is full." This way, you're not filling a cart with a ton of junk you don't need — and you'll be sure to eat better.
3. Buy some of the shortcuts.
While it's true that things like pre-chopped vegetables or shredded cheese will usually cost you more than the non-prepped versions, there are some shortcuts that really will save you money.
4. Don't get duped by coupons.
Coupons are great — if they're for something that you actually need. If you're clipping a coupon and buying something just because it's a good deal, well, then you're spending money you don't need to be.
Read more: 5 Money-Saving Tips from a Coupon Clipper
5. Download this app.
There are a ton of grocery apps out there — so many, in fact, that it can be overwhelming. We played with a ton and found one to be the best: It's called Flipp and it's super easy and convenient to use.
What we love about it: This Grocery App Will Save You Time and Money
6. Learn your store's tricks.
Stores are usually pretty predictable. Track your go-to store's sales for a few weeks to see if you can notice any patterns emerge. Also, get familiar with their coupon policy, their loyalty program, their app, etc. The more you know about your favorite store, the more you'll be able to save.
7. Check the unit price.
The biggest container is not always the cheapest per ounce. Sometimes the smaller package on sale is the deal. If you have the time, it's usually worth doing the math to figure out the unit price of the various sizes.
8. Shop at the best time for you.
There's no universal best time for everyone to hit the grocery store (although early in the morning or later at night are the best times to avoid the crowds). Try not to go when you're hungry, when you're going to be rushed, and when you've had time to prepare a list. You'll save money if you're not throwing in unnecessary extras and don't have to make a return trip because you forgot something.
Some Timing Tips
9. Ask for discounts, rain checks, and freebies.
Your store might offer discounts if you order a lot of something in advance — you just have to ask. Stores usually also offer rain checks if they're sold out of something on sale. And there are usually a ton of free services (like cut-to-order meats and knife sharpening) that add value to what you're getting.
More on What Your Store Can Do
10. Get your groceries delivered.
This won't work for everyone, but if you're the type to throw a lot of impulse buys into your cart, or the supermarket is far away (read: it'll take a lot of gas for you to get there), then you might want to explore this option.