Editor’s Note: This week, PerkStreet is celebrating America Saves Week with special content designed to help our readers save on things we all need to spend money on. We hope you enjoy this special content and take a moment to share it with other’s celebrating America Saves Week on Facebook and Twitter. It seems like no matter how good or bad the economy is, the grocery budget always feels a little tight. According to the USDA, the average American family of four spends anywhere from $600 to $900 a month on groceries alone. Trimming your grocery budget by just $20 a week can save you over $1,000 this year. Unfortunately, most families will never see that savings. My wife and I did everything in the book: We planned ahead, bought in bulk; we went shopping alone, made sure we weren’t hungry while shopping, bought store brands and used coupons. While all of these “general” strategies work, the key for us was learning how to use coupons effectively. I’m not suggesting that you become the next extreme couponing guru. But since learning how to stack store coupons with manufacturer coupons and store sales at our local shopping spots, we’ve been able to walk out of the grocery store saving 50-80% on our groceries and toiletries. Learning how to couponwas the key to bringing down our grocery bill. While I recommend spending some time learning the coupon rules at your local go-to spots by yourself, these less well-known strategies will help you cut your budget by the $20 you need to in order to find $1,000 in grocery savings in the next year:
Cook From Scratch; Reduce Your Portions
Sure you could buy pre-cooked chicken and pre-made sides, but making meals from scratch gives you more control over your grocery budget. Not only will you save money, you’ll have better control of your portions – something we all need to control anyway! The best part of making meals from scratch is that you can reuse ingredients for other meals and even incorporate leftovers into tomorrow’s meal with a little creativity.
Buy A Deep Freezer
How frustrating is it when you’re at the store and see a great deal on meat, but can’t buy any because you just stocked up for the next week or two. With a small, heavy-duty freezer, you’ll be able to act on those deals and dig into your freezer during weeks your budget feels especially tight. You can find a small deep freezer at Wal-Mart for less than $170. A family that saves just $3.50 a week from freezing foods will recoup the cost of the freezer in less than a year!
Be Careful About Cutting Corners
As busy as we all are, it can be easy to sacrifice on price in order to save on time. Think about the convenience of individually packaged items like yogurt, oatmeal, baby carrots, or instant rice. Taking the extra minute to scoop the same amount of yogurt into a bowl or travel container does end up saving you a little money. At the end of the day, saving $.50 to $1.00 in a few places on a consistent basis will significantly lower your grocery bill over time.
Checkout Monitor Price Mistakes
If you’ve planned your shopping around certain deals or coupons, make sure the register displays the discounted price. Keep your eye on the monitor and speak up if you think a price is off. Also be ready with competitors’ ads in case your store price-matches. At Wal-Mart, you can price-match the deals of any other grocery or retail store.
Butcher’s Special Deals
Smaller stores in particular often give you the opportunity to talk with someone in the meat and deli department. Ask when they usually have their best deals. You can likely get a good discount on meat if you buy on a sale’s last day. Cut the meat into small portions and freeze it for later.
Use Your PerkStreet Card for Cash Back
Once you’ve done all that you can to lower your total price at the register, you can smirk a little as you swipe your PerkStreet card, knowing you’re earning perks on your purchases. See how you can start saving more with PerkStreet here. A challenge: Whether couponing or cooking from scratch, make it a goal to add one of these savings tips to your grocery planning this week and let us know how much you saved. What are some unusual ways you save money on groceries? Share your tips in our comments section below. Tim is a personal finance writer at Faith and Finance, a Christian financial help blog that provides financial insights for individuals, businesses, and churches. Outside of finance, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife, playing the saxophone, reading economics books, and a good game of RISK or Catan. Find him on Twitter and Facebook.