My Money Saving Guide to Grocery Shopping
When I got pregnant with my older son, I had such bad morning sickness that I couldn’t go grocery shopping. After my pregnancy, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that made it difficult for me to push a grocery cart or load groceries in the car or bring them into my house.
Once I got my condition under control, I got pregnant again and had the same morning (all day) sickness. I also had a really bad flare since I didn’t take my medication during my pregnancy. My husband continued to do the grocery shopping and quite frankly, was better at it than I ever was. He sticks to the list. I roam every aisle and look for deals.
My husband stuck to the grocery list and always got what we needed. However, he shopped at the closest grocery store, which wasn’t exactly the most affordable grocery store.
My medical condition is finally under control and my schedule is more flexible, so I have taken back grocery shopping with a goal to reduce our grocery budget. I am still a very busy working mom, so I can’t always hit multiple stores in one week. I plot out my week and needs to try to get the best deals on the go.
General Grocery Shopping Tips
If you are a busy mom, you don’t have time to shop at three or four grocery stores every week. Here are my favorite time and money saving grocery shopping tips.
- Make a plan: The only way to save money at different grocery stores without going insane is to really track what you need and when. Paper goods and toiletries usually cost more at conventional grocery stores. Make a note when you are running low so that you can go to the right store before you run out.
- Know what your regularly purchased items cost: I admit, I don’t always look at prices. I can’t tell you how much the last shirt or shoes I bought cost. However, I can tell you that organic milk costs $5.69 at Trader Joe’s and $6.89 at Sprouts and $7.99 at Target. That is a fairly big price difference when we go through one and a half gallons of milk each week.
- Plot your errands: I have the most success when I plan my errands at the beginning of the week. For example, if I know that I’m going to be near Big Lots and Dollar General (they are next to each other) around my lunch break, I check my list for anything I need at those stores. I do the same thing when I make my grocery list. I look at my grocery list and see what I need and where I can get the best bang for my buck. If I need a lot of paper goods and toiletries, I may forgo the savings on milk in favor of saving on other items at Target.
- Keep a running grocery list: I am normally a pen and paper person. I love making lists and keeping a paper planner. However, when it comes to groceries, I’ve gone digital – not high tech, just digital. I keep a running grocery list on my cell phone that way I can buy what I need if I’m near a store. I also check the sales flyers in the newspaper on Sunday and make a note of items that we regularly use that are on sale. For example, if CVS has the tissue paper and dish soap we use on sale, I make a note so that when I am at CVS picking up a prescription, I will remember to buy them.
- Keep your coupons in the car: I don’t use coupons much. I usually forget them at home or forget to pull them out when I’m paying. That being said, if there is a significant coupon (like a 20 or 25% off coupon for CVS), I keep it in my car so that I don’t forget to take it with me when I pop in. Most of my errands are on the way to or from somewhere so I need to have everything with me when I decided to pop in. I’m not organized enough to remember to grab coupons the day of the errand, so I just keep them in my car.
- Find easy ways to save money: I had heard of the Target Cartwheel app but it took me ages to actually download it to my phone. I regret how long I waited now that I have been using it consistently. I usually save $5 – $10 on groceries just by using the app. In addition to the app, I have a Target Red Card tied to my debit card. That card automatically saves me 5% off everything I buy at Target. Most grocery stores also have Club cards that can save you money on items you buy normally.
- Consider switching things up: If you exclusively buy name brand products, consider trying the generic version. In many cases, generic products are made by major manufacturers so they may be the same item, just with different packaging. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes you won’t like the generic product. No big deal, just don’t buy it again. I am on the second to the last roll of generic paper towels that I don’t like. They are too thin and not very absorbent. Lesson learned, I won’t mess with my paper towels.
Price Variations in Groceries
If you only shop at one grocery store, you need to expand your grocery shopping horizons. Prices can vary vastly from one store to another. I never noticed this because I never really shopped at other grocery stores.
Here are a few grocery items that are priced differently from one store to another.
- Toiletries: Toiletries can vary in price from one grocery store to another. For example, my Aveeno face wash can be around $8 at CVS and $6 at Target. Even without coupons or the Target Red Card, I’m saving around $2. The same goes for toothpaste. Grocery stores regularly put toothpaste on sale for $1 a tube. You can also buy name-brand toothpaste year round at your local dollar store for $1.
- Cleaning Products: Manufacturers regularly offer coupons on cleaning products. They also go on sale at the grocery store or Target regularly. You can even find them at your local dollar store or Big Lots. If you keep an eye on your stash and watch sales, you can save big when your favorite cleaning product goes on sale.
- Produce: We eat organic produce, which can get pricey. I didn’t realize that different stores have huge price differences on produce. For example, I can buy organic apples at my regular grocery store for $1.99 per pound, or I can find the same apples at Trader Joes or Sprouts for less than $1 per pound (in season). Additionally, in season produce is always less expensive than off season produce that has to be shipped in from elsewhere.
If there are items that you purchase frequently, take the time to check pricing on that item at various stores. In fact, this weekend, make a list of your 10 most frequently purchased items and start tracking pricing.
For example, my son eats the same sandwich every single school day – peanut butter on raisin bread. He has been eating that sandwich since he was two years old. The Sunmaid raisin bread sells for $4.99 at Pavillions. The same exact brand name product is $2.99 at Target. I now buy two loaves at a time so that we don’t run out on a week when I’m shopping at a different grocery store.
It may seem time consuming to shop multiple stores for different items, but once you get organized and work it into your weekly errand routine, it’ll be a breeze. The financial savings will make it worthwhile. My monthly savings on milk covers my weekly lunch out treat! You don’t have to be a crazy couponer to save money on groceries. Even the busiest mom can do it, I promise.