Super savers are often asked, “How did you do that?” The secret is that savers are flexible, organized and value money over time. But for many, “I just don’t have time” is the excuse that prevents the everyday shopper from being truly committed to saving money at the grocery store. However, once you see how a few hours a week can keep more money in your bank account, it’s hard not to be hooked. You can even find a great source of manufacturer’s coupons right here on Living on the Cheap. And, as always, manufacturers load new coupons at the start of the month.
Here are the three golden rules all cheapskates follow, when it comes to saving big bucks in the grocery aisle:
Golden Rule #1:You can’t be brand loyal.
This tip is probably the most important in saving money at the grocery store. While we all have our favorite foods, flavors and scents, cheapskates believe that most products are the same regardless of brand. Basically, for example, all national brands of shampoo do the same thing — clean your hair. The same holds true for toothpaste, household cleaners, laundry detergent, deodorant and so on.
When you’re flexible, you have more options to save money rather than paying full price just because “your brand” is not on sale or does not offer a coupon. Remember, companies spend millions on trying to convince you that their product is the best, but think for yourself and be smarter about your grocery dollars.
Golden Rule #2: You can’t be loyal to one store.
Much like the don’t-be-brand-loyal rule, when you’re flexible with where you shop, you widen your money-saving options. Again, we have all have our favorites. With stores, it may be because of convenience, customer service or it’s simply the store your family has always shopped.
However, savers know that store sales and promos differ greatly every week. One store may have cereal on sale, while another has bath tissue on sale. And, yet another, will have dish soap at a discounted price. If you only shop at a single store, you’re missing out on major savings. (Plus, another added benefit is that some stores double or triple coupons, while others do not.)
Take the time to review the weekly circulars, before planning a shopping trip. It’s easy to get stuck in a decades-long shopping habit, but a willingness to break your pattern can keep your money in your pocket. Of course, the obvious argument against this tip is the cost of gas and time. However, with proper planning, it becomes a moot point.
In most major cities, competing retailers are often within just a mile or two of each other. In some cases, they’re right across the street. This is not by coincidence, as many retailers build locations specifically in a competitor’s market because they are all fiercely fighting for your business. They need to make it convenient for consumers, so take the time to see what stores you’re passing on the way to your favorite.
Many cheapskates map out their shopping list, so they’re completing errands efficiently — not running back and forth wasting gas and time. Committed penny-pinchers have been known to make five to six stops in just an hour or two to get their weekly shopping needs met. They are able to do so, because they’re focused and organized.
Golden Rule #3: When you find an amazing price, stock up.
This tip requires some patience and storage space, but it’s well worth it. When you’re a true blue saver, you’re bound to come across some amazing deals. It’s not uncommon to get products for free or upwards of 75% off. This is the time to stock up on those products your family uses often and that have a long shelf life.
Once, I got Smucker’s natural peanut butter for only 25-cents a jar (with a sale and coupon), so why buy just one? I didn’t. I bought 12 and had enough peanut butter for a year — even sharing a few jars with friends. Some people get nervous about spending more than budgeted on a shopping trip. However, a little extra money spent now on a great price means savings down the road, when you don’t have to pay full price for that jar of peanut butter.
Unfortunately, perishable foods do not apply to this rule, unless you’re willing to eat the same thing for every meal for a few weeks. And, trust me, I know some people willing to do so, if it means saving money. The stock-up rule really applies to household cleaners, canned goods, personal hygiene, paper products and any household “stuff” you need on a regular basis (trash bags, air fresheners, pet food, etc.) The trick is to check expiration dates, so you’re not wasting money on items about to expire in a month or two that you’ll never have enough time to use.
Finally, of course, you need to have the space to store all of your frugal finds. However, if your storage space is limited, be creative. I’ve been known to hide canned goods under the bed or in the linen closet behind towels. And, when it’s time to re-stock the kitchen pantry, I just go around the house on my very own private “shopping trip.”