CranberryHorn: Top 5 Tips for Saving on Weekly Groceries

1. I can't stress this enough. You need to make a plan for grocery buying. I worked in a grocery store for 16 years and I can tell you that the people who went in without a list or a plan were the ones who came out with the largest grocery bills!

(Bonus tip) Eat before you go. You may think you aren't hungry, but those cinnamon rolls in the bakery and that Wing Bar in the deli are going to look mighty tempting if you don't rein in your hunger before hand.

2. Wait until the flyer for the next week comes out. Most grocery stores issue their new flyers either on Friday or Sunday. These are peak shopping times for groceries and they know how to reel people in by making the biggest splash then. When the flyers come out, gather them all together and compare deals. Usually, when you have two or more major competing store brands in your area they will try to offset each other. Meat deals are usually front and center on the flyer. This is for two reasons, the first being that these are the deals that they want you to base your food plan off of, but also because meat has one of the highest price values in the store. (Deli meats are right up there).  Go ahead and circle the items you are interested in and make note of which store and then compare. Our competing stores are all within a 5 mile distance of each other. That makes it worth it to travel a little.

3. Eating healthy is expensive and they know it. They also know that you ultimately would like to be healthy. Coincidently, all of the healthiest items in the store, such as produce, dairy, meat, are all situated around the outside perimeter of the store. This is on purpose. They want to catch your eye. But within those areas you need to take you time and look around. Often, stores will have in-house specials that are not advertised in the flyer. If Tori in Produce decides to order too many of the avocados and they get a butt-load of them, or if the store releases too much of a item to them, they will turn around and give the savings to you. These are perishable items. The clock is ticking on the shelf life and they know it. Take advantage of it. You weren't planning on buying 3 pounds of strawberries, but the deal is good. That's what freezers are for. With a little prep you can be eating those darlings in January.

4. Think long term, not short term. My mother was a wiz at this. She could stretch food farther than anyone I'd ever seen. One pound of hamburger was dinner for four and ended up in lunchboxes the next day. Part of this is that quantities were smaller than, but if you are going for healthy it might not be a bad idea to find ways to stretch it out, just like your budget. I buy large family packs of chicken when they go on sale each month and clean them up and split them up. I have a Food Saver that I can keep them from getting freezer burned and I pack them away in the freezer. Save and save again. I can't make lasagna for a small amount (or mac and cheese either) and so when I find a deal on sausages and pepperoni I freeze them until I can make a lasagna and then I split the lasagna up into several meals for later.

Bonus tip: Split the portions up into throw away tin pans from the dollar store before you bake. It's much easier to separate it out before then to try to do it later. Besides, if you have a hungry teenage boy like mine, there might not be any leftovers.

5. Think outside the box. Or in this case the grocery store. I buy boneless chicken in bulk from, a supplier that delivers multiple times a year to our neighborhood church. I pay online and then drive up the day of delivery and they load it in my car. These are different than what you get in the grocery store. They don't have all the extras that go into making meat stay presentable longer. And the chicken come much cleaner with less fat. (less prep! Yeah!)

Also, keep in mind that Farm Stands and CSA's are the best places to get fresh, in-season produce and veggies. If you pick the smaller stands and even go to some of the farms that sell directly. I buy potatoes right from Bell Farms and they are fantastic. Plus what I save buying from them means that I buy a bigger bag and store it away. Savings all around.

Anyway, these are just my top 5 tips (plus extra) of the things that I use and what I experience after years of working in the retail grocery industry. I hope it helps, but if you have a specific question on how to save more, please let me know. I'd love to help out.


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