You Are At: AllSands Home > Money > Budget grocery shopping
When we are trying to get our budgets under control one of the first places we cut corners is at the grocery store. The key question is how to cut corners with out changing our families eating habits drastically. Beans and rice are inexpensive, but even the most tolerant family will complain when we serve beans and rice every night because we want to cut our grocery bill down.

Timing becomes very important when reducing our grocery budget. Don't go to the store right before a meal; don't go when you have your children with you. If possible go early in the morning, right after the new weeks sales go into effect. Wednesday is usually the best day. By early we mean, before about 8am. The stores are less crowded and some of last week's sale items have not been marked back up and this week's sale items are going out on the shelves. If you are hungry, eat before you go. Don't shop if you are in a hurry, as you are more likely to grab convenience foods, rather than looking for the best deal.

Make a list of the things you need. Keeping a list on the refrigerator with a pen handy makes it easy to jot down items as they get used or become low. This way you don't run out of things that you use everyday, and can stock up when they are on sale. Make a menu up for the week (or better yet, two weeks at a time). This will save last minute trips to the store for forgotten items. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a general guideline for meals. You could even put your family's favorite meals and recipes on 3X5 index cards, pulling them out for a week's worth of meals when it becomes time to make a menu.

Check the sale ads for what is cheap where. Running from store to store may not save you money, but knowing which store has the best deals on most of your grocery items can help you choose which store to go to. Don't forget coupons, but only for items that you would normal use. A coupon is not a savings if you don't usually use that particular item. Buyers' clubs are a great way to save money, and can cut 10% or more off of your bill if used in a sensible manner.

When shopping look at the package size, usually larger sizes are cheaper per serving, but not always. Talk to the produce manager, who can tell you if they have bananas, for instance, marked down because they are getting brown. They can tell you what fruits are in season, and give you suggestions on serving them. Talk to the meat counter manager; ask them to cut a large roast into two or three smaller meals, or steaks. You can always repackage them when you get home. If your store has a markdown bin look in it for items that you use on a regular basis.

When purchasing dairy items, find milk that expires on the day you are shopping. Milk and other dairy items will keep for 7 days in the refrigerator after the expiration date. Go ahead and buy a week's worth that is marked down because it expires today. When purchasing eggs keep the 10-cent rule in mind. If a larger size is less than 10 cents a dozen more expensive, then they are the better deal.

When buying pre-packaged meals look at the cost versus purchasing the ingredients separately. If a pre-packaged meal requires you to add meat and vegetables, what is the cost of you purchasing rice, noodles, seasonings, meat and vegetables individually?

Don't forget to look at the per-serving cost. If a package will provide your family with 10 servings, at 20 cents a serving, and a bulk purchase will provide 20 servings at 18 cents per-serving, but you can't store the extra then you are better off purchasing the package rather than the bulk. If you can't store an item don't purchase it.

You can save money at the grocery store, but it will take some time and energy on your part. Go to the store prepared, look for unadvertised specials. Comparison shop between brands, and be willing to try new brands. Purchase only as much as you can use and store. Enjoy your savings, put them away for a rainy day, or a vacation, find someway in which to reward yourself for your hard work and diligence.