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- Food and household spending can fluctuate, but it’s also one expense you have the most control over.
- To cut down on spending, use a store rewards card and apps like Popcart instead of pinching pennies.
- Platforms like Imperfect Produce also help cut down on food waste while saving you money.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
According to USA Today, the average American household spends over $4,000 each year on groceries alone.
It’s one of the biggest expenses in your budget. And it’s non-negotiable because, well, you kinda have to feed yourself.
Spending money on groceries to cook meals at home is almost always cheaper than going out to eat. I’ve made a significant effort so far this year to cut back on eating out — not only for my waistline but for my wallet, too — and I’ve picked up some great grocery-shopping hacks along the way. Because when it comes to cooking for yourself and buying household items, there are ways to optimize that don’t require you to obsess over every dollar.
Food and household spending is one of the few areas where you can make significant adjustments to the budget (unlike, say, your rent or mortgage, or your utility bills). With some minor changes and clever tactics, you can spend a whole lot less.
1. Shop at the back of the store
When I go to a physical store to shop (gasp, I know), my favorite part is the discounted section in the very back of the store. It’s usually two horizontal racks by where employees go in and out from their break room, filled with goods that have been discontinued or are about to expire. The items are often 50% off — I’ve scored cookie mix, tea, and spices for cheap — so it’s worth a trip to the back corner to go sleuthing. It feels like a treasure hunt, as there are never the same things twice.
2. Get a store rewards card
This may seem like a "no duh" piece of advice, but you’d be shocked at how many people still haven’t signed up for free rewards.
Store rewards cards not only give you points you can use for your next purchase, but they also give you discounts on other items, coupon offers, and even gas rebates. You can get the items you need without paying full price, and also get (basically) free money later.
I love my Safeway card: not only does it get me discounted prices on everyday items, it also saves me extra money on things I buy often (called "Just4U") and a gas discount at Chevron. I can fill up my tank often for 30 cents less per gallon.
3. Pay attention to ‘cost per’ pricing
When I was growing up, I went grocery shopping with my mom every week. She taught me the art of food shopping and gave me an incredible piece of advice. Never look at the sticker price, but instead look at the cost per pound or ounce.
This works with everything: spices, cereal, even toilet paper. By looking at the "cost per" as opposed to the sticker price, you’re making sure you get more product and better value. The "cost per" is usually listed in smaller numbers on the price sticker on the shelf.
When you’re shopping online, there are a million brands to choose from and dozens of stores to shop from (Amazon and Walmart, I’m looking at you). Without the product in front of you, it’s hard to determine the price per pound. Popcart is a great tool that can help with this.
Popcart makes comparison shopping easier. It helps you find all the stuff you need — from diapers to coffee pods and sparkling water — at a "per X" price. If you’re comparison shopping for makeup wipes, for example, Popcart can show you the cost per wipe from various stores.
4. Shop for fruits and veggies with Imperfect Produce
Imperfect Produce fights food waste by finding a home for "ugly" produce that is still perfectly tasty. The company sources it directly from farms and delivers it to customers’ doors for about 30% less than grocery store prices. I’ve been a customer for the past year and absolutely love the ability to customize my box.
5. Buy in bulk
When items are on sale, I’ll often stock up on things I know I’ll need later — for example, I have three bottles of shampoo, a huge box of pasta, and cans of soup ready to go in my closet (y’all know how much I love Costco). Buying in bulk offers the chance to save money now instead of paying full price down the road.
The idea of bulk buying isn’t new. The theory is that the more you buy of an item, the less it will cost because you’re grabbing up most of the stocked product. But when you live alone, as I do, buying in bulk can be tricky, as you don’t want things to go to waste.
As with all grocery items, check the packaging for the best-before or expiration date so you know how long it will keep. And if you’re worried about not being able to use it all in time, only buy non-perishables in bulk.
Other random tips I’ve picked up:
- If you shop at a physical store, ask someone at the meat and fish counter when things get delivered. If delivery day is Tuesday, you better believe they’re slashing their prices the night before.
- If you’re using Popcart, add things you buy frequently to your "list" in the app to make reordering easy.
- Don’t shop hungry, online or offline. You’re more likely to purchase more food when you’re ravenous.
It can take some diligence, but ultimately, cutting down on your grocery and household spending can save you thousands a year.
- Read more:
- 10 tips to save money on alcohol
- 10 tips for saving money on produce
- We bought groceries from Aldi and Trader Joe’s to find out which is really cheaper — and the winner was clear
- 12 easy supermarket shopping tips that will save you money
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