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Trim your grocery budget without clipping coupons

By DealPro(view all posts by ThriftyNWMom)
at 6:00AM Friday March 15, 2013
under Money Saving Tips

Are you ready to start trimming your household budget? The first place to start is with your grocery budget, where you can see the most significant savings just by changing some of your shopping habits.

You can slash your grocery budget by 50% or more, when you use simple strategies while shopping at the grocery store. Many people think that saving money at the grocery store is a time-consuming job of cutting out coupons and shopping at multiple stores every week, but here are some tips that you can use to save at the store that don't involve cutting out a single coupon:

1. Be prepared by going through the ad and stick to your list
- The best way to blow your grocery budget is to be unprepared with no lists of items to look for and being enticed by the sights and sounds of the grocery store to spend more. Do some quick research ahead of time at home, by looking through the ad to see what is on sale and then trying to base your week's meals around the sale items for meat, produce and more. Even if you're running a last-minute errand to the store, always make sure you grab the store flyer as you walk in and scan the store sales and in-store coupons to see if there are any promotions or coupons you can take advantage of while you're there.

2. Watch for Manager Markdowns and Clearance Items
- You can find significant savings around the store by looking for manager markdowns, especially in the dairy, meat and produce areas. Learn when your store markdowns their items typically and then try to get there as close to that time as possible to see the best selection. You can then find discounts of 50% off or more on items that are close to their selling date. You can then freeze most of these items when you get home. If it's meat, just package it up into whatever size you'll need for meals. For produce and many dairy items you can freeze to be used later if found on deep price cuts. This is also a great way to buy organic products at a discount. You may end up paying less for organic if you find it on a manager markdown.

3. Buy produce in season and freeze for later - Produce can be one of the areas of your budget which can get quite spendy, especially during the off seasons for your favorite produce. This is why it's so important to take advantage of the produce deals when you find them and stock up. If you find a fantastic sale on peaches or berries for example, stock up and then cut them into small pieces and flash freeze. Flash freezing is where you spread out all the cut pieces of fruit or vegetables on a cookie sheet and freeze for about an hour or two so they are frozen in the individual pieces. Then you can throw them in freezer bags in manageable quantities, label them and store them in the freezer. As needed, you can pull them out for smoothies, desserts and more in the quantity you need.

4. Skip the convenience and pre-packaged foods - I am a girl all about convenience especially because I am not fond of being in the kitchen. I used to spend more money just to get items already cut up like veggies or fruit trays. However, you end up paying a much higher price to have all those items pre-cut. Instead, buy the fruit and vegetables individually and you'll get a lot more for your money. Buying pre-packaged snacks for lunches is the same idea - you're paying higher prices for convenience. Instead, buy the bulk packaged items and bring it home right away to break them into snack portions and put them into baggies. Just store in a basket or container in the pantry and you can grab them all week while making lunches (just takes a few extra minutes at home to package them up yourself).

5. Utilize E-Coupons & Coupon Apps from Stores - One of the best ways to save at the grocery store is to pair up a store sale with manufacturer or store coupons to give you the lowest, rock-bottom prices to stock up on your favorite products. However, you may be in a busy season of your life where you just don't have the time to cut out coupons and plan out your shopping trips.

The good news is that more and more stores are offering great options for digital coupons or E-Coupons and special coupon apps where you can access coupons directly from your Smartphone, in the store. I love these options, especially for those last-minute trips to the store where I haven't had a chance to plan and still can find some great savings.

Safeway and affiliate stores (Vons, Tom Thumb, Randalls, etc) have a great digital savings program called Just for U, where you can take advantage of in-store coupons and discounted prices, as well as personalized savings based on your shopping habits at Safeway. This can all be done from your home computer if you're planning ahead or from a Smartphone app, even when you're shopping in the store (you'll see the discounts at the register).

Kroger stores also feature digital store coupon apps where you can add E-coupons right to your store card in the store, as well as add items from the store ad to your digital shopping list. Make sure to check out the website for your favorite grocery store to see if they have a store coupon app or digital coupon program you can use for additional savings in the store.

These are just a few simple ways you can trim your grocery budget by starting to change your shopping habits and looking for ways to save while shopping in the store!

Want to learn more about how to save up to 50% on your groceries, join LearnVest & Savings.com for a live webinar on April 4th at 8pm EST.

Jen Dotson and Sia Hills are Savings.com DealPros and authors of the website Thrifty NW Mom, a one-stop resource for ways to save money all around the Pacific Northwest. They both teach Savings Nation workshops around the Northwest, to show others how to save 50% off or more on their grocery bill.

(Source: Savings.com)