This was a guest post that was published on Money Saving Mom. I thought I'd re-post it here for those of you who didn't see it there.
While picking up my milk for the week, I stopped to consider how many people might wonder why I was digging all the way to the back of the refrigerated section. Then I started thinking about how easy it is for anyone to reduce their grocery budget just by following a few simple guidelines. I’m not talking about spending hours every week clipping coupons and scouring the sale papers for deals.These are simple strategies that everyone can use to help keep their food costs down.
1. Look toward the back of the refrigerated section for the latest-dated milk, cheese, meat and other perishables. It certainly won’t help you cut expenses if your food goes bad and you have to throw it out and buy more.
2. Buy whole milk and mix it with water. It will taste different at first, but you’ll get used to it after a while. If you can bring your taste buds to agree to mixing your milk half and half with water then you’re getting two gallons for the price of one! (Note: Keep in mind that if you have young children, watering down your milk will affect the nutrition of it.)
3. If you’re buying individual fruits (e.g. apples, oranges, etc.) by the pound, pick out the smallest ones. The total weight will be less, and therefore you won’t pay as much, but you won’t notice the difference when you’re eating your apple.
4. Shop early in the morning if at all possible. That is when you’ll find most of the marked down produce, meat, and bread. Even if you can’t shop in the morning, be sure to still keep an eye out for products that have been marked down.
5. Don’t buy too much produce at one time. Produce (especially if it has been shipped a long distance) will not last very long before it has to be thrown out. Try to buy only enough for about one week at a time.
6. If you find a good sale on something you normally buy that has an extended shelf-life or freezer life, stock up. Why wait until later and pay full price when you can buy several now at a much lower price?
7. Be creative and cook with what you have on hand. Make your weekly menus based on what is already in your pantry or freezer. Then you’ll just need to buy a few ingredients to fill in the gaps.
8. Make a list and stick to it when you shop. Unplanned “extras” add up very quickly.
9. Consider how badly you really need something. For example, it doesn’t really take any longer to make pancakes or biscuits from scratch than from a box mix. Yet those box mixes cost quite a bit more than just buying the ingredients would cost. (Cooking from scratch is much better for your health too!)
10. Use coupons. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not talking about spending hours each week on clipping coupons and scoping out deals. But if something is on your list, you should at least check to see if there is a coupon out for it. A good place to check is the coupon database at couponmom.com. You’ll be surprised at the difference fifty cents here and a dollar there can make!