The Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we’ll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn’t know you had.
There are those who keep color-coded files with meticulously clipped coupons indexed by category, retailer, and expiration date. And then there's the rest of us.
The good news is that big supermarket savings can be had by those of us who can barely take the time to jot down a shopping list … or even remember where we put that 50-cent coupon for our favorite yogurt.
Here are three tips that can add up to as much as $100 in grocery-store savings. (For those who want to test-drive the ways of dedicated deal shoppers, there are some coupon savings strategies at the end of this article.)
1. Use your cutting board to chop your grocery tab in half
Pre-chopped, pre-sorted, pre-packaged -- man, we're lazy … and it's costing us, too. So dust off the cutting board and colander and stay away from the worked-over (and marked-up) grub. Channel your inner Julia Child – your $79-an-hour Julia Child, that is -- and slice, dice and measure at home.
When Consumer Reports sent two shoppers to the supermarket for the weekly basics, the one schooled on the cost of convenience rang up a tab that was $79 less. The biggest budget-busters were bagged veggies ($11 v. $3 for au naturel broccoli bunches), single-serving containers ($9.90 for oatmeal envelopes versus $1.59 for the canister) and pre-sliced cheese ($2 more per pound than having the deli guy work over a hunk of muenster). Food companies like Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT ) , General Mills (NYSE: GIS ) , and PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP ) have jumped on the consumer-convenience bandwagon to reap huge profits, but that doesn't mean you should buy in.
2. Score supermarket deals without spending your weekend cutting coupons
You know those people who brag about how little they spent for a trunk full of groceries with coupons? Prepare to become one of them. And, no, you’re not going to have to spend hours rifling through the Sunday paper circulars or driving all around town to find the best price on frozen peas.
A simple shortcut to savings is per-unit pricing. And your grocer provides a handy cheat sheet right on the shelf! The bigger box of cereal's no bargain at $0.08 more per pound than the smaller one. And oh, the horror of the innocuous $1.39 20-ounce bottle of soda, when a few aisles away six 2-liter bottles cost just $5. That's $23.19 less than what you'd shell out for the same amount of pop in the smaller size.
3. Ignore the lure of name brands and go generic
We all know that generic, no-name brands typically cost less than their brand-name peer products. But how much less? Consumer Reports was able to cut its supermarket tab by at least one-third by sticking to store-brand items. In the magazine’s shopping experiment, it stuck to a store-brand shopping list and picked up chocolate-chip cookies, orange juice, frozen lasagna, raisin bran cereal, coffee, and peanut butter for about $24 -- nearly $10 less than what it would cost to buy name-brand fare.
More ways to save ...
Get tips from the coupon pros: We've got our own cadre of coupon connoisseurs over on the Coupons N' More discussion board. And over at CouponMom.com, you can get printable coupons, grocery deals by state and online coupon codes. Check out the savings articles -- including grocery-store savings "secrets" -- for free advice. CouponMom has earned her street cred: See how she snagged $103 worth of groceries for a mere $18. Share your favorite coupon sites in the comments box below.
Show your allegiance and save: Signing up for a store's loyalty program can amount to cash back. You'll find such programs at most store chains, including Kroger (NYSE: KR ) , Safeway (NYSE: SWY ) , and Supervalu (NYSE: SVU ) (although some stores, like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods (Nasdaq: WFMI ) , don't offer them). Cardholders get not only better deals on their current purchases, but also coupons worth cash off future trips.
Don't over-buy: Leftovers are great (personally, I like day-two pizza), but waste isn't cool. One U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that Americans discard more than one pound of food a day. There are many tricks to keeping track of leftovers (with labels, for example, or a list on the front of the fridge), but you have to remember to actually consume the food before it spoils. On the front end, buying less (even if it means paying a little more per unit) may be financially worthwhile. So keep track of the waste and adjust your meals and shopping plans accordingly.
Add your top supermarket savings tips to the discussion and tell us how you save money on groceries.
Tune in throughout the month for the latest installment of our Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp, as we stay on course to produce at least $2,000 of savings for you.