During the coronavirus crisis, most Americans are limiting trips to the grocery store as much as possible to help slow the spread of COVID-19. While stocking up can be smart to minimize your interactions with the public, you don't want to waste money during a time of economic uncertainty.
The good news is that there are smart ways to stock up on the essentials while keeping your costs as low as possible. Here are a few tips to help.
1. Don't hoard supplies -- buy only what you need
Grocery stores will remain open and stores will continue to sell the things people need, so there's no reason to buy a lifetime supply of toilet paper, canned veggies, hand sanitizer, or any other items.
While you don't want to venture out to the store every day, purchasing a one- to two-week supply of most items should be sufficient. You'll need to hit the shops to get perishables such as milk and produce at least that often, so you can pick up anything else you need when you go.
And, of course, it's neighborly to leave things on the shelf for others -- and it's to your benefit to make sure everyone has cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers, so those around you can stay healthy too.
2. Use coupons
Brands continue to put out coupons in the paper and online. While you're stuck at home, use the time to search for them. It's also possible to shop online for coupons from the newspaper and have them mailed to your home.
Coupons can provide significant savings, especially if you stack them with store sales. During a time of economic turmoil, the extra pennies they cut off your bill could help make your money stretch further if you've had a cut to your income.
3. Shop sales flyers
Grocery store sales also continue during these troubled times. Before you head to the store, check out the flyers to see what's being offered at a bargain. Aim to plan your meals around the items that are discounted.
And while you probably don't want to hit multiple stores to take advantage of different sales, you can check which store has more of the items you need marked down and pick that one to do your weekly stock-up.
4. Plan meals so you don't waste
If you're staying at home, you hopefully have plenty of time to cook and can cut down on your dining-out costs. But you don't want to end up buying tons of one ingredient just to use a small bit of it and have the rest go to waste. You also don't want to make too much food and end up dumping some of it in the trash.
To make sure you're getting your money's worth, make a meal plan at the start of the week. Try to double up on ingredients -- say, making meatloaf and meatballs in one week so you can buy ground beef in bulk to save.
Account for what you'll have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can make just enough that you don't have a surplus, but not so little you end up stuck with takeout because you've got nothing to cook.
Be smart about how you plan and prepare
Panic buying doesn't help your pocketbook, or your neighbors who also need essential supplies. If you buy what you need, shop for items on sale, and avoid waste, you can make sure you've got the stuff you need to shelter at home comfortably while spending as little as possible during a time of great economic uncertainty.