1.Make a list but don't always stick to it. I know, can you believe I just wrote that? Sometimes if it will save us some money if I switch things up a bit. You have to be open to trying new products. Maybe you planned on getting chicken for a meal but turkey was cheaper. Turkey works with any chicken recipe. Or maybe you need red onion but white onion is cheaper. We really do not have any items we purchase on a regular basis. Its what ever I can get on sale or for super cheap. Which makes my life more interesting.
2. Research research research-Get on the Internet or find your local ad's to all the places near your home. Go through and write down how much the things are that are on your list. Then when your done, make a new list of what you need from what stores. Remember to clip your coupons, but don't forget that just because you have a coupon doesn't mean its a better value. I will only get an item if its cheaper, coupon or not. I compare like crazy. Usually the only coupons I use is for seasonal items like BBQ sauce, or produce. Things that can be put in my pantry and we use a lot of.
3. To save on gas, carpool with a friend. I do this sometimes, we just switch back and forth. Plus its fun to hang out and help each other with tips and idea's. I find that I don't forget things when I'm with a friend. Just yesterday I almost forgot chicken until my friend reminded me. Yes I forgot my list....Don't forget your list!
4. DON'T FORGET YOUR CALCULATOR! You will need it to calculate whats a good value and whats not. Or you can use your phone calculator. Some stores tell you how much it cost per ounce which makes it easier. Winco is great for this one. This way you don't have to pull the calculator out.
5. When you enter the store try to hit your stores mark down section first. You save at least 50% off on those items in those places. Bakery, and meat sections always have an area. You can just freeze these items when you get home. I know where every mark down section is at every store I go to. If I find that its not a savings, I just don't get it. And don't forget, you can use your coupons on items that are clearanced or marked down too. This makes it a even better value and possibly free. I find things like candles, glad plug in's from last season, natural beauty items, and lots of pet food that has been opened up and marked down.
6. Some stores have little magazine of their own (ex.Fred Meyers health food section) and there will be coupons in there. And usually it is on a item that's already on sale so you save more.
7. Buy in bulk first-I wouldn't say all bulks are cheaper. Haggen's, New Seasons, and Fred Meyers are usually more expensive. Winco is your best friend when it comes to bulk. They have an excellent place to buy in bulk. Your paying for food, not packaging. Plus most places are getting huge varieties. I buy so much stuff from the bulk section. My usual are brown rice, sugar, dried beans, noodles and flours. This is not only a cheap alternative, but these items will last forever in your kitchen.
8. I don't buy prepared anything. You are paying usually 30% more, and are adding many unwanted things into your body. Whenever you buy anything that is already done and you just have to heat it up, there are preservatives, tons of sodium, and who knows what else. So make it yourself. Plan ahead. Take the time to do these things, your children will thank you. So no more mac n cheese, hamburger helper, or frozen meals. Just try it and you will see a difference and feel the difference.
9. Bring your own grocery bags. You know, those things they sell by the register? Those things save you money and keep plastic bags out of your home. Most stores how actually give you like 6-8 cents per bag you reuse. So its like having coupons in a way. They pay you to bring your own bags. Loving that! If you cannot afford to buy those bags, use paper bags you have, fabric bags you have, any bag will do. They don't care, they just are trying to do their part in helping mother earth. Finally! Update:Goodwill is starting to get a bunch of reusable bags and have a area just for them. They are cheaper than the stores so stock up!
10. If you see something on sale but they are out, remember to ask for a rain check! Yes, you can do this. Especially on things like ground turkey, and staples that you always eat. Most stores don't have a huge section of turkey, so it sells out often. Stock up on it if you can, or get a rain check to get it for that sale price later. Always tell them you need more than you actually need. I usually buy 5 things of ground turkey, but tell them I need 10. That way I get that price for more. Plus I just freeze them.
11. Meat- you can buy inexpensive cuts of meat if you have a crock pot. Just cook it for a few hours in your crock pot, and its so tender. Plus its cheaper for you. Low cost and you can feed more people. Makes your money go longer. If you can get mark down meat, just freeze it for later. Plus don't be afraid to buy meat mark downs. We live off of meat markdowns to be honest. My girls are vegetarians so I really do not need much meat anymore. I can buy less now and this saves a bundle. So the small amount of meat I do buy is usually from Safeway in their mark down section. I buy it 50% off, take it home and freeze it. Sometimes I cook it and put it into smaller containers so all I have to do it pull it out from the freezer and reheat it.
12. Buy store brand. I have found and tried just about every cracker store brand out there. My ultimate favorite cracker that taste just like cheese nips are at Walmart. They are only $1.30 a box. Compared to cheese nips that are $2-$3 a box. So try out store brands. Winco and Walmart have excellent store brand crystal light. Only $1.88 when the real crystal light is $3-$4. So try these things out, they taste the same almost all of the time. Plus it saves you money.
13. Buy seasonal. In the fall its lots of squash, pumpkin, apples and pears. Plan your cooking around these items. My girls know that when its fall, its soup time. They look forward to it and actually count down the months till its here. Seasonal produce will be super cheap so stock up when the go on sale. Currently grapes are 88 cents per lb so grapes are in their lunches each day. An added bonus is that you can freeze them. My girls love to snack on frozen grapes.
14. Find your local markets and farmers. Farmers are almost always willing to sell you their items for cheaper than stores. Eggs are super cheap this way. Markets are not always open all year round but when they are open, shop there. I travel about 15 miles to our local island that has a market. I get my veggies and fruit super cheap and organic. Or if you really want to get them cheap, do a U-pick. Yep, you can pick your own and pay even less. Last summer we picked blueberries and paid only 99 cents a lb. Later we picked beans for the same price. So check around, ask friends, ask family, even ask stores. Most people are local and know where these places are. We make a day trip of it too. Our local market has a animal barn so the kids want to visit them each time we visit. Bring your camera too! Its so beautiful on the farm so take advantage of it. Just think of all the wonderful pictures you will have for a life time.
15. Programs-usually each town has many food programs. When I was younger, my mom was part of the brown bag program at our local church. $20 a year gives you about 2 bags of free groceries a month. There was every type of food item in there. In a nearby town they have a place called the bread shop. They gather all bread that stores give away and bring it there. You can have all you want, they just ask for a simple donation. I donated $2 last time and came out with 4 loafs of Daves Killer whole wheat bread (a local company and usually $4.50 each), 1 box of donuts(shouldn't have but oh well), whole wheat bagels, and much more. I would of had to pay over $20 at the store for these. So again, ask around. People know things usually.
16. Be kind to your friends and family. If you don't like a particular item you bought, give it away. In return your friends, neighbors etc. will do the same. I brought over a valentines card to our neighbors, in return she gave me a cheese cake she made. Free treats! So be kind to others and they will be kind to you. If you have a neighbor with a produce garden, do the same. I trade produce with my neighbor all the time. Just 2 days ago she gave me a huge bowl of green beans. So yummy!
17. Grow your own garden. To save money I buy seeds when they go on sale after the season is over.I just bought seed packets for 8 cents at Walgreens. I bought 2 of each flower packet they had and 2 packets of each veggie they had. Only spend around $3. Just think of all that produce from each seed in each packet. Seeds will last forever if you keep them in a dark dry spot. I also get garden tools this way. Great way to pick up those items you just didn't have the money for. When my garden is in full bloom I cook around what ever I picked that day. Anything I cannot use I will either give to my neighbors or dehydrate for later use. I also donate produce to the bread store I told you about. Families in need can use anything so its nice to be able to give. Think of others when your garden is giving plenty.
18. Storage-Another great way to save money is to store your deals the best you can. I have a huge collection of Tupperware that I keep all my baking goods in. I'm gathering a glass storage collection to keep all my root veggies and dried goods in. For example:My neighbor gave me a 5 lb bag of carrots that needed to be used soon. I simply peeled them, cut them and dehydrated them. Once that was done I put them into canning jars. I did this with zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and cherry tomato's. They just need to be stored in a dark pantry. When fall comes and I'm in the mood for veggie soup, I simply pull out my dehydrated veggies. Just take 1/2 cup of your veggies of choice with about 1-2 cups of water and boil for 20 minutes. Yummy soup! Another option for storage is freezing. If I buy a ton of red bell peppers on a super deal, I take them home and prepare them to freeze. Wash them, cut them up, lay them flat on a cookie sheet(make sure they don't touch each other), freeze for a few hours, take out and put into a freezer container, and your done. Much cheaper than buying pre-cut frozen veggies. You can do this with just about any fruit or veggie.
19. Stop buying sugar drinks. You know those drinks you crave? Those alone will bust your budget. No more soda, Gatorade, specialty coffee's, fruit smoothies, energy drinks, etc. Those drinks are only for special times in our home. When we have friends or family at our home or on holidays. They are more of a treat now for us. Used to be it was just too expensive but now we will only get them if they are free. Sometimes not even that. I just went to a huge soccer game and they gave out a energy drink for free. The next day we were at my own daughters soccer game and shared the drink. My husband and I had the biggest tummy ache for the rest of the day. No more energy drinks for us. You can get around not buying these drinks in a few ways. Soda's can be bought on special occasions or drank at family functions or what not. Specialty coffee's are a big no no unless we are camping. I asked for a coffee/espresso machine for Christmas 5 yrs ago and use it each day. I make my own and use my reusable coffee cup. Fruit smoothies can be made with any frozen fruit and yogurt. Energy drinks can be cut out all together. Just drink coffee or tea. Water is the most cheap drink around and we drink a lot of it. We pack water anywhere we go.
20. Make it yourself. I have lots of easy to do recipes on my blog called "Homemade Goodness". From granola to pumpkin cookies. These will save you a bundle and your kids will thank you. My girls love when I make any muffin or cookie. I control what goes into each item and know what is going into our bodies. They just love them because they are sweet. Yes it has chocolate but they don't know that I put in flax seed, apple sauce instead of all the sugar, whole wheat flour, carob chips instead of chocolate chips, etc. They just know its chocolate chip cookies. lol.