Tips for shopping smart and saving money

One of the first steps to saving money at Aldi or the grocery store is having a menu plan and its accompanying grocery list. But there are other ways you can prepare yourself for saving money at the grocery store. 

  1. Never go shopping when you’re hungry. Many grocery experts suggest this and it’s completely true. If you go shopping when you’re hungry, you will be surprised at how many items magically wind up in your cart and how quickly you go over budget. Foods that you normally wouldn’t even glance at twice look incredibly enticing. It’s happened to me on numerous occasions and I’ve learned to always eat before I go grocery shopping.
  2. Use coupons. Although I am not a huge fan of coupons, many savvy grocery shoppers are. Many coupons are available in the Sunday paper or online. Websites like and are a vast resource for finding coupons and using coupons effectively. If you are going to use coupons, also check manufacturer websites for additional coupons; you’ll never know what you’ll find. If you are going to use coupons, I recommend finding a nice organizational system and keeping your coupons somewhere that you’ll remember them!  
  3. Take advantage of in-store saving by signing up for the store loyalty card. You’ve seen them. They’re the little cards that go on a key ring or look like a debit card for your wallet. These cards are free to get and can lead to massive amounts of savings. Typically, certain products will be on sale and, if you have your store loyalty card, you will get extra money off of those items. And sometimes, the sale price is only valid with your card. These loyalty cards pay off in a big way. Last year, we saved over $700 and got a free turkey just from using ours!
  4. Look for in-store coupons. Hidden throughout most grocery stores are little machines that spit out coupons for certain products. Take advantage of these for extra savings!
  5. Buy generics whenever possible. I’ll admit, there are certain products that I will only buy the name brand or are only made in a name brand. But with the exception of those specific products, I buy generic–pasta, beans, yogurt, canned vegetables, salsa, chips, fruit, milk, cereal, meat…pretty much anything. We don’t really notice a difference in the taste (neither do a lot of people) and we save a ton of money.
  6. Whenever possible, shop alone. For as much as I love my husband and my daughter, I prefer not to go grocery shopping with them. It is so much easier to stick to a list and stay on budget (not to mention the time that is saved) when they are not in tow. It’s easy to resist my impulses; it’s hard to say no to a cute 3 year old begging for princess cookies. If you do need to bring kids along, this blogger offers some great tips for making the trip so much easier.

In her book $3 Meals, author Ellen Brown offers some other suggestions:

  • Buy the basics. In other words, precut vegetables, shredded cheese and canned beans are not necessarily a better bargain. Buying a block of cheese or stalks of celery and cutting them up yourself save lots of money in the long run. Additionally, dried beans make about 3x as much as a can of beans.
  • Don’t overbuy. To quote Spaceballs, “Take only what you need to survive”. Know when a smaller quantity will suffice. Sure, a big can of tomatoes may seem like a great deal, but if you’re only going to use half of it, just buy the smaller can. The larger can will only result in a waste of food and your money.
  • Compare prices within the store. If you’ve been to a grocery store, you’ll notice that the same item is often found in various locations throughout the store. For instance, cheese. Cheese is sold by the deli counter and by the yogurt and sour cream. Compare the prices between the two locations and you may save a bunch of money.
  • Shop the salad bar for small quantities. There’s no sense in spending $3 on a package of celery if you only need the equivalent of one stalk. Pick up the small quantity from the salad bar for serious savings.

I know that all of this seems like a lot to process. It was overwhelming for me, too. I didn’t get into these habits overnight; it took awhile. If it’s too overwhelming, start small. Pick one or two of the tips and use them until they become second nature. Then move on to some others. I promise, though, that the time invested in learning these tips is well worth it. Eventually, it becomes exciting to see the “today you saved” entry at the bottom of your receipt.


2 Responses to “Tips for shopping smart and saving money”

  1. handicapper May 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    Loyalty cards are a must have — we have 3 different grocery cards so we are able to save when we see something at a good price.

    You definitely need a plan… if you haven’t written it down then you plan to fail.

    Other than the salad bar, I can agree with your guidance. However, I don’t agree with the salad bar because prices are very high — more than $3-$4/lb. You can usually buy a head of lettuce for less than a buck. I’d rather do without.


  1. Grocery budget guidelines « The Empty Kitchen - June 21, 2010

    […] Tips for shopping smart and saving money […]

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