Here's my top 10 tips to save money on your food shopping (and it's not coupons!)
1. Buy ONLY when your favorite foods are on sale and then buy 2 or 3. It's so easy to grab that box of cereal or macaroni and cheese when it's full price because your child asked or begged for it, but it can make a big difference when it goes on sale for $1.50 or $2.00 less.
2. Water it down. I can stretch a bottle of juice from 15 serving to 20 or more by watering it down. Taste test it as you are doing it so it doesn't get too weak. If you start the kids on this early, they won't even taste the difference.
3. Shop dollar stores for all non-food items like napkins, plastic utensils, hand soaps. This can often save you 50% over grocery stores.
4. Teach kids the art of sharing. When things were bad financially, my kids learned how to share a large muffin or a small ice cream or a treat. They would take turns breaking off pieces or digging their spoons into it. Either that, or they didn't get one at all. Trust me, they learn fast that something is better than nothing. You simply don't need to have 1 of everything for each child.
5. Go easy on meat. We treat meat as a side dish and load up on vegetables in season and grains. At about $10 for a good steak or the same for a pack of meat that makes 4 hamburgers, this can add up fast. Make the burgers smaller so you can get 6, and load up on the other side dishes. Make at least 2 or 3 meals a week meatless if you are a regular meat eater.
6. Buy fruits and vegetables only in season and only on sale. This can make a huge difference! Corn in the summer can be under 50 cents an ear. Strawberries in June....blueberries in the July. It just makes sense financially and it tastes better. Buy extra and freeze for the winter months too!
7. Learn to love left overs! The EPA says Americans generate over 30 million tons of food waste each year. Use leftovers for a nice brown bag lunch at work the next day if possible, or make them into a casserole or just eat as it was. Waste not, want it. It teaches kids about conserving too.
8. Go generic on certain items. Most grocery stores have a generic version and many have a store brand organic version that is even cheaper than a name brand regular version! I can get canned chick peas in the store organic version at $1.00 a can or the regular non-organic at over $1.39. Pay attention rather than just grabbing the same old items and see what's new. Do price comparisons-it really helps!
9. Never shop when hungry. We all have fallen prey to this and come home with that giant box of donuts or cake we don't need.I fell sucker to " yesterday's bake" 75% off sale and bought a box of 8 large donuts. 8!! Of course, we ate them all. Try to shop right after a meal and stick to a budget.( ok, but a donut here and there isn't bad-especially when it''s so cheap right? right, ha!)
10. Plant a garden! There's nothing like walking out the the patio to pick a tomato and it's A LOT cheaper than buying. I just made my first tomato container this year and they were the best tasting tomatoes ever!I can't wait for my peppers to come too. Even if you only have a very small area, certain items can be grown in pots.Next year, I'm expanding to at least 6 tomato plants.
Oh and bonus tip #11- Make sure you are part of the rewards program each store offers and always have your card scanned. There's also some GREAT apps for cash back like Ibotta and Receipthog.