Aside from housing costs most of us spend more money on food than on anything else, and in these trying economic times learning how to save money at the grocery store can be just as, if not more, valuable than getting a raise at work.

For most people grocery shopping is just another chore to try and finish as quickly as possible. Get in, get out, get home, and eat. Well, while we all want the tedious things in life to be over sooner rather than later, in this case it is in our best interest if we take a little time and try to sniff out the best deal possible. The extra time taken will more than pay for itself in savings at the grocery store till. Here are my top ten tips on how to save money at the grocery store:

10 – Bring a calculator – Some of us are math whizzes, but for the vast majority addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division without the aid of a calculator is all but impossible. If you want to be able to quickly compare prices between competing brands a calculator is a must. Divide the cost by the weight to find out if it is cheaper or more expensive than its competitor.

9 – Write down the cost of your staples – Though you will no doubt have a wide variety of food in your shopping cart there are certain staples that you will buy week in and week out without fail. Bread, milk, rice, pasta, cereal, potatoes etc. are all examples of staples and will represent a large percentage of your annual grocery bill. Comparison shop between multiple grocery stores and see which one has the cheapest prices on the items you buy the most. Doing this little bit of simple detective work could save you hundreds of dollars at the grocery store over the course of a year.

8 – Keep your eye on the bottom shelf – Studies have shown that shoppers are more likely to purchase easy to reach, easily seen items. As such, big name companies often pay a premium to have their products displayed at eye level. This increased cost to them is often passed on to the consumer. Don’t forget about the little guys whose wares are going unnoticed on the bottom shelf. Often you can get a similar item of equal quality for less money just by stooping a little.

7 – Always buy produce in season – When it comes to price variations at the grocery store, in no department is it more apparent than in the produce section of the store. Domestic produce that is in season is more plentiful and won’t have the cost of being shipped halfway around the world hidden in the price. As a bonus your fruit and vegetables will be much fresher! Want to save money at the grocery store? Buy in season, always!

6 – Shop alone – This particular tip is beneficial in several ways. First of all, if you go to the grocery store by yourself you will have all the time and focus you need to employ the other tips on this list. It is hard to punch numbers in a calculator, consult a list and comparison shop when you’ve got 3 rambunctious children underfoot. Secondly, you will not have an army of compulsive accomplices cajoling you into putting non-essential items in your cart. Even the spouse can be a danger. Leave the family at home and hit the grocery store alone!

5 – Avoid prepackaged foods whenever possible – In our time-constrained world foods that are conveniently packaged and ready in just 2 minutes in the microwave can be a God-send. However, the convenience these pre-packaged foods offer come at a price – both for your wallet and your health. You can save a lot of money at the grocery store by buying the individual foods, preparing a large batch and then freezing them for easy microwaving later on. Not only will you save money, but you will also control every ingredient that goes into your dishes.

4 – Stuff on sale? Load up! – Many times a store will have an absolutely phenomenal deal on a certain item. We’ll take notice and throw one or two in the cart. Is it non-perishable? Why not grab 15 or 20? When those rare deals come along take full advantage! Sure, it can seem like you are spending too much by buying so many at once, but in the long run you will be saving money. Look at your grocery store purchasing through a longer lens than just week to week. The idea is to save money over the course of the entire year. By buying large quantities when stuff is on sale you can significantly reduce your grocery bill.

3 – Always make a list – Going to the grocery store with only a vague idea of what you want or need is never a good idea. In almost every case you’ll wind up loading up on stuff you don’t need, buying perishable items you already have at home, or forgetting important items that you have run out of. Go through your cupboards before you leave, make a comprehensive grocery list, and don’t deviate one iota( unless you see an incredible deal on non-perishable items – see tip #4 above).

2 – Clip coupons – Families have been saving money for decades with this tried and true method and it is simply common sense for anyone who wants to learn how to save money at the grocery store. Whether you clip the coupons from the newspaper, or find a place where you can print coupons online these valuable little paper rectangles are as good as cash at the grocery store till. Take advantage of them wherever you find them and make adjustments to your list to accommodate them.

1 – Never shop hungry! – The number one enemy shoppers face when trying to save money at the grocery store is their own hunger. Going to the grocery store with a growling tummy will open up a world of temptations, and before you know it your list will be out the window and you’ll be ringing up megabucks in the form of unhealthy foods like chips, ice cream, and cookies. Eat first and don’t let your stomach tempt you to deviate from your list.

Have any other tips on how to save money at the grocery store? Leave a comment and let me know.

Featured image by blmurch