5 simple ways to save money at the grocery store

FILE- In this June 14, 2018, file photo, nectarines, plums, mangos and peaches are marked at a fruit stand in a grocery store in Aventura, Fla. Despite a strong economy, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet one of their basic needs last year, according to a new study by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization. That includes paying for food, health care, housing or utilities. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Food is expensive. The American household spends $4,363 on food eaten at home, on average, and $3,365 on food eaten out per year, according to 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finding even a few simple ways to cut down on that huge expense can make a big difference. Eliminating just $10 a week on that typical food spending can save more than $500 a year.

The challenge is that many common strategies for saving money at the store, such as using coupons, require a lot of time that many busy Americans can’t spare. What many families need are tactics that will save money at the grocery store without an additional time expense.

Here are five fast ways to save money at the grocery store.

— Shop at a discount grocer.

— Make a shopping list.

— Bypass unnecessary aisles and sections.

— Buy the store-brand version.

— Buy the bulk version of a nonperishable item.

Read on additional details on cashing in on each strategy.

[See: 10 Expenses Destroying Your Budget.]


Shop at a Discount Grocer

Figure out which grocery store chain near your home has the lowest prices on the goods you buy regularly and make that your primary source for groceries. Typically, discount grocers trim prices by having fewer employees walking the aisles, offering fewer prepared foods and maintaining smaller stores to save on utilities and property taxes. With those extra elements taken out, they can still offer most of the selection of other stores but with much better prices.

Some common discount grocery chains include Aldi, Lidl, Fareway, Trader Joe’s, Costco, and WinCo.


Make a Shopping List

You might be thinking that this process will eat up time in advance, but you can do this easily on your way to the store if you’re not driving. If you’re the driver, work through those ideas in your head, perhaps having a passenger jot things down.

The advantage of having a meal plan and list is that they give you something to focus on while in the store, which means you’re less likely to make impulse purchases, which will save you money.

[See: 50 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2019.]


Bypass Unnecessary Aisles and Sections

Items that aren’t a part of some sort of planned meal or snack should be ignored. Don’t waste your time looking in sections from which you don’t need any ingredients. Not only will this save money, it’ll save you time in the store as you spend less time walking the aisles and have fewer items to deal with at checkout.

While most people won’t do this perfectly in the store, being mindful of the value of just skipping over items you weren’t planning on buying will usually help you cut back on purchases.

[See: 20 Financial New Year’s Resolutions for 2019.]


Buy the Store-Brand Version

When you’re trying to decide which version of an item to buy, consider the store-brand version, especially if you’ve never tried it before. You’ll often find that the store-brand version of a product is functionally identical to the brand-name item in terms of flavor and nutrition. This is a quick way to save a significant amount without dealing with coupons.

If you try a store-brand version and learn that it doesn’t match your needs, you can always go back to buying the brand-name version next time. If it does meet your needs, there’s no reason to buy anything other than the store-brand product.


Buy the Bulk Version of a Nonperishable Item

If you’re buying an item that can be stored in your pantry and won’t spoil quickly, buy the bulk version or the multipack version of the item. The bulk version is almost always less expensive per use than the normal version, plus you won’t have to worry about buying it again for a while.

You can always store excess items in a closet if you don’t have room in your kitchen pantry or cupboards and simply restock from that closet when you need to do so.

These five steps won’t add a second to your grocery store visit, but they will trim some dollars off the bill in the checkout aisle.

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5 Simple Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store originally appeared on usnews.com

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