Pantry

Stock up on pantry essentials when the prices are lowest.

Maggie Hensler, for the Quad-City Times

Saving money on groceries is hard, but possible. Unfortunately, we do not have the grocery stores that double or triple coupons to really save money on groceries, so we have to work with what we have to keep the bill down.

1. Shop weekly sales

It can definitely feel like a waste of time to go searching for coupons and save only a couple bucks. Save couponing for household products to open up more cash in your budget for groceries. Instead, just pay close attention to the ads, buy products that are on sale and meal plan based on the sales. Just last week, I picked up a 2.5 lb. bag of frozen chicken breasts for $3.99 and cooked it all in my Instant Pot to have shredded chicken for a couple meals: tacos, BBQ chicken, chicken salad. Make a list and stick to the list so you don’t spend more on impulse.

2. Stock up on low prices

When you see a super low price, stock up. Having a pantry and a deep freezer can help you keep some products stored away so you don’t pay full price later. Over the summer, Hy-Vee, Walgreens, and Target all had great cereal sales, paired with in-ad coupons or gift card offers and manufacturer coupons to bring cost down to $1 or less per box. So I stocked up because my children eat a ton of cereal. I stock up on anything I can keep or freeze when the prices are lowest, like canned veggies, pasta and meat. Occasionally do a pantry challenge where you cook meals for several days based on what you already have in the house.

3. Shop around

Grocery ads come out on Wednesdays, so look through each store ad to compare prices. The best prices can vary weekly between Fresh Thyme, Hy-Vee, Fareway, Schnucks, Target or others, so pick the best option for the week. Look for short-term sales that might run only two or three days, but have really low prices and plan to shop during those days. Plus, compare regular prices at different stores to see where regular prices are lowest for those quick trips when we can’t wait for a sale, like picking up milk and bread. Then when you need to run to the store, you can pick the lowest priced store.

4. Buy generic

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I have friends who love Aldi, which is a great way to bring your grocery bill down. By shopping at Aldi or buying store brands elsewhere, you can bring the cost down significantly. There are some products that I even prefer a store brand over name brand, and others that the name brand is the best, but this just takes some trial and error to figure out what you and your family likes. You could even keep it your little secret, and buy a box of name brand cereal and when that’s gone, fill it back up with store brand. They’ll never know.

5. Shop online

Time is money, right? Skip the trip into the store altogether, and buy groceries online. I used Hy-Vee Aisles Online for the first time last weekend because I was sent a coupon in the mail to try the pick-up option. All the sales still applied, and so did digital coupons. I set up a pick up time, parked in the designated spot, called to say I was there, and it was brought out to my car and loaded up. You can set up a favorites list to make the next online shopping trip much faster, and can have it delivered to your house. Walmart also has grocery pickup. I recently started using Amazon Subscribe and Save for products that we use often, like lunch box snacks and dog food. If you have five items in your list, you’ll save 15 percent to have it all delivered right to your door.

If you just spend a little time planning your grocery trips and stocking up on those really low prices, you’ll find that you can keep your grocery bill down.

Maggie Hensler is a teacher living the frugal life in Davenport with her husband and two boys. Her column runs every Saturday in the Quad-City Times.

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