Of all the categories of our budget, we continue to set records when it comes to coming in under our food budget each month. It takes a lot of work when it comes to planning to make sure we don’t go over budget, and I’ve already outlined a few in my previous article about how to save money at the grocery store, but now I’d like to add a few more to the list to make your grocery food bills shrink.

1. Out of stock? Get a rain check. Many times, I have a big plan on what I want to stock up on when it’s on sale. Because of that, it’s not uncommon that the item ends up being out of stock. Don’t be tempted to purchase a lower size of the same item for the sake of buying it because it was on your list, but go to the customer service counter to get a  rain check to purchase the item later. With rain checks, you get the freedom of getting the item when you want, how many you want and at the price you want. I tend to get at least one  I make a trip to the grocery store.

2. Avoid buying prepared foods. Have you seen the prices of a fruit salad at the deli? What about a cheese tray or vegetable tray? It may be convenient, but by buying each of these items fresh in the produce department and preparing them yourself, you will save a lot of money. It’s not shocking to see these types of prepared foods marked up at least double.

3. Track the prices of the common foods you buy. All sales are not equal. Often I find that even if an item is on sale, it doesn’t mean it is the best price they will ever offer. For example, I saw boneless chicken breasts on sale for $2.99/lb instead of the regular price of $3.99/lb. While it may seem like a good time to stock up, I know that I’ve seen it as low as $1.99/lb. Make sure you know when to skip sales based on past shopping history. Buying at the lowest of the low prices is the key to saving money each week.

4. Pay attention to unit prices. Most items will come in various shapes and sizes. Check out the unit prices that are often located on the labels under the products. I’ve seen where smaller packaged units, like ketchup, seem cheaper because it’s on sale, but the larger package at regular price is still less expensive when you consider unit pricing. I tend to avoid buying smaller packages when they are sale and wait for the for the larger sizes to come on sale. Of course there are exceptions to the rule depending on the product you are buying.

5. Look for bonus sales and mail-in rebate offers. It seems like every week there are bonus sales for particular brands. One week there was an offer where if you spend $30 on Proctor and Gamble products, you’ll receive two free movie tickets (a $28 value) via a mail-in rebate. Taking advantage of sales and using coupons, we stocked up on toiletries and got to see a movie for free. Just this week, Unilever has an offer that if you spend $20 on Unilever products, you’ll receive $7 for your next shopping trip. This adds up if you plan everything correctly.

This week, I made a milestone when it comes to taking advantage of the weekly deals and coupon clipping at the local grocery store. I ended up spending $63.76 on 50 items. My total savings was, wait for it, wait for it…$90.93!!! One of the supermarket’s cashiers is starting to get to know me and they are always impressed how I continue to save money each week. She said her husband does the shopping too, so I guess I’m not the only one. It will be hard to top saving 60% on groceries again, but I’ve set the bar high. A frugal shopper is what I am.

I’m not quite done with my series on how to saving money at the grocery store, so stay tuned for even more secrets to saving money on food.

Stupidly Yours,

Matt