10 Factors to Consider While Grocery Shopping

  1. Store Selection. Prices will vary from store to store. Finding a great price on one item does not mean that everything at that store will be cheaper. If you write out your grocery list beforehand and use an online price checker, you can divide the list into which products to buy at which store. You should also check the prices of smaller, independent stores near you to see if they have reliable low prices on certain items.
  2. Using SNAP and EBT Cards. Since you cannot buy non-food items using food stamps, it might be worth making two lists and keeping the totals separate. If you have the time, you could use a calculator or your phone to keep a tally of how much each list comes to as you shop. Learn more about SNAP in by downloading our free guide.
  3. Coupons. There are many blogs and articles available on how to shop with coupons – when to use them, how to combine them, etc. You can even use them in combination with food stamps, although you should bring some cash to pay the sales tax. However, it is important to plan which coupons to use. Make sure you only coupons for items you needed in the first place, otherwise you are spending rather than saving money – regardless of the great deal.
  4. Buying in Bulk. Bulk-buying can be a great idea, particularly if there is a special offer or if the product is not always available. However, the initial purchase can be very expensive, and special deals might not actually save you that much. To see if the purchase is worth it, you should take a moment in the store and calculate the actual cost per item or per serving.
  5. Expiration Dates. Always check the expiration dates on perishable items. This is vital when buying large amounts of food intended to last for a week or a month. Sometimes products approaching their expiration dates will be on sale, and you can take advantage of this if you plan to eat the food in a timely manner. You can also freeze these items, but make a note to remember that you will have to eat them immediately after defrosting.
  6. Time and Day of the Week. Grocery stores usually follow a pattern when it comes to placing items on sale. They may mark down nearly-out-of-date vegetables on Thursdays, or have buy-one-get-one offers at the beginning of the week. Sometimes items are placed in bargain-bins at a certain time of the day. Get to know the patterns of the stores at which you normally shop, and plan your trips accordingly.
  7. Buying in Season. Fresh produce is always more affordable in season. You can find out what will be in season near you at different times of the year and plan a bulk-buy, perhaps freezing the items after purchase. It is best to wait until the middle of the season,when supply begins to overtake demand and the prices drop to their lowest points.
  8. Generic or Name Brands. As a rule, generic brands have similar qualities to name-brand products, but at much lower prices. However, it is still worth doing a price-check on these items, as there are exceptions. Coupons, special offers and sales might also mean lower prices on name brands.
  9. Members of Your Household. The size of your household should be considered when contemplating various grocery deals. If your household is small, spending most of your budget buying bulk amounts of one or two foods on a discount will make meal-planning difficult. The individual dietary needs of each person will also affect your purchases. A great deal on an item only one person will eat might not be worth it. If one or more members of your household have dietary restrictions or allergies, it is often more affordable to only shop for meals that everyone can eat, rather than planning multiple recipes that will have to be prepared separately.
  10. Meal Planning. What do you already have in your pantry? It is best to keep a list of items you use regularly and make sure that stocking these is your main priority. Then you can base your other purchases around these items, rather than having to buy all the ingredients for a new recipe from scratch. If you know what sales and deals are available in advance, you can accommodate these into a weekly meal plan. A great deal on chicken, for example, can mean a roast, sandwiches, a stew and curry – all over the next week.