The average American family spends $537 per month on food — $312 directly on groceries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. Although it may not seem like it, food costs are still one of the most flexible areas in most families’ budgets. While you may have little control over yourmortgage or day care costs, you can probably save money on groceries.
Wondering where to start? Try these turbocharged tips.
Manufacturers’ coupons abound in most Sunday newspapers and at sites like Coupons.com, SmartSource.com and Redplum.com. According to Stephanie Nelson of CouponMom.com, serious couponers buy several Sunday newspapers or exchange coupons with frugal friends so they can buy multiples of favorite items.
And if a family member gets ill or loses a job, you’ll have a nicely stocked food pantry during a rocky time.
3. Shop at the drugstore
How it works: At Walgreens.com, click the “weekly ad” tab; certain advertised items offer register rewards you can use like cash on your next Walgreens purchase. At CVS.com, click on the “extra care” link to sign up for a free store card. When you use it, you’ll earn 2 percent in “extra bucks” (CVS store credit) on every store or online purchase. Certain purchases, noted in the “weekly store ad” link, also generate extra bucks you can redeem on your next visit. At RiteAid.com, click the “single check rebates” icon. That site requires you to submit receipts to earn monthly rebates.
Extreme couponer Crystal Paine of Moneysavingmom.com offers helpful tutorials for the Walgreens and CVS programs and countless others on her site.
There are some logistics required, but a buying club could make sense if you don’t have a warehouse-club type store nearby. Club representatives fax or e-mail a group order to the wholesaler, arrange for delivery and divvy up the goods. Generally, items are purchased by the case, then shared. Many wholesalers offer produce, organic items, baby supplies and paper goods in addition to nonperishable food items.
To find a club in your area, search online for “grocery buying club” and your city’s name, or check sites like unitedbuyingclubs.com or CoopDirectory.org.
“You can save significant money — and really improve the quality and nutritional value of your food — by cooking more at home,” says nutritionist Leanne Ely of Charlotte, N.C.
Ely’s suggestions for home cooks who want to reap even bigger savings:
Make your own yogurt (an electric yogurt maker helps and look for used ones at thrift stores).
Cook dried, bagged beans rather than buying canned.
Make your own chicken stock rather than buying it in cans or boxes.
A modern twist on menu planning: Subscribe to a service like SavingDinner.com or e-Mealz.com. For a small fee you’ll get a weekly meal plan online or by e-mail, along with a shopping list. Some services offer kosher, gluten-free and low-fat meal options.
Other ways to save