To this day I can still remember my first big grocery bill after we were married. It was about $200 and I cried on the way home. I didn't get anything fancy-just the basics. We were poor newlywed students and food expenses were a necessary evil that I could not get around.
Buying groceries was my responsibility in the marriage and I was determined to live within our meager budget. I dove right into the challenge and years later found myself teaching community classes on “couponing” (“yes”, I had to tell my sisters, “couponing is a word”).
I no longer spend hours finding, printing, cutting and organizing coupons but there are some invaluable shopping principles I learned from those studies that I will never change. My favorite one is buying more to save more.
The simple idea behind the strategy is to buy more of something when it is on sale so you do not have to pay full price for it later when you need it. Applying this principle will look different in everyone's home. Take some time to consider the following questions to be able to maximize your savings.
*How much room do you have for food storage?
This may seem like an obvious question but this has landed me in jeopardy more than once when it comes to frozen foods. I have become much more organized (and creative!) with my freezer space out of necessity. Although this is obviously not the answer for everyone, we invested in a deep freezer as a result of one of the best sales I have ever seen on cheese and meat. I convinced my husband that after a few additional sales like that one we would pay for the freezer with the amount of money we saved.
*How much of this item will we use?
No matter how good of a sale it is, it's never a good deal if the food goes to waste. Make sure you do not buy more than you can use. Consider the expiration date and your schedule and meal rotations. I always try to make meals where the bulk of my ingredients are things I already have stored so that nothing is wasted or forgotten, but that's a whole other principle.
*How good is the sale?
This is something you will get better at knowing over time. The worst feeling is when you stock up on a favorite item because it's on a great sale, only to find out the next week that the same item is being sold at a significantly better price at a neighboring store. You will become familiar with prices in your area and start to know what is a good price for different items. Also, don't be afraid to ask people! I have talked to my butcher at my grocery store several times about prices. I don't know of a grocery store where they pay their employees commissions on sales so they will honestly tell you whether you should wait for a better sale or when an upcoming discount can be expected. Be kind and friendly to employees- they have a wealth of knowledge!
*How often is it on sale?
This question is one of my favorites because it's such a game changer. Sales go in rotation. Not only can you expect certain items to be discounted around certain times, you can plan your food storage around them! For example, my grocery store has meat sales on a two week rotation. This means that I only need to buy enough chicken to last my family two weeks before I know it will be on sale again. It also gives me a reason to never have to buy chicken at its full price in between those sale prices because I can simply pull it out of my freezer.
Another sale rotation that is extremely helpful to be aware of and watch for are seasonal sales. For example, barbeque sauce is usually marked at its lowest around the Fourth Of July and nutrition and health bars are normally at their lowest in January for everyone's New Years' resolutions. Oftentimes these items do not expire for over a year so if you have the space, buy enough to last your family that long.
Once your stock piles reach a successful rotation you will find that you are shopping completely differently. It's not unusual for me to come home from the store with 25 boxes of cereal, 10 bags of cheese and then only a handful of other basics like bread, milk and bananas. I don't need to buy every ingredient on my list for meals that week because I have already stocked up on them when they were on sale. As a result, I can make the same tasty meals at a much lower price for my family. Buying more to save money is all about timing your larger purchases with their sale prices and ironically you will soon find that buying more can indeed help you spend less.