You can shop sales, use coupons, meal plan and more, but here are 10 money-saving tips to help you buy cheap food at the grocery store without all the work!
Filling our pantry is hard when your budget is small. You really want to stock up, but prices just never seem at a level when you stock up. That's when you really have to have your eye out for bargain shopping, even in your local grocery store that seems high priced.
These tips will be geared specifically to my experience at Kroger, but you can apply the tips to your store and begin looking for ways to cut your budget, too! I know that Walmart often has marked down meats and bakery items, and other stores offer similar savings. If you don't have time to read through all of the tips, you can jump straight to the video below.
While my title is 'shocking', it's really NOT to be read at face value. I certainly don't advocate filling your pantry with the cheapest food on the planet if by cheap you mean food with little to no nutritional value. What I really mean is stock your pantry with food that doesn't cost a lot - but that title doesn't sound as fun, does it?
Keep in mind that these are savings on top of your typical sales cycles at your store. This is just one more tool in your arsenal to keep prices down, while building your quality and your pantry, which is the whole point of a Purposeful Pantry!
After the tips, I'll show you the video of my latest Kroger haul to show you where you can catch these bargains, and apply them to your own situation.
How to Stock Your Pantry with Cheap Food
Have a grocery slush fund
Whether your slush fund is a few extra dollars a week or a hundred that you keep tucked in your wallet, work towards having a little extra tucked aside all the time to take advantage of a great stock up deal at your grocery store. I use an app called Ibotta to help me save a little each week, and that check goes right into my slush fund. My Ebates checks (from online shopping) go right into my grocery slush fund as well. I also use whatever leftover grocery budget to pad the slush fund for big sale days, much like the Augason Farms freeze-dried food sales, a Savory Butcher sale (think Zaycon...but better!) or an Aldi chicken sale, or other big sales I didn't anticipate because they weren't following the typical sales cycle. Then I can stock up in a big way!
Hit up ALL the sections
In my store, there are dedicated clearance areas for dairy, produce, meat, bakery goods, sundry, and the deli, but I find clearance products within each of the departments on the shelves, too.
Case in point - our produce department has a dedicated produce stand for bagged clearance fruits and vegetables, but you'll also find it throughout the department on the regular shelf. The same holds true in the meat department and deli area.
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Check for close-out prices
Don't look just for the 'woohoo' stickers as our Kroger has, but look for the closeout tags on the shelf. These are products Kroger may no longer be carrying because the manufacturer is changing packaging, not carrying that flavor any longer, discontinuing the product, etc. These can be really great buys, but be sure to check that price label.
Know your prices
Just because a product is marked at 40% off with a clearance sticker doesn't mean that it is a great stock-up price. Even more so for those close-out stickers. You can get a general idea by going back to the main section of the particular product and price compare, or decide if it's really a price you'd pay for a similar product.
I keep a price book handy to give me an idea of what I pay, in general, for most of the major food purchases I make. I'm not brand specific unless we have a brand we are loyal to. This helps me keep a range in mind of where I'll jump on a clearance item, or if I just buy a few to tide me over.
Know your times
Get to know the produce department and the meat department. You can find out when they generally stock, and when they are doing product clean-outs. My store offers bakery items first thing in the morning, and meat fairly early, but produce may not be marked down until mid-morning. You might actually find that your store does them at night when it's slow. It's good to get to know your grocery neighbor's habits!
Some stores also have schedules that they do markdowns only on certain days of the week. It doesn't hurt to as your department manager or staff when they do schedule them so that you can be ready.
Be Prepared to Deal with the Food Now
The best buy date on many of the clearanced items is probably the day you purchase it, maybe even yesterday. Some foods don't require anything more than being tossed into the freezer or fridge. Some foods may need to be processed for storage now, because they will go bad quickly. So be sure to know what your day holds before you purchase all that meat that needs to be dealt with today.
Shop the Front Pages
Those deals on the front pages of the sales ads for your grocery store are doorbuster prices. Shop those and stock up. They're often bargain pricing, but it's good to consult your price book to know for sure. It may not be the best price they can do, so you can determine if you can wait or not. If you don't get a circular in the mail or in your paper, you can check the Flipp app for your phone that shows the circulars for all of the stores in your area.
Stack with Coupons for Bigger Savings
Check to see if you have current coupons for those products. You may or may not be able to stack a coupon on a clearance product, but it never hurts to check and save even more!
Your store may use digital coupons, and if you shop at Kroger, be prepared for a store to deny you being able to use coupons on clearance products. They have the right to deny use, but it doesn't hurt to try if it can save a little more!
Use Your Loyalty Cards
With Kroger, the clearance price usually doesn't require you to have your loyalty card, but getting those fuel points on your clearance prices certainly do. Take advantage of every little discount you can get!
Use Money Saving Apps
Make sure to have Ibotta or other money-saving apps ready in case they are offering a discount on the brand you are purchasing. That's more money you can add to your slush fund later!
If you've never used Ibotta, you can sign up through my referral link and earn $5!
You may not find much today, but check back tomorrow and there may be a ton. I never try to make clearance part of my regular meal planning or stocking. I look at it as a bonus that I take advantage of when I can.
If your freezer is full, don't walk into your store and purchase a ton of meat that you can't process quickly. That means you're just going to lose money in the end with wasted food. Cheap food is only cheap if you actually use it.
I've found myself in this position several times. I have to admit clearance greens are a real weakness. I've wasted more than a few bags of them when I couldn't get them dehydrated quickly enough. Check this post to see how I use them. Well, good greens...not the ones that have gone bad!
See a Few of My Hauls
You can check out a few of my most recent grocery hauls here.
Share Your Tips
I'd love to hear your money-saving tips to buy cheap food. Cheap food that helps your grocery budget, builds your pantry, and sustains your family! Just leave a comment down below, or post here in our community group.