Step One: watch where you shop. It might seem like it is saving you money to shop at the store down the street, but do a little research. Going to a store a few more blocks away could save you a lot more money. Try to find stores that don’t have sales – their prices are usually better. Safeway, for example, has their club card thing. Oddly enough, with the club card you usually pay a little more than you would for a non-sale item at someplace like Winco or Walmart. Don’t fall for the ‘sale’ psychology.
Step Two: Find a warehouse store in the area. Go there with a budget in mind and someone who can hold you accountable to that budget. On the west coast it’s Costco, on the east I think it’s Sam’s Club, and somewhere in the middle of nowhere is BJ’s. Costco has a $50 a year membership but in most cases it’s worth it. Don’t want to pay the membership? Use Craigslist to see if you can find a buddy to go halvsee’s with. Go there for your most used items. Why a warehouse store? Most local businesses are using them to do their shopping for items they offer to their customers for free, such as toilet paper. If they are shopping there to save money, why aren’t you?
Step Three: Plan your meals. Think of some meals you can make that will last a few days throughout the week. My wife and I make enchiladas. We have turned this into a Sunday event where we plan out 45 minutes we will spend cooking together. Sometimes it’s spaghetti sauce, which is a pretty versatile sauce and can be used in a lot of different ways (including on homemade pizza). Don’t like your spouse? Well, I suppose you can use this as an escape…
Step Four: Learn how to cook. If you learn how to cook a little, you might be able to skip out on those ready to eat meals that seem so tempting. Learning how to cook will also give you the chance to eat healthier. Make it something fun to do. Try new dishes you find online. Start small and with something you can’t really mess up, like burritos. Make enough so that you can have them for lunch the next day. My wife and I can make 15 enchiladas for around $10. These enchiladas are so good we hide them from each other.
Step Five: Don’t fall for name brands. Most people know now days that the people that manufacture the food you eat do so for a lot of different companies. These foods end up next to each other on the same shelf. One says “Mayo, 1.98” the other says “Kraft Mayo, 3.48”. Buying the product you’ve heard of is paying for someone else’s Porsche.
Step Six: Don’t go outside your budget. It might take a bit to get that budget down, and it might take longer for you to shop, but don’t go outside it once you have it. It’s like this – if taking 20 more minutes at the store saves you $15, then you just made $15 in 20 minutes. You don’t get paid like that at work, and if you do, you aren’t reading this article because you probably don’t need to worry about saving $15 at the grocery store. The basic idea is to look at every dollar you save as a dollar you make.
Step Seven: Make it fun. If you have a family, make it a game to see who can find the cheapest but best blah de blah. You can have something small be the reward and everyone ends up having fun. Too serious to run around the store in a frenzy? Bummer.