Groceries aren't cheap in the states. When we first arrived, we were spending almost USD100 per week on grocery (just for the 2 of us) and it did scare us a little.
But we started to learn the tricks of saving money after awhile.
First, the number 1 must-have item is a store discount card. Most supermarkets offer them for free if you were to just fill up a simple application form. With the discount card, you'd enjoy "member card" prices on grocery items....and usually, discounts for gas too. For example, for every $50 I spend on groceries, I'd get $0.10/gallon off gas.
Second, all supermarkets would've their own store brand items. And most of the time, the store brand items would be priced much lower than other "branded" products. Of course, not all store brand items are of good quality.....so you'd need to check around which store brand items are the best quality & value for money.
Shop with eyes wide open
It's usually a case where Supermarket A is good for certain items while Supermarket B is good for others. So we don't just shop blindly at one place all the time but would check out different places and their ongoing promotions on a regular basis to determine which is the best place to shop for that particular week. My neighbour and I would also share information on where's having sale for what. When I see stuffs on sale that she might also need, I'd sometimes help buy on her behalf....or alert her to it so that she can check it our herself.
Stores selling overstocks or budget chains
We found great stuffs at great prices at shops selling overstock products like Ocean State Job Lot and other budget chains like Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, Walmart etc. Shops like Ocean State Job Lot are worth checking out every week as the product turnover is very high and new stocks are being replenished very often. There'd always be something new almost every week and you'd never know what you're gonna find there! I've bought Crocs, Idiot's-books, branded sweaters, sleepwear, shoes, calendars etc all at ridiculously low prices. For cheap branded clothings & shoes....TJMaxx and Marshall are the first few places that I head for.
Another method to save money is cutting coupons. You'd find product/store coupons in store mailers, newspapers, online and via email. It takes great patience and really good planning & organisation skills to maximise the use of these coupons. I've to admit that I'm very bad with the coupons 'cos first of all, I'd always forget to bring them when I'm doing my shopping...then by the time I get to try to use the coupon, they'd have already expired! Although I've a coupon holder....all the coupons would be in such a mess that it'd take me forever to rummage through everything to try to find the right coupon. I'm slowly getting better at it now...and RG would help by reminding me before we leave the house each time to bring the coupons.
Rework processes and buy in bulk
I used to plan my meals first before heading out to the supermarket to buy the ingredients necessary to cook those meals. I realised that a better way to save money is to see what's on sale at the supermarket and to work my meal plans around the discounted items. It might require some creativity at times (especially if the only things on sale are avocados & kale!) but it ain't too hard once you are used to it.
And also, I'd buy in bulk when the items that we use/consume on a regular basis are on sale. For example, the V8 juices were on a fantastic discount (almost 40% off) recently and so we bought like 8 bottles as we drink it on a daily basis. I've also been buying meat in bulk and would divide the entire portion into smaller meal portions in ziploc bags before putting them in the freezer. Sometimes, I'd split some of of the bulk items i.e. rice/vegetables with my neighbour and we'd share the cost. That way, we both spend less but actually end up with more.
I buy stuffs like books & printer ink cartridges online regularly. The prices are usually much cheaper than buying from the stores and there's usually no sales tax for online purchases and the items get delivered to my doorstep. There are also special discounts for regular customers like me which make prices all the more attractive....and it's so easy to re-order at just a click of the mouse. And many of these online shops have tie-up promotions with other partnering vendors. I actually got full year subscriptions to 4 magazines of my choice for FREE when I bought some ink cartridges online! How great is that?
These days, my grocery bill is just a fraction of what it used to be for the same amount of food or perhaps even more! It definitely pays to shop smart and it's good to know that the same amount of our money can go much further now. All these sound a tad "aunty" and uncool lor....but well, a penny saved is a penny earned! So go ahead and call me an AUNTY! =P