My friends at Design Boner recently blogged about saving money on groceries by using Peapod.com—not by actually buying their groceries through the service, but by using Peapod to make their lists before heading to their local grocery store. One of the things they found helpful about this approach was that they can easily see how much each item costs in advance and clearly spot a pricey budget-killer before they hit the store where all rational thinking seems to go out the window.
Whether your budget is derailed by a six-dollar wheel of smoked Gouda or a Sara Lee cheesecake you had no intention of buying, a list and a good pair of blinders can be your best friend in the fight to keep your financial resolutions. Although I believe in the value of lists, I rarely make them myself. When I do, it’s only to ensure I don’t forget an essential item like toilet paper or Olay Regenerist Thermal Skin Polisher. For me, grocery store impulse buys are one of the few indulgences that never give me buyer’s remorse. I love wandering the aisles slowly and examining any product that catches my eye. I figure I have to buy food anyway, so I might as well view it as a chance to live a little. With that said, I have a few techniques to keep my grocery costs down.
1) I use my boyfriend’s Target card. Wait, it’s not what you think. Every time you spend $1000 on a Target credit card, you get a coupon for 10% off your next purchase. So, my boyfriend and I have started putting all the groceries on his Target card (to get to the $1000 mark faster), then we try to buy as much as we can when we have the coupon. Of course, if you can find a guy who will let you put all your groceries on his Target card and not expect you to pay him back, that’s even better than the occasional 10% off—assuming you’re into that whole “being taken care of and never having to work again” lifestyle, but God knows gay men aren’t into that.
2) I go on a coupon kick. I only do this once in a blue moon because it always seems even with a coupon, brand-name items still cost more than the generic versions I usually buy. So, coupons only help on items that don’t have an acceptable generic alternative.
3) I buy whatever is on sale. Seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried to make dinner with a can of buy-one-get-one-free water chestnuts, a dented bottle of Newman’s Own ranch dressing, five-for-a-dollar kiwi fruit, and three pounds of red-tagged popcorn shrimp. Four words: best…stir…fry…ever. My great great grandma used to say live frugally on surprise, and I couldn’t agree more. (Yes, my great great grandmother was still alive when I was born. My mother was 16 when she had me. Don’t judge us. I have 2.3 pounds of popcorn shrimp in my freezer and I’m not afraid to smear it all over your car and write nasty things about you in cocktail sauce on your rear window. And let me tell you, Val-U-Way cocktail sauce doesn’t just wash off with a little soap and water like that fancy Heinz shit.) The moral here is if you’re open to letting the wonders of capitalism determine what you should eat for the next week or two, you can get some great deals and treat each shopping trip like a little taste of Christmas morning.