You meticulously clip and print out coupons and you never, ever forget your loyalty card when you go to the store. But you're constantly dogged by a nagging feeling that you could be saving even more.
ShopSmart, the shopping magazine published by Consumer Reports, recently found some interesting and easy new ways to cut your grocery bill.
“People are familiar with basic grocery shopping tips, such as clipping and printing coupons and remembering to bring their loyalty cards to the store,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “But you can save even more by harnessing the power of the Web and smart phones — before you hit the supermarket.”
Below is a sampling of some of ShopSmart’s advice.
• Click around before leaving home. The latest grocery-shopping tools are online. At MyGroceryDeals.com, find and compare current circular specials, then create printable grocery lists with one click and print coupons for additional savings. Check MamboSprouts.com for healthful recipes and coupons for organic and natural products.
• Use your phone. The apps CompareMe and Unit Price Compare, available on the iPhone and Android respectively, help you figure out which product and which size packages offer the best deal. At Zavers, get mobile coupons even if you don’t have a smart phone.
• Shop from your couch. There are lots of ways to get groceries delivered to your door. Even Sears is testing a new program. Many national sites, including Netgrocer .com and Amazon.com, have added organic sections. And at ShopOrganic you can choose vegan, raw, gluten-free or kosher, among other categories.
• Give more store brands a try. Store-label items are often as good as brand-name products, according to ShopSmart’s tests, and they cost about 27 percent less, on average.
• Shop in season. The best way to keep your fruit-and-veggie budget in check is to shop in season, when produce costs a third to half as much as it does when it’s flown in from far away, says Michelle Jones, founder of BetterBudgeting.com. In-season fruits and veggies go for 99 cents to $1.99 per pound, depending on the product.
• Buy in bags. Buying bags of apples, potatoes, or onions rather than loose items will save you 25 to 50 percent.
• Be choosy about organics. To reduce your exposure to pesticide residue, it's best to buy organic produce. But if you’re trying to save money, one strategy is to limit your organic purchases to the fruits and veggies that have the highest pesticide levels when conventionally grown such as apples, cantaloupes, celery, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, nectarines, peas, peaches, peppers, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes. Also, shop at farmers markets.
• Buy cheese from the dairy case. Cheese prices can vary wildly throughout the store.
A block of feta in the fancy-foods section can cost 45 percent more than a mainstream brand in the dairy case. Crumbled goat cheese can cost 30 percent more and Vermont cheddar, 50 percent more.
• For dry goods, wait for post-holiday sales. After Dec. 25 there are all kinds of crazy bargains. Some items, such as vanilla and vinegar, never expire because they’re fermented, which means that after Christmas $7.99 bottles of vanilla will be going for 99 cents. Cans are often dated almost two years out, depending on the item, so it’s easy to stock up during a sale.
• Stock up on frozen dinners. Stashing away on-sale lasagna and pizzas is a good investment because it keeps you from eating out when you’re busy.
• Shop the specials on deli meats and cheeses. This is a prime place to shop by what’s on sale. You can freeze lunchmeat, too.
• For gourmet foods, look for specials. Ask about the occasional, sometimes unadvertised steal. The store might have roasted too many chickens that aren’t selling.