Save money by buying more

To this day, I still remember my first big grocery bill after we got married. It was around $200 and I cried on the way back. Didn’t get anything fancy, just the basics. We were poor young students and food expenses were a necessary evil that I couldn’t get around.

Groceries were my responsibility in the marriage and I was determined to live on our meager budget. I dove into the challenge and years later found myself teaching community classes on “couponing” (“yes,” I had to tell my sisters, “couponing is a word”).

I no longer spend hours finding, printing, cutting and organizing coupons, but there are invaluable shopping principles I learned from these studies that I will never change. My favorite is to buy more to save more.

The simple idea behind the strategy is to buy more of something when it’s on sale so you don’t have to pay full price later when you need it. The application of this principle will be different in everyone’s home. Take the time to think about the following questions to be able to maximize your savings.

*How much space do you have for food storage?

This may seem like an obvious question, but it has put me in jeopardy more than once when it comes to frozen foods. I have become much more organized (and creative!) with my freezer space out of necessity. Although obviously not the solution for everyone, we invested in a freezer following one of the best selling cheese and meat products I have ever seen. I convinced my husband that after a few more sales like that, we would pay for the freezer with the amount of money we saved.

* How much of this item will we use?

No matter how good a sale, it’s never a bargain if the food is wasted. Make sure you don’t buy more than you can use. Consider the expiration date and your schedule and meal rotations. I always try to make meals where most of my ingredients are stuff I’ve already stocked up so nothing gets wasted or forgotten, but that’s a whole other principle.

* What is the quality of the sale?

It’s something you’ll get to know better over time. The worst feeling is when you stock up on a favorite item because it’s on a big sale, only to find the next week that the same item is selling for a significantly better price at a nearby store. You will become familiar with the prices in your area and begin to know what the right price is for different items. Also, don’t be afraid to ask people! I spoke to my butcher several times about my grocery store prices. I don’t know of any grocery store where they pay their employees commission on sales so they tell you honestly if you should expect a better sale or when an upcoming discount can be expected. Be nice and friendly to the employees – they have a wealth of knowledge!

* How often is it on sale?

This question is one of my favorites because it is so game-changing. Sales are made on a rotating basis. Not only can you expect certain items to drop at certain times, but you can plan your food storage around them! For example, my grocery store sells meat on a two-week rotation. This means I only need to buy enough chicken to last my family for two weeks before I know it will be on sale again. It also gives me a reason to never have to buy chicken at full price between those sale prices, because I can just pull it out of my freezer.

Another sales rotation that is extremely useful to know and monitor are seasonal sales. For example, barbecue sauce is usually marked at its lowest around the 4th of July and nutrition and health bars are normally at their lowest in January for everyone’s New Year’s resolutions. Often these items won’t expire for more than a year, so if you have room, buy enough to last your family that long.

Once your inventory has reached a successful rotation, you will find that you are shopping in a completely different way. It’s not uncommon for me to come home from the store with 25 boxes of cereal, 10 bags of cheese, and only a handful of other staples like bread, milk, and bananas. I don’t need to buy all the ingredients on my list for this week’s meals because I already stocked up on them when they were on sale. As a result, I can make the same tasty meals at a much lower price for my family. Buying more to save money is all about synchronizing your larger purchases with their selling prices, and ironically, you’ll soon find that buying more can indeed help you spend less.

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