Friday, March 1, 2024

Cut Your Expenses in Half: 10 Savvy Tips to Save Big on Groceries and Utilities

Comparison Shop Grocery Prices

One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to compare shops. Prices can vary widely between different grocery stores, even on the same items. Make sure to check the prices per unit (per ounce, pound, etc) rather than just the total price, as package sizes may differ.

Look out for sales, coupons, and loyalty program discounts when comparing prices. Sign up for loyalty programs at stores you frequent to receive additional savings. Many grocers now offer digital coupons loaded directly to your store card.

Also, consider generic or store-brand items rather than national name brands. Generic products are typically 10-40% cheaper than name brands and often made by the same manufacturers. If your family finds a generic product they like, stick with it to reap the savings.

Taking the time to compare prices across stores and pay attention to sales and deals can potentially save you hundreds of dollars a year on groceries.

Buy in Bulk

Buying non-perishable grocery items like pasta, rice, canned goods, etc. in bulk quantities can offer big savings over time. Bulk sizes usually offer a lower per-unit price compared to smaller packages. For example, a 25 lb bag of rice may cost $10 whereas a 1 lb bag costs $1 – buying in bulk saves $15 overall.

Splitting bulk items with friends or family members is another great way to save. Bulk packaging can be too large for a single household to use before an item expires. Combining bulk purchases with others allows you to still benefit from the lower bulk pricing while buying only what you need. Coordinate with family or neighbors to see who needs staple bulk items like flour, sugar, paper towels, etc. Split up a large package, separating it into smaller reusable containers. This allows everyone to get the bulk discount while not being stuck with more than they can use.

Meal Plan and Make a List

Planning out your meals for the week and making a grocery list can help reduce food waste and impulse purchases. Take some time over the weekend to review recipes and plan what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. Consider what you have in the pantry already and what you might need to use up.

Make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need to make those meals so you can buy them in one grocery trip. Having a list will help you avoid wandering the aisles and tossing extra items into your cart that you don’t need. Stick to buying just what’s on your list to prevent overspending.

When you get home from the store, put groceries away properly right away. Sort produce into your produce bins or drawers. Store meats and dairy in the coldest part of your fridge. Having ingredients organized will make it easier to locate what you need when it’s time to cook.

Planning out meals in advance takes a bit more effort upfront but will save you money in the long run by reducing food waste and impulse purchases.

Buy Produce in Season

One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries is to buy fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are in season. Produce that is in season is usually more abundant, so it costs less.

For example, berries are the cheapest in the summer, and citrus fruits are the cheapest in the winter. Buying what’s in season rather than trying to get produce that’s out of season can cut your grocery bill substantially.

You can find lists online that show what produce is in season each month for your area. Use this to guide your shopping.

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Stock up on in-season items when prices drop low. You can freeze, can, or dehydrate the extras to use later in the year when that produce is no longer in season. For example, buy extra berries in the summer and freeze them to add to smoothies in the winter.

Frozen and canned produce can also be cheaper than fresh when it’s not in season. Just make sure to get varieties without added sugar or preservatives. The nutrition profile of frozen and canned is similar to fresh when the produce is in season.

Sticking to in-season produce will ensure you get the best prices year-round.

Store Food Properly

Proper food storage helps reduce food waste and saves money. Make sure to practice “first in, first out” organization when putting away groceries. This means placing newer items towards the back and older items in front to ensure the older products get used first before expiring.

Certain foods also require specific storage methods. For example, potatoes and onions should be stored in a dark, well-ventilated place at room temperature. Leafy greens are best kept in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods like meat, dairy, and leftovers within 2 hours of purchase or preparing. Prevent cross-contamination by storing raw meats on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Check expiration dates regularly and freeze foods you won’t use in time. Proper refrigeration temperature is below 40°F and the freezer should be below 0°F. Investing in food storage containers helps keep foods fresh longer. Strategic food storage extends shelf life and reduces waste.

Use Loyalty Programs

Signing up for loyalty programs at supermarkets and other stores you frequent is an easy way to save money on groceries and other purchases. Most major supermarkets like Kroger and Safeway offer loyalty cards that are free to join and provide discounts on select items each week.

Make sure to sign up for digital accounts with these loyalty programs so you can load additional coupons and deals right to your store card. Check your digital accounts regularly to find extra savings on the items you buy most. Some stores will even send you personalized coupons based on your previous purchases.

Loading digital coupons in advance and taking just a few minutes to review the weekly sales ads can help you save 20-30% or more on your grocery bills. Stack store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons for even bigger savings. Some loyalty programs like Kroger’s also let you accumulate fuel points with purchases that can be redeemed at the gas station for per-gallon discounts.

Loyalty programs aren’t just for groceries either. Sign up for rewards accounts at drugstores, department stores, home improvement stores, and anywhere else you regularly shop. Taking advantage of these free programs provides easy savings on all your household expenses.

Conserve Energy

There are some simple ways to conserve energy in your home and lower your utility bills. An easy place to start is by using Energy Star-certified appliances and electronics. These products meet energy efficiency standards set by the EPA, so they use less electricity than conventional models without sacrificing performance.

When shopping for new appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and TVs, look for the Energy Star label. Over the lifetime of the appliance, an Energy Star model can save you hundreds of dollars on utility bills.

You can also conserve energy by unplugging devices when they’re not in use. Things like phone chargers, laptops, and game consoles draw power even when turned off, which is called phantom load. Get in the habit of unplugging anything that’s not actively being used. You can also invest in smart power strips, which automatically shut off power to inactive devices.

With some simple changes, you can cut your energy use significantly and see a drop in your electricity bills over time. Using Energy Star products and unplugging devices are two easy ways to get started.

Use Less Water

There are many ways to conserve water around the home that can lead to significant savings on your utility bills. Here are some tips:

  • Take shorter showers. Set a timer or limit your shower time to 5 minutes. Long showers can use a lot of hot water, so reducing shower time even a little bit can make a difference.
  • Fix any leaks. Dripping faucets and running toilets can waste thousands of gallons of water over time. Check faucets, showerheads, and toilets for leaks regularly and repair any issues promptly. A small leak can waste more than 50 gallons of water per day!
  • Only run full loads of laundry and dishes. Don’t run smaller loads or the dishwasher when it’s half full. Wait until you can fill it up to maximize efficiency.
  • Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators. Low-flow fixtures allow the same water pressure with a lower flow rate. Easy to install and inexpensive, they can reduce water usage by up to 50% with no noticeable difference.
  • Get an energy-efficient dishwasher. Energy Star-certified dishwashers use less water and energy. When it’s time to replace your dishwasher, look for the Energy Star label.
  • Turn off water when brushing teeth or shaving. Don’t leave the tap running, as this can waste a lot of water over time.

Making small changes in your daily habits can add up when it comes to water savings. Conserving water will lower your utility bills and is also beneficial for the environment.

Lower Your Thermostat

Lowering your thermostat just a few degrees in winter and raising it a few degrees in summer can lead to significant energy savings. The Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 68°F for heating and 78°F for cooling.

One of the easiest ways to control your home’s temperature is by installing a programmable or smart thermostat. These allow you to set different temperatures for when you are home, asleep, or away. Program it to lower temperatures at night and when no one is home to avoid unnecessarily heating an empty house. In the summer, raise the temperature when you’re not around.

You can save about 1% on heating bills for each degree you lower the thermostat in winter. Turning it down 10-15 degrees for 8 hours a day can save up to 15% annually. In the summer, set the thermostat as high as comfortably possible when home. Just make sure it is programmed for a more moderate temperature at night for sleeping.

Negotiate Bills to Save Money

Lower your monthly expenses by negotiating with utility and service providers. Many companies are willing to offer discounts or rate adjustments, but you’ll need to take the initiative to ask.

Call providers to negotiate better rates – Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and negotiate directly with your cable, internet, cell phone, or insurance providers. Tell them you’ve seen better rates from competitors and you’re considering switching. They may offer a promotional rate or discount to keep your business. Persistence and politeness pay off.

Compare plans annually – Mark your calendar to compare plans from competing providers once a year. Shopping around helps ensure you aren’t overpaying. As an existing customer, use this opportunity to call and request they match a competitor’s better rate. Switch if they are unable to offer similar pricing.

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