1. Make a list of things you need--and stick to it! Only write down things that you need to purchase, preferably those items which are on sale and that you have a coupon for. On your list, make a star next to the items you have coupons for so that you don't forget to use them. Which leads us to... 2. Use coupons. Once you're over your initial fear of handing someone a coupon (Will this person think I'm cheap, Will this person think I'm poor---what the heck! This person will think you're a smart shopper. And you should not care what anyone thinks.) you'll be searching for coupons everywhere. Save even more by shopping at stores that double your coupons, or combine a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon. See my previous post for more tips on the art of couponing. 3. Keep your shopping simple. Plan inexpensive meals, such as spaghetti, tuna noodle casserole, stir-fry, chili, soups, homemade pizza, tacos, etc. These meals don't require you to purchase fancy ingredients that typically cost more. 4. Set a time limit for shopping. It has been proven that the longer you're in a store, the more you spend. While I've never done an official study, personal experience tells me that I continue putting junk in the cart for as long as I am in a store. Get in, get what you need, and get out fast!
5. Try store brands. Not all store brands are the same as their name-brand competition, however, so this will take some experimentation. Many stores have a satisfaction guarantee on their store label products and will refund your money if you aren't happy with your purchase.
My family will happily eat Great Value canned vegetables, Frosted Fruit Spins and Spaghetti Hoops, but I insist on buying name brands of certain items. Laundry detergent and cleaning supplies in my house are always name-brand. I can usually get these items inexpensively using coupons and purchasing them on sale for slightly more than the store brands.
6. Eat before you shop. You'll be less tempted to make impulse buys when your tummy isn't growling and nothing sounds appetizing. You will also be better able to stick to your list!
7. Shop alone or be willing to speak up to your spouse or kids about sticking to the list. Even a toddler can understand this concept. When they were smaller, I always let my kids "borrow" a toy from the toy department while I shopped and then we put it back before we checked out. This kept them entertained and they didn't learn the bad habit of asking for things throughout the store.
8. Make your own "convenience foods." I'm not suggesting that you learn how to make cheese or churn your own butter. Buy orange juice concentrate and mix it with your very own tap water for half the price of prepared juice. Make your own cookie dough, roll it into balls and freeze it until you're ready to bake it. Buy cheese in bricks and slice or shred it yourself. Learn how to make pizza dough or bread in a bread maker. Make soup in a crock pot or on the stove top. These things are relatively easy and can save quite a bit.
9. Avoid the deli counter. I love deli salads and all of the overpriced meats that can be had at the deli counter, don't get me wrong. But, it's a rip-off. Make your own pasta salad (cooked spiral pasta, a bottle of Italian salad dressing, and your favorite veggies). Buy meat when it's on special---at my local grocery store (Meijer) all of the cut deli meat and cheeses are half-price after 8pm. Stock up and freeze it for future use.
10. Re-evaluate before checking out. Poke around your cart to see if there is at least one item you can live without. Maybe it is something you were undecided about or maybe it is that bag of chips you tossed in. Whatever you choose, by taking something out, you're saving money. Hand that item or items to the cashier and he or she will gladly put it back for you.