Budgeting Saving Smart Spending

How Much Can You Save at the Grocery Store?

In my last post, I talked about how I was able to save over $20,000 per year by cutting things out of my budget.

(Yes, that’s the right amount of zeros.)

Frugality is something that can change your life, and it doesn’t take any special skills to make it happen. In fact, it can be totally easy — as long as you’re willing to make a change and stick with it.

To show you just how simple getting frugal can be, I’m going to start with a simple switcheroo that can save you a whole lot of cash — but you do have to keep an open mind.

Going Generic at the Grocery Store

Buying lots of processed snack foods and convenience items at the grocery store is enormously expensive — especially if they’re fancy name brands. Though it would be better to do all your own cooking from scratch, let’s start our kitchen savings plan more realistically:

What happens if your replace all your name brands items with store brands at the market?

Before you say no to this idea out of hand, let me walk you through some math with a hypothetical grocery bill to show you how your savings can add up. I’ve also got some quick hacks and trickery for getting any reluctant family members on board.

Let’s do this.

A Weekly Bill for a Family of Four

I’m a middle class mom with a family of four, and our grocery shopping habits are fairly typical. Every week, we buy a couple boxes of breakfast cereal, granola bars, 10 yogurt cups, milk, and juice — all items that are available in store brands at our local supermarket.

To get a look at the savings, let’s take Cheerios as our example. Cereal is notoriously marked up in price with all the crazy new flavors available these days. Even a plain old yellow box of Cheerios is expensive, though — the medium boxes at our grocery store are usually $3 a pop. The generic version (called Oaty-O’s or something similarly silly) is $1.99 for the same amount.

That’s a 33 percent savings, and if you assume that other generic items are similarly priced, you can take advantage of your own one-third off sale on a big section of your grocery cart every single time you shop.

To put this in perspective, let’s look at hypothetical shopping list of generic vs. fancy-schmancy items for my family:

Name Brand Prices

3 boxes of cereal: $9
2 boxes of granola bars: $5
10 yogurt cups: $12.50
2 gallons of milk: $7
1 carton of OJ: $2.50

TOTAL: $36

Generic Prices

3 boxes of cereal: $6
2 boxes of granola bars: $4
10 yogurt cups: $8.50
2 gallons of milk: $5.50
1 carton of OJ: $2

TOTAL: $26

With this shopping list, I’ve saved $10 each week. Multiply that by 52 weeks per year, and I’m banking $520 by the end of the year without doing any work at all.

And that’s just on the things I buy regularly. What would happen if you gave this a try and also added in laundry detergent, dish soap, mustard, flour and sugar?

By going generic on your once-in-a-while purchases too, it’s totally possible to double those savings. You could pay down some serious debt with an extra $1,000 (or more!) in your pocket by the end of the year.

Tricks for Getting Everyone on Board

If you’re game to give the All-Generic Grocery Challenge a try — but are worried about convincing your family to switch out some of their favorite foods — I’ve got some ideas for you and your family to try:

  • Enact a Trial Period: Get your family to give these tasty generics a try for one month before passing judgment. If everyone is seriously unhappy with the way something tastes, try a different brand until you find one that you all like but that still saves you money. Odds are good that in a month the loudest complainers will forget all about it anyway, and you’ll be in the clear.
  • Go Undercover: If you think your family’s resistance is all in their heads, make the switch without saying a word. Keep your last Frosted Flakes box and just switch out the inner bag with the generic cereal — they’ll never know the difference. There are all kinds of ways to hide your generic secret: decorative tissue box covers, clear Tupperware bins and containers to hold dry goods, Pinterest-worthy spice jars, etc.
  • Draw a Line in the Sand: You can also try fielding complaints by going hard core. This works best with kids when you offer a choice designed to force them to pick the thing you want them to. For example, say that if they don’t want generic granola bars, then they’ll have to make their own instead. If the choice is suddenly between the generic and something far less attractive, they’ll fall in line.

So, are you ready to sign on to the All-Generic Grocery Challenge? Give it a go for a month, and vow to use the extra cash to pay down your debt or kick-start a new savings account. Once you get on board, add your tips and tricks to the comments section so we can all take advantage of some frugality at the grocery store together.

About the author

Beth Trach

Elizabeth Trach is a writer and editor living in Newburyport, MA. She also sings in a band, grows almost all her own food, and occasionally even cooks it. You can catch up on all her adventures in frugal living and extreme gardening at Port Potager.

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