A Thrifty Mom’s 9 Tips for Stretching Your Food Dollars

by Elizabeth Dengler, The Huckleberry Home

It seems like a lifetime ago I was a single mom with WIC checks and food stamps. It’s a time I don’t often share with people, let alone with our whole readership. Many friends and loved ones during that time in our lives had no idea we were on food assistance. I was so wrapped up in how I might be judged if anyone found out about our need that I would go shopping with my WIC checks at 7:30 am on a Tuesday. Do you know who’s at the grocery store first thing on Tuesday mornings? That’s right, no one. I know why I felt the worry and shame, but mostly I was grateful to have the help in uncertain times.

I developed some incredibly thrifty shopping behaviors that made my food budget go much further during that time. And even though my family and financial situation have taken a 180 from those handful of years ago, I use some of these money saving tips still today and have added some new ones. You may or may not find yourself in a time of needing to stretch your budget, but it’s nice to keep a few extra dollars in your wallet. Hopefully, you’ll find some of these tips helpful or maybe you have some of your own tips that you’d like to share. I’d love to hear how you make your food budget go a little further.

Tip 1: Apps
I have several different store apps on my phone from Safeway to Target. I sign up for free and they give me electronic coupons/savings based on my past purchases. I load up the coupons on my store card that’s linked to my phone number. I enter my number at purchase and get all the savings added in. I was able to get a dozen eggs for 49 cents or a gallon of milk for less than a dollar. These are chalk full of savings and worth the effort. Plus, there’s no clipping paper coupons.

Tip 2: Email
I sign up to get local ads from Rosauers and Super 1 so I know what big deals they have going on for the week or the Monthly Power Buys. I then can plan my shopping trip accordingly. I like these most to find out which meats are on sale.

Tip 3: Manager Specials
These are typically in the meat and dairy cases at a variety of stores. They are marked for quick sale because the items are near their expiration dates. Check the organic meat and dairy cases too for these specials. They can’t be beat! I often freeze the meat or cook it up right away. My great grandmother lived through the Great Depression and I learned from her that you can freeze milk and butter.

Tip 4: Clearance
Yes, there’s clearance bread racks, bakery racks, seasonal foods, discontinued items etc if you know where to look. It varies by store and you can ask where they are. Sometimes, I find loaded carts at the front of the store with all kinds of items from OTC medicines to past holiday candies. I’ve found the bread and bakery racks at the back of the stores tucked away in a corner. Definitely worth a look as these items are deeply discounted.

Tip 5: Cold Chicken
The delis at most grocery stores that don’t sell that day’s rotisserie chickens, will put them in the cold deli section at a discount. Same with their fried chicken. These make for great last minute chicken dishes and picnic food. Plus, hot deli items cannot be purchased with stamps, but once they’re cold, you can.

Tip 6: Price Matching
Several Big Box stores have price matching available, meaning if the same item is cheaper at another store they’ll match their competitor’s price or accept competitors coupons. Best to ask before assuming a store does this and some stores have exceptions. A quick phone call (yes, I still make these) for clarification on price matching policy saves time and money. You can also check out a store’s website, but sometimes info isn’t readily available.

Tip 7: Try New Stores
Trader Joe’s has unexpected brand savings. I have found incredible quality and savings with TJ’s spices, vinegar, olive oil, cereals and frozen vegetables. Natural Grocers will have sales on dietary specialty items that you can’t typically find in other stores. They also have very pricey items that I just skip over.

Tip 8: Warehouses
Costco has great prices on frozen chicken and a variety of other grocery items, they also accept SNAP benefits on most grocery items. If the membership purchase is out of budget, ask to go with a friend or relative with a membership. It can benefit you and them, especially if the have the Gold Star membership. They get $ back.

Tip 9: Pharmacies
Yes, pharmacies! Savings at Rite Aid and Walgreens are also available. Don’t forget to include those in app and ad searches for grocery savings. They also have clearance sections.

Thank you for letting me share a little about my financial food journey. I’m curious what tips you may have and if you already do any of these or can improve on my tips. I’d love to hear from you and hopefully be able to share them in another article with our readers. Blessings to you all. Elizabeth@huckleberrypress.com