The cost of living in Hawaii is high especially in housing and groceries. To save money, my husband and I try to cook at home as much as possible. We go to the grocery store once every 1-2 weeks to cover most of our meals for the week. Over the years, we’ve figured out how to spend less than $5 per serving of food. Some of the ways we save money on groceries include:
- Peruse weekly ads: Most of the items I cook are based around what is on sale. I don’t take too long when scanning weekly ads. At most, I take about 10 minutes to see what’s on sale and to come up with a menu of what I want to cook. Some of the items I typically look for are:
- Rice: ~$8 for 15 pound bag of white or brown rice at Times or CVS
- Mushrooms: 2 for $4 for button or 2 for $3 for enoki
- Chicken: ~1.29/lb
- Potatoes: ~$3 for 5 pound bag
- Pasta noodles: $1
- Pasta sauce: 2 for $5
- Cereal: 2 for $5
- Use coupons: I am not a regular couponer but I do keep several coupons in my bag for groceries, toiletries, and restaurants that I know I will use. I then wait until the items go on sale and use the coupons so I can get the items for less. Spam, for example, sometimes goes on sale for $1.99 (regular price: ~$2.49) and I find coupons for $1.00 off two cans in the sunday newspaper every month or so. The couple and sale will bring the cost down to $1.49 per can.
- Buy in bulk: Even if you have a small family, you can still buy in bulk to save money. For example, we buy a huge package of ground beef at Costco then divide it up into smaller baggies to freeze for when we need it. We also try buy frozen vegetables, fruits, and seafood in bulk because it’s easier to store and keep for later meals. In addition, household items such as toilet paper and paper towels is inexpensive when you buy it at Costco or Sam’s Club. You don’t have to worry about catching it on sale so you save time and money. It’s hard to buy fruits, veggies, and milk in bulk unless you plan to finish it in one week. It’s cheaper than regular packages but you end up wasting most of it because it spoils fast.
- Bring your own recyclable bags: Oahu has banned the use of plastic bags in grocery stores so you should remember to bring your own recyclable bags when shopping. Unfortunately, there are still some loopholes in the law so you can still see plastic bags in several supermarkets. Some even charge you $0.05-$0.10 for each plastic bag which can add up when you are buying a bunch of groceries for the week. On the other hand, some places, like Times Supermarket, give you bag credit of $0.05 for each recyclable bag that you use at the store so be sure to bring them whenever you shop. I usually keep all of recyclable bags in each of our cars so we have it ready when it’s time for us to go grocery shopping.
- Get a free store card: Safeway and Foodland offers free store cards to their customers to take advantage of cheaper prices in the store. Nowadays, you don’t even need to show your card if you link your phone number. You can just input your phone number in the keypad and it will pull up your account. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen people shop without using the free store cards. They spend a lot more money paying for regular prices when it will take them only 5 minutes to sign up for a card. On the other hand, Safeway offers additional coupons that customers can access through their online account or Safeway app. I have used their coupons to get even more savings for cereal when it’s on sale.
- Earn when you shop: CVS gives you 2% in ExtraBucks if you use your free ExtraCare card. They are issued 4 times a year and will show up on your receipt for future purchases at CVS. Foodland’s free Maika’i card allows you to earn points for every dollar you spend. After you accumulate 250 points on your card, you will receive a my Rewards Certificate with your receipt. This can be used towards special product savings, 5% off a future purchase, or 200 HawaiianMiles. As a side tip, my husband and I keep our Maika’i cards in our cars for when we need to fill up on gas and Costco is closed. You can get $0.05 off per gallon if you pay in cash at any Aloha/Island Mart gas stations. Both types of rewards have expiration dates so be sure to use it or lose it.
- Get a raincheck: Some stores, like Safeway, offer rain checks to customers when sale items are sold out. This allows customers to come back and buy the items at sale prices when they are again in stock. Make sure to read the fine line on the rain check and review the company policies because there may be limitations to what you can buy and how long the rain check is good for.
- Buy store brand items: Store brand items are much cheaper than name brand items and are just as good (Check out my post on saving money on healthcare and using generic brands). I buy store brand canned vegetables, broths, condiments, and tomato sauce when it’s cheaper than brand name items, but I usually do this for household items such as shampoo, face wash, conditioner, and lotion because the savings are greater. Safeway even has its own line of organic products which are much cheaper than name brand organic items.
- Price match: Some stores, like Target and Walmart, will match the price of competitors’ ads online or in print. I once found that the price of diapers and wipes (I bought them for a baby shower!) were lower on Target.com than it was in-store. I checked with the cashier and they were able to price match these items. Price matching helps you to save time and money since you don’t have to go to multiple stores to catch sale items. Make sure to read the company policies on this too because they do have several guidelines and exclusions.
- Ask for half the vegetable: In some stores, like Don Quijote, you can ask one of the staff near the produce department to cut a larger vegetable in half for you (I didn’t want to be eating cabbage all week!). They’ll wrap one half for you to buy and the other half for another customer who may want it. It doesn’t hurt to ask the produce department if they do this. Some might not offer this service at all. If they do, this will help you save money and avoid food waste.
What are some of the ways you save money on groceries?