Most of us are guilty of buying a product that was packaged a certain way out of convenience. The only problem is that it can be expensive to do that. Oftentimes, we go to the grocery store and think about how nice it is to be able to just grab a bunch of individually wrapped items and store them for easy access. Before you think, “Oh, how convenient,” read this and see just how inconvenient that thought really is.
The one thing that I tell my friends who are moving into a house, or apartment with the space for it, is to buy a small standalone freezer. At Target, they can be anywhere between $180 and $300 for a reasonably priced one. The reason why I tell people to buy one is because people often overpay for meat out of convenience and will tell me that they don’t have room in their freezer to store extra. This gets rid of that excuse and it helps you keep your other freezer organized.
In order to save money after purchasing a freezer, I highly suggest purchasing plastic bags in bulk from somewhere like Costco. For $12.89, you can get 216 quart sized freezer bags at Costco. At Target, this is $4.49 for 38 bags or $7.59 for 75 bags. Either way, in order to get 216 or more bags from Target, you need to spend over $20. This wastes $8 out of convenience. In fact, you could use that $8 towards 500 Ziploc sandwich bags from Costco. Target offers 280 of those for more than $7.
I don’t care who you are: If you’ve been out of the house and have bought meat from the grocery store, you’ve most likely made the mistake of buying meat in smaller packages out of convenience. Ground beef is usually the main culprit. Next time you find yourself reaching for those one-pound chubs, look at the five-pounders or even bigger and compare the prices. I have found WinCo selling the one-pound chubs for around $2.35, but the five-pounders were $9.95 (or $1.99 per pound). Just get the bigger one, separate it equally by one pound each, and then flatten your meat in the bag for easier storage.
Chicken is another problematic meat. It’s hard to pick out which prices are better when you’re looking at fresh vs frozen. However, there’s one cut of chicken people overpay for: Wings. Many buy a bag of frozen wings for $15. Buy chicken wings fresh and learn how to cut them up. If you have a lot of stores in your area and just want the best prices on your meat, be sure to give them a call and ask them for prices first. You can also get a feel for how the store generally feels about customer service by calling.
Depending on the rice you like to eat, you can almost always get a better deal on it at Costco. Rice will keep for a long time since it’s a dry item. I like to eat a short grain rice called Calrose rice and it can cost anywhere between $4.49 and $12.99 for a four-pound and a 20-pound bag of rice. Costco, at least in Eugene, has a 25-pound bag of rice for a little more than $10.
Don’t Let an Initial Investment Scare You
Something I often hear from friends I suggest this way of saving to is that they’re unsure if it’s worth the initial investment. The initial investment is $235 to $355, depending on what freezer you buy. But don’t let that scare you away. Surely, there are more items you can save money on than I pointed out in this article. I often buy waffles, diapers, pasta sauce, and cheese at Costco. If you drink coffee and don’t mind their house brand, you can switch from Starbucks, which is $7 or $8 for less than one pound and spend just $9.49 for a three-pound can at Costco.
Track Your Savings
Something I think people are pretty hesitant to do is to track exactly how much they save on items they purchase often. But it’s usually a pretty rewarding thing to do when you actually do it. For example, when I buy ground beef and save 35¢ per pound, it doesn’t seem like much. But I’m freezing it and it’s worth saving $1.75 per package. Buying it once per month saves me $21 per year. In case you’re wondering how long I’ve had those quart-sized Ziploc bags for, I bought them over a month ago and I’m just now breaking into the second small box in the pack.
To get started, I suggest using a spreadsheet or a journal. Whichever is easiest for you. If you use a journal, I recommend using a small journal, like a mini Moleskine so you can take it with you to the store to log your savings. Don’t underestimate the power of saving small amounts. It can add up into some serious savings.