When I lived in the US, I ALWAYS used coupons, but after moving to Denmark where coupons just are not a thing and the cost of living is higher, I had to find other ways to save money on groceries. Here are the 5 ways that I use to save money on groceries without relying on coupons.
Browse Weekly Sales
Even though the grocery stores in Denmark do not have coupons, they still have weekly sales. I try to plan my meals around the sales such as if there is a sale on the Tex Mex brand Santa Maria or Steff-Houlberg hot dogs, but of course that does not always work out. There are also nonessential items I will NOT buy unless it is on sale because it too expensive to buy otherwise. For example, I like buying Ribena which is a blackcurrant concentrate you mix with water. A bottle of Ribena is $5 which adds up if I constantly buy a bottle when it runs out so I wait for it to be on sale when it goes down to $3. One way to save money on groceries is to plan your meals around the weekly sales and buy nonessential items when they go on sale.
Another way I save money is that I shop daily for groceries. There are two grocery stores within a 5 minute walking distance from my apartment, so I make it a habit to plan what I want for dinner that day then shop for groceries for that meal. Shopping daily also reduces food waste because I only buy what I need for that day, and if I have leftover ingredients from the previous day, I can incorporate into my dinner plan for the next day. On a side note, if you do have leftover portions from one of your meals, it is perfectly fine to save it for lunch or dinner the next day. It reduces food waste and saves money you would have spent on that meal. But back to my point of shopping daily for groceries. Shopping daily is not an option for everyone, which brings me to my next point.
Make a List and Stick to It
When I am planning my meals, I always make a grocery list because otherwise I will end up buying things I do not need. When you are browsing the sales, you can add the nonessential items that are on sale that you would like to buy, and when you plan your meals you can add those items as well to the list. I also add items that I am low on or have run out of such as toilet paper or olive oil so I can make sure I get them the next time I go grocery shopping. When you make a list, the most important thing to do when grocery shopping is to stick to it. If you stray from your list, you end buying things you do not necessarily need and spending more money than you planned. Everyone can benefit from making a grocery list because you will know what you need and you are less tempted to buy unnecessary items.
Shop at Discount Stores
In Denmark there are two types of grocery stores – discount stores and supermarkets. Discount stores like the Danish stores Fakta, Netto, and Dagli´Brugsen as well as other stores like Aldi and Lidl are smaller and have less selection, but they also tend to have lower prices than supermarkets (Walmart and Target in the US are good examples of supermarkets). Bilka, føtex, Kvickly, and SuperBrugsen are Danish supermarkets that sell groceries, clothing, home goods, and electronics, and there is even one chain of supermarkets called Irma that sells only organic and sustainable foods, which is way more expensive than shopping at a discount store. I do most of my grocery shopping at discount stores since they normally have everything I need for my meals, and they also have good quality food. However, some things I cannot find at discount stores like nori and certain brands of vegetarian alternatives like Quorn. When I do shop for groceries at the supermarkets, I make sure to stick to my grocery list because it is so easy to spend way more than I planned because there is so much to look at when shopping at the supermarkets.
Get a Members Card
The last way I save money is that I currently have a Coop members card through my boyfriend’s mother who paid the initial fee to join. The Coop members card is for a chain of Danish grocery stores that includes 3 supermarkets (Irma, Kvickly, and SuperBrugsen) and 2 discount stores (Fakta and Dagli´Brugsen). By having a Coop members card I have access to weekly member’s only sales, giveaways for free items (I have won everything from cookies and candy to koldskål and egg salad), and a 1% bonus on everything I buy as well as a 2% bonus on items that are part of the member’s only sale (there is also an added monthly bonus for having YouSee as my phone provider). The bonus I make I can use on future purchases, and I end up having around $10 extra each month for groceries. If you often shop at a certain grocery store, it would be a good idea to see if they have a members card, and most of them are free to join.
How do you save money on groceries?