If your budget needs a makeover, reducing your food expenses is a great place to start. Check out this list of 50 easy ways to save money on groceries. When reading these money saving tips, you’ll realize it’s not all about coupons!
When I finally got serious about paying off my student loans, I knew I needed to reduce my expenses. But there were so many must-have bills in my life – rent, utilities, loan payments, gas, insurance, internet (don’t try to tell me this isn’t a necessity…). However, one of the expenses I felt like I could cut down on was food – saving money on grocery shopping was the lowest hanging fruit in my budget.
Over the years, I’ve learned tons of grocery shopping tips to save money. This tell-all list helped me save money on groceries when I was single. These tips are also still applicable now that I’m married and I’m sure will be helpful when we have a family!
SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES BEFORE YOU HEAD TO THE STORE:
1. Join the loyalty program
Ok, I’m starting with an obvious one. Make sure you are a member of your grocery store’s loyalty program which will give you access to discounts only available to their loyal customers (aka people who took 10 seconds to sign up for the loyalty card). Don’t forget to connect your phone number with your card because you know you are going to forget or lose that card at some point.
2. Download your grocery store’s app and “clip” electronic coupons
Does you grocery store have a smart phone app? Mine does and it’s fantastic! Each week, I can “clip” electronic coupons and they are added to my loyalty card. Checking out is so nice since no paper coupons are needed.
You’re almost guaranteed to save money on groceries if you spend 30 seconds on the app prior to each grocery trip.
3. Have a “staples” list
I recently created a “staples” list which is just a core list of groceries I get each week at the store, regardless of what I plan on cooking that week. They are affordable, versatile ingredients that I use each and every single week. My list includes things like bananas, broccoli, bell peppers, lettuce, tortillas, chicken breasts, deli meats and cheeses, bagels, milk, orange juice, and a few other things.
This core list streamlines my grocery shopping, and I really only end up picking up a few other things required for the meals I plan to make for dinner. I’m in and out of the grocery store in no time, and I know that this list saves me time and money at the store.
4. Start following budget-friendly food blogs
Following my favorite budget-friendly food blogs has transformed my cooking repertoire and has done wonders to my grocery bill. I love that someone else has taken the time to develop and test a recipe for deliciousness and affordability and I’m always checking these blogs before I head to the store.
5. Check Pinterest for cheap recipes ideas
6. Plan your meals for the week
Hands down, this is the top tip of the list. I never thought meal planning was for me. I thought it was more of a home-schooling mom of 7 thing. But that’s not true! I quickly learned that as a single girl, in loads of student loan debt, meal planning would drastically reduce the money I spent at the grocery store. And each penny I saved could go towards my debt!
I created a printable to ensure that I would meal plan every week…and I’m making it available to you! Just sign up below 🙂
7. Have a list of classic go-to dinners
Chances are, you probably cook the same 10 meals the majority of the time. Write your list of go-to dinners down with their ingredients. This will make meal planning and grocery shopping a breeze.
8. Create a grocery list
After you create a meal plan, and in addition to your staples list, you should create a grocery list. This will prevent you from buying things you don’t need, and you won’t forget ingredients that you do need!
9. Shop your pantry
Your pantry shouldn’t be an altar to all the food you’ve purchased. Check your pantry before you head to the store so you don’t purchase something you already have.
10. Put your grocery list on your smart phone
You’re lying if you say you’ve never forgotten your grocery list at home – it’s so frustrating! To prevent this, just use your smart phone to create a grocery list. I use the app Google Keep to store my grocery list. I think there is even a way to give someone else (like your husband/wife) access to the list so they can add to it from their smart phone!
11. Eat before you shop
While you shouldn’t eat before you swim (<– that’s a thing, right?), you definitely need to eat before you grocery shop!
If I go to the store hungry, I’m coming home with about $30 worth of snacks. Everything looks good if I’m hungry!
12. Limit the number of trips to the store
The more you go to the grocery store, the more you’re going to spend on food. Currently, I go to the grocery store every Sunday because once per week seems to work for me. I tried to do every other week, but that didn’t work (I ended up spending way more money on eating out).
13. Clip some coupons
While I’m not a huge fan of clipping coupons, I know it works wonders for some people. You can find coupons in your Sunday newspaper, online, or even at the store (my grocery store has coupons hanging underneath certain items). Just make sure you don’t buy something with a coupon that you don’t need!
14. Check out the store’s flyer
Flip through the store’s weekly flyer to see what is on sale. Any great deals on the staples you typically get? Stock up! Can you make a dinner out of some of the great deals?
15. Set a budget (and don’t go over it!)
Seems obvious, eh? When I started to aggressively pay off my debt and reign in my budget, my food budget was the first to get slashed. I took the average of my past few months of food spending, and set my budget to around 80% of that. I had $50 each week to spend on groceries. If I was checking out, and my bill ended up being $55, I took $5 worth of items off the counter. It was a little embarrassing, but I refused to go over budget!
SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES AT THE STORE
16. Shop your list, and only your list
You are already a step ahead if you have a grocery list. But the challenge comes in sticking to the list and avoiding the temptations. Make a rule that you will not purchase anything not on your list and it’ll save you big bucks!
17. Check the meat counter for cheaper prices
Check the meat counter in your grocery store to see if the prices differ from the pre-packaged meat already displayed. At my grocery store, the butcher sells chicken breasts for $1.99/pound while the displayed chicken breast is $2.99/pound. Crazy! It’s the same stuff! It takes 2 seconds to chat with the butcher and ask for chicken, and I save 30%. See?, it can be super easy to save money on groceries.
18. Leave your spouse/kids behind…or bring them with you
If your spouse or kids tend to cause you to overspend (throwing stuff in the cart), then leave them behind!
In my case, shopping with my husband causes me to buy less stuff, so if I can, I bring him along!
19. Don’t buy more than you need
If you know you aren’t going to eat it, don’t buy it. Even if it’s on sale. There’s no way you are going to finish 4 lbs of strawberries before they expire.
20. Check out the clearance section
Your grocery store probably has a clearance aisle or clearance section at the back of the store that can save you a little money. The food still tastes the same, so give it a try. Just make sure not to buy any dented cans in the clearance section – dents may allow for bacteria to form and grow and can cause you to become very sick.
21. Try a new grocery store
Have you been going to the same grocery store for years? Branch out and try a new grocery store. You may be surprised at the difference in prices between stores. This could be easy savings for you.
22. Discount grocery stores
There are a bunch of discount grocery stores in my area (many of them are international grocery stores, but we also have an Aldi). They are much cheaper than the typical grocery store and definitely worth checking out!
23. Try the generic/store brand
For a long time, I was very against buying store brand food because I thought it wouldn’t taste as good. Turns out, I was wrong (for the most part). Ketchup, cream cheese, canned food, pasta – I can’t tell the different between store and name brand.
My advice is to start converting slowly. Each time you head to the store, try one store brand instead of name brand. If you like it, sweet!, you’ll save money now each time you buy that product.
24. Ask yourself if there is a cheaper option
Always ask yourself if there is a cheaper option. For example, if you typically buy cans of beans, try to get a bag of dried beans – it’s typically much cheaper.
25. Skip the prepared food
Getting pre-cut veggies is more than twice as expensive as just buying whole vegetables. Just spend 5 minutes cutting the vegetables and pocket the savings. Paying more to buy seasoned chicken seems so silly, especially if you have a cabinet full of spices anyway!
26. Compare the unit price of items
Did you know that the sticker underneath each item at the store not only tells you the price of the item, but the unit price (price of the item per a unit weight).
I always thought that the bigger package was always the better deal (“buy in bulk, it’s cheaper” they say). But once I started looking at the unit price of items, I realized that wasn’t always the case!
27. Avoid the packaged snacks
It’s so easy to get prepackaged snacks. I used to love the packages of cookies that you could get at the store because they were so easy to take to work. But it’s such a waste of money…and it really doesn’t save that much time.
28. Know how the deals work
My grocery store is always having this deal: “3 items for $5 dollars”. Well, my husband thought you had to buy 3 items to get the deal! So not true! You can buy one and only pay $1.67. (<– this is true unless it states that you have to buy 3…which is rarely the case).
29. Don’t buy stuff you know you aren’t going to eat
I went through this phase where I was trying to eat healthy (surprise, it was right before my wedding). In my head, I was eating fruits and vegetables all day but reality didn’t match that. I’d spend a small fortune at the grocery store on these healthy foods, but most of it went uneaten. I was throwing away money each week. Keep in touch with reality and don’t buy stuff you know you aren’t going to eat.
30. Bring your own bags
Some states charge their customers for each grocery bag that they use. Save a few cents and save the environment at the same time by bringing your own reusable bags (these are my favorite).
31. Know when you are getting a deal…and when you aren’t
It’s important to know what a good price for your food looks like. That way, you know when you should stock up, or pass up.
32. Get a rain check
I’m far too lazy to do this, but if an item that you love is on sale but out of stock, you can get a “rain check.” A rain check allows you to get the item at the sale price when it is restocked. Simply go to the customer service counter and ask for one.
33. Buy seasonally
Buy your produce when it’s in season – it’s significantly cheaper!
34. Try eating less meat
Meat is probably one of the most expensive items on your bill. Try to slip in some vegetarian meals or simply cut your meat portions in half to save money.
35. Find out which day the price of meat is marked down
Your grocery store probably slashes the price of meat on the same day each week. My store cuts the price of meat by 25% (at least) every Thursday.
36. Buy less alcohol
It’s at least an extra $10 on your bill each time you buy alcohol…so the less you buy the more you save.
Did that convince any of you to buy less alcohol? Didn’t think so… 🙂
37. Check the expiration date
Yesterday I was at the grocery store and when I went to get some milk I saw that the expiration date on the jugs varied by as much as one week! Always get the item with the latest expiration date to prevent it from expiring before you finish it. Easy money savings.
38. Avoid paper products
Paper products can eat up your grocery budget. Try to avoid purchasing paper towels, paper plates, napkins – there are alternatives for all these products. Put please, don’t try to find an alternative for toilet paper.
39. Stop buying bottled water
Bottled water is expensive and bad for the environment. Buy an awesome water bottle and never waste money on bottled water again.
40. Leave at least 1 item behind…every trip
When I was in debt, as I arrived at the checkout lane I’d review my cart and put one item back. Even if I “needed” it for a meal. Most of the time I’d put a snack back. Sometimes I’d put herbs back or a small addition to a meal (like green onions…do they really add any flavor to a dish??). Instant $2-4 of savings with this trick!
41. Put your blinders on at the checkout lane
Don’t waste money on the candy or magazines that line the checkout lane. Your budget will thank you for resisting those cleverly placed impulse purchases.
42. Use a cash back credit card
If you have a cash back credit card, you could be getting money back on your grocery purchase. There are some cards out there that continually offer 1.5% cash back on groceries. That money adds up!
43. Check your receipt
Grocery stores make mistakes. They may have charged you twice, charged you incorrectly, or forgotten to include your coupons. Check your receipt to make sure you were charged appropriately.
SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES AFTER YOUR TRIP TO THE STORE
44. Store your food correctly
Learn how to store your food correctly (like separating fruits and vegetables in the fridge) so you can extend the life of your food and prevent food waste.
45. Cut your veggies after your grocery trip
I use to be the queen of veggie-waste. I’d typically find shriveled cucumbers and rotted bell peppers hiding in my fridge. But then I started cutting up my vegetables immediately after I got home from the grocery store. Goodbye food (and money) waste.
46. Buy nice (glass) storage containers
Having durable glass storage containers makes it easy to store leftovers. And leftovers can save you a fortune! Whether you have them for lunch or dinner the next day, that’s one less meal you have to buy ingredients for. Glass storage containers are less porous than plastic ones – they’ll smell less and last longer.
47. Freeze meat!
When I was living alone, I used to throw away meat every.single.week. But then I discovered the freezer. Now, unless I am cooking the meat that night, I freeze it. It has saved me sooooo much money!
I’ll repackage my meat (like chicken breast) by putting them into Ziploc bags and then freezing them.
48. Use the ibotta App
The free ibotta app allows you to select products you are interested in buying and earn cash back when you upload a receipt that proves you purchased the products. With little effort, you can shave a few dollars off each grocery bill.
49. Use the Checkout 51 App
Similar to ibotta app, upload your receipts to get free cashback with the Checkout 51 app.
50. Try growing your own food
I tried this once but my black thumb ended up costing me a lot of money (buying the plants and pots adds up). However, you should try growing your food at least once to see if it will work for you. You could start simple by planting herbs and then expand to some easy vegetables like tomatoes or peppers.
Anybody can save money on groceries!
I see lots of money savings hacks, tips, and tricks geared towards families. But I can assure you, I used all these money saving grocery tips when I was single trying to get out of student loan debt.
If the list feels a little overwhelming, pick 5 tips to try out during your next grocery trip. Good luck!
How do you save money on groceries? Do you have any tips to add to the list?