20 Tips for Saving Money at the Grocery Store
Do you always leave the grocery store feeling like you spent and arm and leg, but you don’t even know how? We’ve all been there. Don’t feel like spending endless hours clipping coupons? I completely get it! After a day of working and taking care of my kids, the last thing I want to spend my evenings doing is clipping coupons. Never fear, if you’re trying to stick to a tighter grocery budget, we have pulled together some great tips to save money at the grocery store.
How to save money at the grocery store:
1. Set a Budget
First things first…if you are trying to save money at the grocery store, you really should set a grocery budget. Based on your income and other expenses, identify where you would like to ultimately be with your grocery budget.
2. Start Slowly
So that the process isn’t overwhelming, collect your grocery receipts (or look at your bank/credit card statements) and figure out how much you are spending each month on groceries.
Warning: the first time you do this, if you never have, you may be shocked (especially if you make multiple trips each week and are feeding a family).
Now that you know what you have been spending, take that amount and reduce it by $50 for your first month target. Then each month after that, you can continue to reduce until you hit your budget. It will be less overwhelming to cut by a little and then work your way down rather than trying to drastically change all at once. You’ll be saving money at the grocery store in no time!
3. Consider Buying Generic or Store Brand Options
Hear me out on this. I know you may love your brand name food, but in some cases the store brand foods are manufactured in the same building, by the same manufacturer and put into different packaging with different labels on the front. In many blind taste tests, store brands have beaten or tied with brand named foods. This consumer reports study found that 10 out of 19 store brand foods beat out the name brand in blind taste tests. That trade-off means lots of $ in your pocket, on average store brands cost 60% less.
There may be certain foods or drinks you are willing to pay more for the taste of the name brands, while others you may not be able to tell the difference. For example, I don’t buy brand name ketchup, but I do buy brand name cereals. Try testing out some store brands and see what’s truly worth it to you.
4. Skip the Bottled Water
Save your money and the environment all at once. Don’t buy bottled water unless you are stocking up for a natural disaster or if your tap water is unsafe to drink. Otherwise, buy yourself a filter (they make great options that go on the tap or pitchers you can keep in your fridge). In blind taste tests, people can’t tell the difference in the taste of filtered water and bottled water.
5. Use Online Ordering
While some places do charges fees or higher prices for ordering online, there are some stores that offer free online ordering over a minimum price. One of the biggest chains that does this is Walmart, for orders over $30. The prices are the same great low prices offered in store.
There are 2 main reasons I love online ordering for saving money. #1 is that you don’t tend impulse buy groceries online. Unlike in the store, you don’t just walk by something that looks tasty and throw it in your cart. You have to actually think about what you want, search for it, and add it to your cart. Reason #2 I love online ordering is that it makes sticking to a budget much more convenient. You can see the total tally easily as you add things. So if you see the number creeping up too high, you can swap out or remove items. We saved a lot of money when we switched to primarily ordering our groceries online.
6. Change Where you Shop
This is probably the easiest and most effective way to save money at the grocery store. Depending on where you currently shop, you could save 30-50% on groceries simply by changing stores. Some of the less expensive grocery chains are Aldi, Lidl, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Food Lion, Food4Less and Trader Joe’s. Depending on the options you have near you, you may need to do some comparison shopping to identify the most cost effective option for you.
Also, if there are certain items you don’t want to compromise on (like produce or meat), you can still buy those at some of the middle or higher end grocery stores. You can still shop for packaged goods and paper products at the discount stores and save on those.
7. Don’t Buy More than you Need
Not only does buying more than you need create food waste, but it is also a waste of your budget. You are throwing money away! Even if something is a good deal, if you can’t freeze it or use it all, you should make sure you aren’t buying more than you will use.
8. Use Cheap Staples to Create Hearty Meals
What’s the price of a bag of rice? Less than $1 a pound. A bag of dried beans? Usually around $1-$2 a pound depending on the bean. How about potatoes? They’re usually less than $1 per pound as well. Use these filling staples as key starches that you can build a meal around. They’re cheap, filling and incredibly versatile.
9. Don’t Buy Packaged or Pre-made Food
Not only are they highly-processed (which usually means they are filled with fat, sugar and salt), but these foods are also much more expensive. You can make your own lasagna for much less than a frozen lasagna, but it will probably taste better. Same goes for baked goods. Flour is so cheap compared to the cost of what you will be charged for pre-made baked goods. Now you don’t have to go baking your own bread if that isn’t your thing, but you can bake your own muffins and make your own cookies.
10. Plan Meals with Food you Have on Hand
In order to save money on your groceries, before shopping you should assess what you have on hand. Plan your meals around whatever leftovers you may have and anything in the pantry/freezer that you could use.
11. Don’t Shop when You’re Hungry
Your eyes will be bigger than your stomach AND your budget. Shopping while hungry leads to more impulse purchases, which can lead you to overspending. Especially when you are shopping in person. If you’re hungry everything starts to look good and gets tossed in the cart.
12. Buy Produce In-Season
When you buy produce that isn’t in-season, not only does it often not taste as good, but usually it’s been shipped half way around the world (from somewhere it is in season or where it’s been in storage). This means you are paying much more for it than when that produce is abundant and nearby. Its simple supply and demand economics. Save yourself some $ and buy in-season. If you aren’t sure what is in-season when where you live, here’s a great resource where you can look it up. The internet is an amazing thing!
13. Don’t buy Pre-Prepped Foods
Pre-washed lettuce, grated cheese, chopped up fruits. You are paying for the convenience of having those foods all prepared for you. If you are looking to save some cash at the grocery store, buy those foods whole and uncleaned and do the prep work yourself!
14. Buy Meat in Bulk on Sale
Meat can be one of the most expensive items on your grocery list. Meat does tend to intermittently go one sale. Be sure to start watching for those sales cycles at the grocery store where you shop. When they drop or offer a BOGO offer, stock up on meat at a lower price. You can then freeze and save whatever you won’t be using immediately. The great thing is that meat freezes well for up to a year.
15. Try a Meatless Meal Night
As I said in the last tip, meat is expensive. By trying out a meatless night each week, you can easily save on the cost of that meal. One easy way to do this is with a pasta and vegetable meal. I personally love mushrooms, which are a great meat substitute (as far as taste goes, obviously not nutritionally).
16. Join your the Grocery Store Loyalty Program
This is super easy to do at most grocery stores. You simply sign up and swipe your card each time you shop. Then you get offered the loyalty store discount on many items. Others have rewards point that you can build up and use for discounts off of your purchases or for free rewards. If you shop regularly at a particular grocery store, there is literally no reason not to do this. Sign up and save that money!
17. Know the Sales Cycles
Many stores tend to have cyclical sales cycles, usually they are roughly 6-8 weeks long. This means every six to eight weeks, items will likely go on sale and be at their lowest price (obviously not all at once, but on a rotating basis). Once you identify that cycle for an item, you can optimize and stock up when prices are at their lowest. Additionally on an annual basis, following holidays, popular items for that holiday will tend to go on deep discount. Another great time to stock up!
18. Pay Attention to the Per Unit Cost
While buying in bulk is often cheaper, sometimes buying 2 of the smaller size item may be cheaper. You see this often with sales when the smaller item may be marked down, but the larger item isn’t. To assess this, look at the per unit price (per ounce, per lb, etc), and make sure you take number into account when buying. Another thing that is made easier shopping online as the per unit price is often displayed.
19. Use Rewards Apps like Ibotta
Ibotta is a great app. You can shop for groceries as you usually would (or optimize and shop based on their offers), and then simply scan your receipt to earn cash back. There are other similar apps or loyalty programs you can consider, such as, Fetch Rewards, Checkout 51, Shopkick and Coupons.com. Test them out and see which one works best for you. It may take you awhile to earn rewards, but if you are going to be buying groceries anyways, it seems like a no-brainer to leverage.
20. Meal Plan Like a Pro
Planning meals is another thing that can really help with keeping grocery costs down. Effective meal planning allows you to ensure that no food goes to waste, that you leverage what you have in your pantry and freezer, and you can set a budget and plan to keep your meals within that budget range. For expensive, if you have an expensive meat like a steak one night a week, you can make that up with a cheaper meat like ground beef on another night. You can also specifically look up cheap meals to make, and fill in a few nights of the week with those options.
That’s it! Once you implement a few of these tips, you’ll undoubtedly see some major decreases in your grocery bills. Did I leave out one of your favorite tips for saving money at the grocery store? If so, leave a comment and share your advice. I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for stopping by! If you enjoyed this post on how to save money at the grocery store, you may also want to check out my post on the Best Places to Sell Used Baby Items for Cash – Clothes, Toys, Gear, and Books