I love to save money on my groceries! Grocery spending is one of the strongest places in my budget because I implement all of these tips as often as I can. I don’t spend time clipping coupons or doing anything complicated, though. I’ve just internalized all of these basics and do them without even thinking about it. I save thousands of dollars per year on groceries by consistently implementing these simple tips and am able to keep my grocery budget for my family of 5 at about $600/month. Here they are for you to try too!
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1. Eat before you shop
My mamma taught me this, but I didn’t realize how right she was until I became an adult myself! Not only does shopping hungry cause you to throw more impulse items into your cart, they will often be pre-made, individually wrapped, unhealthy, and expensive options. If you do this week after week, it can cost you hundreds. This includes bringing hungry kids to the store who beg for treats off the shelves. Feed the kids and yourself before you go so you can grab what you need and get out without spending more than you planned.
2. Use a grocery pickup service (cheap or free)
Using a grocery pickup service is how I’ve been able to almost completely eliminate impulse purchases when shopping for groceries. I have been using Walmart Grocery pickup since 2017, and for a reason. I love this service so much. Not only is it free, the app is incredibly user friendly and easy to use. Plus, the customer service is top notch (like Target and Chick-Fil-A status) when picking up your groceries. If you have any issues with your products, refunds are fast and easy. If you don’t have a Walmart Grocery Pickup near you, most other grocery stores now have a pickup service available, though they sometimes charge a small fee of around $5 and their apps aren’t always as user friendly. However, once you get used to it it’s worth it, and for $5 it’s still a pretty good deal. Click here to get $10 off your first order with Walmart Grocery Pickup.
3. Plan out all your meals before you shop
In order to eat up all the food you buy and make sure you have the right ingredients on hand to make a nutritious and filling meals at home for your family, you have to plan out your meals for the week before you shop. I do it on my phone! I open the notes app, write down 5-6 meal ideas for the week, add all the ingredients needed to my grocery list, and I’m done. You can read more about how I meal plan here. I also plan out my meals by month now, and have a free calendar I send out every month with dinner ideas.
4. Get money back on your groceries through cash back apps
You can even stack these apps and use them all on one shopping trip! You are already buying the food, you might as well see if you can get any cash back. My favorites are:
Ibotta – use this before shopping, if you have time
Fetch Rewards (use my code “3DKNH” for 2,000 bonus points or $2 when you scan your first receipt) – Use this after shopping to catch rewards on what you already bought. This is my favorite, and in my opinion the easiest app, because you don’t have to do anything except scan your receipts after you’re done shopping.
5. Shop what is in season
Especially with produce! Fruits and vegetables are always cheaper when they are in season. I like to buy frozen when an item is out of season. For example, blueberries are great in the summer when they are in season. Over the winter when they are out of season, I buy them frozen instead of fresh because the price on frozen items tends to stay the same all year long. When they are cheaper in the summer when they’re fresh, I buy those instead.
6. Make and stick to a grocery list
Never shop without a list! You’ll end up forgetting something that you needed, having to come back to the store and spend more, buying way too much just to make sure you have enough, or not having sufficient ingredients to make good meals. Make a plan and then make a grocery list every time! And then, stick to it! Only buy something that’s not on your list if it’s an emergency (like you forgot to add it to your list). If it’s just an impulse buy, say “next time” to it and add it to your list for next week.
7. Buy generic brands when you can
I’m an occasional brand snob because I like to get the maximum satisfaction out of everything I eat and sometimes I think the brand names taste better. However I always test out the generic brands to see if they are good, and I always buy generic brands when I can’t tell a difference in taste or if I know it’s just the same product as the name brand but packaged differently. Give generic brands a chance!
8. Set a budget for yourself
You should always set a budget for your groceries every month and know the dollar range your “checkout” must be within. First, set a monthly grocery budget for yourself. I recommend taking the average of your last 3 months and cutting it back by 10-15%. Then, divide that amount by the number of times you’re going to go shopping in a month to figure out how much you can spend on each shopping trip. For example, my grocery budget is $600/mo. I usually shop 4x a month. So I know I have to spend under $150 on each shopping trip. I usually shoot for $130 each trip so I can stock up on some bigger things at the beginning of the month, and make room for those odds and ends shopping trips that come up throughout the month. Know your target spend range and try to stay within it.
9. Reward yourself for staying in budget
This is a fun little hack if you really need something to push you. Find the average you’ve spent on groceries in the last 3 months. Take that number and cut it back by 10-15%. Set that amount for your monthly grocery budget. Any money you don’t spend on groceries, you get to spend on yourself! Yes, treat yourself, no questions asked! The trick is not to cheat by just setting an arbitrary higher grocery budget. You have to add up the last 3 months of grocery spending, find the average, and reduce that by 10-15% so you’re still spending less than normal. With this hack, you are tricking yourself into practicing the meal planning, less food waste, and better shopping habits you need to learn by making it more fun and incentivizing yourself with a treat!
10. Use cash envelopes and pay with cash
Paying with cash has been shown to cause you to spend less money. If you shop in-store, bring cash along with you and force yourself to stay in budget by only spending the cash you have! Many budgeters swear by cash envelopes.
11. Eat less meat
Meat is expensive and can really ding the grocery budget. Try sticking to less expensive meats like chicken thighs, chicken breasts, whole chickens, ground beef, ground turkey, and so on. You don’t have to cut out meat, but consider using ½ the meat your recipe calls for, or having a Meatless Monday! For example, when I make spaghetti sauce, I like to use less meat than the recipe calls for, or add in a lot more red sauce to stretch the meat further.
12. Buy fewer prepackaged meals and individually wrapped snacks
Prepackaged meals cost more than making dinners from scratch. Though they can be a huge time saver, making most of your meals homemade is the real trick to spending less on groceries. Individually wrapped snacks are also much more expensive than buying the same snacks in a larger package. You’ll save hundreds of dollars per year by packaging the snacks yourself instead of buying them prepackaged and paying for convenience. This includes kids snacks like pretzels, cookies, crackers, chips, and drinks like juice boxes and soda. If you’re a really busy family and need some convenience items to keep functioning, check out my list of 13 Affordable Pre-made Dinners from the Grocery Store for my favorite budget-friendly options.
13. Shop at more affordable stores
Try to not be too loyal to one store! Give different stores in your area a chance and explore a little bit to see if you can find great deals at a different store. We like to hit up a local meat market for good deals on bulk meats that we can then package up and freeze for later use. Aldi is a fan favorite of the budgeting community, but it’s not available everywhere. Your area may have a budget-friendly equivalent so do a little Google search to see what’s out there!
14. Stock up on your favorites when they are on sale
Browse the sale ads at your favorite stores or just take note when you’re out shopping. If you see something that your family regularly uses and loves on sale, stock up!
15. Buy your favorite items in bulk
There are many stores that sell bulk items like Costco and Sam’s Club, or even WinCo! Buy items in bulk that are easy to store long term like meats and breads you can freeze, crackers and snacks that keep in the pantry for months, and pantry basics like flour and sugar. Steer clear of buying anything in bulk that can easily go to waste like bags of salad that turn into green mush in your fridge.
16. Look at the cost per unit when comparing product prices
When you’re comparing two or three different products at the store for price, you have to look at the price per unit of measurement instead of just the overall price. Most stores put the price per unit right on the price label so you can quickly tell which item is cheapest per ounce or pound. For example, if you’re comparing Cinnamon Toast Crunch $2.98 to Cinnamon Toasters $5.98, consider the size of each package compared to the price.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch $2.98 for 12oz = $.25 per oz
Cinnamon Toasters $5.98 for 37oz = $.16 per oz
You get way more bang for your buck with the Cinnamon Toasters! In fact, they cost 36% less. Imagine doing that consistently across the board with every item you bought. In theory, you could cut your grocery budget by 36%!
17. Drink water instead of soda, juice, and other beverages
These drinks are not healthy and the costs can really add up! I recommend cutting back on all extra beverages if you’re trying to cut back on grocery spending. You could be spending hundreds of dollars every month or every year on beverages that are not at all necessary for health and survival. My personal opinion is that it’s best to purchase these drinks occasionally as a special treat, not make them a regular expense that you have to purchase a week after week because your family relies on them. Get your family used to drinking water because it is the cheapest and most nutritious beverage. Also, if you’re regularly buying bottled water, consider a water filtration system you can put in your fridge to save hundreds of dollars over time. It’s better for the environment and saves a lot of cash.
18. Reconsider whether you really need a club membership
Club stores like Costco and Sam’s Club are well known for having good prices on bulk items, and just great quality all around. However, I find that even though the price per lb might be great on everything, I just spend too darn much when I shop at club stores. The monthly stock up trip seems to throw off my food budget for the month and it’s hard to recover from. I do occasionally shop at Sam’s Club because I like their products, but I am extremely careful and go in with a list, make a budget, and stick to it. Also, make sure you shop frequently enough to pay for your membership cost and still save additional money on top of that to make it a good move for your budget.
19. Waste less food
If you’re not on team #zerofoodwaste yet, you should be! Throwing away uneaten, rotten food from your fridge is like throwing away your precious hard-earned dollars. Make an effort to waste less food and you will definitely save money on your groceries! One of my favorite ways to waste less food is to have a leftover night once a week and eat up everything in the fridge. It’s also a great idea to throw little bits of uneaten vegetables and vegetable ends into a Ziplock in the freezer and use it to make vegetable stock when the bag is full! Also, only buy what you know you’re going to eat. Don’t buy the giant bag of kale if you know it’s going to sit in your fridge and turn into green soup! Buy the small bag and waste less.
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