At A Glance – Groceries can be a real budget buster. Here are 15 ways to save money on your groceries.
Food is one of the essentials of life. We have to eat. And food is considered one of the BIG 3 in any budget. Those three are Housing, Transportation, and Food.
Groceries can be one of your largest monthly expenses, so it’s important to save money with every frugal tip you can find.
15 Money-Saving Tips For Groceries
1. Make A Plan And A List…Then Stick To It
This is my top tip to save money on your groceries. Make a meal plan and grocery list before you leave the house. When you get to the store, stick to the list. Don’t give yourself any room for budget-breaking surprises. If you go shopping as a family, let your kids help plan the meals and find the items (it’s like a grocery store scavenger hunt!). It’s much easier to stay on budget when you’re shopping with a plan and working as a team.
2. Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
I’m sure you’ve heard this before and it’s true. We do crazy things when we’re hungry. “Please step away from the family-size pack of Little Debbies!” For me, it’s the junk food at the check-out. If I’m hungry, I feel I need to reward myself with a bag of chips or a candy bar.
So grocery shop on a full stomach!
3. Look In The Pantry First
This is an overlooked tactic, but a great one to help save money on your groceries. Challenge yourself to check through your pantry and fridge to see what meals you can put together with what you already have. Better yet, set up a 30-day challenge to use what’s in your pantry and only buy the essentials like milk and produce. You probably have items you’ve forgotten were there or are about to expire.
4. Batch Cook And Cook Ahead
This can save you time and money! Buy ingredients for your favorite recipes in bulk when you find them on sale. Take a Saturday, batch cook, and freeze the meals to use in the next few weeks. Or make freezer bags with your raw ingredients to pop in the crockpot or Instant Pot. You can find recipes at The Family Freezer and other websites for freeze-ahead meals. Or just use your family’s favorite dishes. Most meals will freeze for later use.
Examples of what I batch cook and freeze are Spaghetti sauce (using the large $3.00 can of tomato sauce from Sam’s), any type of Mexican casserole, Chili, Tortilla or Vegetable soup, Taco meat, Chicken Pot Pie, and Meatloaf.
Be sure to research the proper containers and methods to freeze food for the best results. Here is the Taste of Home Guide to freezing food.
Pro Tip: When you cook a casserole to freeze for later, line the pan with foil and cook according to directions. Then freeze the casserole in the pan. When frozen solid, remove the food and wrap it well for freezer storage. Then you get your pan back! When you are ready to reheat, pop it back in the pan it was originally cooked in.
5. Simplify Dinners
Dinner is your most expensive meal of the day. Look at how you can simplify to cut costs (and time). You don’t need a three-course meal every day. Try sandwiches, omelets, or a big salad a few times a week. Kids think breakfast for dinner is cool and eggs are cheap. One of my favorite dinners as a kid was bacon and eggs with biscuits. You can try frittatas or quiches for something a little fancier. I chop enough veggies for several salads and store them in plastic containers. That way I can make a salad for dinner in minutes.
6. Use Your Calculator While You Shop
If you keep a running tally of how much money is in your cart, you’ll save yourself from any surprises when you get up to the checkout line. Pull out the calculator on your phone and keep track of everything you’re putting in your cart. This might make you stop and ask yourself if you really need that fancy $5 sparkling water that isn’t on sale?
7. Buy In Bulk – Or Not
Many items are cheaper if you buy them in bulk. Especially at a big box store like Sam’s or Costco. The key to shopping at these stores is to know your unit price. Is the 35-roll pack of toilet paper really cheaper than the 12-roll pack at the grocery store? Maybe, maybe not. You need to know your unit price at both stores to decide.
Also, don’t assume the larger container of an item is cheaper without checking the unit price. The price per ounce on the smaller box of cereal is sometimes cheaper than the larger one sitting next to it. Use the calculator on your phone or check the per ounce price on the shelf sticker. (Beware, I’ve found the stickers aren’t always correct.)
Pro Tip: When freezing items bought in bulk, freeze them as flat as possible. They will thaw in a shorter time and you can remove individual pieces without thawing the whole container. For example, I split up a large package of ground turkey into one-pound portions and freeze in ziplocks. Flatten the meat and squeeze out the air. Then you have a flat package to stack in the freezer. Other items like fruit or pork chops can be pulled apart while still frozen so you don’t thaw the whole ziplock bag full.
8. Know When To Shop
Many grocery stores start the new ads on Wednesdays and some stores will honor both last week’s and this week’s prices on Wednesdays. Check if your store does this.
Time of day plays a big role with bargains too. The early bird gets to hit the clearance shelves first! Find the section in your grocery store where the clearance items are. There may be separate clearance areas for produce, meat, and non-perishables. Find out what time of day those items are put on the clearance shelves.
9. Use Your Leftovers!
I’ve heard many people say “My family won’t eat leftovers.” I’m sorry, but that’s just silly. I can’t imaging cooking a new meal from scratch every day! OK, enough of my rant.
Even now that there are just two of us at home, I still cook large batches or full casseroles and either freeze the leftovers for another day or for lunches. Buy containers that will hold individual servings and take your lunch to work. BIG SAVINGS. Freeze leftovers servings of a casserole for another meal. (Be sure NOT to refreeze a meal that has already been frozen and thawed once.)
10. Use Cash
I know many people use credit cards for the rewards points, but you can save money by using cash at the grocery store. When you buy with a credit or debit card you don’t feel the pain of the purchase. You feel the emotional consequences of handing over a Ben Franklin or two! It makes you think about what you have in your cart!
11. Use Curbside Pickup
This can save you time and money. Most stores are not charging an extra fee for curbside pickup. Order your groceries online from home and pick them up at your convenience. You will not be tempted to “graze” through the store and buy budget-breaking items, plus you can check your pantry as you order.
This is a great way for moms of young kids to shop without losing your mind or your patience!
12. Shop In Season
Fruits and veggies are available year-round in our grocery stores, but we pay a premium to buy out-of-season items. Strawberries can be twice the price in the winter or oranges and apples don’t taste so great right before the new crop comes in. Buy in season for the best deals.
13. Try Different Grocery Stores
I know that spending hours going to different stores is not your idea of a good time! But if it’s possible, shop different stores. When I lived in Texas, I had Kroger, HEB, Sprouts, Walmart, and Aldi within minutes. I learned who had the best price on what kinds of items. I would use the ads to plan which stores to shop for that week’s groceries. Time may not allow you to do this on a regular basis, but try it a few times until you learn the layout and items stocked in each store.
14. Learn The Sales Cycles
Most true grocery stores run their ads in cycles. Six, nine, or 12-week cycles. Find out if your store does this and plan your menus accordingly. If you know that frozen veggies will be on sale this week, you can plan to make a few batches of soup or pot pie for the freezer.
Nope, it’s not what you think.
It’s time to bring your own bag to the grocery store. Lots of stores will give you a discount on your total grocery bill just for bringing in a reusable bag. How easy is that? Your savings will usually run somewhere between 5 and 10 cents per bag. Keep some reusable bags in your car so you don’t forget them at home.
What Our Readers Say
“Eat simple, full meals, and no snacks. Snacks will blow up your grocery budget like Violet Beauregard.” – Andrew
“Make a list!” – Angannette
“Don’t go to the store when you’re hungry. You’ll buy everything. Also. Don’t buy perishables in bulk.” – Stephen
Key Takeaway – Don’t let food bust your budget. You can save money on your groceries by being intentional and doing a little planning.
Assignment – Pick one of these tips and use it on your next trip to the grocery store. Then add another with each shopping trip until they are your new normal. Keep track of your savings just for fun!
Coming Soon – The tax advantage of an HSA. Are you getting all you can from yours?