Assuming you don't eat out 24/7 (which would be extremely expensive), finding ways to save money on groceries is a great way to lower your overall household expenses.
Because for most of us, groceries take up a decent chunk of our monthly costs.
In this article, I'll break down the grocery shopping saving tips into three steps. I'll show you what to do:
- Before you go grocery shopping
- While you're at the grocery store; and
- Once you get home from the grocery store
Before You Go Grocery Shopping
Ok, you're getting ready to go load up on groceries. Follow these tips before you leave for the store!
1. Organize Your Kitchen
Organizing the kitchen is never a fun task, but a messy kitchen makes grocery planning a lot more difficult (and potential more expensive).
Why? Three reasons:
- You may find that you don't even need to go grocery shopping yet because you have enough food to last a few more days.
- If you need to go grocery shopping, you'll be easily able to see what you need and what you already have. This will prevent potential waste.
- It's easier and faster to put away groceries when you've got a system.
2. Use What You Have
According to a study from Penn State, the average U.S. household wastes around a third of the food they purchase every year.
That's thousands of dollars thrown in the garbage.
Once you've organized your kitchen (read: previous tip), it should be easy for you to take inventory of what you have an what's about to expire. With that info, head over to supercook.com, insert your ingredients, and it will give you a ton of recipe options based on what you have.
Now it's time to make a plan…
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3. Plan Your Meals
Having a plan for what you're going to eat throughout the week is another great way to reduce waste. It'll also cut down the awful “What am I going to make tonight?” dilemma from being a daily occurrence to a being a weekly or bi-weekly occurrence, which is a lot better.
Now, you have a couple of options here:
First, you could come up with a meal plan yourself. I personally like to just find recipes I enjoy and basically cycle through them. I don't mind eating the same things over and over again.
But, if that's not your style and you still want something easy:
You might like something like the $5 Meal Plan. For only $5 a month (2-week free trial for a limited time here), you'll get a grocery list and meal plan sent to you every week (it's customizable too).
Also, the meals cost $2 per person or LESS which is pretty much unbeatable.
4. Make a List
Whenever I go to the grocery store without a list, I wander around the aisles hoping that what I need will just appear in front of me. Sometimes this works, but most of the time I end up buying things I don't need, wasting time, and then getting home and realizing I forgot several things I did need.
Don't be like me.
Plan out your grocery shops by making a grocery list. This will save you time spent in the grocery store and money spent on food you don't need.
If you're part of the $5 Meal Plan, you'll get a grocery list sent to you every week, so this will be easy peasy.
Whatever you do, once you make a list, stick to it. It's not going to help you save money if you end up buying a bunch of junk that you don't need anyway.
5. Sort Your List By Section and Order
The first step to this is knowing your grocery stores layout. This will come with time. But even if you don't know it super well yet, you can still follow this tip.
When creating your grocery list, order the items on it into:
- Order of shopping
- Sections of the store
For example, if the first thing you see when walking into your grocery store is the produce section, all your produce items should be at the top of your list, grouped together.
This will make your shopping a lot more efficient and easy. Time saved is money saved.
Tip: I like to use an app called OurGroceries to store my grocery list because I can easily sort it before I go shopping (sorting a paper list is a bit harder).
6. Check the Flyers and Comparison Shop
Grocery flyers are handy for seeing what's currently on sale at the stores you plan on visiting. They can also give you an idea of whether it's better to shop at one store over another.
As you browse the flyers, try and see if you can plan certain meals for the week around what's currently on sale.
Tip: I use an app called Reebee to get all the grocery store flyers I need. Super easy to use.
7. Add Your Cashback Offers
Now that you've made your list and checked it twice, it's time to find some additional savings.
There are several awesome apps you can use to earn cashback on groceries, including:
- iBotta ($5 bonus after uploading your first receipt)
- Checkout 51
- P&G Good Everyday (good for P&G purchases)
- Fetch Rewards
Tip: Want to stack your savings even more? Check out these other apps that give cashback for receipts.
Whichever app(s) you end up using, be sure to check them before you shop. You may find offers for products that are already on your list, or that you can incorporate into your meal plan.
8. Check the Deals, Plan the Meals
I've already mentioned this tip throughout some of the grocery savings tips above, but it's worth saying again:
Try to plan your meals around the deals you find through flyers or cashback apps.
For example, whenever I find beef on sale, it's taco night.
9. Get a Loyalty Card Storage App
This is another one that's more of a time-saving tip than a tip for saving money on groceries, but hey, time is money.
By downloading an app to store your loyalty cards, you don't have to worry about carrying them around (or worse, forgetting to bring them).
And if you're not already a part of your go-to grocery store(s) loyalty program, consider looking into them. Many of these programs will give you immediate discounts or points that you can rack up and use for future savings.
10. Fight the Urge to Get Delivery
Grocery delivery services are very convenient and definitely have their place, but using them all the time when you don't really need to is going to cost you. You've got to pay the delivery fees, leave a tip, and some of these apps will occasionally mark up the price of products, costing you even more.
Unless you're making a lot of money, the time savings probably aren't worth it.
Oh, and there's also the fact that grocery delivery people don't always pick the right products, which can either cost you more money or just be annoying.
11. Eat Something (Don't Shop Hungry)
Have you ever gone shopping on an empty stomach and bought every delicious looking thing you could find? I sure have (hello, M&M cookies).
This is fun in the moment, but it's not going to help you save money on groceries.
A simple but effective grocery saving tip is to eat something BEFORE you go, then you won't be tempted to impulse buy those delicious looking snacks.
12. Consider Shopping At Night
Grocery stores will often mark down products that are near the end of their shelf life, and they usually do this toward the end of the day. For example, when I used to work at Superstore, we'd mark down all close-to-expiry items (30% off) around 5 PM.
Most of these products were still completely good to eat or freeze for later.
If you want to increase your chances of finding these deals, shop at night. Many of them get swooped up if you wait too long.
While You're At The Grocery Store
Nice, the planning stage is done and you're ready to hit the stores. Follow these tips to make your grocery shopping trip a great success.
13. Lone Wolf It
When you go shopping with your kids or significant other, you're more likely to buy items that aren't on your grocery list.
It'll be less fun, but go solo to save money and time.
14. Shop With Cash
Studies have shown that when you use a credit card, you're more likely to impulse buy AND buy less healthy food at the grocery store.
By going to the grocery store with the exact amount of cash in your pocket that you're happy with spending, you'll be much less likely to impulse buy because you simply can't afford to. You'll also be more likely to buy more healthy food because it feels a lot better handing over cash for stuff that's good for you, like fruits and veggies, then stuff that's bad for you, like ice cream and Twinkies.
If you've already established your budget, you should know exactly how much cash you can take out for groceries each month. (And if you don't already have one, check out this guide on starting a budget.)
15. Use Coupons
Coupons have been around since, well, a long ass time. And they're still a great way to save money.
Also, check out CouponSurfer for more free printable coupons, they've got a section just for groceries.
16. Use a Calculator
You don't have to bring out your fancy graphing calculator from high school for this, don't be silly.
All you need is that handy calculator app on your phone. All you're going to do with it is keep a tab on how much all your groceries are going to cost as you shop.
This way, if you have a grocery budget you can be sure you won't go over it.
If you're handy with numbers you can also just keep a tally in your head.
Whichever way you do it, keeping that final cost number in mind will:
- Make you think a bit more about what you're buying; and
- Ensure that you're not surprised by the bill when it comes time to pay up.
17. Avoid Certain Aisles
There are some aisles that I just try to avoid while I'm shopping (like the cookie aisle) because I'm always tempted to buy something I don't need when I go down them. By avoiding these aisles, you avoid unplanned purchases, save time, and save money by sticking to your shopping list.
18. Buy Produce That's In Season
Around a quarter of your grocery budget should be spent on fresh fruits and vegetables. This is good for your health, but it can be hard on your wallet if you're not smart about what you buy.
Try to stick to what's in season because it'll be a lot cheaper. You can always stock up and freeze things like strawberries.
19. Check Expiry Dates
Too many times have I bought something from the grocery store forgetting to check the expiry date, and gotten home only to find out it expires the next day.
Check the products near the back of the shelves because they're usually the freshest.
20. Buy No-Name or Store Brand
“Ew, no-name brand? Gross.”
Not so fast.
Yeah, some no-name brand or store brand products don't taste as good as the real deal. However, some are practically identical to the real brand, and they're cheaper. If you're trying to save money on groceries, give the no-name and store brands a chance.
21. Look High and Low
Grocery stores typically place the most expensive items on the middle shelves because it's where most people look. Don't fall for their tricks!
Check the top and bottom shelves too because they're lonely, dusty, and they could save you money.
22. Find The Best Place to Grocery Shop
Pick 10-15 items that you buy most often (e.g., apples, chicken breast, eggs, milk) and put them on a list. Here's a free printable that should help.
As you do your next grocery shops, try to visit different stores in your area and write down the prices of these everyday items. You may find that you could save more money by going to a different store.
For example, if each of your bi-weekly shops usually cost you $150 but a new store could lower that to $125, you'd be saving $600 a year.
This task could take a few hours, which may seem like a long time, but it pays off in the long run.
23. Buy In Bulk
You can save a lot of money on groceries by buying certain things in bulk — especially during promos and sales.
If you buy household goods at the grocery store (e.g., toilet paper, toothpaste, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent) try to buy these products in bulk (esp. when they're on sale) because they won't go bad and it will be cheaper and time-saving.
For food, just remember to have a plan on how/where you're going to store whatever you buy. Also, make sure you only buy what you can finish.
Tip: If buying in bulk is too expensive or you don't have the storage space, split the amount with a friend.
Helpful post: 9 Foods To Buy In Bulk To Save Money
24. Price Match
You may not know it, but lot's of grocery stores offer price matching programs. That means they'll match prices if you can prove another store is selling the same item for cheaper.
For example, Walmart offers a price match policy if you find a lower price from an online retailer on an identical, in-stock product. If you can search flyers and online stores to find cheaper prices, price matching is a great way to save money on groceries.
You'll also save gas and time because you won't be driving around to different grocery stores to get better prices.
25. Put Something Back
Right before you get to the register, look in your cart and see if there's anything you can put back. If you added something to your cart on impulse earlier in your shop, you might have a clearer head now and realize you don't need it.
When You Get Home From Grocery Shopping
Phew. Shopping is done. Time to put the groceries away and lock in any remaining savings.
26. Scan Those Receipts
It's also not a bad idea to save digital images of the receipts for yourself (I use Evernote for this). You can then use these records to see what certain products have cost you in the past so you can comparison shop at different stores and during different seasons.
27. Store Food Properly
If you followed tip #1 and organized your kitchen, this will be easy because you'll already know where everything needs to go.
If you're unsure whether something should be in the pantry or the fridge, or you want to know how long something will last in the freezer, check out food storage 101 for a quick guide.
28. Watch for Price Drops
Just like how some grocery stores offer price matching, some also offer a price drop policy.
What this means is that if you buy something for $20 and then a week later it's selling for $10, you can go back to the store and get a refund for the difference (in this case, $10).
29. Portion Your Snacks
Instead of grabbing an entire bag of chips and eating directly out of it, grab a bowl and portion a small amount for the snack sesh. This will not only prevent you from overeating (I've cleaned off many bags of chips in one sitting in my life, and I never feel good afterward) but it'll also save you money on future groceries as you'll greatly extend the lifespan of your snacks.
30. Reuse the Scraps
Certain kitchen scraps can be regrown or repurposed for extra savings and less waste.
- Green onion stalks can be put in water or planted and regrown a few times. (more ideas)
- Vegetable scraps can be stored frozen and used later to create vegetable stock. (more ideas)
In the end, groceries are going to inevitably take up a large chunk of your budget. But, if you follow the tips in this article and cook and eat at home more often, you’ll be doing more than most to save money, and it will make a big impact.
If you were to only follow one rule from this post:
Have a plan. Without one you're going to waste time wandering down every aisle, you're going to be more likely to make impulse buys that are going to rot in your fridge later on, or you're going to be buying processed TV dinners that are awful for you and your wallet.
Tip: Not sure what to cook? Check out the $5 Meal Plan.