Looking for ways to save money on groceries?
Groceries is one budget category that can get out of control very quickly. However, groceries is also an easy budget category to control, but it takes some planning, skill, and organization.
Personally, if I don’t make a shopping list and plan my meals, my grocery budget is toast.
If you need to find some wiggle room in your budget, or combat the rising grocery prices, or maybe make room for your family’s growing appetites, take a look at the following list and see what changes you can make to reduce what you’re spending on groceries…and still eat really well!
This list is a massive round up of my best tips that I have shared over the years. These are strategies I use weekly to keep my grocery bill in line with our budget.
My budget has gone up over the years from when I first started blogging. In the beginning of FBS, I had an infant and a toddler and my monthly budget was $400. As my kids have grown into a teen and tween who eat as much as adults, I spend about $700/month–this includes anything I buy at the grocery store, so it includes paper and cleaning products.
Seriously, my kids claim hunger ALL.DAY.LONG. They wake up hungry, they come home from school hungry, they claim starvation right before we eat dinner, and then they are hungry again right before bedtime. It’s a constant challenge to keep them fed! 🙂 And I promise you that I do feed them–lol!
How to Save Money on Groceries
1. Menu Plan. Menu Plan. Menu Plan.
There’s a reason why menu planning is #1 on this list. When I plan a menu, my spending is generally under control. When I don’t plan, I make multiple trips to the store, eat out too often, and most certainly blow our budget. The difference between planning and not planning can be $100-$150 a month for me. That is a lot of money, so I plan our meals.
Groceries is a big budget category that you have the most control over. If you plan for your grocery trip, you should be able to stay on track. It’s those impulsive, last minute trips that seem to wreck havoc on spending.
Personally, I plan a weekly menu that’s centered around what’s already in my pantry and freezer, what’s on sale, and my family’s schedule. If we have a free evening, I’ll plan a more time intensive meal, but if it’s a crazy evening with 2 kids at two locations, I’ll plan an Instant Pot or slow cooker dinner. Also, I plan for everything–breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners.
Develop your own routine and read all about how I plan our menu weekly: How to Meal Plan: 11 Tips for Success
2. Institute a ‘Raid the Fridge’ Night
According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, a US family of 4 discards around $1500 a year on food waste. Imagine saving your family’s budget $1500 a year just by being more aware of your food waste and taking action to stop it.
Designate one night a week as “raid the fridge’ night to get rid of leftovers. Everyone’s plate might look different, but you’ll at least use up the leftovers and reduce the waste. If you don’t think the food in the fridge will be eaten before it goes bad, place leftovers in a freezer container, label, and store in the freezer. You’ll be thankful later.
3. Utilize the Freezer
The freezer can be an important tool to saving money at the grocery store and it’s not just for saving leftovers.
Ways to Use Your Freezer and Save:
With the exception of maybe pasta dishes, a lot of food can be frozen.
- Batch cooking: Buy in bulk, batch cook, and freeze in portion sizes. I do this often with grilled chicken, ground meats, waffles, pancakes, soups, and breakfast burritos.
- Freezer cooking sessions: This wildly popular cooking technique saves time and money by setting aside a time to prepare a lot of meals at once. Here’s my favorite 8 Freezer Meals.
- Raw vegetables like carrots, peppers, onions, and parsley can be shredded or chopped and bagged and stored in the freezer for future dishes. I do this regularly with vegetables and use them in soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles.
- Freeze garden and in season produce. I buy locally grown summer fruits, such as strawberries, peaches, and blueberries in the summer and freeze for the winter months. I also buy apples in bulk from a local orchard and make Homemade Sugar-Free Applesauce to eat year round.
- Bread, rolls, bagels, and other baked goods freeze really well, so when you find a great price, store in the freezer. Thaw as needed.
- Cooked chicken and veggies can be frozen and used in soups or casseroles at a later date.
- During the holidays a few years ago, Wegman’s offered 5 lb sacks of flour on sale for .99 cents. I bought the limit and stored in the freezer until I was ready to use. This also helps to prevent bugs.
4. Compare price per unit.
Generally, stores list the unit price on the sign, but to calculate: unit price = product price / size of product. Often the larger the size, the better the unit price, but it’s always good to compare.
- Heinz ketchup: $2.29/32 oz = .071/oz, vs. $3.49/64 oz = .053/oz. I’ll chose the larger size.
- ground turkey: $8.99/3 lbs = $2.99/lb vs. $3.49/1 lb = $3.49/lb. I’ll chose the larger size and divide and freeze in 1 lb portions.
- laundry detergent: $1.97/40 oz (loss leader sale) = .049/oz, vs. $9.99/100 oz = .099/oz. I’ll buy the smaller bottle, and stock up if there isn’t a limit.
NOTE: only go for the best price per unit, if the size makes sense. If I think I won’t consume the larger, but better priced product in time and freezing isn’t an option then I buy the size that makes sense.
5. Compare Store Brands vs. National Brands.
Generally the store brands are cheaper, but compare the price per unit between the two. Also, before snubbing a better priced store version of a product, try it and if you don’t like it, go back to the brand name. No harm, no foul.
I buy store brand versions of many things from butter, flour and sugar to pretzels, bread, canned tomatoes, and aluminum foil. There are a few instances where I went back to the name brand, like Heinz ketchup and yogurt, but I have found most store brand products to be high quality and tasty.
I compared the prices of some store products and the name brand counterparts of some items on my shopping list and found savings of 20% – 40%:
- Canned, diced tomatoes, 15.5 oz, store brand 59 cents vs. $1.00 for the national brand.
- Canned red kidney beans, 15.5 oz, store brand 59 cents vs. 95 cents for national brand.
- O’s cereal, 12.9 oz, store brand $1.99 vs. $2.79 for national brand.
- aluminum foil, 75 square foot, store brand $2.69 vs. $3.29 national brand.
6. Determine your Buy Price and Stock up when you find a good deal.
The ‘buy’ price is the price per unit that you are willing to spend on food. My price might be different than yours depending on location, brand loyalty, and taste differences.
Instead of a bulky price book, I use the Notes app of my phone to list my buy price for the higher priced staples, such as paper products, detergent, and meat. When I see the best price, I stock up.
For example, a typical sale for chicken breast is $1.99 a pound, so when the price dips below that I’ll stock up for the freezer.
Focus on your most expensive pantry/freezer staple items and learn the best price to stock up.
7. Use cash back apps.
It took me awhile to jump on the grocery app bandwagon. At first, they seemed more time consuming than they were worth. But I have found 4 grocery apps that I now use regularly and I have a system in place to use them efficiently. I earn cash back from almost every grocery trip and often, I can stack the app rebate with a manufacturers and/or store coupon.
My absolute favorite cash back grocery app is Ibotta. Use this Ibotta referral link and you might receive a new member bonus.
From my complete review and strategy, read: Earn Cash Back from these 4 Simple Grocery Apps.
8. Look for grocery clearance.
This is my most favorite way to save money on groceries. Many stores will offer deep discounts on food that is near the sell by date or just not selling well. This food could be marked as “manager’s special” or with bold clearance stickers.
Over the years, I have found produce, dry foods, cleaning products, paper goods, cereal, baked goods, and meat marked down 40% to 75% off.
Scared of marked down meat? I have been buying marked down meat for many years and have never had a problem. Find out how I scored 16 lbs of meat and paid just $17.20.
I’ve received so many questions over the years that I wrote a post about everything you need to know about marked down meat.
Also, after holiday sales are a great time to find clearance on every day items, such as cleaning supplies, paper products, foods.
9. Stock Up on Loss Leaders
What is a loss leader? It is a rock bottom price that stores promote to lure you into the store. They’re hoping once you’re in the store that you’ll buy more than just those loss leaders.
I’ve found some great deals in the past on many products that are either staples in my home or just plain necessities. I look forward to checking out the stores’ sales flyers just to see the deals. It’s like Christmas morning surprises. Some weeks are better than others, but there is usually one or two amazing deals that I can take advantage of.
For example, Purex (50 oz) detergent was recently promoted at $1.77 with a limit of 2. I was able to pair the deal with a $1.50/2 online printable coupon and the final price was $1.02 each.
Some other loss leaders I’ve found lately:
- 16 oz box Barilla pasta: 67 cents, limit 6
- (28 oz) Furmano’s canned tomatoes: 67 cents, limit 6
- Annie’s boxed Macaroni & Cheese: 77 cents, limit 6
- Dole’s bagged salad: 99 cents
- 18 count eggs: $1.77
- Scott 12 mega rolls of toilet tissue: $4.99 paired with a $1 Sunday coupon, final price $3.99.
Some tips to keep in mind regarding loss leaders:
- Check the sales flyers of EVERY grocery store in your area. Some bargains are worth an extra trip.
- Look for printable coupons or Sunday coupons to stack with the rock bottom price.
- Make a list and stick to it, so you don’t buy other things when you go in the store, of course this is contrary to what the store would like you to do.
- If the loss leader is something that you would normally buy, buy the limit, but if you wouldn’t normally buy the product, then you should probably walk away.
10. Have emergency back-up meals in the freezer or pantry.
For those crazy days and evenings when life is go-go-go, and the thought of preparing a dinner is daunting. Or maybe, you totally forgot to thaw the meat you had planned. Avoid impulsive trips to the store or the drive thru, and have a back up meal ready to go. Use the Cook Once, Eat Twice method to stock your freezer ahead of time with easy to thaw meals.
Back up meal ideas:
- Chicken & Black Bean Enchiladas – Double the recipe. This link has freezer instructions.
- 8 Freezer Meals
- Make double batches of your favorite homemade chili or soup and freeze the extra portion. Soup is easy to thaw in the microwave and I serve it with some fruit and grilled cheese sandwiches.
- I keep at least one frozen pizza in the freezer just for this occasion—bought on sale, of course!!
11. Shop at Discount and Outlet Stores
Typically, I am not a big fan of shopping at multiple stores, but it might be worth a visit to your local discount outlets or “dent & bent” stores.
There is a local bread/bakery outlet in my town that sells English Muffins, sandwich thins, flat bread, kaiser rolls, hamburger rolls, hot dog rolls, tortillas, baked goods, snack foods and more at prices of 50% off or more off the grocery store price. The brand name English muffins that sell for $3 at a regular grocery store are discounted at the outlet for $1.
The only caveat is that you need to check the expiration date. I have noticed the expiration date on the bread is usually within a few days, so I take the loaves home and put them in our freezer right away. I just take out what I need and I have never had a problem.
Read all about my Bread Outlet Bargains.
12. 10 Smart Tips to Save Money on Meat
There are many other ways to save on meat besides buying it on clearance. Meat can be one of the largest grocery purchases, but with these ten smart tips on how to save money on meat, you can have your meat and eat it too!
13. Avoid disposable products.
In an effort over the years, to save money at the grocery store and reduce our waste, we’ve found reusable alternatives to many disposable products, such as paper towels, paper napkins, storage containers, and bags. With those items not on my grocery list, I’ve made more room in my grocery budget for actual food.
It’s not hard to make the switch to reusable alternatives, and you don’t have to run out and buy a bunch of stuff. You might already own these alternatives.
14. Stock up on Seasonal Foods/Meats
The holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and summer holidays are a fantastic time to stock up on seasonal foods. At Thanksgiving, Turkeys can be as low as 29 cents a pound, and my favorite store will offer a free turkey if you spend a certain amount of money within a time period. It’s not hard to spend $400 in a 4-5 week time frame, so I earn a free turkey every year. Baking products and hams will be on sale for Christmas and Easter.
I’ve found great bargains on sausages around St. Patrick’s Day and you’ll find some of the best deals on hamburgers, hot dogs, rolls, ice cream, and other picnic foods around the summer holidays. If you have freezer space, stock up.
15. Save Big on Fresh Produce
It’s very important to us to include fresh produce in our everyday diet. There are 4 main ways I save big on fresh produce: Join a CSA. Buy in season produce. Start a Garden. And look for produce clearance (see #8).
Not sure what a CSA is? A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership is a commitment between local farmer/s and community members who pay the farmer for a seasonal membership. Each week the member receives a pre-purchased and pre-determined amount of produce and the farmer receives upfront money to run their operation. Some CSAs might require the members to volunteer hours on the farm in return for the produce. This is a fantastic way to buy locally grown organic produce directly from the farmer and usually at prices below what you’ll find at a grocery store.
In season produce: Early spring is asparagus season in the northeast where I live. When the price for asparagus goes down to $1.49 a pound or even 99 cents a pound, we eat a lot of it. During the winter the price is usually $2.99/lb, so I don’t buy it and honestly, the taste isn’t quite as good in the winter.
After asparagus season comes strawberry season, which besides Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. 😉 There is nothing better than local, fresh, ripe strawberries picked right off the vine at a U-Pick farm for $1.30 a pound vs. $3.99/lb whitish strawberries in the winter. That price makes a trip to the U-Pick farm worth it, because berries freeze well.
After strawberry season, we head in to high summer vegetable season and, well, you get the point by now…
Farm stands, U-Pick farms, and even your own garden are great sources for locally grown, in season produce at reasonable prices.
16. Save Big on Organic Foods
When it comes to organic food, everyone’s line in the sand is different. I have friends who are adamant about eating only organic food and I have friends where eating organic is not a priority. We fall somewhere in between.
No one likes the thought of pesticides, synthetic hormones, and antibiotics in our food, but the price of organic prohibits many from buying a completely 100% organic. Unfortunately, these high prices are a result of strict guidelines for foods to be labeled organic.
I work weekly to adhere to our grocery budget, so I am always looking for ways to save money on organic food. It is possible to buy organic foods even on a strict grocery budget and here are my best 6 tips for saving money on organic food.
17. Use Pinterest
Pinterest is a gold mine for saving money at the grocery store. I refer to my Pinterest boards on a weekly basis when I’m creating my menu. Read my strategy for how I use Pinterest to Save Money at the Grocery Store.
18. Coupons: To Clip or Not to Clip
Coupons are an easy way to reduce your grocery bill. Unfortunately, they get a bad rap at times, because people think hours are needed to save real money and be worth their time.
The good news is that coupons are very easy to find and you don’t need to spend loads of time clipping them to slash your grocery spending. I average about $5 in coupons on a typical trip to the grocery store.
Related Reading: 9 Easy Places to Find Grocery Coupons
19. Cut out the junk food and save some dough.
I adore root beer, but I rarely buy it. In fact, besides coffee, tea bags, and milk, I rarely buy any drinks, because we drink mostly tap water to quench our thirst.
I also love junk food and Cool Ranch Doritos scream at me in the store, but I really try not cave in.
For two reasons: I can’t stop at just one and if it doesn’t contribute to the nutrition of our family, I try to avoid it. I am not a purist though, I do splurge on occasion, but we try to limit the non-necessities. By eating (and putting your dollars towards) whole, real foods, you’ll consume nutrient dense calories, instead of empty calories that will cause you to be hungry in a short period of time.
Typically I do most of my grocery shopping at just one store, GIANT Foods of Pa, so I am very familiar with how the store is set up. I also respect that they hire adults with special needs, one of them being a high school classmate, and therefore, I like to support GIANT with my business.
I also shop at ALDI. There’s a store nearby and the prices are extremely competitive. If you’re an ALDI shopper too, check out my 7 ALDI Dinner Ideas.
It takes work and planning for me to save money at the grocery store, but hopefully this list will give you the tools you need to lower your bill too.
How often do you go to the grocery store?
By following these tips, do you think you can reduce your grocery spending? Let us know in the comments.