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It doesn’t matter if you live to eat or eat to live, the cost of food eats up a big chunk of your monthly budget. Finding ways to save money on your groceries at the grocery store will definitely make a difference and help you save up faster for your dream vacation.
Whether you’re grocery shopping on a tight budget or simply looking for easy ways to save on food, we have the best grocery shopping tips to help you keep your grocery bills down.
Learn how to save money every week and put that money to work – pay off debt, build your emergency fund or save for your retirement.
How to save money on groceries
Before you read the list, be sure to bookmark or pin this post about the best ways to save money at your local grocery store this weekend.
1. Create a food budget that works
Be honest with yourself. Are you overbuying groceries?
You won’t know if you’re spending too much money on food, or entertainment for that matter unless you have a grocery budget to keep you honest.
It would be disastrous to go on a big trip without planning which places to visit, which restaurants you must try and which hotel or Airbnb to stay at.
So why be reckless with your hard-earned money by not having a plan on how to spend it.
Think of your groceries budget as your itinerary. It’s a guide on how to spend your money.
Sometimes you spend more; sometimes you spend less than planned. It’s all good – don’t stress too much about it. It’s a “guide.”
Be realistic with yourself when creating your food budget.
Don’t give yourself too much or too little room to spend on groceries. Having too big of a budget makes the budget meaningless and an over-restrictive budget will likely make you quit in days.
Start by looking at how much you spent on food in the last couple of months and use this as your baseline.
As you go through your transaction, you’ll notice things that you can cut back on to save some money.
Again, be real with yourself. Do you really need to treat yourself to that many snacks every week?
2. Plan your meals and stick to it
As Benjamin Franklin puts it, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Spend 15-25 minutes on the weekends to plan your meals for the week. This is one of the best grocery shopping tips that is often overlooked.
You will save time and feel less frustrated thinking about what to make after a long day of work. Who’s got time for that?
Once you have your meals planned for the week, you will need to execute it.
Before you drive off to the grocery store, you need to follow this important step.
Make a grocery list and stick to it!
A simple grocery list like this grocery shopping printable will help you steer clear of impulsive spending – doesn’t matter if that item is on sale or not. Stick to the plan!
With planning ahead, you can cut back on spending by buying the correct ratio of ingredients for your meals and avoid throwing away extra ingredients. Keep the extra money in your pockets!
Creating a meal plan and sticking to is the best way to save money on groceries.
If you hate meal planning because you can’t decide what to make or simply don’t have the time to plan, then you have to try the $5 Meal Plan.
For just $5 a month, you will get weekly meal plans and grocery lists sent to you. The amazing thing about the program is that the meals they come up with cost less $2-$3 per person!
We save a ton of money each month with the $5 Meal Plan because it allowed us to cook healthy meals at home instead of ordering take-out and dining out. This was a no-brainer for us.
You can try it for free for 14 days here and cancel it if you don’t like it. No questions asked.
3. Get cash back on groceries
Savvy shoppers have many techniques up their sleeves to get the best deals on their shopping carts.
And one of their favorite ways to save money on food is to get cash back on their groceries with Checkout 51.
By using Checkout 51 (absolutely FREE), you can get cash back on your everyday shopping, not just groceries.
Check out (pun intended) how many categories they have!
- Snacks & Sweets (e.g. chips, cookies)
- Daily & Eggs (e.g. milk, eggs)
- Deli & Ready Meals (e.g. sausages, deli)
- Meat & Seafood (e.g. chicken, fish)
- Beverages (e.g. smoothies, bottled drinks)
- Beer, Wine & Spirits (variety of alcohols)
- Frozen (e.g. burgers, ice-cream)
- Pantry (e.g. salad dressing, mayonnaise)
- Babies & Kids (e.g. diapers, baby wipes)
- Home (e.g. cleaning products, laundry detergent)
- Personal Care (e.g. soap, shaving cream)
- Medicine & Health (e.g. cough syrup, vitamins)
- Pets (e.g. pet food, litter box)
It’ll be very hard for you to walk out of the store without one of those items in your shopping bags.
Here’s a screenshot of my $55.10 check that’s being mailed to me! HORRAY for FREE cash!!!
Can you use coupons and still get cash back with Checkout 51? Yes! You can stack up your savings with regular coupons AND Checkout 51.
Some times, you can even double dip the savings when Checkout 51 and Ibotta (competitor) offer cash back on the same products.
Try Checkout 51 out to grab your FREE $5 sign-up bonus here!
You can also get a FREE $10 bonus from Ibotta here just by signing up today!
Related post on ways to save money: 15+ Ways To Get Free Money Today
4. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry
When you’re hungry, you think you can eat EVERYTHING in the store. 10 plates of spaghetti and meatballs suddenly seem like appetizers to you.
That’s your stomach talking, not your brain.
Don’t let you hunger take control of your thinking or else you’ll end up buying way more food than you can eat.
According to Reuters, not only will you waste money on extra groceries, you’re more likely to purchase high-calorie foods over healthy foods when you’re hungry.
Food for thought – think twice before you go grocery shopping on an empty stomach!
5. Organic food is not worth the extra cost
Everyone knows that organic food costs more than conventional food. But are we truly getting our money’s worth when buying organic?
Is organic food really better for our health?
Or is it a “trendy scam” according to this YouTube video?
I personally enjoyed watching this very informative and entertaining video! 😉
According to ZME Science, there’s actually little scientific evidence that supports the claim that organic food is more nutritional and better for our health. What scientists do know is that eating more vegetables and fruits is good for us.
This means you’re paying more money for food that is marketed as organic and not getting any added health benefits.
Keep the extra money in your wallet or use that savings to buy more vegetables. Remember, eating more vegetables and fruits is good for you!
6. Buy frozen vegetables
Many people prefer to buy fresh vegetables over frozen vegetables because they believe fresh vegetables are healthier.
However, studies show that frozen vegetables are just as nutritional as fresh vegetables because farmers pick vegetables when they are the ripest and have the most nutrients. They freeze the vegetables shortly after harvest to preserve the nutritional value and life of the crops.
The fact that frozen vegetables have a much longer shelf life makes them less expensive than fresh vegetables.
According to the USDA, a family of four throws away $444 worth of vegetables and fruits a year due to spoilage.
Why pay more when frozen vegetables are healthy, convenient and cost-effective.
This is how to save money on food and eat healthy at the same time!
Yes, you’re grocery shopping on a budget, but this doesn’t mean you have to skip the greens.
7. Stockpile like a pro and live frugally
Remember the last time you got an amazing deal on pasta sauce and bought 10 jars?
That will last you for years to come, right?
Well, guess what? After a few months, your pantry is out pasta sauce and you find yourself back at the store again! But this time around, the sauce is not on sale!
Don’t shy away from stocking up on items that can be stored for a long time when they go on deep discounts. This is one of the most simple and effective ways to live frugally and save money on your groceries.
Use the FIFO (first in, first out) system when cooking to avoid food spoilage.
Here are some items to stockpile your pantry:
|Item||Storage Life (Unopened)|
|Rice and dried pasta||2 years|
|Dried beans, lentils, peas||12 months|
|Dried nuts||12 months|
|Dried fruits||6 months|
|Oats||18 to 24 months|
|Olive or vegetable oil||6 months|
|Canned meat||2 to 5 years|
|Canned soup||2 to 5 years|
|Canned fruits||12 to 18 months|
|Flour||6 to 12 months|
Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
8. Skip the pre-cut food
When you walk by the fruits and vegetable section, do you wonder why the fruit and veggie platters are so expensive?
Sure, the fruits and vegetables are nicely cut and packaged together, but you can easily make the same trays with the EXACT same fruits and vegetables at half the cost!
Those ready to go trays are made and priced for people that are in a hurry and don’t have time to prepare food themselves.
Fruit and veggie platters are great for gatherings and parties, but definitely not for our wallets. Buy whole produce and cut them yourself.
9. Frozen fish is cheaper and is just as nutritional as fresh fish
Before you head over to the “fresh” fish counter of the store, you should really consider buying frozen fish instead to save some money.
Frozen fish are priced much lower than fresh fish because their shelf life is significantly longer, not because they are lower quality.
The FDA recommends us to keep fresh fish in the refrigerator for 1-2 days max. But with frozen fish, you can store it in the freezer for 2-3 months (e.g. salmon) or 6-8 months (e.g. cod).
In fact, the quality and nutritional value of frozen fish is just as good as fresh fish, according to SINTEF, a Norwegian research company.
With today’s technology, freshly caught fishes are frozen on the boat (frozen-at-sea) with flash-freezing units within hours of catch. This process locks in the moisture, flavor, and nutrients of the fish.
Why pay more when frozen fish is just as good as fresh fish?
10. Don’t be fooled by packaging
It’s often difficult to compare prices when different brands of the same product are priced differently. One of their tricks is to package the product in ways to make it look fuller than it is!
Can you tell which bag of frozen broccoli is cheaper?
Brand A) $2.99 for 500g (smaller bag)
Brand B) $5.98 for 907g (bigger bag)
This kind of pricing makes it hard for beginners learning how to save on groceries. Unless you’re a math whiz, pull out your cellphone and crunch the numbers on the calculator to see which one is a better buy.
The cost for Brand A is $0.60/100g while Brand B charges $0.66/100g. In this example, you’ll get more value by choosing Brand A.
Luckily, some stores display the price per unit on the price tag so shoppers don’t need to do the math themselves.
Beware of packaging tricks and look for the price per gram/ounce/liter to compare the true cost.
11. Store your food properly
Do you know how much food is wasted and thrown away each year?
Hang on tight; you’re going to be blown away by the stats. According to the USDA, it is estimated that we throw away 30% – 40% of our food.
A family of four tosses out ~$1,500 worth of food a year!
That’s a great deal of food sent to the landfill and a lot of money down the drain!
One of the reasons why so much food is thrown out is because we overbuy groceries and don’t store our food properly.
Rather of keeping the extra raw meats in the refrigerator, freeze the extras to extend their freshness. This will help reduce food waste and save you money at the same time.
Here’s a meat freezer guide provided by the USDA.
|Item||Storage in Months|
|Bacon and Sausage||1 to 2|
|Casseroles||2 to 3|
|Egg whites or egg substitutes||12|
|Frozen Dinners and Entrees||3 to 4|
|Gravy, meat or poultry||2 to 3|
|Ham, Hotdogs and Lunchmeats||1 to 2|
|Meat, uncooked roasts||4 to 12|
|Meat, uncooked steaks or chops||4 to 12|
|Meat, uncooked ground||3 to 4|
|Meat, cooked||2 to 3|
|Poultry, uncooked whole||12|
|Poultry, uncooked parts||9|
|Poultry, uncooked giblets||3 to 4|
|Soups and Stews||2 to 3|
|Wild game, uncooked||8 to 12|
12. Buy seasonal
You can buy and enjoy your delicious watermelon any time of the year. However, if you want SWEET and CHEAP watermelons, buy them when they’re in season.
Fruits and vegetables that are in season are easier for farmers to grow and ship to your local grocers.
Foods that are out of season are grown far away and require high shipping costs. These costs are reflected in your grocery bills.
13. Try store brands
Before you shut the idea of buying store brands, you should give it a try.
Generic brands are often viewed as cheap knock-offs popular brands. But not all store brand products are lower quality compared to the big names.
There are items where you can’t tell the difference in quality between brand name and store brand, but the savings are significant. For example, Costco’s Kirkland paper towels are cheaper than Bounty paper towels, but in terms of quality, they’re just as good as Bounty.
After you’ve tried the generic brands and simply can’t stand it, stick with brand names.
When you buy generic brands, always compare the prices with brand names. Sometimes, brand names go on sale and will cost less than store brands.
14. Ditch the big spender
Money ain’t a thang for big spenders.
They have expensive tastes and are the first one to buy the hottest and latest products.
Don’t get me wrong, big spenders are nice people, but they’re terrible when it comes to money management. Jack, we still love you.
While grocery shopping, they’ll pick the most expensive items from the aisles and justify their decisions by saying that quality things are more expensive.
It’s no surprise that we tend to go over budget when we’re around big spenders. Shopping with someone can be fun, but if you’re trying to stretch your dollar, you might be better ditching the big spender.
15. Look above and below the shelves
If you want to be mindful and save money on food, don’t just look at the middle shelves where the eye level is. That’s where supermarkets display more pricey items for you to see.
Chances are, you’ll spend more money on those items compared to the better-valued ones placed above or below the shelves.
According to the National Geographic article, “Surviving the Sneaky Psychology of Supermarkets”, the author writes:
Even shelf order is a psychological trap. The most expensive items are generally placed conveniently at eye level; generic brands are on the lower shelves such that, to get at them, you have to crouch. Foods meant to appeal to kids are set at kids’-eye-level; and one study by researchers at Cornell found that kid-targeted cereal packaging is designed such that cartoon characters on the boxes make eye contact with (short) passers-by.
How much do you spend a month on food?
If you don’t know the answer to this question off your head, you’re probably spending a lot more money on food than you realize.
Go ahead, do some quick mental math. You’ll see where you stand compared to others.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average spending on food per month for a household is $7,061 in 2017. This includes eating at home and dining out. And yes, that cost also includes your daily coffee, alcohol and other beverages!
Related post on how to save money on groceries, food, and beverages: How To Save Money By Getting Free Starbucks Coffee
On average, we spent~5.9% of our income on groceries and ~4.5% eating out. That’s 10.5% of our income spent on food!
A person making $50,000 annually would spend $2,950 a year or $245 per month on groceries.
Your food bill may be higher or lower depending on the type of food you buy at the grocery store. Organic and non-seasonal foods tend to be more expensive.
Final thoughts on how to save money on groceries
Saving money on groceries and food may seem like a daunting task because you’re so used to buying what you regularly buy without a plan.
When you go grocery shopping this week, be sure to rethink your purchases and follow the tips listed in this post.
Okay, let’s do a quick recap on how you can save money at your next grocery trip:
1. Create a food budget that works.
2. Plan your meals and stick to it. If you’re not good at meal planning, consider trying out this 14-day trial $5 meal plan for free!
3. See a list of free money resources to see how you can get cash back on your groceries. Downloading this free Ibotta app here is a great start. Checkout 51 is another great app to try.
4. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.
5. Buy frozen vegetables for the same nutritional value at more convenience and less cost.
6. Stock up on a reasonable amount of food that has longer shelf-lives while avoiding waste.
7. Rethink whether you really need to spend more on organic foods.
8. Ditch the pre-cut foods.
9. Consider buying frozen fresh for a lower price over fresh fish without having to sacrifice on quality.
10. Don’t be fooled by the marketing strategy of the appearance of “bigger packaged” items.
11. Store your food properly to avoid food waste.
12. Buy seasonal foods because it is cost-effective.
13. Try some in-store brands before judging a book by its cover.
14. Don’t shop with big spenders or shopaholics.
15. Look above and below the shelves because lower-cost alternatives are stored there.
Over to you — how do you save money at the grocery store each week? Do you have tips on how to save money on groceries and food?
#5. I agree that there is probably little taste difference between conventionally grown and organic foods. But the real argument is environmental. Do you really want to eat food that’s been farmed by agribusiness, using pesticides that kill bees along with the crops’ pests, as well as birds that eat such poisoned insects? Or seeds that limit biodiversity? Or fertilizer that runs into the water killing various water species and into our drinking water while sterilizing precious top soil? Or food that has been trucked cross country maximizing carbon emissions? When it comes to organic food, I believe it is worth every penny.
Kate at Reel Cents
Lots of great tips in here. I wouldn’t have thought about not having big spenders with you while grocery shopping. Aside from them wanting to buy more expensive items, I feel like their presence also psychologically gives you permission to spend more too which isn’t great when you’re trying to stay on budget. Do you have any thoughts on CSA boxes and whether or not they’re worth it?
To be honest I haven’t tried CSA but it seems like a great way to support local farmers. This seems more suitable for people who know how and what to cook.
We currently use meal plans which gives us a list of ingredients to buy, so we’ll go out and buy them. This still helps us save time and money especially when we’re not masters of cooking. 🙂
Plus, we like going to the grocery stores hand picking our fruits and veggies.
Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment!
Great post ling. I love saving money on food. I especially love batch cooking and freezing fruit that i have grown myself. Saves me quite a bit of money every month.
I think batch cooking and freezing them is a great way to save money on groceries and food. It’s also a great way to save time! Cooking meals can take up a lot of time depending on what’s being prepared and cooked.
Thank you for your saving money tips on food! 😊
So many great ideas! Since I’m shopping for a family of 6 (including 3 teens and 1 tween – big eaters!) we spend a LOT on groceries. I would only add one more tip, and that is to shop the discount “no frills” stores. There is seriously one high-end grocery store near me that has a live band playing on the weekends. How do they pay for that? By marking up the prices! Go to the bag-it-yourself stores if you can.
And a question for you: do you think that grocery delivery is worth the extra cost? There’s less risk of impulse purchasing because you’re not walking through the aisles of the store, but there is the cost of delivery.
That’s another great way to save money on groceries. The no frills or discounted shops provides great value and I find the fruits and veggies are fresh too depending on which discount shop you go to. Almost no difference from the classier grocery stores. I had no idea they had bands playing on the weekends… though it sounds like a cool idea. Haha.
I think grocery delivery is worth it for convenience and saving time. It really depends on the individual and whether they like to go grocery shopping or not. The only downfall for me is I don’t get to pick my own fruits/vegetables and I’d have to just take whatever is delivered to me. 😂
ling, please update your income report for blogger motivation…
We really miss that series…please give some update