Jennifer has worked in the restaurant industry for over 10 years. At home, she enjoys cooking up tasty meals and treats.
How to Save Money at the Grocery Store
Grocery shopping is a major expense for most families and households, especially if there are a lot of mouths to feed. There is no denying that the cost of food has significantly increased over the last several years. Many families are now finding it difficult to even afford enough groceries to get through the week.
It is possible to spend less money on groceries if you plan out your meals for the week and only purchase the items you need. Try to avoid buying individual items you don't need, even if they are on sale. Decide on a budget, make a shopping list and stick to it. Here are 17 tips and tricks to save money when you head out to the grocery store.
1. Shop at Multiple Stores
Shopping at multiple grocery stores means that you can shop for multiple sales. Also, check stores you would not normally buy groceries from, like pharmacies or dollar stores. Sometimes they have better deals or things on sale that the grocery store does not. If you can, go to a few stores in one general area and try to only buy what's on sale. Buy multiple items while they are on sale if the store's policy allows. That way, you won't have to buy these items again the next time you shop.
Look at flyers before you head out to see what's on sale first so you can plan your shopping trip. There is a very helpful app you can download on your phone called Flipp that provides flyers for thousands of stores. You can save your favorite stores so you can plan your shopping trips more easily and create shopping lists from the flyer items. It's also very helpful to use while you shop. When you are about to buy something in a store, just pull out your phone and check the Flipp app to see if it's on sale somewhere else close by.
2. Grocery Store Rewards
Most grocery stores offer a rewards program, whether a rewards card or an app you can download on your phone. These programs reward you with points every time you shop with them. Rewards points can eventually be redeemed for free groceries!
I use several different rewards programs and have earned many free groceries over the years. Sometimes I like to save my points for a big-ticket item I will eventually need to buy, like a birthday cake. That way, I don't have to take those bigger purchases out of my grocery budget.
3. Meal Plan and Make a List
Meal planning is a great way to budget your grocery shopping. Decide ahead of time what meals you will make for the week and make a shopping list of the ingredients you need. Choose meals based on what ingredients you already have to cut down on items you have to purchase. This is a great way to make sure you only buy what you need instead of aimlessly choosing items.
Don't try to decide what you will make for dinner while you shop. You will most likely spend more money by doing this because you might buy ingredients you already have or forget the ones you need. This could add up to another trip to the grocery store and more money spent.
4. Portion and Freeze Meat
Unless you are a vegetarian, meat is probably one of the most expensive items on your shopping list. There is not much you can do to get around spending a lot on meat unless you are willing to eat less of it. The one thing I find helpful is to portion the meat into amounts that my family will eat. This way, I don't cook too much and have to throw some away.
The best way to save the most money on meat is to buy it in larger packs while it is on sale. Then portion the meat into meal-sized amounts and freeze it. Having good storage of meat in your freezer will help you avoid having to buy it every week. Make sure to seal the meat well before freezing it and place it in the back of the freezer or in the bottom of your deep freezer, if you have one.
Using a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer is the best way to keep your meat fresh for the longest. The vacuum sealer machine removes all of the air from the plastic bag until it is air-tight and then seals it shut using high heat. FoodSaver claims that food preserved with the FoodSaver System in the freezer can last up to 3 years and still taste fresh, flavorful, and freezer-burn-free.
If you don't want to invest in a vacuum sealer system, you can also use large zippered freezer bags. Make sure to remove as much air from the bag as possible before freezing. Any amount of air in the bag can cause freezer burn, which will affect the quality of the meat.
Also, make sure your freezer is set to the appropriate temperature according to the manufacturer's recommendations. A freezer that is too cold can cause freezer burn, and a freezer not cold enough can allow the meat to slightly thaw and spoil.
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5. Avoid Frozen Dinners
Frozen dinners can be very convenient, but they can also be very expensive. Adding too many frozen dinners to your shopping cart can add up quickly. Most of these meals are more affordable if you buy the ingredients and make them yourself, especially if you plan your meals ahead and buy ingredients that you can use for more than one meal.
6. Round Up as You Shop
This is a sneaky way of tricking yourself into spending less money on your groceries. And a great way to avoid adding those extra items you don't need to your cart. As you shop, add up the cost of each item but round up the price.
For example, if you grab a package of strawberries that costs $3.49, put it down for $4.00. Either set a spending limit for yourself or only bring a specific amount of cash. Don't let yourself go over. Bring a calculator or notepad if you are worried you will lose count.
I do this regularly to keep track of what I spend and to avoid extra costs. It's easier to add up even round numbers than it is to add up all of the exact change. You will be surprised at how quickly it all adds up. Then, when it's time to pay, it will cost far less than what you expected it to. Now you have saved money on groceries!
7. Find the Clearance Section
Most grocery stores have a designated area for clearance items. It's usually in an area near the back of the store or somewhere near the stockroom. You will find all sorts of items in this area sometimes marked at up to 75% off the regular price. This is a good place to stock up on some items because they do not typically put limits on clearance items. Make sure to check expiry or best before dates and only buy what you will use.
8. Start Couponing
This is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to save money on groceries, but most people don't take advantage of it. There are so many ways you can get your hands on coupons, including newspapers, flyers, product labels, and even from the grocery store.
You can even print coupons yourself from websites like coupons.com or by going to company websites like Kraft, Kellogs, or Nestle. Some websites will require you to join a mailing list where they can either email you coupons or send them by mail.
Try to gather as many coupons as you can and keep them in an envelope or folder. Check the expiry dates as well. Some coupons are only valid for a short period of time, while others are valid for longer. When you have a good amount of coupons, go through them and plan a shopping trip using as many as you can.
Just make sure to only use coupons for things you will actually use to avoid overspending. Check store flyers before you head out to see what's on sale. The best way to save money with coupons is to use them for items that are on sale.
9. Buy Produce in Season
Generally, produce is cheaper when it is in season, especially if it is grown locally—and it tastes better too! Many fruits can be frozen from fresh to use for smoothies or baking. Berries are great to have in your freezer to add to smoothies, pancakes, or muffins.
Most vegetables, on the other hand, should be blanched (cooked in boiling water for a few minutes) before freezing. Tomatoes can be frozen fresh, depending on what you are using them for. You can freeze them whole for making sauces or dice them up and freeze them in portions.
10. Buy in Bulk
One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to buy in bulk. This, of course, will cost you more money upfront but will save you more in the long run. That's because many items are discounted when purchased in larger quantities. It's a great way of stocking up on some items to avoid having to buy them again in the near future.
Try to only buy things in bulk that you know you will use. Stick to everyday non-food items like dish soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and shampoo. These items won't spoil and will always get used eventually. If you are buying food items in bulk, make sure you have a proper way to store them to keep them fresh.
11. Buy Store Brands
Making the switch to generic store brands can help you spend less money on groceries. Just be mindful of what items you buy and that you are not sacrificing too much in quality. Basic items like dry pasta, salt, spices, flour, and baking powder are not likely to have a notable difference in quality when comparing brand-name and generic brands. The only difference is the name on the label.
On the other hand, some items will have a very noticeable difference in quality with generic brands, like cheese, for example. Generic and store-brand cheese is sometimes not the best quality. From my experience, it is usually very soft or crumbly and difficult to cut and almost impossible to grate. This is just one example. Use your judgment to decide what items are worth buying generic and which items are not.
12. Keep the Pantry and Fridge Organized
This is important for keeping your food fresh and avoiding waste. Try to keep your pantry and fridge fairly organized so the new items are in the back and the older items are in the front where you can see them. This way, the older items get used up first before they expire. Once a week, do a quick cleanup of the pantry and fridge and check expiry dates. Try to use up anything getting close to expiring when you are meal planning.
13. Start a Garden
A small garden can save you a bunch of money on groceries. Make sure to grow stuff you will actually eat. Also, take into consideration what garden foods can be frozen or canned so you can start storing some. For example, tomatoes can be frozen whole and used for making tomato sauce. It takes a lot of tomatoes to make a good amount of tomato sauce, so you might not be able to grow them all at once.
If you don't have the space for an outdoor garden or the right growing conditions, you can start a garden indoors. You can do this very easily using a Hydroponic Smart Growing System, which is a self-watering plant pod system. With a hydroponic growing system, you can grow cherry tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, strawberries, herbs, and even flowers. The best part is that you can grow your plants all year round!
14. Grocery Savings Apps
There are quite a few grocery savings apps out there that you can download on your mobile device, but they don't all work the same. Some apps offer cashback rewards for purchasing certain items, and some offer you cash back for scanning your receipts. It's a good idea to download a few of these apps and see which ones work for your shopping routing.
Try to use multiple grocery apps to get the most savings. The best part about these apps is that they are all free! Some examples of apps that will help you save money on groceries are Checkout 51, Ibotta, Shopkick, Fetch Rewards, Coin Out, and Makeena.
15. Properly Store Your Food
This is probably the most obvious and most important way to save on food. Improper storage of food leads to more waste. This means that you will be buying groceries more often to replace the things you have thrown away. Food waste is something to avoid as much as possible. Storing food properly will not only save you money, but your food will be fresher and taste much better.
Store your pantry foods in airtight food storage containers. Foods like cereal, crackers, and cookies don't last long in the package they are sold in. It seems like a lot of work to have to put all of your pantry food in containers, but it will make your food taste better and save you money over time.
Fridge and freezer foods should also be kept in airtight containers or sealed with plastic. Even foods kept in the freezer will go bad if they are not sealed properly. Also, make sure your fridge and freezer are set to the right temperature according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
16. Amazon Grocery Subscribe and Save
Amazon Subscribe and Save is a great program to take advantage of to save money on groceries or household items you purchase on a regular basis. Subscribe and Save offers price discounts on certain items if you sign up for automatic recurring deliveries. These discounts can be anywhere from 5% to 20% off. This is convenient for those items you know you will always need, like laundry detergent, pet food, shampoo and conditioner, diapers and wipes, vitamins, and even toilet paper.
Amazon offers multiple options for how often you want your items delivered. This can be anywhere from every two weeks up to every six months. You will be surprised how much you can save over time with this program, and the best part is, you don't even have to leave the house!
17. Eat Before You Shop
Going grocery shopping on an empty stomach is never a good idea. Being hungry can lead to a very expensive shopping trip. It's best to shop after you have eaten a big meal and even some dessert. You're not going to crave that chocolate cake in the bakery section nearly as much if you've already had something sweet to eat. Grocery shopping on a full stomach is a good way you make sure you stick to your shopping list.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.