A Guide to Frugal Grocery Shopping

Updated on April 14, 2020
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RGraf is an accountant who loves to read, study history, and travel. She has researched and written for educational sites and authors.

Grocery shopping can drain your account fast. Learn how to shop the right way and save money.
Grocery shopping can drain your account fast. Learn how to shop the right way and save money.

Want to save money with your groceries? I think we all do. Groceries can cost an arm and a leg and then a few other body parts. The cost of groceries is always going up and never down. That means they are always an issue when it comes to our wallets. So, how do we survive this financially? How can we shop for groceries and save money? Here's how.

Plan Ahead

A key way to successfully shop frugally is to plan ahead. If you walk into a store with no plan, you'll up spending more than you need to or can. That is not what you want if you are reading this. You are wanting to save money.

Make a grocery list. What will you need this next week? If you have to, look at each meal individually. Look in the fridge and the pantry. What do you have to have until your next grocery run? Think bare minimum.

Be Conservative

When you are looking to be frugal, you need to be conservative. This means getting the bare minimum you need to survive day to day. Don't think gourmet foods. Think of basic meals that fill you up and help your wallet.

Lunches do not have to be lobster. Yes, you might like lobster, but that kind of lunch meat can be rather pricey. Homemade egg salad is much cheaper. We don't like to eat just peanut butter sandwiches. I understand that it can get boring rather quickly. We want to avoid that but not take out a loan for food.

Remember that it is only temporary. You're just buying food for this week. Can't survive on some basic foods for that long? You'd be surprised at what you can do. Conservative doesn't have to mean no flavor. It means fewer ingredients and preferably the ones that don't cost an arm and a leg.

Use Generic Brands

Generic brands are not lower quality. I use them all the time. Yes, there are times I find they aren't the best tasting and chalk it up as a lesson learned. But most are made by name brand companies. Yes, they are. I work for a name brand company and many store brands are really our products with personalized labels. It's the same thing!

Generic brands are a way to save money. Every grocery store has their own personal brands that they have worked with big companies to produce just for them. If you are trying to save money, you cannot ignore generic brands. They could be the reason you have money for your flat tire.

Watch for Sales

I cannot stress enough how important sales are. I've managed to have so many different meals becuase of this. As you get to know stores, you'll know when they have certain sales. I have a local store that has puts their pork products on sale the last weekend of every month.

Let's say it is grocery shopping day today. I walk into my store. Typically I hit the produce area first and look for items that are on sale. I will not buy the mushrooms unless they are on sale. Simple as that.

Then I look at the meat section. That will usually determine other parts of my shopping list. If chicken is on sale, I might need to get some cream of mushroom soup. My shopping list item for this is typically "meat" so I can be flexible with the sales.

Consider Bulk

This is an area that can be good or bad when it comes to frugal. So let's be cautious. Before you buy in bulk, think about what you are buying and if you will really use the product. Don't buy an extremely large container of mayonnaise if a standard jar will last you a year. You will not use it enough to justify the additional expense. You might be spending less per ounce, but you are spending more overall than you need to or can afford.

Only buy in bulk if you will use the items and you can afford it. The larger package of toilet paper is cheaper, but also costs more upfront. But if you know you'll use it up over the next couple of weeks, it is worth it even within the short term. Don't purchase bulk items just because they are cheaper per ounce. It is not cheaper on this grocery run. $10 for 132 ounces is not good today compared to $5 for 90 ounces.

Consider Multiple Uses of One Item

Frugal grocery shopping means finding multiple uses of each item. Think of it this way—the chicken breasts are on sale. There are six in the package. You only need two of them for one meal. That means four extra. Use those in other meals.

  • Meal 1: Baked chicken
  • Meal 2: Chicken Quesedillas
  • Meal 3: Chicken Pot Pie

You could instead make chicken stir fry or BBQ chicken. See how versatile one bulk sale purchase can be? Take that sale and make it worth your dollar. I have bought a package of chicken breasts on sale for a total of $8 and made four meals out of them, and that doesn't count any leftovers for lunches.

Use Coupons When Applicable

Coupons are a great way to save money, but like bulk buying, they can be dangerous to your pocketbook. The key is to not purchase something just because you have a coupon for it.

Let's say you have a coupon for salad dressing that is $1 off the retail price. You weren't going to buy any this week because you don't need it, but the coupon is getting ready to expire. If you are tight on cash, why spend $3.50 after your coupon if you won't need any salad dressing for at least a few weeks? You don't have the $3.50 to spend. You're not saving any money. You are spending more than you need.

Keep coupons around. Use them only if you really need the items and only if the coupon makes that brand the best deal in the item category. Compare the deal with the coupon with the other deals in the store. A coupon doesn't mean automatic great savings. Also, look to see if your store has double coupon days. Some will double your coupons on specific days. That could be beneficial.


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    • renee21 profile image

      Tori Leumas 

      9 months ago

      This is a great article. I shop frugal very often. I grew up poor, so I'm used to not having much. I do not splurge on things. such as desserts, higher end foods, etc., very much.

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 

      10 months ago from Ireland

      Great advice. I follow some of these tips myself. I might fail occasionally but I always get back on track again.

    • The Stages Of ME profile image

      Kathy Henderson 

      10 months ago from Pa


      Great article and wonderful reminders. I am trying to keep these in mind but, a bit frustrated that coupons rarely are for the healthy finds. Yet, all in all, I need to plan better and not go haphazardly into the grocery. Thanks for sharing.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      10 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      My big thing is the half off meat section. Things may not be exactly half off, but the price is reduced, as the meat is closer to its sell by date.

      Sometimes I just get lucky and the store has the reduced price meat section loaded with things I want, but other times there may not be anything there at all.

      I almost only buy meat in the reduced price section. I put it straight into my freezer, or straight into my skillet. Over the past ten or so years, I've only had 2 or 3 cheap purchases that weren't right, and well, my beloved dogs had no problems with it.


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