Like housing, utilities, and insurance, food is a major expense you can’t go without. Here are real ways to save on groceries each and every month!
Reducing your food expenses is one of the best ways to reduce your overall spending and find extra money in your budget! In this post, we’ll discuss realistic ways you can save on groceries at home and at the store!
The list is long, but don’t be overwhelmed. You don’t have to implement all of these things at once. Pick one or two that work best for you and start there. The most important thing is to just start!
How to save on groceries at home.
Before we get into how to save at the grocery store, let’s talk about what you can do before you go. If you implement some of these strategies, it should also reduce how often you need to go to the store.
Shop your own home.
Go through everything you already have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Before you do anything else, do this. Chances are, you already have more than enough for several meals. You can use pre-printed grocery lists to keep inventory and add extra items on the side. Consistently using things you already have not only saves money but also prevents food waste. Throwing food away is throwing money away!
Have a plan.
Meal planning is not for me. It feels too restrictive and takes away from the joy of cooking. Some days, I just want to cook what I want to cook, you feel me? That said, you can have a loose plan and still save money. After looking at what I have on hand and what’s on sale, I come up with a few ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I make my grocery list based on that. This gives me a lot more flexibility throughout the week. In fact, I recommend food prepping over meal prepping. Here’s why.
Food prepping is simply having things ready to go.
When you get home from grocery shopping, prep everything you can before it goes in the fridge. It should take less than an hour. Make it a priority. For me, that usually looks like washing my lettuce and chopping things like cabbage, scallions, peppers, and onions. The more you have ready to go, the quicker and easier it will be to make easy, delicious meals for your family throughout the week. You may not feel like doing this when you get home, but you’ll be so glad you did on a busy night when you need dinner quickly.
Pro tip: Statistically, over 40% of families order take-out because they’re tired and don’t feel like cooking. If you have some things already prepped and ready, you can have dinner done in 20 minutes – and save that money!
Making larger batches of freezer-friendly meals saves time and money. If you’re making chili, make a triple batch and freeze some. Batch cooking can also just be cooking up a big pot of rice or pasta at the start of the week and keeping it in the fridge. It doesn’t always have to be frozen. You can also batch cook parts of a meal that you’re already making. For example, if you’re making shredded chicken for tacos, make extra and freeze some for another meal. There is no right or wrong way. Do whatever works for you! I usually batch cook a few things on Monday that we can eat from all week. Some of our favorites are big batches of rice and cauliflower rice, breakfast sandwiches, sheet-pan omelets or frittatas, and gluten-free sausage balls.
Use it up!
Throwing food away is throwing money in the trash. Use or freeze things before they go bad. Plan meals around what you’ve already got on hand, focusing on things that need to be used first. For example, I have an avocado and some tomatoes that need to be used as soon as possible, so I’ll make a quick batch of guacamole and plan our lunch or dinner around what goes with that. This is something you need to be intentional and open-minded about. Did I plan for or want guacamole today? Not really – but that’s what needs to happen so that food doesn’t go bad!
To expand on what we just discussed, using it up sometimes means getting creative. Let’s say chicken parmesan is on your list this week, and it calls for mozzarella cheese – but you don’t have any. If you have another kind of cheese that works, use it up and leave the mozzarella off of your grocery list. Sour cream can be used in place of Greek yogurt and vice versa. Ground meats are easily interchangeable.
Pro tip: Recipes are guides, not manuals. Don’t be afraid to play around with ingredients, work with what you’ve got, and make it your own!
Eating up those leftovers prevents food waste, period! If leftovers aren’t your thing, try repurposing them. Turn chili into taco salads, meat and vegetables can be topped with cheese and mashed potatoes for a riff on shepherd’s pie, spaghetti can be made into a crispy spaghetti pie – you get the idea. A quick Google search will help you turn those leftovers into a whole new dish your family will love!
Try a no-shopping challenge.
To save money on groceries immediately, challenge yourself to use what you’ve got. I actually do this about three times a year. It’s easy to forget about things in the back of the pantry or freezer. Challenging yourself to cook from what you’ve got is a great way to save on groceries, and you might have some fun in the process. When I do this, I still buy the things we use every day like eggs, coffee, and cream.
This is one of my favorite tips to save on groceries!
Organize your entire kitchen. Take note of what you already have and what you don’t need. Knowing what you have prevents duplicate purchases. An organized kitchen also saves time and sanity. I’m easily overwhelmed by a messy panty. Keeping things organized ensures you can find what you need quickly!
Pro tip: Implement a “first in, first out” system. When you come home with new products, place them behind the older ones so they get used up first.
Limit dining out and pack your lunch.
One of the easiest ways to save on groceries is to bring your lunch. Almost everyone my husband works with leaves for lunch. I can’t imagine how much they spend per month, not to mention how unhealthy eating fast food every day can be. He prefers home-cooked meals, so leftovers never go to waste in our house. I pack his lunches in containers like this. Dining out is something you can stop immediately. It’s SO expensive. Save that cash for a nicer meal out once a month. My husband and I have noticed that the more we eat out, the less special it feels.
Pro tip: Immediately store leftovers in lunch containers, so they’re ready to grab throughout the week!
Say yes to water.
I know a lot of people hate water, but hear me out. My husband was averaging 4 to 6 dollars a day on energy drinks and Gatorade. He doesn’t dislike water, but stopping on the way to work became an unnecessary and costly habit. He didn’t realize how much those mindless gas station stops were adding up. Once I showed him, he put a stop to it and went back to drinking water at work (most of the time).
Find an alternative.
Expanding on what I said above. Just like I love my coffee, he enjoys his energy drinks, but the ones he was buying were not cheap. We tried a few different varieties and found some from Aldi that he really likes. They’re more affordable, and the ingredients are much better. I love Starbucks vanilla lattes, but they’re not cheap! I looked at a few social media accounts that teach you Starbucks hacks and found a new way of ordering my favorite drinks. Not only do they taste better, but they’re also healthier and half the price!
Pro tip: Nickels and dimes add up! Saving a couple of dollars on energy drinks and lattes may not seem like a lot, but it will save us around fifty dollars a month or sux HUNDRED dollars a year.
How to save money on groceries.
Now that we’ve covered all the ways to save at home, let’s get ready to shop. I actually LOVE grocery shopping. I get a coffee, take my time, and try to make it as enjoyable as possible. If you’re stressed out and in a hurry, you’re less likely to stay on track.
Become a member.
Most stores these days have a member loyalty program you can join for free. Signing up is usually simple within the app, on the website, or at the register. Once you’re a member, you’ll have access to exclusive store discounts, digital coupons, and personalized offers. In fact, most stores require you to be a member to get the weekly sale prices, so this is something you should do first.
Shop the sales ad.
If you want to put little to no effort into saving money at the grocery store, simply look at the weekly sales ad and plan some meals around what’s on sale. You can view the weekly ads in the app and online. It also helps to know when new sales start at your favorite stores. Here in Nashville, new sales at Publix, Aldi, Whole Food, Sprouts, and Kroger all start on Wednesdays. If you’re lucky enough to have several stores close by, you can hit up more than one to snag the best deals!
Stock up when products are at their cheapest.
While you’re looking at what’s on sale, take note of the things you may not need right now but will in the future. How many times have you paid too much for coffee because you’ve run out and need it now? It’s happened to me many times. Stock up on staple items when they’re on sale, and buy enough to last several weeks.
Pro tip: Most sale cycles are every 4 to 6 weeks, which means most of the products you use regularly will be on sale again in that time. When you stock up, keep this in mind and buy enough to last until the next sale.
Shop with a list.
With the exception of what I just said above, make a list and stick to it. Shopping with a list can make the whole experience less stressful. You don’t have to remember this or that while you’re standing in the aisle – it’s on the list. It also prevents frustration when you get home and realize you forgot the ONE thing you really needed! To start the list, keep something like this on the fridge to jot down things as you run out.
Use coupons to save on groceries.
This goes without being said, but it will save you money the second you start doing it. These days, most grocery stores have apps where you can load digital coupons and offers. You don’t even have to clip them anymore. Sign up for the store newsletter to receive exclusive coupons and discounts to your email.
Choose frozen over fresh.
I’m never without a variety of frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen produce is picked and flash frozen at peak ripeness. It hasn’t been stored in crates and trucks for days or even weeks like fresh produce can be. In fact, it can be more nutritious than fresh. There’s no forgetting about it in the fridge, and it’s already prepped and ready to go. The next time you see a great deal on frozen produce, stock up for quick and easy meals!
Take a few minutes to compare the prices on the shelf. I compared the prices on salsa at Target a few days ago, and the brand I usually buy was $2.89 for a 16-ounce jar. The 24-ounce jar of store-brand organic salsa was $2.39, which was a better deal AND better ingredients. If you do this consistently, the savings will add up!
Check out international food stores.
International food stores are hidden gems. The prices on things like produce are so low you’ll ask yourself how can they even afford it. In addition to low prices, you’ll find a fantastic selection of international foods. My store has an entire wall of spices including many specialty blends you can’t find in grocery stores.
Pro tip: During the pandemic when grocery stores were running out of everything, we found what we needed at international food stores.
Consider the bulk bins.
The bulk bins can be a money suck, but they can save you money when you only need a small amount. Sometimes, you simply don’t need the whole package. I recently needed 1/4 cup of cashew pieces for a recipe. They were $6.99 a pound from the bulk bin or $5.99 a bag. I purchased exactly what I needed from the bulk bin and paid less than two dollars. The bulk spices at Whole Foods are my jam! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased just a couple of teaspoons of an herb or spice for less than a dollar.
It baffles me how many people still think generic products are somehow worse. Compare ingredients and get ready to be surprised. The store brand is often better and cheaper. Supermarkets are also sneaky. They purposely put the higher-priced products at eye level. Look higher and lower to find the lower-priced products.
Look for markdowns and clearance.
I always check out the clearance rack at Publix and Whole Foods (yes, Whole Foods) and have found some truly incredible deals there. You can also save upwards of 50% on reduced meat, which isn’t something we usually see coupons for. Kroger has a rack by the bakery where they sell the day-old bread. There is often nothing wrong with it. They’re just making room for that day’s fresh-baked goods.
Sometimes, you just don’t need all five cucumbers or the whole pineapple. If you have a friend or family member that loves nearby, splitting larger packages is a great way to save some money. My daughter and I share food all the time. Sometimes we shop together, and sometimes we don’t. In the event we’re not together, we coordinate via text and swing by each other’s house on the way home!
Utilize grocery delivery.
These days, most cities have multiple services like this. Instacart, Whole Foods via Amazon, and Amazon Fresh are some of the more popular ones where I live. These services may seem like a luxury, but they can save you time and money. We’re all guilty of buying things we don’t need, so utilizing these services keeps you out of the store and away from temptation. Delivery is usually free if you spend a set amount, so wait until you need several things to place your order. I personally love Amazon Fresh! There is no upcharge, and they offer free delivery if you spend $35 or more.
Get paid for shopping.
Simply put, you’re getting paid to shop, and there’s nothing not to love about that. There are many places that offer cash back these days, but Ibotta is the grocery store cash back program I prefer and have used for years. Once you register (it’s free), simply find your store, scroll through the list of offers, and save the ones you want. I usually do this while I’m watching TV. After you’ve gone shopping, just follow the steps to get your money back. It’s VERY easy to understand, and the app walks you through it. On average, I withdraw $500 – $600 a year – in free money!
Pro tip: Other than store sales, Ibotta is the only way I know of to save money on alcohol! You read that right. Get cash back for buying beer, wine, and liquor. Sign up here for free!
How do you save on food? I’d love for you to share in the comments!
More money-saving posts you may enjoy:
- Save on Fresh Produce
- Lower Your Electric Bill
- Affordable Date Night Ideas
- How to Get Free Movie Tickets
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