I hate buying groceries.
There I finally said it.
Having to drive to the store and wait in long lines and be bombarded with ten million brands of cereal to try isn’t exactly my idea of fun.
But the cherry on top is having to shell out a pretty penny if you want to eat decently (and watch your health).
It’s no wonder why we’re always looking for ways to save money on food.
And the thing is, we know we could be saving plenty more on groceries. To do it, it really comes down to adopting certain shopping tips and habits to make it a reality (and redirect the extra money into your savings).
So, besides becoming the crazy coupon lady in your neighborhood, here are some legit ways to save money on your next grocery run (and beyond).
Exactly How to Save Money on Groceries: 29 Tips to Drastically Lower Your Bill
First Thing’s First: Set the Grocery Stage
You have to figure out the exact amount you have open to spending on groceries. Too many of us make the mistake of walking into a grocery store empty-headed as to how much we can spend and the other important part, what it is we went for.
Because if you have no idea about either, then your grocery buying trip is bound to leave a bigger hole in your pocket than you first thought.
So two things: Budget an exact amount and make a list of the exact things you need (down to how many snacks you’re buying for the week/month).
You should be intentional about it because preplanning makes for less unplanned purchases once you get to the grocery store.
For some that’s a no brainer. Budgeting and grocery list, got it.
Take advantage of rebates
One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries is to take advantage of rebates from different rebate apps.
Ebates is the go-to rebate apps for getting cash back on items you’re already buying.
You simply create an account, and if you buy at one of their affiliated stores (they’re affiliated with tons) they put a percentage cash back into your account
You can start your Ebates account here and earn $10 bucks when you make your first purchase over $25 dollars.
Other rebate apps that are just as useful are:
Ibotta: You might have already heard of Ibotta but the gist is this: when you go shopping, you can keep your receipt, take a picture, and upload it to your Ibotta account.
It’ll look for any cash back you can get on items on your list and add it to your account.
It’s easy to use and can be worth it if you’re willing to spare the few minutes to upload your receipts.
If you want to try out Ibotta, you get a $10 welcome bonus for joining.
Don’t be afraid to order bulk online (it’s free if you’re smart about it)
Membership places like Costco are great for buying in bulk and finding great deals on household items. But you can likely avoid the $60 membership fee and buy in bulk with Amazon’s Bulk Food Supply section.
It has anything and everything you might ever have on your grocery list.
Eggs, bread, soup, razors…you name it, you know they’ll have it.
And with the shipping being FREE on most orders (or just having to go over a certain amount to qualify for free) then you save yourself a gas guzzling trip to the store and long waits in line.
Try this $5 meal plan
Admittedly, sometimes things become easier when they’re done for you.
And that’s where the $5 meal plan comes in handy to help lower your grocery bill. It’s a savvy (and genius) service that does all the meal planning for you.
They come up with delicious meal plans that cost about $2 per person. All for $5 a month.
If it’s to save you all the time and money that goes into planning meals that don’t cost you an arm and a leg and are actually good, then an extra $5 a month can be worth it (especially for big families).
Sign up here for a 14-day trial and see if you like it.
Take Note: They also offer a gluten-free version of their meal planning, which is a great option for people on stringent diets or gluten allergies.
Here’s one way to save on meat
I don’t think meat has a competitor as the biggest cost on our shopping lists.
Even still, for a lot of us, this isn’t enough to make us go vegan for good.
But there is a company out there that tries solving the cost of meat problem for you.
Zaycon Fresh sources fresh meats of all kinds from farmers and sells it directly to you.
They cut out the middleman and you’re left with prices way below retail for farm fresh meat.
Note they do sell their meats in bulk. But the per unit price can be well worth it if you’re able to make the initial investment.
Here’s how it works:
- You have to open a new account
- Check out their event calendar to pick up your selected meat items
- Show up and pick up with your order confirmation voucher
Their direct farmer to consumer model makes it so you get fresher meat and better prices. Pretty genius if you ask me.
Try it out and open your account here while saving some money in the process.
Use paper + microfiber towels together (it works)
If you have kids, this is an especially real money saver. Kids tend to mindlessly grab a wad of towels for the most unnecessary things. And honestly, sometimes adults too!
Try keeping a set of high absorption microfiber towels in plain view so the paper towels aren’t the first thing you fly to.
They’re great for spill cleanups, drying dishes, and the biggest paper towel waster: drying your hands!
It’ll help you not go through so many roles at once and will make your paper towels last longer.
Pay attention to deal days
This might take some asking around in your local grocery store that will be worth it.
For instance, I love shopping at Target, and according to different sources, their best sale dates to shop for different items are:
Monday: Electronics, Accessories, Kids Clothing, Books, Baby, and Stationery
Tuesday: Domestics, Women’s Clothing, Pets and, Market food items
Wednesday: Men’s Clothing, Health and Beauty, Diapers, Lawn/Garden items, and Furniture
Thursday: Housewares, Lingerie, Shoes, Toys, Sporting Goods, Decor and Luggage
Friday: Auto, Cosmetics, Hardware, and Jewelry
Designate a rewards card for household expenses
Taking advantage of a designated rewards card for food expenses can be a great idea to add up points and get awesome rewards in the process (though, it’s definitely not advisable if you aren’t good with credit cards).
Nerdwallet has a detailed report with the best current cash-back and rewards credit cards in the market.
Having a designated card for food expenses can also help you keep track of exactly how much you’re spending each month, and if you’re keeping in check with your budget projections.
Buy canned instead of frozen
If you pay attention, canned foods will cost you less than frozen foods. For example, diced veggies are a lot pricier when sold frozen than when sold canned.
Always opt for the canned items when you can (no pun intended).
How to save on prescriptions
One way to save on prescriptions that I always recommend is to use the Costco pharmacy.
In the past, I’ve shopped around several times for prescriptions and Costco always came out on top as the cheapest place. Costco’s prescription prices is a little-known fact that not very many people know.
Best of all you don’t need to be a member to use their pharmacy, and they apply any discount coupons they have once you check out.
A second way to save on prescriptions is with Phil, a prescription delivery service.
This is especially useful if you’re forgetful and you have to make an extra trip to pick up your prescriptions (guilty as charged).
You simply open your free account, they’ll notify your pharmacy (and work with your doctor) of your prescription refill, and they get delivered to you for FREE. No more forgetting your prescriptions at the store. How cool is that?
Use apps to find the best prices
Did you know you can use apps for comparing grocery prices?
They can be such time savers when you’re trying to make quick comparisons.
Here’s a list of some free shopping apps you should try to get the best deals (some even offer rewards for using them):
Amazon Price Tracker: This one is probably my favorite. With the Amazon app, it’ll check prices on items for you and give you the best price even if it’s not on Amazon. It’s also integrated with your account so you can easily place an order for your items right through Amazon. Get it here.
Price Grabber: It checks for prices on different items across the states and gives you bottom dollar pricing. It also comes with a price alert feature.
Spending the extra time to compare prices on more expensive items can be worth it in the long run. Trying out an app might just help you save more grocery money.
Fixed grocery list vs. variable grocery list
I’ve often noticed compiling a list of groceries is kind of like creating a budget.
There are fixed things what will always show up on your list, like eggs, bread, and milk, and there are others that you don’t always decide you need on a particular week.
Try separating your fixed groceries vs. your variable groceries to be clearer on how much you’re spending.
Chances are, when you’re looking at your variable groceries you’ll be able to pick out things you don’t really need to buy after all.
And you’ll still make sure you get the essentials.
Learn to make essentials from scratch
This is especially true for items like prepared pesto sauce, tomato sauce, and fettuccine sauce (which is super easy to make at home with a few ingredients).
That way you save yourself from buying overpriced and sodium-laden ingredients you can easily make at home.
Here’s an idea of foods you can make at home for a lot cheaper:
- Chicken stock
- Trail mix
- Breakfast muffins
- Pancake mix
- Salad dressing
Find substitutes ahead of time
I’m a big believer in making decisions before the fact, that way you stand strong with the decision made when you’re in the moment.
For instance, if I’m in bed for the night I’ll decide that tomorrow I’ll make time to clean out my car, and I’m more likely to do it if I make a solid decision before.
So, instead of finding substitutes for ingredients on your list right in the store, try putting aside time to look up substitutes online at home.
You’ll be more prepared to shop the best prices once there.
Avoid eye-level shelves
Eye level shelves are where they put the most expensive items in the store.
Sometimes retailers will work out deals with vendors to set their items at eye level, because they know it’s likely to sell more.
Make sure you are looking at the top and bottom shelves for a wider range of choices that are often more affordable than what is set in front of you.
Switch out stores
Don’t allow habits to get the best of your finances. Maybe you shop for everything at a certain big-name store, but try venturing out to other ones every once in a while.
My mother used to always shop at Wal-Mart because it was slightly more convenient, but then she took notice of a local grocery store that was only a few more minutes away called Sharp Shopper.
When she shops there, she pays half the price of what she pays at Wal-Mart, because it’s simply that cheaper.
All it took was breaking her one-store habit.
Plan a leftovers meal schedule
To not be so overwhelmed by leftovers that you completely ignore them until they pile up into a mountain of mold, designate a day a week to leftover revamping/fridge cleanout.
There are tons of ways to make leftovers yummy again to eat.
If you work in leftovers to your meal plan, you won’t leave them forgotten and you’ll actually go out of your way to do something with them (all while saving you the money on new extra food).
Yes, coupon (it doesn’t have to be extreme) and stack deals
When I worked at a chain grocery store through college, people often got the best deals by stacking coupons with certain in-store deals that ran on certain days.
Their secret was simply paying attention to the promotions they’d send out in the mail weekly and walking in to pick up their discounted items.
Try matching coupons with deals for items at your local grocery store.
Another great place to find money saving coupons is the Amazon Grocery and Gourmet Coupon section to get even more discounts on your Amazon purchases. Best of all there is no clipping involved.
Adopt canning/mini gardening
Something as simple as growing your own herbs and tomatoes can save you a few dollars a week on your grocery run.
And with all the kits and how-to’s out today, it’s easy to get a home garden started whether indoors or outdoors.
Check out this detailed post on how to get started with your first indoor garden to give you a head start.
Once you start your garden, you can take it as far as canning to store your home-grown items (for what seems like ages).
Here’s a canning beginner’s guide to quip your canned curiosity.
Learn recipes around staple ingredients
Learning new recipes around staple ingredients does two great things for you: keeps you healthy, and makes your cooking easier.
I recently came across this awesome cookbook I wish I would have found sooner when I was learning to cook.
Learning to put together yummy meals with basic ingredients helps save you from the temptation of eating out.
There are lots of ways to prepare rice, beans, and potatoes that’ll keep you from getting bored of the same things (not to mention also keep you healthy).
Don’t believe me? Check out 70+ different ways to make rice that will save you money.
Shopping hungry does this to your brain…
Shopping hungry turns you into a hunter-gatherer at the store! A Neanderthal, really.
You’re so hungry all you can think about is all the food you can stuff in your mouth, and all the extra food you need to take home to make sure you don’t run out and go hungry.
I’ve noticed a significant difference in my shopping trips when I go hungry vs. when I go with a full stomach, I get what I need and go.
Going shopping hungry makes you want everything on the shelf.
Don’t be the hungry overspender.
Visit the clearance isle first
When I go shopping, I find it to be a good idea to visit the clearance isle first and pick out anything I need for my shopping list.
Chances are, once you set your eyes on the product that crosses off the need on your list you won’t switch it out for a more expensive product you’ll come by later.
It helps you go for the cheaper item and stick to it.
Shop only once or twice a month
Reducing the number of times you shop reduces the number of times you are at risk of impulse buying.
So it makes sense to not go out shopping for food as much. Limit your shopping trips to once or twice per month and eliminate ‘a quick run to the grocery store’.
Compare unit prices
Image Source: Softsolder.com
Don’t ignore unit prices when comparing items (especially ones like hand soap and laundry detergent).
Most stores have the price per ounce or liter etc. if you look on their shelf sticker.
If you’re really trying to get the most bang for your buck its best to widdle it down to how many cents per unit of measure you’re paying.
And the best part is that stores already do it for you. All you have to do is look.
Leave the kiddos at home
I worked at a grocery store through college and I don’t think there was a kid that passed by that wouldn’t be begging their mom or dad for something or other.
Hands down, kids are easily distracted and want anything in their sight.
Sometimes as parents we get impatient and we easily say yes to every sugary snack they want to take home with them.
If you can, it’s a great idea to leave the kiddos at home so you can do your shopping without the risk of adding extra things to your list.
Be open to other brands
You don’t always have to stick to the brands you grew up with. Sometimes there are more affordable brands out there for the same quality ingredients.
Try switching one or two brands per grocery run for a more affordable one and adopt the ones you like best.
Replace sugary drinks with infused water
This won’t only save you money, it’ll help you keep the pounds off too.
Infused water is still flavorful and helps you save money from buying overpriced and processed drinks. Often people lose extra pounds by simply cutting our juice and soda from their diets.
Here are some infused water ideas to help you start ditching the juices and sodas.
Nominate a snack of the month/week
This can be a great little tradition to keep you from overspending on snacks (right along with not going shopping hungry).
And it can work great if you have kids that you want to keep healthy too.
Every time you go out shopping nominate a snack of the week or month (depending on how often you go out shopping).
One week it could be double stuffed Oreos, the next could be rice Krispies, but the idea is to stick to one snack and finishing it before thinking about buying a new one.
This can help you exercise self-control on buying excess sugary foods.
Stay away from pre-cut, pre-seasoned, pre-anything
It’s an extra service, and extra services cost, well, extra. You can easily do these things yourself. 😊
Food Waste Can Cost You More Than You Think
Food waste can be a big finance sucker in your budget if you don’t learn to control it. And since we all eat every day, that number can keep getting worse.
Hopefully, these ways to save money on groceries help you curb some finances into other parts of your budget while still eating well.
Was there a tip you particularly like most? Anything I missed? I’m always ready to hear about new ways of saving money below.
Happy grocery shopping. 😊