Looking for ways to save money on groceries? These tactics are simple and take very little effort!
Cooking is one of my greatest passions, but it isn’t always the cheapest hobby. Especially when you want to eat healthy while staying on a budget.
The one thing we all have in common as human beings is food. We all have to eat. We may not all have the same tastes, eat the same things, or react to foods in the same way… but we all have to eat. Which means we all have to grocery shop.
Grocery bills can be pricey, especially when you have a big family or are not efficient in the kitchen. Kitchen efficiency can mean a lot of things, including but not limited to the amount of money you spend on food, the types of groceries you buy, how much food you produce, and how much you waste.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, an appalling 1.3 billion tons of food gets lost or wasted each year. That is roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption. 1.3 BILLION tons. Insane!
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Food waste can be attributed to a lot of things, but it primarily boils down to lack of preparedness and overspending. If we consumed all of the food that is produced in a timely manner, we would waste less and spend less.
If you want to achieve better control over your grocery bills while reducing the amount of food that your household produces, you absolutely can. You can eat delicious, homemade, healthy meals for far less than you are currently spending if you employ these easy steps!
1. Create a Meal Plan
A meal plan keeps you accountable. I grew up in a household where dinner was dinner. If you are looking to save money on food, you should treat your meal prep as such. Each Sunday, plan out your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week, so you know exactly what is on the menu and when.
Not only will this help you save money on food, keeping you from buying a pizza on those lazy nights, but it’ll help keep you stress-free. If you are the cook of the house, you KNOW how time-consuming and stressful it can be to try to figure out what to cook by the time you get home after a long day. A plan will save you from that end-of-work-day panic.
If you don’t have time to create a meal plan, or if you just don’t know how, we would definitely recommend trying $5 Meal Plan to start creating the habit of eating at home more often than eating out, and saving money on food. It’s a simple and affordable weekly meal plan service that saves a lot of time.
For just $5/month, you will receive a delicious meal plan where every meal costs just $2/person, and often less! All you have to do is get the ingredients and relax knowing that you don’t have to plan out what you and your family will be eating each week.
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2. Write Down Your Grocery List (and Stick To It)
A grocery list will help curb impulse purchases so you don’t spend more than you should. Sam loves to give me a hard time about how I never go to the grocery store without a list, even if I am only getting three things. Not only does it keep me from forgetting something (and ultimately needing to go back, argh!) but I don’t wander the aisles aimlessly. I go with a mission, and I stick to the mission.
Going to the grocery store without a plan is one of the main ways that we end up overspending on food. Follow your meal plan by writing down all the ingredients that you need for whatever you are cooking for the week. Only buy what you need for your meal plan so you aren’t stuck with food that ends up going to waste. Or food that you never intended to buy in the first place.
Need help getting started? Try our free printable grocery list template and meal planner!
3. Do An Inventory Of Your Pantry & Fridge Before Shopping
Raise your hand if you are guilty of buying spices that you already have and bread that you don’t need! Ahem, GUILTY!
As you are making your grocery list, make sure you check your pantry and fridge to avoid buying something you already have. I like to do a quick inventory (especially of my dry goods) before I grocery shop because I almost always have at least a few ingredients that my recipe requires.
Doing a monthly kitchen run-down is also a great way to get your creative juices flowing when you’re coming up with your meal plans. You more than likely already have everything you need to make something. It’s just a matter of being aware of and utilizing what you’ve already purchased.
4. Get Cash Back For Your Purchases – $10 Signup Bonus
Ibotta pays cash rebates for items that you can buy any day! Not only can you save money, you can MAKE money!
Install the Ibotta app and browse the offers available to see what you can earn cash back on. This includes a ton of regular grocery store items like bread, bananas, cheese, snacks and much more. You were already planning to grocery shop, so you might as well save some money while you’re at it, right?
Go shopping at any of the participating stores and hold onto your receipt! Redeem your offers by simply taking a photo of your receipt and Ibotta will match the items that you bought to the offers you selected. In exchange, YOU GET CASH! When you sign up and upload your first receipt you will get a $10 sign up bonus which you can put toward more groceries.
Another perk? Cash is deposited into your Ibotta account within 48 hours!
5. Join Loyalty Programs
If there is a grocery store that you do the bulk of your shopping at, find out if they have a loyalty program for discounted shopping. It is often as simple as providing your phone number, no strings attached.
The nice thing about loyalty programs is that you often have access to unadvertised sales. My family is a member of two grocery stores in our area and when I do a big haul, I can often save up $15-20 on groceries – savings that were practically gifted to me because I created an account with the store.
6. Shop at Your Local Farmer’s Market
Depending on your locale, you can often get most things that you would need for a meal at the farmer’s market: fresh produce, eggs, milk, breads, jams, sometimes meats and more. No matter how many times I shop local, I am always surprised when I am told what I owe at checkout. Shopping at a farmer’s market is one of the best ways to eat healthy on a budget.
Fruits and vegetables are dirt cheap, you can get a dozen eggs for a fraction of the cost as those at a grocery store, and it’s all super fresh. Not only that, but you will be supporting local farmers which is always a good thing!
7. Make The Food You Buy Last Longer
I come from a pretty large family so I grew up on bulk products and big meals. I never had to cook small, so when I moved in with Sam, we always had an unreal amount of leftovers. Fortunately for me, he is a human garbage disposal who will eat just about anything – but that’s beside the point.
For a time, we were crazy guilty of forgetting about what was in the refrigerator until it went bad and needed to be thrown away. Then we learned about the food saver. One of our favorite ways to preserve our food for longer is by utilizing our freezer as much as possible, storing leftovers to eat on nights that we don’t have time to plan a meal or cook.
Buying a food saver not only changed the way we cook but also saves us a lot of money on groceries. Food savers prevent freezer burn and keep foods fresher for longer. We like to freeze our leftovers in 1-2 serving size portions for easy weeknight meals. All we have to do is drop the vacuum-sealed bag in a pot of boiling water and dinner is ready in minutes! Not only that, but it honestly keeps food tasting just as good as it did when it was first made.
8. Shop Wholesale
Stores like Costco and BJ’s are my jam. They are the best place to shop for groceries if you are entertaining, have a large family, or have a large freezer or pantry to store back-up products.
I always get things like toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, dish soap and other household goods at Costco because they cost much less than they do at the grocery store. I also often get a lot of my groceries in bulk when I know that I am going to be preparing a large amount of food, or if there is a really great deal on something we love to eat. Wholesale truly is the best way to get the best bang for your buck.
9. Skip the Pre-Packaged Foods
I know, they’re sooo much more convenient. But that’s why they cost more. Convenience is expensive!
For example, those bags of mixed greens and lettuce may make salad-making easier, but:
- They cost more than a head of lettuce
- You get less than you would out of a head of lettuce
- They go bad faster than a head of lettuce
AKA, buy that head of lettuce.
Or, how about those individual-sized packs of chips and snacks? Such a money-sucker!
Say you want to buy some potato chips, and you are torn between a 12-pack of individual bags and one large bag. Look at the Unit Price of each, marked in orange on the grocery store shelf. Which one has a lower Unit Price? Most likely the one larger bag. The reason is that you are paying for convenience. Purchase the large bag and break the bag down into smaller individual packs yourself at home.
Quit being lazy… buy a box of snack sized Ziploc bags and a family-sized bag of chips and make your own to-go snacks. Always make sure you are getting the best value for your money.
10. Keep An Eye Out For Specials
Grocery stores often have specials running in the meat and dairy departments, largely because of shelf life/use-by dates. If you are in a pinch and have strayed from your meal plan, shop the marked down goods for same- or next-day meals. This is a great way to get perfectly good products for a fraction of the price.
You can also find plenty of other specials in your newspaper circulars! If you spot an awesome deal (like Buy One, Get One) on non-perishable/long-shelf life items that you love, take advantage of the deal and store the extras for later. But ONLY do this if you actually like the product – don’t just snag a deal because it’s a deal.
11. Avoid Name Brands
Many people tend to buy name brands, their decisions steered by what they see on TV. We are often convinced that we are getting much better quality than the store brand – but it’s often just marketing. Sure, there are some things that may taste better than the store brand, but for the things that don’t… why not get the generic option and save some cash?
Generic products are almost always cheaper than the name brands. Take a peek at the price tags next time you are shopping for staples like condiments, cereals, baking ingredients, canned goods and paper products. Does that $1.99 Heinz Mustard really taste that much better than the 99-cent generic mustard? Willing to bet that the answer is, “ehh, I don’t know?!” Aka “no.”
12. Check The Expiration Dates
When you are shopping, take the time to look at the expiration dates, as store employees will often pull the items that are about to expire toward the front, and push the newer stuff toward the back. This goes for both non-perishables and perishables.
I have, without shame, taken 4 gallons of milk out of the grocery store cooler to get the one in the back because its expiration date was a solid 3 weeks later than the ones in the front. There is no shame in digging, you’re buying it!
13. Understand Portion Sizes
Taking the time to measure and understand portion sizes will help you buy and waste less food. It will also lead you toward a healthier diet and lifestyle. We naturally fill our plates with much more food than we need to feel full. Remember when I said that I don’t cook small? Well, understanding that I am cooking for two and not six was the first step in scaling down the amount of food that I was making. In the same hand, understanding what an actual portion size looks like helps me determine just how much I need to buy and make.
This is something you will learn and get used to as you get a grip on meal planning. Only prepare what you need, and when you run out… you can always make more. No need to prep like you’re feeding a small village!
14. Never Grocery Shop On An Empty Stomach
You KNOW what happens when you grocery shop while hungry! You will be tempted to buy snacks and treats that you probably would have passed by had you shopped after eating! Have a good meal before you go food shopping. It’s a simple mind-body trick, but it really works!
Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be as expensive as we make it! Try these simple steps for saving money on food and you could cut your grocery budget by up to half!