How to Save Money on Groceries: 20 Tips to Try

Today is food shopping day. Again.

If you’re like most people, grocery shopping is probably the most expensive event of the week and one of the most significant line items in your household budget.

It’s easy to overspend on food. And when this happens on a weekly basis, it can have major consequences for your finances.

You may be tempted to save your grocery bill by buying lower-quality food, but there is a better way.

With a little commitment and know-how, you can take concrete steps today to cut your food budget without jeopardizing your family’s health.

This  article provides 20 money-saving strategies for spending less on groceries, divided into four steps:

  1. Strategize
  2. Save
  3. Shop smartly
  4. Stay away from traps

Applying this practice is easier than you think, and it can result in significant total savings.

Strategize

As I mention in my frugal living book, the three “I’s” come into play when reducing your shopping bill: intention, initiative, and impulse control.

Grocery businesses employ end caps, sales brochures, free samples, and a variety of other flashy objects to entice you to spend more money. If you don’t have a strategy and impulse control, you’re likely to lose the game.

Instead, be deliberate by assessing your priorities and asking yourself questions that bring your objectives into vivid perspective.

  • What are your top priorities in terms of finances?
  • What are your healthy eating goals, and how much money are you willing to spend on achieving them?
  • What are the causes behind your tendency to overpay at the supermarket?

Asking yourself questions like these allows you to turn an abstract objective (saving money on food or eating healthier, for example) into a tangible plan.

Here’s how to make a shopping game plan that won’t let you down.

#1: Shop Your Own Shelves First

In our guide to eating healthy on a budget, we discuss two distinct approaches to meal planning. You can eat whatever you want or what you have.

While either technique can work with a limited food budget, the simplest way to save the most money on groceries is to consume what you’ve already bought.

Food waste is similar to wasting money away. So, if you want to decrease your shopping spend, start by looking at your own fridge, freezer, and pantry.

Check the expiration dates and make a note of what has to be utilized first. Then, jot down some meal ideas that use those ingredients. If you’re stuck, try searching “recipes with (food item)” on Pinterest or Google to obtain some new ideas.

#2. Create A Budget

Because food is one of the top three expenses for most individuals, keeping to a grocery budget allows you to make significant progress toward saving money.

Having a budget can assist you in your quest for “mind over menu,” and will keep your health and financial goals at the front of your priority.

To determine your food budget, first calculate how much you want to spend per person per meal, then multiply the number of meals per month by the number of family members to arrive at a total grocery budget.

We provide a detailed breakdown of the math in this post on budget meal planning.

Ideally, your food budget (which includes groceries, snacking, and eating out) should not exceed 10-15% of your total costs.

#3. Create a Meal Plan

Create a weekly meal plan based on your grocery budget and some ideas from the food products you already have on hand.

Keep your calendar available during the meal planning process. Make a note of any times you will be attending a business lunch or going out to dinner. Also, keep track of any busy times (like as soccer practice or school events) when you’ll want a quick and easy dinner.

Plug in the meals you came up with in Step #1, then fill in the gaps with meals your family enjoys.

Be cautious of recipes that call for specialist or expensive food items; there is no need to remove them totally from the menu, as long as you keep the entire budget in mind.

For example, if you intend to eat a meal with expensive components (such as bacon-wrapped shrimp) on Tuesday, you can balance the cost by preparing a less expensive meal (such as pasta with marinara sauce) the following day.

Make a grocery list of everything you’ll need for your meal plan. If you need items for many meals, indicate quantities to ensure you buy enough.

#4. Eat Seasonally

As you prepare your meals, try to include seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Fresh food that is not in season in the United States must be imported from other parts of the world where it is available for harvest. During the long journey to grocery store shelves, produce loses much of its texture, taste, and nutritional value.

In-season food is the most tasty and nutritious you can get. It is also generally less expensive because it does not have to travel across the hemisphere. Your local farmer’s market is likely to provide the highest quality (and variety) of in-season vegetables.

If you’re not sure what’s in season where you live, check out the USDA’s recommendations. 

#5 Expand Your Palate

We often buy and eat the same meals again and over. Grocery stores have become aware of this. They manipulate their pricing by rotating sales since they know the foods we frequently purchase together.

For example, they could put peanut butter on sale one week and jelly on sale the next, so that the sales don’t overlap.

If you want to take full advantage of the offers you locate, you may need to be a little imaginative.

One of the finest ways to do so is to expand your palette.

Consider this: At any one time, X percent of the items at a grocery store are on sale. However, the average consumer only shops a portion of the store.

Most of us have a few go-to meat cuts, favorite vegetable products, and dishes that we frequently rotate in and out of our meal plan. Shopping outside of your comfort zone provides you with a far wider range of sales and item pairings to pick from.

Save

A sound strategy can guarantee that your food selections are consistent with your health goals and budget, but don’t stop there! Here are a few additional ways to save money on groceries, many of which can be done using your phone.

#6: Use Cash-Back Apps

Once you’ve established a meal plan and a food budget, cash-back apps for groceries might help you save even more money.

  • Fluz is a free app that provides cash back at several major supermarket shops, including Kroger, Ralph’s, Safeway, and Whole Foods. Depending on the store, you can often save 3% to 4% off your entire purchase price.
  • Another alternative is Ibotta, which offers rewards for taking a photo of your supermarket receipt and sending it to the app.
  • Upside is a free app that offers cash back on both groceries and petrol purchases.

#7. Do Not Overlook Paper Coupons

Clipping coupons continues to provide some of the finest deals. These can be found in the Sunday paper, on store machines, or on specific grocery products.

Furthermore, many manufacturers offer the option to print your own coupons online.

Companies such as PGEveryday and Coupons.com provide a collection of coupons for a variety of products.

Printable coupons are also available on the websites of particular manufacturers such as Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Dove, Kellogg’s, and others.

Swagbucks, a well-known cash-back/rewards website and app, is another source for printable coupons. You can print up to 50 coupons every day, earning points (which can be exchanged for gift cards) in addition to the coupon’s face value.

#8. Join the Loyalty Program

Many stores have a loyalty program in which enrolled consumers receive additional discounts. Registration is normally free, so passing this up means you’re leaving money on the table.

Food Lion, Kroger, Lowes Foods, and other chains allow you to load digital coupons onto your loyalty card, offering you all the benefits of high-value coupons without having to clip coupons or hunt through your handbag.

Sign up on the store’s website or on sites such as Coupons.com and Savingstar.com.

#9. Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods

Focusing on nutrient-dense foods gives you the best value for your money.

Nutrient-dense foods contain higher nutritious value per calorie. This group includes lean meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, and whole grains.

Non-nutrient rich foods (chips, candy, or white bread, for example) frequently include a high concentration of simple carbohydrates (sugars), which burn quickly and leave you hungry shortly afterward.

Nutrient-dense foods are typically more expensive. However, you don’t have to eat as much of it to feel full.

Furthermore, eating foods rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals is beneficial to your health and one of the best long-term investments you can make.

#10. Eat Less Meat

Clean protein, such as lean beef, is nutrition packed, but it is also pricey. Reducing your meat consumption is an easy method to save money on groceries.

You don’t have to give up meat entirely, though. In reality, my family receives organic, grass-fed beef delivery from Crowd Cow on a daily basis, and the price is usually equivalent to what we’d pay for lower-quality meat at the grocery store.

However, if you’re shopping on a budget, consider meat as a complement rather than the star of the dish.

For example, instead of steak with green beans, try a vegetable stir fry with little pieces of beef.

When replacing meat with other foods, make deliberate decisions. If you substitute shrimp for a baked potato filled with cheese and sour cream, your food bill may be reduced, but you’ll be replacing healthful lean meat with simple carbs.

Consider replacing meat with foods strong in protein and/or fiber (such as quinoa or beans).

Shop Smartly

Having a grocery-saving strategy is one thing; putting it into action requires expertise and practice.

Shopping is not as simple as it appears. You make hundreds of small decisions as you walk down the aisles, and supermarkets and food companies spend millions of dollars each year on market research and advertising to try to influence those decisions in their favor.

To consistently score amazing deals and lower your food spending, you must deliberately concentrate on becoming a better shopper.

#11. Know How Much Things Should Cost

We all desire amazing grocery deals. However, if you are unfamiliar with food prices, you will be unable to spot a good deal when you see one.

We may think of prices as set and unchanging, but food prices vary greatly from week to week. Furthermore, some “sale” items are not significantly lower than usual; they are only being pushed for that week.

If you are unsure whether a box of salt should cost $.75 or $1.50, the supermarket store may charge you either amount. That may not seem like a big deal, but simply paying attention to prices can save you half the money.

And when that principle is applied to your entire shopping trip, the additional costs can soon build up.

#12. Visit More Than One Store

Shopping at more than one store might be inconvenient. To be fair, time equals money. However, while attempting to save as much money on food as possible, this is frequently required.

Grocers can obtain data from millions upon millions of transactions. They understand how much money you have to spend, what you buy, and when you buy it. They organize their store layouts, pricing, and marketing appropriately.

Shopping at numerous stores allows you to take advantage of each one’s competitive price advantage.

For example, you might discover that eggs are cheaper at Trader Joe’s, but milk is virtually always on sale at Publix. 

#13. Pay Attention to The Deal Terms

Just because a sale advertises “10 cans for $10” doesn’t mean you have to buy ten products to obtain the discount. This may appear obvious, but it is a common mistake.

Stores advertise 10-for-10 deals to entice you to buy more food. So, unless you’re purposely stocking up on pantry necessities, there’s no reason to buy more than your shopping list suggests.

Occasionally, a minimum purchase is required to receive the discount. Especially for “buy three, get one free” type promotions.

Also, coupons or sales may offer a discount when you purchase two similar items (for example, cereal and milk).

Don’t assume you have to buy the number indicated in the sale; read the rules of the deal before filling your shopping cart with further items.

14. Shop Online for Household Goods

Compare the costs of items you buy in-store to those sold online by shops such as Walmart or Amazon. Household items (such as toilet paper, garbage bags, and soap) are virtually usually more expensive at supermarkets.

Why? Getting these goods throughout your shopping trip is convenient. Running short of toilet paper? Just throw it in the cart.

But you’re paying a hefty price for that ease.

Shipping is normally free on sites like Amazon and Walmart for orders over $25 or $35, and Amazon’s subscribe-and-save option saves you an additional 5%.

#15. Think Twice Before Buying Bulk

You can save money by purchasing in bulk, but this comes with a large asterisk. If you’re not careful, buying in bulk can deplete your savings.

Buying in bulk to save money per item only makes sense if you can consume the food before it spoils. A 10-pound bag of potatoes may be a wonderful deal, but if half of them deteriorate, you haven’t saved any money; you’ve simply created pricey compost.

The ideal bulk purchases are things that you use quickly or have a long shelf life. Membership businesses such as Sam’s Club and Costco frequently provide fantastic rates on bulk items, which is a blessing for many families with children.

However, if you’re paying off debt or on a limited budget, you might have to pass up bulk purchases. Even while a 50-pound bag of rice is a terrific price and will not deteriorate, it still consumes a significant portion of your food budget — and you must still purchase the remainder of your supplies for the week.

Stay Away From Traps

Food makers and grocery stores are deceptive and effective at enticing you to spend money. Stay vigilant and look out for these frequent hazards when grocery shopping to ensure you’re spending wisely and getting the most nutrition for your money.

#16. Prepared Foods Cost More

Whole foods (i.e., foods that are close to their original, in-the-field state) are not only more nutritious, but also less expensive.

When you buy processed goods, you are paying not only for the materials, but also for labor and packaging.

For example, rolling entire oats into oatmeal and dumping them into a large container requires less effort, time, and materials than rolling the oats, dividing the oatmeal into packets, adding seasoning, and placing the appropriate amount of oatmeal packets into boxes.

Hence, the large container of plain oats is cheaper than a box of oatmeal packets.

There is, however, an exception to the norm. If you can earn more money working in the time it would take to prepare the foods yourself, save your time and buy the ready version.

Pre-sliced fruit, grilled chicken breast strips, spice mixtures, and veggie kebabs are all excellent examples of this.

#17: Store Brands Aren’t Always Cheaper

We prefer to believe that generic store brands are less expensive than name-brand things, but this isn’t always true. Generics are usually slightly less expensive, although they rarely provide promotions or coupons.

As a result, a coupon or sale can often buy you name-brand things for less.

Take this on a case-by-case and trip-by-trip basis, as the greatest deal for a specific item will shift as sales fluctuate. Just don’t assume that the store brand is the best value.

#18. Sales Are Meant to Encourage You to Spend More, Not Less

Shopping is a psychological battleground. Store promotions are designed to entice you to buy more or something you would not have bought otherwise.

So, while sales can be a terrific way to save money, remember why they exist.

“Stocking up” sales might be especially dangerous if you’re not cautious. If you need an item at a great price and want to stock up, you will need to remove something from your weekly budget to make way for it.  

If this works, that’s amazing! However, if you purchase 25 of something because it’s on sale without a particular strategy for using it, you’re more likely to waste food, time, and money than if you followed your pre-planned shopping list.

Also, keep in mind that there is no minimum reduction required to display an item as a “sale price.” A 1% discount is technically a sale item, but it isn’t worth breaking the bank to save pennies by stocking up.

#19: The Inner Aisles Are A Money Pit

The outside parts of the supermarket (fruit, fresh meat, and dairy) contain the majority of the whole, nutritious food items. The inner aisles feature the majority of the store’s sugary, unhealthy, and processed food (such as chips, drink, and candy).

That is by design. Supermarkets deliberately place everything you need around the perimeter, increasing the likelihood that you will come into contact with everything else as you go from one end of the store to the other.

Obviously, you must navigate the entire store to find what you need, some of which will be in the inner aisles. Think of this guideline as a reminder rather than a hard and fast rule.

#20. Pricing Mistakes Are Common

When your items arrive at the register, keep a close eye on the checkout scanner. With thousands of products changing pricing each week, price errors on shelf tags and at the register are widespread.

Plus, cashiers are human, and they may accidentally double-scan products or ring up a zucchini as a cucumber.  

If you don’t notice the issue as it occurs, you’re unlikely to return to the service desk and request a refund later.

How to Save Money on Food: FAQ

We’ve compiled a list of the most often asked questions about grocery shopping money-saving tips. If you are looking for information that is not addressed in the article or below, please let us know by posting a comment, and we would gladly research and update this page.  

How much should I spend on groceries?

This is very dependent on your family’s size, location, and nutritional requirements. A thrifty family with two adults and two small children may expect to spend at least $570 per month. For more detailed figures, refer to the USDA’s guide on how much to budget for each family member based on age.

Is it possible to reduce a shopping spend by half?

Unless you’re drastically overspending, you’re unlikely to be able to cut your shopping bill by half – at least not without jeopardizing your health.

But by meal planning, preventing impulse purchases, and being careful of your expenditures, you may significantly reduce your grocery bill. A 10% reduction should be straightforward. A 20-30% reduction is possible with diligence.

Can you save money on food while still eating healthily?

Definitely. Grocery shopping on a budget should not imply neglecting your health. In fact, fueling your body with nutritious foods is one of the best investments you can make.

Nutritious food may be more expensive at first, but being healthy helps you avoid additional medical and other expenses later in life.

Which grocery stores are the cheapest?

A recent survey found that Aldi is the cheapest local grocery store.

If you don’t have an Aldi nearby, your next best options are Market Basket (northeast US), WinCo (west coast and midwest), and Food4Less (CA, IL, OH, and IN).

Many of these businesses cut expenses by having customers bag their own food, so remember to bring your own bags!

Is frozen food cheaper than fresh?

The relative price of frozen food, including frozen fruits and vegetables, is determined by the product, your area, and the season. Frozen produce is frequently less expensive than fresh produce when it is out of season or imported from a long distance.

Furthermore, NPR reports that the average American household wastes approximately $1,500 in fresh vegetables each year. Integrating frozen food into your meal plans, providing you have freezer space, may help you reduce waste.

How to Save Money on Groceries: Final Thoughts

Saving money on groceries does not require reinventing the wheel.

Just a few modifications, such as using up what’s in the fridge, meal planning, and keeping to a budget, can help you save a lot of money on groceries. If you struggle with overpaying at the grocery or don’t have time to plan meals on a regular basis, consider using a meal kit delivery service like Hungryroot. While not the cheapest per meal, it is significantly less expensive (and healthier) than ordering in.

This is especially true if you use money-saving strategies such as couponing, using a cash-back grocery app like Ibotta, and buying at a bargain retailer like Aldi.

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to cut your food spending in half, but even a 10% savings per trip to the grocery store will build up over months and years, resulting in significant savings.

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