Food prices seem to inflate quite quickly. It seems like every time we go shopping, another staple has increased in price. But there is no reason to pay retail prices for most food items. There are numerous strategies available to save money on groceries.
We’re big on eating healthy food and we don’t skimp out when shopping. Our diet consists of some meat, healthy fat, lots of vegetables, and a moderate amount of fresh fruit. It’s a pretty solid, research backed diet that should lead to optimal health.
Our favorite veggies are avocados, spinach, kale, onions, green beans, asparagus, carrots, and sweet potatoes. For fruit, we’ll try whatever is on sale. We eat eggs, lots of extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and butter. We love dark chocolate, raw apple cider vinegar, and raw honey. We ferment foods when possible. We very rarely eat sugar or empty carbs, and we have almost entirely removed gluten from our diet.
All this to say, we obviously don’t have the cheapest diet. Most people would consider it top shelf living. And because we don’t eat processed foods, coupons are very rarely an option. However, we bet that if you looked at the cost of our monthly grocery bill, you’d never be able to tell. Through a few simple habits, we are able to consistently eat great food at reasonable prices.
How to Save Money on Groceries:
How to Save Money on Groceries at the Store:
1. Don’t shop hungry:
I know you’ve heard this rule before, but it is true. You will have less patience and less self control, leaving you powerless against impulse buying. Do yourself a financial favor and eat before you shop.
2. Know average prices so you can spot a good deal:
How will you know a good deal from a terrible deal if you don’t know how much items normally cost? The more aware you become while you shop for groceries, the more familiar you will become with pricing.
3. Make a list.
It’s important to go into a grocery store with a plan. Take a look at the ads for your local grocery stores and make a list of the best deals and where they come from. Having a list of items that are on sale and the items you want to price match (see #7) is imperative. Not only will it help you avoid impulse buying, it will also help you get in and out of the grocery store faster so you can get on with the rest of your life.
4. Focus on Sale Items
This step is crucial for saving money on groceries. If it’s not on sale, we usually don’t buy it. You should be able to live without an item until it goes on sale again.
5. Get a rain check.
If the store runs out of the advertised special, go to the customer service counter and request a rain check and ask when they will be restocked. A rain check means they will let you buy the advertised item at the sale price when the item has been restocked, even though it is no longer on sale.
6. Buy first, then meal plan.
Step 1: Only write down sale items on your grocery list. Step 2: Plan your weekly meals around what items are on sale. Step 3: Research new meals to prepare with the items you bought on sale.
This is by far the most underutilized grocery shopping money saving habit. Most will tell you to meal plan and then shop. However, that introduces too much of a temptation to buy things that are not on sale (or unnecessary) to complete the recipe for the meal you planned. By shopping first, and then planning your meals, you will have to work with what you bought on sale.
In order to meal plan with what you bought on sale at the store, simply type in the main ingredient you want to use and then type the style of food you want to make. For instance, say I bought a lot of chicken this week. I would type in, “chicken Paleo recipes” and I would get a plethora of recipes to choose from. Look for a recipe that you already have all the ingredients for. If you don’t, then skip it and find one where you do have all the ingredients. The recipe is out there, and it is usually not that hard to find.
7. Price match:
Price matching local ads at Walmart is easy, and saves time by allowing you only visit one store. Price matching involves looking at ads from your local grocery stores, making a list of the best deals and taking that list to Walmart (or other stores that advertise their price matching program). When you get to the register, tell the cashier that you will be price matching your items. Then, when they ring up each item, tell the cashier the price you saw the item for and at what store and watch them “roll back the prices” even more.
8. Check Unit Prices:
A unit price is the price for one unit of the item you are buying. For instance, when you are buying items in a multi-pack, there are usually a few options for size or brand. The way unit pricing works is that the bigger the bulk of the item, the less you will often have to pay. Knowing the unit price will help you determine how much you will save per unit when you do buy in bulk. It will also assist you when trying to determine between two brands.
For instance, you are trying to buy a package of tortillas. A 27 ounce package will cost you $1.50 and a 66 ounce package will cost you $3.15. The first package will cost you $0.06 per ounce where the second option will cost you $0.05 per ounce. You can see in this situation, you would be paying about one cent less per ounce with option 2.
However, if you didn’t want to have 66 ounces of tortillas, you wouldn’t be losing too much money to buy a smaller portion. If this was a one time purchase of tortillas, then the smaller option might be better. However, if tortillas are part of your weekly grocery list, you would be throwing away $0.45 to buy the smaller packages, not to mention the extra time it takes you to repurchase the tortillas every week.
As you can see, knowing the unit price of an item can help to determine if an item is a good deal or not and it becomes easier to compare brands based on price. Some stores, like Walmart, kindly do the work for you. Other times you have to do the math yourself. Look to the left of the price tag at grocery store to see if they display the unit price.
9. If it’s on sale, stock up!
Stocking up on items that go on sale is always a good idea. You can even stock up on produce by picking out items that are not ripe yet. This will give you a few days or weeks before you have to consume them. Just be aware of expiration dates when stocking up.
10. Buy generic:
Generally, generic is of equal value to name brand. Occasionally, it is the EXACT same product in a different package. So, save money by going for the more reasonable, generic choice.
11. Limit your use of coupons:
Coupons are great when you are looking for a deal on nonperishable or hygiene items. However, they can also pose as a temptation for you to buy items that are less than nutritional. It’s great to look at the coupons to see if they have any stellar deals, but if the temptation to buy processed or junk foods is too great, skip the coupons and follow the other 34 tips in this article.
12. Weigh your dairy options:
Milk and cheese are pretty expensive by my book. Therefore, we have reduced our consumption of each. This tip may not work for some families, but consider buying almond milk, coconut milk, or other sale alternatives instead of cow’s milk. If you are open to all the options, you have a greater likelihood of finding a sale. By limiting consumption until a sale is found, we have reduced our usage and further kept the cost down.
13. Keep an eye on the cashier:
When you go through the check out line, make sure you are watching as the cashier rings up your purchases. Then, if an item rings up at the wrong price, you can correct it. If you don’t watch closely, you might be overcharged. This would negate all of your hard work of price matching the item in the first place, so pay attention!
How to Save Money on Groceries at Home:
14. Keep a running list:
Keep track of items you run out of, as well as items you’re about to run out of. This list is important so that you are not running to the store, wasting gas and time, on one or two items.
15. Only grocery shop once:
Once you’ve made a comprehensive list (no one item grocery store runs!) plan your route to the grocery store when you’re already going to be close to one. This will save money on gas.
16. Grow your own:
The best way to save money on produce and spices is to have a garden full of items you would normally buy at the store. Spending a little bit of time in your garden every day has big payoffs because you don’t have to buy marked up produce at the store.
17. Eat wild game:
Hunting wild game and raising chickens is a cheaper alternative to buying meat at the grocery store. Not only is wild game better for you, it is also better for you pocketbook. We had a relative who shot a deer, so Jacob helped skin it and then paid $30 to have 40 pounds ground. We made venison burgers and chili for months.
18. Cook at home:
When you avoid eating out and instead opt for cooking at home, you will avoid sales tax in some states and tipping. You will also be able to control the quality of your food and the portion served.
19. Learn to freeze produce properly
Freezing produce is a great thing to know for when you have bought in bulk (see #5) or grown more than you can eat (see #16) and need to save some produce for later. I have been freezing produce to eat in a few weeks when we need a break from the produce we bought on sale that week.
20. Do the work yourself:
Don’t ever buy a main dish meal that is already prepared for you. For example, don’t buy a green pepper that is already stuffed for you. Pack that rice, beans, meat, and cheese in there yourself and save a wad of cash. The same goes for a veggie/fruit tray or other items that you pay to have someone else chop up produce for you. This is always a great way to waste money. You get less food for a higher price. When you buy items that come pre-cut, you are paying more for convenience. The other day I saw a rump roast packaged with pre-cut carrots and potatoes that was selling for double the price of a roast, potatoes, and carrots sold separately. Don’t be duped by convenience.
21. Make it yourself:
Some items like peanut butter, juice, and beans are better to make yourself. Not only will you cut out any harmful additives and excessive salt and sugar, but you will also save money by making it yourself. Buy peanuts, fruit and hard beans and crush, juice, and boil your way to cheaper staples.
22. Don’t throw food away:
Try to recycle the meals you make at home. For instance, if you have grilled chicken one night, make it into fajitas the next night. There are tons of creative ways to keep your leftovers from going to waste. Just ask Pinterest. Also, if you choose to eat out, take your leftovers home with you, and make sure they get eaten! If you spend the extra money to eat out, don’t leave half the food on your plate. This makes an expensive meal even more expensive.
23. Use what you have:
Take stock of what is in your refrigerator and in your pantry. Make sure you are using all produce before it spoils, and use the canned foods in your pantry before buying new ones. This will ensure that you are not just building a pantry full of food that will eventually get donated.
Shop Around to Save Money on Groceries:
24.Buy food online
For specialty food items such as coconut flour, arrowroot flour, coconut oil, and supplements, buy items online. Amazon is a great resource for any food item not commonly found in a grocery store. Some of these items can easily be found at health food stores, but are often much more expensive than buying online. We eat a lot of coconut flour and coconut oil in desserts, so we buy in bulk online.
25. Buy goods at the local farmer’s market:
Check your area for a local farmer’s market. Sometimes prices are better or prices are similar for higher quality food. The farmers market is also a great place to get fresh and hormone free meats and dairy.
26. Make a deal with a local farmer
When it comes to dairy, meat, and sometimes produce, search Craigslist for a farmer in your area and negotiate discounted prices if you buy from them every week. If you can’t find a farmer on Craigslist, try negotiating a deal at the farmer’s market. Some might even barter with you!
27. Discount grocery stores
Don’t be afraid to shop at discount stores like the Dollar store, Aldi, and Save-a-Lot. Their supply is generally limited, but their low prices make it worth the trip. We especially stock up on olive oil from Aldi, as they have the best prices around. You can also price match their ads at Walmart. However, be careful when you go into discount stores. Remember to stay sharp and to know a good deal when you see one (see #2). For instance, paying $1 for a pack of gum at the dollar store is not as good of a deal as paying $2.00 for three packs of gum at the grocery store.
28. Shop at drug stores for special buys:
I recently discovered that shopping at Walgreens and CVS is sometimes beneficial. Most of their items are wildly overpriced. However, their weekly deals are great! Last week we bought a dozen eggs for $1 at Walgreens.
29. Become a member:
Check out your local membership grocery stores. Before you sign up, do your research and find out how much a membership would cost and how long it would take you to make up the cost of the membership fees. Some stores have student and senior discounts for their memberships, so be sure to ask. Club membership stores sell in bulk which sometimes lowers unit prices.
30. Know the clearance aisle of grocery stores in your area:
Our favorite grocery store has a discount aisle tucked away in the back of the store by the bathrooms. It is the hidden gem of our grocery shopping experience. In every grocery store we shop, we make sure to scout out the clearance aisle.
Save money with smart phone apps:
Ibotta is a popular grocery cash back app. The way it works: You find the grocery store you’re planning on shopping. Click on items you want to buy, and complete an action like taking a poll/survey, voting for your favorite item, watching a video, or learning a fact. Once you complete the task, you’re eligible for the rebate. Then, once you buy the item at the grocery store, you take a picture of your receipt and watch your cash back roll in. You can then either cash out or use your cash back to buy a gift card.
32. Snap by Groupon:
Snap is less varied, but also less strict when it comes to cash back. All you have to do is browse their limited selection of cash back items, buy the items at ANY store, and get cash back in your account. After you’ve accumulated $20 or more, you can cash out. Easy peasy.
33. Checkout 51:
Checkout 51 is also an easy app to use. Browse the new offers every Thursday, star the ones you’re going to buy, upload your receipt, and receive cash back. Once your cash back balance reaches $20, you can request cash back.
34. Saving Star:
Saving Star has a few added benefits as a cash back app. They offer a healthy cash back offer on fresh produce each week. They also have a freebie offer every weekend, which is Friday through Sunday. In addition, their cash out option is available after you earn $5 in cash back, which is a lot lower than the other cash back apps.
35. Use all 4 apps:
The real trick to these apps is finding the items that earn cash back on all 4 apps (or at least 2). By using all of the apps, as well as any coupons you stumble across, you can get items for pennies on the dollar.
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I hope you enjoyed our guide on how to save money on groceries. Do you have any other ideas to cut the cost of grocery shopping?