Food is expensive these days. With consistent inflation, everyday items have become less affordable. As a result, Americans nationwide have had to revise and tighten their budgets, especially in the grocery category.
Although money may still be tight, with some planning, creativity, and perhaps a nifty cookbook, you can still prepare great meals for your family without breaking the bank. Learning how to save money on groceries may feel like an impossible task in this economy, but with the right resources, you can reduce your food spending and save some money.
1. Learn To CookTakeout may be eating away at your monthly grocery budget because you don't know how to learn how to cook or don't feel like you have time, but it doesn't need to be that way. Cooking can be daunting for people who have never done it and feel like there's not enough time in the day. Thankfully, the internet is full of cooking videos and blog posts with recipes for every type of person.
New to cooking? Let YouTube teach you the basics. If you don't feel like you don't have time to cook because you're busy with work or kids, there are tons of “quick and easy” meal ideas that don't take much time to prepare. Refrain from blowing your food budget on eating out every month. Meal planning – one of the best money-saving tips – is a game-changer for your wallet and schedule!
2. Use Cashback AppsUsing apps to scan grocery receipts and score cashback offers on purchases is one of the easiest ways to save a substantial amount of money on your groceries. Popular cashback apps allow you to earn cashback rewards when grocery shopping; redeem your rewards for free gift cards and real money.
Fetch RewardsFetch Rewards is a free app you can use to scan every receipt you get. Each receipt you scan earns you a minimum of 25 points. You can redeem your points for free gift cards to your favorite stores and restaurants. Fetch Rewards offers you a chance to win extra points each day. Just scan a receipt and spin the wheel to receive your bonus points.
Save Money With Fetch Rewards
PogoPogo gives you rewards and savings on every purchase, helps you find additional ways to save on your finances, and will even pay you for sharing your data!
Save Money With Pogo
IbottaIbotta offers thousands of cashback offers on grocery items and household goods. Download the Ibotta app, set up your free account, and save your favorite offers in the app. After you shop, use your phone to take a picture of your receipt in the Ibotta app and submit it to collect your cashback.
3. Avoid Impulse PurchasesThe grocery store checkout line is stocked with sneaky impulse buys, tempting you to bust your budget at the last minute. Items in the checkout line are unhealthy and overpriced because the store has a captive audience as you're waiting to pay for your groceries. Avoid giving in and tossing these items in your cart!
4. Avoid Overpriced SnacksBuying portion-controlled snack packs for yourself or your kids can be tempting. Brands may market them as healthy foods, but the unit pricing is often higher, and they are rarely as healthy as they claim to be. Make cheaper alternatives at home using similar items like fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and dried berries, cheese, and anything else you want to add. You can portion them into small reusable containers, so you still get the “portion controlled” aspect.
5. Shop at Farmer's Markets for ProduceSwing by your local farmers market to purchase your fresh vegetables and fruit. Not only will you support local farmers, but their produce often has fewer pesticides, and in-season options are significantly cheaper than most local grocery stores.
You can also make it a fun outing if you have kids. The kids can help pick out their favorite fruits and veggies while taking advantage of the free samples most fruit stalls offer. This is also an excellent way for your family to eat more whole foods.
6. Sign Up for Emails and AppsIf you don't use coupons when food shopping, you are missing out on a simple way to save. Signing up for your different store's email lists and newsletters will allow them to send you coupons and exclusive discounts straight to your inbox. Stores will often send you printable coupons and grocery delivery or pickup offers.
Be sure to only use coupons for grocery purchases you were already planning to make. Don't get sucked into making additional purchases when you see great deals on items you typically don't use. While you're at it, download the store's app and create an account. Many grocery chains offer app users additional perks like secret discounts on specific items not advertised in-store, coupons on grocery purchases, and online shopping specials.
7. Only Buy Perishable Goods in Quantities You'll Use ImmediatelyFood waste – food thrown away because you didn't use it by the expiration dates – is equivalent to flushing money down the toilet. Many people buy perishables in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco because they believe they are getting a better deal. However, they end up throwing half of it away once it goes bad in a few days. This is a surefire way to increase your food costs.
You may be paying cheaper prices up front, but if the food is wasted, so is your money. If you won't be able to eat or freeze food before it spoils, consider buying smaller quantities. One of the easiest ways to avoid wasting food is to buy frozen produce instead of fresh. Purchasing frozen is also a good way to get out-of-season produce at lower prices.
8. Shop Around for Deals, Don't Only Shop at One StoreOdds are sales are happening at virtually every grocery store in your area. Don't limit yourself if you can get a better deal on an item at a different store than the one you usually go to. A deal is a deal. Grocery stores constantly compete to provide customers with the best deals, so take advantage of that.
Shopping around and using your options is a great way to save money. Look at the weekly circulars or check the websites to find the best price for the items on your shopping list.
9. Buy Necessities in BulkBuying in bulk can help you save a lot of money in the long run. If your local store doesn't offer bulk items, check for a wholesale club in your area. This is a great place to find cheaper prices on some of the more expensive grocery items. Meat options like chicken breasts, and ground beef, whole grains like cereals and bread, and household goods like toilet paper, paper towels, and laundry detergent are all specific items you'll likely find at cheaper prices when you purchase in large quantities.
Don't be afraid of putting in some extra work for lower food prices. For example, you can buy a whole tenderloin and slice it up at home – if done right, one tenderloin should give you several fillets.
10. Switch To Store BrandsAlmost all grocery stores sell their own generic, or “store brands” for less than their name-brand equivalents. Store-brand goods are independently produced and packaged by the store, making them less expensive. Not every food has a store-brand counterpart, but most pantry staples (things like cereal, canned goods, and condiments) will. Purchasing as many store brands as possible will significantly lower your grocery costs.
11. Limit Purchases of Ready-Made FoodsSometimes, you don't feel like cooking, and that's okay. However, ready-made meals are always more expensive than the same meal would be if you made it at home. Meal prepping is a great way to pre-cook meals or ingredients throughout the week, so when the time comes, you don't need to put much thought or effort into cooking. Ready-made meals are also full of preservatives and added sugar and salt. Buying fresh foods and making dinner at home will cost less money and is a healthier option.
12. Learn Proper Storage Methods for Your GroceriesFresh foods often have a relatively short shelf life. However, there are easy ways to store your groceries so they last longer and result in less waste. Here are a few examples:
- Storing chopped veggies like carrots and celery in water will keep them from drying out.
- Wash all fruit and keep it in sealed containers.
- Reseal frozen foods before returning them to the freezer to prevent burn.
13. Get Creative With LeftoversYou can often repurpose leftovers from one meal for other meals throughout the week. For example, vegetables from tonight's dinner can be reheated and served with tomorrow's meal. You can also use various leftovers in soups and casseroles. Check out some websites or Pinterest for inspiration to get creative with your leftover food.
14. Pay in CashPeople are prone to spending more money when paying with a debit or credit card versus cash. This is because when you use cash, you can physically see how much you can spend. Therefore, you can only justify spending the allotted amount. Using a card, however, doesn't have the same feeling of parting with your hard-earned money as you're just swiping a piece of plastic, making it easier to spend.
15. Join Loyalty ProgramsMost grocery stores have loyalty programs to reward their customers for shopping. When joining these programs, you will receive a loyalty card to use when checking out, which often gives you access to exclusive rewards and member-only deals in-store. Often, the special prices on sale items only apply to reward members, so you can only get the deal if you join the program.
16. Use Manufacturer's CouponsMany grocery stores offer manufacturer coupons on their websites or third-party sites such as Coupons.com or Red Plum. You can use these coupons in-store or online to find great deals at your favorite stores.
17. Shop at Discount StoresShopping at discount stores like Aldi and Trader Joe's is a good way to get the lowest price on groceries. Additionally, frequenting day-old bakeries is another excellent way to save money on food, as prices can drop by up to 50% on select items. Bread products freeze well, so you can take advantage of sales and stock up at the lowest price.
18. Stock up on Fresh Produce in Season
Buying fruits and vegetables in season is the best way to get the most wholesome foods at the best price. Local farmers often supply seasonal fruits and vegetables. So, if you like to buy locally, this is a great way to support your neighborhood farms.
Avoid buying strawberries in the middle of winter, or pumpkins in early spring. Buy your produce seasonally. That's when it's at its peak of flavor and nutrition and at its most budget-friendly. Look for local producers who are struggling to sell a glut of whatever produce they've just harvested and see how much of a good deal you can get.
I, for example, always end up with way too many plums, because my trees are super productive and healthy. And it's surprisingly hard to even give them away. They're beautiful, ripe, and sweet, but they don't come from the store, and they're not wrapped in plastic, so people seem not to want them. It's madness. Get friendly with your local growers, and you'll be amazed at how much you can save on fresh seasonal produce. Many will be thrilled to give you their excess.
I'm always inundated with zucchini, and I'm always so pleased when I find someone I can give some to so I don't have to throw them away if I'm out of room to preserve them.
19. Save Money While Still Eating HealthyWith the right tools and mindset, healthy grocery shopping on a budget is relatively easy. Saving money on groceries can also help you work towards other goals. For example, that extra money could go towards a family vacation, a new car, or a down payment for a house.
Eating healthily doesn't have to be synonymous with spending more. With a bit of strategy and planning, you can enjoy nutritious meals without straining your wallet. Start by focusing on whole foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, and lean proteins. These items are often cheaper per serving than processed foods and offer better nutritional value. Additionally, consider buying in-season produce, which is typically more affordable and fresher.
And don't forget to check out local farmers' markets or community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, which can offer great deals on bulk produce. Remember, a healthy diet is an investment in your well-being, and with the right approach, it doesn't have to come at a premium price.
20. Make a Shopping List (and Stick to it)Creating a shopping list is a tried-and-true method to ensure you only buy what you need. Before heading to the store, jot down everything you require for the week. This helps you remember essential items and prevents you from making impulse purchases that can quickly add up.
Remember, discipline is key; stick to the list! But leave a little wiggle room in your budget in case you spot a great deal on an item you know you'll use.
21. Plan Your MealsMeal planning can be a game-changer for your grocery budget. By knowing what you'll eat each day, you can buy ingredients in precise amounts, reducing waste and ensuring you utilize everything you purchase. Plus, it takes the daily stress out of wondering what's for dinner!
As with the shopping list, discipline is key here. If it gets to Wednesday and the meal planner says it's spicy chicken breasts with cheesy pasta, but you really want steak and fried, go with the chicken and pasta. Sticking with your meal plan makes sure you don't waste perfectly good food and blow your grocery budget.
22. Learn To Preserve Fresh FoodI preserve a lot of what I grow and buy. It saves me loads of money and makes sure I've always got plenty of tasty homemade produce throughout the year. Getting started with freezing is easy. Learning to can food is another invaluable skill. Dehydrating is a great option, and so is pickling.
You can even make meat jerky with your dehydrator that's tastier than any of the expensive items filled with preservatives from the store. Bake, freeze, dehydrate, freeze-dry, and can as much fresh, seasonal produce as you can to last you throughout the year. It's a great way to make the most of those amazing deals on seasonal produce.
23. Bulk Out Your Meals With VegetablesMeat is expensive. Vegetables are not. They're filling, full of fiber, and essential nutrients. Everyone at the table will get a larger, healthier meal, and you'll spend less per person. If you've got fussy folks who claim not to like veggies, cut them small or grate them and hide them in sauces, meatballs, or meatloaf.
24. Don't Waste FoodI hate waste. It's the equivalent of throwing money straight in the garbage. And did you know that 50% of all the food we buy in the U.S. gets thrown away every year? That's $160 billion of food waste yearly, equivalent to $1,600 per four-person family.
So make sure you use up as much as you can, or find ways to keep your food fresher for longer.
Make it a mission to use every bit of food you buy. Leftovers can be repurposed into new meals, and scraps can be used for broths or composted. Every bit of food wasted is money down the drain.
25. Compare Unit Prices of Similar ItemsWhen shopping, don't just look at the overall price. Check the unit price (usually per ounce or gram) to determine which product offers the best value for money. Sometimes, bigger isn't always better.
26. Take Advantage of Loyalty Programs and Rewards CardsMany grocery stores offer loyalty programs that provide members with exclusive discounts and rewards. Sign up and make sure to scan your card or app every time you shop to accumulate points and savings.
27. Check What You Already HaveBefore heading to the store, take inventory of your pantry and fridge. You might be surprised at what you already have, preventing you from buying duplicates.
28. Reduce Your Shopping TripsThe more often you visit the store, the more likely you are to make impulse purchases. Try to shop once a week or even bi-weekly to reduce the temptation.
29. Avoid Online Grocery ShoppingWhile convenient, online shopping can sometimes be pricier due to delivery fees. Plus, it's all too easy to make more impulse purchases online because you don't see your cash leaving your hand, and you don't have to push your cart clear across the store just to look at something you don't really need, but you think might be nice. If you do shop online, aim to pick up in-store to avoid extra charges. And remember, stick to your list!
30. Follow Your Favorite BrandsMany brands offer exclusive coupons and deals to their followers. By following them on platforms like Instagram or Facebook, you can be in the know for their latest promotions.
31. Use Credit Cards StrategicallySome credit cards offer cashback or points for grocery purchases. If you're disciplined with your spending, this can be a great way to earn rewards for your regular shopping.
32. Consider a Wholesale MembershipWholesale stores like Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's Wholesale Club have become increasingly popular, and for a good reason. These stores offer products in larger quantities at a discounted rate, which can translate to significant savings over time. Here are some benefits of considering a wholesale membership:
- Bulk Savings: Buying in bulk often results in a lower cost per unit. This is especially beneficial for non-perishable items or products you use frequently.
- Exclusive Deals: Wholesale clubs often have member-only deals and discounts that can lead to substantial savings.
- Additional Services: Many of these stores offer additional services like discounted gas, optical centers, and even travel deals.
- Quality Brands: Wholesale clubs often carry top-tier brands at a fraction of the regular retail price.
33. Keep Track of the Sale CyclesEvery savvy shopper knows that prices at grocery stores aren't static. They fluctuate based on various factors, including seasons, holidays, and store inventory. By understanding these sale cycles, you can maximize your savings. Here's how:
- Seasonal Sales: Produce items are often cheaper when they're in season. For instance, berries are typically on sale in the summer, while root vegetables might be discounted in the winter.
- Holiday Discounts: Around holidays, certain items related to the celebration will go on sale. Think turkeys around Thanksgiving or chocolate during Valentine's.
- Inventory Clearance: When stores want to clear out old inventory, they'll often mark down prices. This is a great time to snag deals, especially on non-perishable items.
- Track Patterns: If you pay close attention, you might notice that some items go on sale every few weeks. By tracking these patterns, you can plan to buy these items when they're discounted.
34. Try Out Bulk Meal PrepHave you ever found yourself reaching for expensive takeout menus or opting for unhealthy fast food simply because you're too tired or busy to cook? This is where the magic of bulk meal prep comes into play. Preparing meals in bulk and then freezing them ensures that you always have a homemade meal ready to go, eliminating the temptation of pricier, less healthy alternatives.
I love meal prep. It's hectic but only for one day a month, and it makes life so much easier. I have one day a month where I meal prep for the humans and another day where I meal prep for the dogs and cats (yes, my animals eat a species-appropriate raw diet, so there's some prep involved there).
When you dedicate a day to cooking multiple meals, you can take advantage of buying ingredients in larger quantities, which often comes at a discounted rate. This approach not only saves money but also ensures consistency in your diet. And you have the comfort of knowing that after a long day, a nutritious meal is just a microwave or oven reheat away. Plus, cooking in bulk means you only have to do the heavy lifting once, cleaning up your kitchen after a big cook-off, rather than after every meal.
Bulk meal prep allows you to better plan your meals around your dietary needs and preferences. Whether you're on a specific diet, trying to eat healthier, or just want to enjoy home-cooked meals, having a freezer stocked with ready-to-eat dishes is amazing, saving you a surprising amount of money and time.
35. Don't Shop When You're HungryShopping on an empty stomach can lead to unnecessary purchases. Always eat a snack or meal before heading to the store to avoid temptation.
36. Grow Your OwnConsider growing your own vegetables and herbs. Even a small balcony garden can produce a surprising amount of fresh produce, saving you money in the long run. I have a lot of space, so I grow a large percentage of my own produce, but even a square-foot garden can be really productive. If you need more space, see if you can rent some land or do a deal with a friend where you can use their garden for growing produce, and in return, you'll give them a percentage of your harvest.
37. Eat Leftovers for LunchInstead of buying lunch every day, pack up dinner leftovers. It's a great way to ensure no food goes to waste and saves you money on daily lunch purchases. I really like bolognese reheated and poured over toast for lunch the next day. And cold meatloaf sandwiches with salad, coleslaw, and mayo. Yum!
38. Ask for a Better DealIf you see an item nearing its expiration date, ask a store manager if they can give you a discount. They might prefer to sell it at a reduced price rather than throw it away.
39. Talk To Local HuntersSome local hunters sell excess game meat at a fraction of the price of store-bought meats. It's a great way to get high-quality protein at a lower cost. Wild game is more sustainable, they've had a better life than intensively farmed animals, and the price and taste is incomparable.
I joined a few social media groups to find hunters local to my new home, and quickly found a few folks who I regularly purchase from. To give you an idea of the savings you can make, I buy venison for my family and my pets at around $0.60 per pound. But at that price, I do have to skin and butcher it myself, which I learned to do to save extra money.
But many hunters will fully prep the animals for you at a slightly increased cost, but still so much less expensive than the grocery store.
40. Don't Be Lazy: Buy Whole VegetablesPre-cut vegetables are convenient but often cost more. Buy whole veggies and spend a few minutes chopping to save money. It's not hard and doesn't take long. And, if you go with my meal prep idea, you'll maximize your savings by using whole veggies.
41. Avoid Processed FoodYes, processed foods are convenient, often come in attractive packaging, and promise quick meal solutions. However, these benefits come at a cost to your wallet and health. Processed foods often have hidden costs. While they might seem like a bargain with their long shelf life and ease of preparation, they frequently contain additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients that can impact your health in the long run.
These ingredients are added to enhance flavor, texture, or shelf life but can also lead to increased health risks, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. On the other hand, whole foods, like fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, and lean proteins, are naturally rich in essential nutrients without the need for additives. They provide a more substantial nutritional profile, ensuring you get a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds.
When you focus on whole foods, you're not just feeding your body but nourishing it. Financially, while processed foods might seem cheaper at first glance, their true cost becomes evident when you consider their nutritional value per dollar. Whole foods, especially in season or bulk, often offer better value. Plus, cooking from scratch allows you to create multiple meals from basic ingredients, further stretching your grocery budget.
42. Watch Out for ShrinkflationShrinkflation makes my blood boil. This happens when companies reduce the size of a product while keeping the price the same. Always check the quantity you're getting for the price to ensure you're getting the best deal.
43. Swap Expensive Cuts of Meat for More Affordable OptionsWhen it comes to preparing a hearty meal, meat often takes center stage. However, the cost of prime cuts can quickly push up the total of your grocery bills, especially if you're cooking for a family or hosting guests. Thankfully, there's no need to compromise on taste or quality when you opt for more budget-friendly alternatives. For instance, instead of going for a pricey ribeye or filet mignon, why not try a flavorful flank steak or skirt steak?
When marinated and grilled or broiled, these cuts can be incredibly tender and packed with flavor. They're perfect for fajitas, stir-fries, or even a steak dinner with vegetables. Chicken, a versatile protein, offers various cuts that can fit any budget. While chicken breasts are popular, they can be more expensive. On the other hand, chicken thighs, drumsticks, or wings are often more affordable and can be even juicier and more flavorful.
Whether you're making a curry, a roast, or a stew, these cuts can elevate your dish without elevating the cost.
Ground meats also present a world of possibilities. Ground turkey or chicken can be a healthier and less expensive alternative to ground beef. They can be used in everything from meatballs to tacos, to pasta sauces. And if you're a fan of seafood, consider swapping out pricier fish like salmon or tuna for mackerel, sardines, or catfish. When seasoned and cooked correctly, these fish can offer a delightful taste experience. Pork is another meat where you can find cost-effective alternatives. Instead of pork chops, consider pork shoulder or butt. These cuts, when slow-cooked, become melt-in-your-mouth tender and can be used in pulled pork dishes, stews, or even homemade sausages.
Lastly, don't forget about offal. While not everyone's cup of tea, cuts like liver, heart, or kidneys are affordable and nutrient-dense. They can be an acquired taste, but with the right preparation and seasonings, they can be transformed into dishes that even the most skeptical might enjoy. And, I'm going to say it again: make friends with your local hunters who can get you in-season game at a fraction of the price of grocery store meat. You might also want to get friendly with some local homesteaders or ranchers who may sell you their beautiful pasture-raised birds and animals for a song.
44. Shop the Reduced ItemsOne of the often-overlooked treasures in a grocery store is the reduced items section. This area, sometimes tucked away in a corner or at the end of an aisle, can be a goldmine for savvy shoppers looking to save money. Here, you'll find products that are nearing their sell-by date, have damaged packaging, or are simply being cleared out to make room for new stock.
While these items are marked down, it doesn't mean they're of lesser quality. For instance, fresh produce in the reduced section might just have a few blemishes or be slightly overripe, but they're still perfectly good for consumption. These can be ideal for making smoothies, soups, or sauces. Similarly, meat or dairy products nearing their expiration date can be bought at a discount and then frozen for later use.
However, it's essential to exercise caution and inspect reduced items thoroughly. Ensure that perishable goods haven't spoiled and that packaged items aren't compromised. With a discerning eye, you can score fantastic deals on quality products, helping you save money while still enjoying a diverse range of foods.