Finding creative ways to save money on necessities is a great way to impact your budget and free up money that you can invest or use for other things. We all need to eat, and many of us have families to feed as well. But the weekly/monthly grocery bill is one area where most of us can easily save money over and over again if we are willing to make a few adjustments.
I do most of the grocery shopping in our family, and over the years I’ve found a number of ways to shrink our grocery expenses while still having plenty of good food to eat.
By shopping smartly and taking advantage of some available resources, you can easily save $100 or more every month on groceries.
In this article we’ll look at 30 specific, actionable ways you can start to reduce the amount you spend on groceries. Many of these tips are very easy to implement and won’t take much time or sacrifice on your part.
By the end of the article you should have identified a few specific tips that you can put into practice right away. I don’t recommend trying to do everything at once because it will be overwhelming. Start with a few, then once they become a habit look to add a few more ways to save.
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How to Save Money on Groceries
1. Pay with a Cash Back Credit Card
Many people will tell you to pay for your groceries with cash to avoid spending money that you don’t have. If you have trouble disciplining yourself with credit cards, I would agree that you should probably just use cash. But, if you’re able to shop with a credit card and not spend more than you need, it’s a great way to earn a lot of cash back.
Groceries are big expense every month for most families, and still a mid-sized expense even if you’re single. I try to maximize the amount of cash back I can earn from credit cards, and paying for groceries with the right card is a big part of that.
If you’re using a credit card be sure to use one that will give you the most cash back. A lot of cards give 1% cash back, but with the Chase Freedom Unlimited you’ll get 1.5% cash back on every purchase (that’s a 50% increase over the standard cash back credit card). The Chase Freedom card only gives you 1% cash back on purchases, but each quarter there is a category that will earn 5% cash back. Most years there are three months out of the year when can earn 5% cash back on purchases at grocery stores. That adds up fast.
2. Get Store Loyalty Cards and Use Store Apps
Almost every grocery store chain has some sort of loyalty program with a card that will give you discounts on certain items. With most of these stores you have to get their card in order to get the best deals.
Some chains also have their own mobile app that shows sales and allows you to use coupons without any clipping. If you shop at stores that have loyalty programs, be sure to sign up. And if you’re just passing through town or shopping at a store that you don’t normally use, try asking the cashier if they have a house card. In many cases they will, and you’ll still be able to get the discounts without your own card.
3. Use Coupons
Coupons are probably the best way to save money on groceries. You can find coupons in the newspaper, in store flyers, and online or in apps. Of course, you’ll want to check the sale flyers for the stores that you normally shop at. Flipp is a website and app that has all of the weekly sales flyers, plus coupons. Coupons.com is also a great resource to get started with coupons, and they also have a mobile app.
4. Use Ibotta
Ibotta is a free cash back app that can save you a lot of money. It’s not exclusively for groceries, but there are a lot of offers for savings at grocery stores, as well as groceries at Walmart and Target. It’s pretty easy to find at least a few dollars that you can save each week. All you need to do is pick the offers that you want and then scan your receipt. Ibotta will credit your account once it has been verified (usually about a day) and you can cash out to PayPal or choose gift cards.
There are also some featured offers that pay you quite nicely. For example, this week I earned $5 in cash back just for making any purchase through Ibotta on my mobile phone. I spent about $39 at Walmart (enough to get free shipping) and I got $5. Those types of deals help your balance to add up quickly.
→ Sign up for Ibotta through this link and get a $10 bonus.
5. Checkout 51
Checkout 51 is another cash back app, but this one is specifically for grocery stores (including stores like Walmart and Target). The offers change each week, and you can filter by store or category. Many of the offers are for specific brands, but sometimes you’ll find offers that allow you to buy any brand of an item (like $0.25 cash back for buying any brand of canned beans). Then after you’ve made the purchase you just need to scan your receipt.
6. Shop at Discount Grocery Stores
I do the majority of my grocery shopping at Aldi, and it’s amazing how much cheaper it is compared to one of the other leading chains in my area. Aldi isn’t the only option. There are other chains of discount grocery stores. I highly suggest giving them a chance if you haven’t already. You may be surprised at how much you can save just by going to a different store.
7. Buy Generic Brands
One of the main reasons Aldi is so much cheaper than other stores is that they carry mostly generic brands. Most of the products you buy at Aldi are private label brands that are sold only at Aldi. Although they’re generic, they’re usually very good. Many of them are made in the same factories as the name brand products, but they are a fraction of the price.
Regardless of what store you’re shopping at, buying generic brands is one of the best ways to reduce your grocery bill. The generic brands at Walmart and most grocery stores are very close to what you’ll get from the name brands.
8. Shop Online
A growing trend in the grocery industry is online ordering and in-store pickup. Walmart is offering this at a lot of locations, but unfortunately not yet at my location. I know other people who are using it and love it. You can place the order online (and save items that you know you’ll buy again in the future), pull in the parking lot, and they’ll bring your groceries right to you car.
By shopping online you can avoid the temptations to buy things that aren’t on your list and you don’t get distracted by things that you don’t need. If you’re buying your groceries online at Walmart you should also use Ebates to earn extra cash back on the purchase. Ebates is free and easy to use, and you’ll also get a $10 bonus when you create an account.
→ Sign up for Ebates through this link to get a $10 bonus.
9. Shop at Multiple Stores
If you want to get the best deals, you may need to go to a few different stores. I don’t recommend driving all over town to save just a few dollars, but just by shopping at two different stores and paying attention to the sales you can save some money each week. Check the sale flyers to see which stores you want to shop at each week.
10. Always Have a Shopping List
A simple way to cut back on the amount you spend at the grocery store is to have a shopping list. Without a list you’ll probably buy more than you need, and things that aren’t necessary. With a list you shop based on what you need, not emotions or whims.
11. Plan Your Meals
The easiest and most effective way to make a good shopping list is to plan your meals. Meal planning can help you to know exactly what you need, and how much of it. You can buy things that have a purpose and fit into your meal plan, and avoid buying things that you won’t use for meals. If you haven’t tried meal planning in the past, check out this guide to meal planning for some practical pointers.
12. Plan Your Meals Based on What You Already Have
When you’re creating your meal plan for the week (or month), start by looking at the food you already have on hand. Choose meals that will allow you to use up the things you already have, rather than buying something new and letting food go to waste.
13. Plan Your Meals Based on Sales and Coupons
After you’re planned meals for the food you already have, the next thing to do is look at what is on sale that week, or what you can buy with a coupon. Find the best deals of the week and plan meals that make good use of those items.
14. Get a Freezer
A freezer can be a great investment. My wife and I bought a cheap one on Amazon several years ago and it’s allowed us to save a lot of money. With the freezer we can stock up on things that are on sale, buy in bulk, and cook and freeze meals to use later. I’ll mention some of these things in more detail later, but having enough freezer space is key.
15. Cut Back on Meat
Meat makes up a big part of the grocery bill for most families. If you want to save money, cutting back on meat is one way to do it. You can go about this in a few different ways. First, you can simply use less meat than a recipe calls for. A second option is to have more meatless meals. There are plenty of other ways to get protein, and most of them are cheaper (and healthier) than meat. Simple like rice and beans, pasta, and salads can be good options. See this list of meatless meals if you need some ideas.
16. Buy Local
Local produce and meat will be fresher, usually better quality, and in many cases it will also be cheaper – and you’re also supporting local farmers. You can visit a local farmer’s market or farm stand to buy produce. In many areas you can also find local farmers who sell meat. My wife and I have been buying beef from a local farmer for several years. We usually get a quarter of a cow, with everything from ground beef, to roasts, to steaks. The price is better than if we bought it in a grocery store, and the quality is much better (especially the ground beef). We’ve also bought local chicken, pork, and turkey.
If you’re interested in buying more local produce and meat you may want to read How to Buy Local for Your Food.
17. Buy in Season
Prices for produce vary widely throughout the year. When fruit and vegetables are in season you can get them for pretty cheap, but you can easliy pay 2 or 3 times as much when they are out of season. Out of season produce also is usually not as good. Make an effort to buy what is in season to save some money. One option is to buy produce in season and freeze it for later.
18. Grow Your Own Produce
If you have a garden you can grow many of your own vegetables and save a lot of money. Do a little bit of research and learn about what will grow the best in your area. The first year you’ll have some extra work setting up the garden, but in the future it will be easier.
If you’ve never had a garden before, read Follow These 10 Steps to a Magnificent Garden.
19. Buy in Bulk
You can save a lot of money on some items by buying in bulk. This is not the case with every item, so be sure to do the math yourself. Also, be sure that you’re using everything that you are buying in bulk. If it’s going bad before you can use it you’re probably not saving any money.
Warehouse stores like Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s are good places to buy in bulk, but you’ll also have a membership fee. Many grocery stores, and Walmart, also have a bulk isle. Another option is to buy bigger sizes of things, like a big jar of pasta sauce instead of a smaller jar.
If you have a big freezer you’ll have more flexibility with what you can buy in bulk.
20. Stock Up on Non-Perishable Items
The best items to buy in bulk are non-perishable. Things like canned goods, pasta, cereal, and paper goods are all idea for buying in bulk when the price is right. If there is a good sale on these items you can stock up and save money in the future.
21. Eat Leftovers
If you’re not eating leftovers, you’re probably spending more than you need to on groceries. Most meals will have some amount of food left over. It could be enough for one person to have for lunch the next day, or it could be enough to feed the entire family for another meal. Regardless, making use of leftovers will reduce the amount that you need to buy.
22. Cook Multiple Meals at Once
One of our favorite ways to save time and money is to cook more than one meal at a time. This could be something in a big slow cooker, grilling a lot of chicken that can be used for several meals, or packing meals in freezer bags for an easy dinner on another day.
This is especially useful if you’re buying in bulk. Combine buying in bulk with preparing several meals at a once and you can save a lot of money and time.
23. Skip the Bottled Water
Bottled water is an expense that can be easily avoided. If the tap water at your house isn’t good for drinking, get a reusable filter and drink that water rather than bottler water. If you’re taking bottles water to work or to the gym, buy a reusable bottle and take the filter water from home instead.
24. Drink More Water
Although bottled water is usually an unnecessary expense, drinking less water isn’t a good solution. Drinking more water can save you money (if you’re filtering your own water), and it’s much better for you. If you drink more water and less soda or other sugary drinks, you’ll benefit from better health and lower bills at the grocery store.
25. Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
Try to plan your grocery shopping at a time when you won’t be hungry. If you shop when you’re hungry you’re almost guaranteed to buy more, and to buy things that you probably don’t need. Everything looks good when you’re hungry.
26. Shop Without Your Kids
If possible, do your grocery shopping without your kids. My kids go with me sometimes and I always wind up buying extra stuff when they’re with me. I don’t have a problem saying “no” when they ask for cookies or donuts, but when they ask for something that’s not bad for them I usually buy it. Then half the time they don’t eat it anyway.
27. Check the Clearance Items
Most grocery stores have an area with discounted items, like things from he bakery that are a day old. You can find some great deals here, although the selection is usually limited.
28. Pack Your Lunch
This tip might not save you money at the grocery store, but it will definitely reduce the amount that you spend on food overall. If you currently eat lunch at restaurants or order take out, you can save a lot of money by packing your lunch.
One of the points earlier in this article was to eat leftovers. Most of us could easily eat leftovers at least for one or two lunches per week. When left overs aren’t an option, pack a sandwich, a salad, or some other lunch that will prevent you from needing to buy your lunch every day.
29. Buy Reusable Glass Containers
Good storage containers will help your food, including leftovers, to last longer in the refrigerator. They also help you to reduce the amount you spend on things like plastic wrap and plastic bags to store your food. If you’re buying reusable containers, glass will last longer, save you money in the long run, and is better for you and the planet as compared to plastic containers.
30. Cut Back on Junk Food
Junk food can add up to a major part of your grocery bill of you’re not careful. Make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of junk food that you buy. You’ll save money and improve your health.
Now that you’ve read through this list, choose a few things that you can start doing today and put them into practice. You’ll probably find that you can develop new habits quickly, and the savings will be well worth the effort.
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