25 Ways I Save Money Grocery Shopping

Are you looking for some ways to save money on groceries?  Today I’m sharing 25 ways to help you do so! 

ways to save money grocery shopping

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average US family of four spends between $568-$1,293 dollars a month at the grocery store.  This makes it the third largest household expense.  These figures are just crazy to me!

I remember going to the grocery store with my mom when I was younger and she would spend about $100/week for our family of four.  Looks like times have changed a little bit, right?  To be completely honestly, my family of 3 (2 adults + toddler) spends about $350-$400/month.  I thought I was spending a ton, but even with another child, we’d probably be near the low end of the price spectrum, mentioned above. 

However, I also put a lot of money saving tips to use.  When I became a stay at home mom in 2016 my goal was to work on saving money at the grocery store. However, like most moms, I’m running a little late on that one and am just really getting around to it.  I’d love to say I’ve really slashed my grocery budget, but it’s a work in progress.

In the meantime, I’m trying to work on these tips below.  No, I don’t always follow all of my “tips.”  Sometimes I’m in a rush and need to buy something pre-cut or pre-made or maybe I take my husband and daughter with me, but I’m definitely more aware of ways to save and what to do if I really want to cut down on the cost of groceries!

25 Ways to Save Money Grocery Shopping

1. Don’t buy pre-portioned foods – I think most of us already know this, right?  Just to hone it in with an example: I recently saw a bag of specialty popcorn on sale for just under $3.  Just beside it was a bag of pre-portioned popcorn, which had fewer servings for just under $5! I like to buy the larger bag and then use snack sized baggie to portion them out myself.

2. Eat more vegetarian meals – Taking meat out of your diet is a huge money saver.  When my husband and I would grocery shop together (pre-Emily), he was always stopping at the meat counter to pick up steak, which usually cost about $10 and would serve maybe 2-3.  We still occasionally buy steak, but it’s no longer a common purchase.  Try adding in more vegetarian meals to really see some savings! 

3. Meal Plan – Without fail when I don’t meal plan I spend more. I’ll go around the store picking up random items and then when I get home and realize I don’t have what I need for meals, I’ll have to go back.  Additional trips to the grocery store always add up to more money, not to mention time wasted. Read more here: Real Life Meal Planning

4. Don’t shop hungry – This one is pretty obvious.  I love how stores like Kroger are placing fresh fruits near the front door to munch on while shopping.  Not only is this great for kids, but hungry mamas too!

5. Shop the bulk-food bins – The larger grocery store I shop at does not have a big selection of bulk foods, which is why I shop at a smaller store too which does. For ingredients like oats and nuts, which my family eats a lot of, these bins are an easy way to save!  Just one example with oats – A 2.5 lb. container at my usual store costs about $3.50, but in the bulk foods aisle at my smaller store, they’re always 99 cents/pound and sometimes on sale for as low as 69 cents/pound.  This may not sound like much, but when you have oatmeal almost every morning, the savings really add up over time.

6. Buy seasonally – This one is probably a no-brainer too, but I think it’s important to emphasize that produce is always cheaper and tastes better when bought in season.  Sure you can usually buy almost any type of produce year round, but if you’re really looking to save, make sure you buy in-season.

7. Substitute ingredients when possible – Recipes often call for ingredients like colored peppers or unnecessary garnishes.  I almost always substitute green peppers in the place of colored peppers and if I don’t feel the garnish is necessary (like a sprinkle of parsley on pasta), I leave it off.

8. Don’t shop with children or husband – Anytime I shop with Emily I find I forget items as I rush through the store to get finished as quick as possible.  This then leads to another shopping trip, where I will most likely pick up items not on my list.  When I shop with my husband, I find he picks up items, like steak or lots of snacks (sorry honey!), which although delicious, really add to the grocery bill.  I try to shop on my own when I’m really looking to save. 

9. Eat foods that go bad first – I hate throwing food away, but sadly do it quite often.  In an effort to be better at this, I make sure I eat any foods that will go bad quickly soon after purchasing.  This means that as much as I might want an apple for a snack, I’ll choose the berries first because they will go bad quicker than the apple.  Same goes for when I buy salad items. I always eat salads the first few days after shopping because by day 4 or 5 these items will have gone bad.

10. Check the “going bad soon” sections – I find so many deals here!  Often the food is perfectly good, but because its nearing it’s end date the store wants to move it fast!  Just last week I got a bunch of brown-ish bananas (49 cents/pound) that were perfect for smoothies and a loaf of fancy bread (marked way down) that I froze for toast, French toast or croutons down the road.

11. Buy whole fruits and veggies and learn to cut them yourself – Grocery stores really mark up items they cut themselves.  Yes it’s more convenient for shoppers and if I’m in a pinch I will buy them, but more often than not I buy the foods whole and cut them myself.  If you’re not sure how to cut something up, just Google it and I’m sure you’ll find many resources!  Side note – I worked in a prep kitchen for 3 years in college, which proved to be very useful in this area!

12. Always bring a list –  Have you ever just tried to “wing-it” at the store?  I definitely have and it never ends well!  Always make a list and try to stick to it as much as possible!

13. Use the salad bar for ingredients – A lot of times I might not need much of an item like celery or mushrooms for a recipe and I find it’s cheaper to get a 1/4-1/2 cup on the salad bar than spend $2-$3 to buy a whole package. This doesn’t always work, especially with heavier items, but it definitely works for some!  Check it out the next time you’re shopping!

14. Plant a garden – This obviously only works for the growing season, but buying seeds or plant to grow your own food really helps to save money on groceries!  Plus if you have little ones, it’s a great activity for them to learn about where our food comes from! Read more here: Gardening with Children

15. Use a grocery service like “click list” – Ok, so I have yet to try this, but have been meaning to try it for ages!  Most grocery stores now have services like this, where you can order groceries on line and then pick them up at your own convenience.  This will help to #1 stick to your list and #2 make sure you have everything you need, thus cutting down on additional trips to the store and additional items I probably don’t need to buy.

16. Use discount grocery stores like Aldi – I don’t shop at Aldi on a weekly basis or even sometimes monthly, but if we’re having a party or I’m planning to do a lot of baking I will always stop by Aldi!  They have so many great products at amazing prices.  If you’ve never been, I encourage you to try them out.

17. Buy generic or store brand – One of the many reasons I love Kroger is for their large selection of Kroger-branded items.  There is often zero taste difference between a branded product and generic, yet the savings really add up!  My cart is generally full of store brand or generic items.  It’s probably one of the biggest ways I save at the grocery store.

18. Consider a membership at Costco or Sam’s Club – We didn’t get a membership until we had Emily, but boy does it help save money! The main items we buy are dog food, diapers and baby wipes.  The cost of the membership pays for itself with just one trip with these three items. Check out this post: 8 Reasons I Love Costco and You Should Too

19. Drink water instead of juice, soda, etc. – This is probably another no-brainer, but water is free and even just a couple of dollars spent each week on other beverages will really add up over the course of a year.  This goes for alcohol too, which I know isn’t fun to say, but it’s true!

20. Check unit prices on items – Sometimes it’s hard to gauge which items are better deals, but the easiest way to do this is check the unit price.  This ensures you’re getting the best deal! Also to note, larger items are not always cheaper.  I check the unit price to make sure I buy what’s cheaper.

21. Make use of double discount days at stores like Lucky’s or Fresh Thyme – Many stores (these two to name a few) have double discount days, which means that a certain day of the week (Wednesday for these two) their weekly ads overlap, meaning double the savings!  Yes, it is usually a little more crowded on these days, but the savings usually make it worth it. Check out some of the smaller stores, like these, in your area to see if they have double discount days too!

22. Watch the cashier – I hate to say it, but it’s not uncommon for me to find the cashiers make a mistake.  They’re only human, right?  While I totally understand, I definitely keep an eye on what they’re ringing up.  Probably once every month or two I find a mistake, sometimes it’s just pennies, but other times it’s been much more.

23. Make use of your freezer – Saving money on groceries doesn’t just happen at the store, it happens at home too.  If you’re throwing away a lot of what you buy each week, you have to buy more at the store, which increases your grocery costs.  Whenever I see items in my refrigerator that might go bad soon, I freeze them, if possible.  Berries that are about to go bad can be frozen and used in smoothies.  I almost never use a full jar of pasta or spaghetti sauce at once, so I make sure to freeze the other half.  This could be said for many more items too.  Just be sure to label them properly and make sure to use them before they go bad in the freezer.

24. Make as few trips to the store as possible – I’ve mentioned this above, but I always make impulse buys every time I shop.  It’s really hard not to, right?  The fewer trips I make to the store, the fewer impulse purchases I make.  Bring a list, check off items as you go to insure you get everything you need in one trip!

25. Learn prices – How do you really know if something is a good deal if you don’t know its usual price?  After shopping at the same stores for a few years now, I know how much things usually cost, so I know when something’s a good deal!  When I see good deals, I’ll stock up if it’s not a perishable item.

What’s your best tip to save money on groceries?  If you’ve figured it out, I’d love to know your secret!

 

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5 Responses to 25 Ways I Save Money Grocery Shopping

  1. Liz January 23, 2018 at 3:30 pm #

    Combining coupons with sales is my biggest savings suggestion.

    • Mary from Mission to Save January 24, 2018 at 7:32 am #

      Yes Liz! I was going to say where are the coupons! 😉 That is my #1!

      But I also love your tip about checking managers special or clearance items. Big saving there for sure.

      Thanks for the post (and yes Double Ad Wed at Fresh Thyme is awesome too!)

      • Melissa January 26, 2018 at 1:29 pm #

        Thanks, Mary and Liz! You know I actually don’t use coupons very much… maybe I should?? I generally find the generic or store brand is cheaper than when I try to buy a name brand item with a coupon.

  2. Chelsea January 24, 2018 at 8:46 am #

    This list is awesome, so many great ideas! I also like to check the rebate apps, Ibotta or Check51, and see if anything on list matches what’s on rebate for the week. It’s usually just $.25, but it adds and eventually helps pay for a whole trip!

    • Melissa January 26, 2018 at 1:27 pm #

      Thanks, Chelsea! I’ve been meaning to check out Ibotta! Putting it on my list of things to do right now 🙂