Grocery shopping can be an easy, quick weekly task, or it can be long, expensive, and dreadful. Creating a list can be one of the most helpful ways to slim down your spending and time spent grocery shopping each week. Check out the 16 tips below to learn how to spend less money on groceries.
1. Create a weekly grocery budget
Creating a grocery budget can be very beneficial for individuals trying to minimize spending on groceries each month. It is important to remember that you may only be able to spend a small amount on your food budget, while your friend may be able to spend twice as much. There isn’t going to be one amount that works for everyone, each family or individual’s grocery bill is going to vary based on many different factors.
2. Meal plan
The easiest way to plan ahead for your meals is starting to take inventory of what you already have in your pantry. What do you have some ingredients for already? After deciding what your meals are going to be, you can plan to purchase the rest of the necessary items on your next grocery trip. You might be surprised by how much you can do with what you already have.
3. Think simple
While it might not sound like the most fun, go for easy, simple meals. That doesn’t mean you have to have boxed mac & cheese with hotdogs for every meal. Instead, find fun, easy meals that everyone in your house can enjoy. A not-so-simple dinner might be a main course of steak, two homemade sides, and a warm dessert. Instead, try something quick and easy.
4. Create your list and stick to it
Creating a grocery list of what you want to get at the store can be very challenging. You likely have essential items such as butter, eggs, milk, and so on. However, it can be hard when you are trying to plan out your meals for a week or two. Use your meal plan ideas to make your grocery list. Depending on the store, you can even choose curbside pickup or same-day delivery to reduce the chance that you would pick up impulse purchases in-store.
5. Buy in bulk
Purchasing items in bulk reduces the per-unit prices for each item. This allows you to spend less money on your groceries and make fewer trips to the store. You can buy both perishable and non-perishable foods in bulk, but you’ll want to make sure you take expiration dates into consideration. If it is possible to buy a larger quantity or size (think family size) on the foods you use a lot of, consider doing so to maximize savings.
6. Bring your own bags
Bring your own reusable bags to the store, and you may be able to save some extra money. Some stores offer a small discount for bringing in your reusable bags. For example, the grocery store may reduce your final bill by 5-10 cents for each reusable bag you bring. While this may not be the case for every store, it’s still a good idea to reduce the use of plastics. Reusable bags are also less likely to break.
7. Find coupons or exclusive deals
Save even more by finding special deals or coupons for your local grocery store. Many stores offer weekly deals that are helpful when trying to save money. An easy way to find grocery coupons or exclusive deals is by checking your local newspaper ads, online, or downloading your store's app. Apps are a great way to find deals and can show you other deals you may not have even been aware of.
8. Watch for expiration dates
Although paying attention to expiration dates may be a tedious task, it can make a difference. No one wants to buy a gallon of milk that is going to expire the day after purchase. Try to buy products that have dates farthest out. This can allow you time to get the most use out of every product you are buying. On the other hand, some stores offer exclusive deals on items that are near expiration. You could get your favorite items for lower than regular prices. If these items are perishable, take them home to freeze or use right away.
9. Price match multiple stores
Before you waltz into a store and pay full price, you can check items in the store’s website, app, or flyer to see which stores are going to give you the lowest prices. Then, have your favorite store match the competitors offer. Price matching stores may cause you to do a little research before your shopping, but in the end, shopping for groceries at stores offering a price match guarantee can be worth it.
10. Make homemade food
Whether it’s at a restaurant, drive-through, or delivered to your home, the cost of ordering food can begin to add up. You can combat this cost (and avoid having to shell out even more money for a tip) by making homemade food. Home-cooked meals allow you to tailor the food to your preferences and give you more control over the ingredients, portions, and avoiding food allergies. Besides the added benefit of improving your cooking skills, you’ll get to choose recipes that could potentially yield leftovers, which will stretch your dollars even farther if you can enjoy your culinary creation for more than one meal.
11. Buy in-season produce
Buying the right foods in their correct season can help you save money. When fruit and veggies are out of season, they tend not to be less flavorful and come with a higher price tag. You may have to do some research to find out what is in season in your area. However, if a product is in season, it is more likely to travel less to get to your store, making the prices lower.
12. Avoid pre-cut or pre-packaged foods
Pre-cut foods are an easy way of saying you're buying fresh when, in reality, it’s a convenience food. Help your wallet out by buying fresh foods that aren’t already sliced, and learn to properly cut them up yourself. Similarly, avoid buying produce that has extra packaging. Instead of buying a salad packet that comes with dressing and other toppings, buy fresh lettuce and a new dressing, and you may end up with twice the amount of salad at a fraction of the cost.
13. Don’t shop while hungry
Have you ever gone to the grocery store hungry? On an empty stomach, you may be tempted to buy just about everything you see. Shopping hungry is a great way to buy extra snacks and spend your grocery budget on items that aren’t on your list. Instead, stick to your list to reduce the amount of overspending and impulse buying you do while shopping when hungry.
14. Look past eye-level products
It is no coincidence that the name brand, expensive items are located at eye-level at the grocery store. Those brands pay more for that placement, and often that extra cost makes its way to the customer. To find more affordable items, scan the shelf from top to bottom and you may find a great deal on a new brand.
15. Shop generic brands
Name brand products are almost always the most expensive, and there are usually products offered at a lower price. It may seem like your favorite cereal won’t taste the same with a different brand name on it, but chances are it will taste very similar. There are even some stores, such as Trader Joe’s, that have built their reputation on their excellent store brands. If you give generic brands a chance, you’ll likely save a few cents each purchase that could really add up over time.
16. Keep track of pricing
The whole point of your grocery budget is to save you money. An easy way to keep track of your spending while shopping is by using tally marks. For each item you pick up, make a tally mark on your list for each dollar the item is. This can give you a better sense of what you will be spending when you get to the checkout.
While everyone needs to eat, not everyone needs to pay full price for their meals. Some of the easiest ways to save money at the grocery store involve prepping your list before you get there, being observant of expiration dates and where products are placed on the shelves, and finally, watching for sales and promotions. These tips can save you both time and money, which prompts just one final question: Which of these 16 money-saving grocery tips are you going to try first?
💸Creating a budget can be tough. Check out 6 Tips for Budgeting Your Money in College to learn more.
😎Looking for additional ways to save? Check out 6 Smart Ways to Save for Your Future.