Ways to Save Money on Groceries
Whenever I look at ways to trim our budget, my thoughts turn to groceries first. It always seems like no matter how many times you set a food budget, after a few months it tends to disintegrate. It’s just way to easy to go to the store and add a few extra things to your cart here and there.
This isn’t going to be a list of ways to save money on groceries that you can find anywhere else because I already know that my readers know those tips. Grating your own cheese, skipping the pre-packaged foods, buying dried beans, grocery shopping without children when possible, skipping the shopping when you are hungry…yeah, you already know those!
Even when you think you are a total pro at saving money on groceries, you probably haven’t tried all of the tips that I’m about to share with you. And if you have…awesome! Please email me if you want to write the follow-up article to this post on even MORE ways to save money on groceries!
These are methods that we use in our own household to keep our food budget down to $400 a month for 5 of us. (Does not include beef which we raise ourselves and have a separate fund for.) It’s a challenge each month to keep our bills down at this level since our cost of groceries here can be high and since we are all on various diets for allergies. But I wanted to share these tips with you so that you can feel encouraged…it can be done!
1. Shop Only in One Part of the Store
You really only need to shop in one section of the grocery store, the outside perimeter. There you will find dairy, meat, and produce. You may occasionally stray to the middle aisles for baking supplies and spices but that should be it. When you are on a tight budget, you don’t have room in it for “fancy extras” like pre-packaged snacks and whatever else they sell in those middle aisles (I honestly wouldn’t know, during the summer I rarely step a foot into a grocery store and in the winter it’s just to buy produce since we purchase meat in bulk!).
Desserts are a luxury and don’t need to be included in your diet when there isn’t money to spare. Bread can be made at home for pennies. Beverages (other than water) are almost never necessary. The trouble is that we get so used to eating certain things, or buying certain brands, or even making certain recipes, that we hesitate to move outside of our comfort zone and we don’t really even think in terms of what makes the most sense financially. To truly save money on groceries we have to get outside of our safety net and expand our horizons.
2. Always, Always Have a Plan
And what goes along with this is always shopping with a list…no matter what.
Don’t be suckered into buying something on sale just because it’s on sale. On occasion, I will look at a grocery store flyer to see if what I need is on sale, but otherwise, I stick with my list. Not because my list is made up of ideal recipes that I need to find the ingredients for, but it’s filled with frugal staples that I know I can make stretch in many different ways.
3. Buy Your Meat in Bulk
I love that I don’t have to include meat in my regular grocery budget, it takes a huge stress off of our family each month and I know that I always have great meat in the freezer.
I’ve already mentioned that we raise our own beef. Chicken I currently get from my mom.
I cover the topic of buying meat in bulk extensively here.
4. Use Savings Apps and Extras
I’m new to the smartphone world so this is a new way for me to save money on groceries as of this year. While I don’t feel like HUGE savings can be achieved with apps, there is some money to be saved which makes it something to look at.
I use the iBotta app to load cash back for both Hyvee and Walmart, two stores that I can get to within an hour. We don’t usually buy many of the products advertised but I have been able to find cash back in small amounts for any kind of produce or even a little cash back on any purchase at all. Like I said, it doesn’t add up to much…$0.25 here and there, but it’s still something. Right now they are offering a $10 welcome bonus when you start using their app.
Walmart offers the Savings Catcher if you shop with them. You just scan your receipt and they will offer you a refund on a gift card if there are any stores in your area that have the items you purchased on sale for a lower amount.
5. Utilize a Bulk Coop
I truly believe in the power of buying in bulk and have been doing it for many years now. Some items don’t make sense to buy in bulk, but many baking staples can be found at a fraction of the cost when you are willing to take more than a small package at a time.
I won’t go into detail here on all the pros and cons of buying in bulk but I highly recommend that you check out my article on Buying from a Bulk Coop and the whole page of articles on Buying in Bulk here.
6. Use Subscribe and Save
I’ve been using Subscribe and Save on Amazon to save money on groceries and other household items for several years now. Not only can I save a significant amount off of what I would have to pay at the store, I also don’t have to go anywhere to do it, it comes right to my door!
When you purchase any item on the Subscribe and Save program, you will save 5% off the price and it will ship to your home on a certain day each month. You can leave the subscription so you get the item every month or cancel (or skip) it to only get what you need. If you get 5 or more items on your monthly subscription, your savings goes up to 15% off. On top of that, coupons are offered each month for an additional savings (usually 5-35%) on top of the regular discount. This is where the real deals come into play!
My favorite items to order with Subscribe and Save are toilet paper, some snack foods, tea making supplies, vitamins, and things for baby.
7. Find a Good Dent n’ Bent Store
Not all discount grocery stores or “dent n’ bent” stores have a good selection, but when you find one that does, it can be a major resource! Discount grocery stores offer products that are dented, close to an expiration date, or unable to be sold in a regular grocery store for some other reason. The products are usually offered at a huge discount off the regular price
Learn all about Discount Grocery Stores and how to shop them here.
8. Have a Price Book
How would you know whether or not to buy that bag of rice that is on sale for $1/lb if you don’t know what the regular price is? Or what you paid for it last month when another store had it on sale?
Having a price book can be one of the best things that you can do for your grocery budget. In it, you can keep track of all of the items that you regularly buy. You will also want to write down what your “buy” price would be and what your “stock up” price would be. Don’t write the regular price of the item…that’s not helpful, you need to know what you’ve purchased that item for before when it was actually a good deal and what would be such a good price on it that you need to stock up beyond what your family can use right now.
I used a little tiny notebook for my price book with different sections for fruits, vegetables, baking products, etc. I can keep the price book in my purse so where ever I go, I will know what a good deal is, whether that’s at home shopping for groceries online or in the store.
If you aren’t sure how to get started, you can use this simple price book printable I made a few years ago.
9. Eat from the Pantry
How much food do you have in your freezer right now? In your pantry? I bet there is more available to you right in your own home than you would think.
Having a “pantry challenge” can be a great way to save money on groceries, but also a great way to eat up foods that you’ve already spent good money on and have probably forgotten about.
10. Consider a Drastic Eating Change
This tip isn’t going to be for everyone, but it can save you a significant amount off your grocery bill each month. Have you ever considered seriously changing your diet to something that would be much more frugal? We tend to get caught up with our “comfort foods” so this can be a hard concept for everyone to grasp but it’s worth thinking about.
A year ago I made the decision to go off dairy for health reasons. My oldest is already allergic to dairy and my youngest boy is lactose intolerant so when I went off dairy it was just my husband left eating dairy products. We stopped buying cheese, milk, etc and noticed a HUGE savings on our monthly grocery bill. Now I’m able to put some of that money towards vegetables which are probably healthier for us anyway! It’s been a big lifestyle change, especially for me (I’m a cheese lover!) but it’s been worth it for us in more ways than one so it’s not a decision we regret at all.
Is there something in your food budget that you are eating now that may not be totally necessary…maybe even good for your health to cut it out?
11. Grow It
Of course, this is one of my favorite tips! If you really want to save money on groceries, you can grow your own. I’m a big believer that anyone can have some kind of garden no matter where you live. Even if you live in a city apartment, I bet you can grow lettuce on your window sill. Just about any type of food that you can grow at home can save money on groceries. Yes, there are some costs involved with having a garden, but there are also some simple ways to save money on gardening.
And if you can’t start a garden right now in the season we are in, have you considered foraging? There are some great books out there depending on the area you are in.
12. Make a Swap
If you are on a very limited budget and don’t even have enough to buy what you need to get by, this can be a great option. If you can find someone near to you that grows or raises their own food and has extras, consider asking them if they would swap with you. Perhaps you have a skill that they can use…plumbing, sewing, or maybe even pulling weeds! Ask if they would trade what you have for something they have.
Unless someone is obviously giving something away for free, don’t simply ask for a handout. They may have something extra they are willing to part with but they still put the time and effort into growing that or raising that food and they deserve to have a fair trade.
Any of these methods can help you save even more off your grocery bill each month. Even if you don’t feel like you have any other way to save money on groceries, there is always something that can be done.
Share your best tips! What are some ways that you save money on groceries? Did you already know (and do) all of these tips and have even better ones for those that want to go further? Email me at [email protected], I’d happily pay you to write an article on those tips to share with our community!