Don’t leave more of your paycheck at the grocery store than you have to. Here’s how to save big on groceries, without buying lots of junk food, or resorting to crazy amounts of couponing.
Shop with a Plan: Come up with a meal plan before you shop. This will help to bring focus to your shopping trip, so you don’t buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need, or forget to buy the stuff that you do. Aim to buy everything you need for the week in one trip, so you don’t have to go back. Each trip to the store is another chance to derail your grocery budget.
Grocery shopping online: If you tend to run into the store for a few items, only to come out with a whole cart full of stuff, consider making the switch to online grocery ordering. Just add the items you need to your cart, and move straight to check out, so you aren’t tempted to buy anything else.
Not happy with the total? Easy! Just remove some items from your cart. That may feel like an awkward move when you’re shopping in store, but it isn’t the least bit awkward when you’re shopping online.
Start a Stockpile: When you find a good deal on something you use, go ahead and stock up. As long as it’s a non-perishable item, and you have the space to store it, it just makes sense to buy a bunch when the price is right. Most grocery stores follow a six-week sales cycle, so aim to buy enough to get you to the next sale.
Worried that things will go bad before you get around to using them? Get the scoop on how long you can expect things to last in the pantry and the fridge.
Eat Seasonal Foods: Feel like you blow half your grocery budget in the produce section? Switch to buying just the fruits and veggies that are in season. Since produce is at its cheapest and freshest when it’s season, this will ensure you’re getting the best deals (and the freshest foods).
Want to eat your favorites year-round? Just buy extra when they’re in season, and freeze them.
Shop with Your Phone: Not a fan of clipping and printing coupons? Just load digital coupons to your phone (or your store loyalty card) before you shop, and you’ll only have one barcode to scan at the register.
To save even more, get the Ibotta and Checkout51 apps. They’ll give you cashback on specific grocery items. Sometimes they even offer cashback on milk, produce, meat, and other foods that are hard to find coupons for.
Expand Your Hunting Ground: It may be convenient to buy everything at one store, but you’ll overpay if you do. Because bottom line: no store has the best price on everything. Stick to buying your groceries at the grocery store, but buy your paper products, toiletries, and cleaners at a big-box store or pharmacy, where the sales are usually quite a bit better.
For even bigger savings, check out salvage grocery stores, Amish markets, and International grocery stores. Even the dollar store is worth checking out. It’s a great place to pick up cheap spices and baking supplies.
Blow Past the Sales Aisle: Grocery stores often stick an aisle of sales items at the front of the store to entice you to buy. But the problem with this aisle? Since it only shows you what’s on sale, you have no way of knowing if these really are the best deals. If you see something on the sales shelf that interests you, make a mental note to compare prices when you get to the aisle that item is located on.
Did You Know? Brands often pay a premium to have their products featured on an end cap (that’s the name for that shelf located at the end of each aisle). So, don’t make the mistake of assuming something is on sale, just because you see it placed there.
Do the Prep Work Yourself: Foods that come ready to eat are convenient, but they cost considerably more. Aim to buy whole fruits and veggies, instead of chopped fruits and veggies, and dried beans instead of canned. It may take you a few more minutes to prepare your foods, but you’ll be rewarded with fresher ingredients, fewer preservatives, and a smaller grocery bill.
Find Ways to Cut Your Meat Bill: Meat is one of the priciest items at the grocery store, so if you can figure out a way to save on just this one item, you should see a considerable decrease in your grocery spending. Incorporate more meatless meals into your weekly meal plan; use tricks to make your meat purchases go further, and vow to never pay full price. If you stock up when your favorite cuts go on sale, and start watching for reduced-price stickers, you shouldn’t find it too hard to cut your meat bill in half.
Scan the Store for Mark Downs: Many savings experts advise you to shop the perimeter of the store, but if you don’t walk up and down every aisle, you could be missing out on opportunities to save. Look for signs and stickers indicating items that have been put on closeout, or marked down because they’re approaching their sell-by date. These types of deals could stretch your budget considerably.
Tip: Most grocery stores have a section (or several sections) where they place reduced-price items. Locate the spot in your store, so you can check it often.
Use What You Buy: Sounds obvious, right? But if you find yourself throwing away spoiled food, you may as well be throwing away money. Pay attention to what you’re throwing away, and come up with a plan to put a stop to it. Are you buying something that no one likes? Are things getting pushed to the back of the fridge, where no one sees them? Do you need to work harder to utilize leftovers, or to stick to your meal plan? Figure out why food is being wasted. Then, fix it.