Groceries are expensive, let’s be real. There are a ton of methods out there to save money on them, but they can be time-consuming. Today, I want to share 10 tips on how to save money on groceries without needing to quit your job.
Have a predetermined amount to spend.
Make a budget. Figure out how much money you typically spend on groceries and how much you actually can spend. Then it’s up to you to decide how to best stick to that limit. I personally like to take out cash and put it in an envelope because I’m a very visual person. I need to see how much is left for it to affect my spending habits. Some people like to use a debit card instead to stock up on rewards points, which is also totally valid. Don’t be afraid to be that person walking around the store with a calculator to make sure you don’t go over budget. The first week or two may be a little time-consuming, but it’s really nothing after a while.
Meal plan + make a grocery list.
Coming to the store prepared will make you less likely to buy things on impulse. Before we started meal planning, we would wander around the store asking each other, “What sounds good for dinner? What do we need to make that?” Then we would get home and realize we forgot half the ingredients and/or only had meals to last us two days. Trust me on this, your food will go further if you have a plan for it. I start my list with the non-meal items that we always need (e.g. bread, milk, eggs, fruits, and vegetables) and things I know we’ve run out of (e.g. toilet paper, coconut oil). Then, I make a meal plan for 2 weeks (using as many of the same ingredients as possible), look at the recipes for those meals, and write down what we need to buy. Again, this can be time-consuming at first, but you’ll get a rhythm for it eventually.
Be as hard on yourself as you need to be. If you really need to cut costs, don’t buy anything that’s not necessary for nourishment. Be as frugal as you can. Say you can’t live without your morning coffee, but can you drink it without cream or sugar? That’s an extra $3 you’re saving each time. Or buy off-brand products – they’re typically cheaper and sometimes even produced in the same factory as the name-brand kind.
You probably have a preferred grocery store where you buy the bulk of your groceries, right? Me, too. I like to look at the ad for that store before meal planning so I know what meals I can make for the cheapest. (More on how to waste less + save more on fresh produce here.) Then after I make my list, I look at other stores to see if they have a better deal on anything. If I find a better price somewhere else, I make a separate list of what I’m planning to buy at that store. This is probably the most time-consuming thing I do, but it does save a little bit of money each grocery trip. If you don’t want to go to multiple stores, you can also use…
I don’t personally use this one very often, but I have heard great things about price-matching to save money on groceries. Some people do this verbally with the cashier (“Wal-Mart has that for $1 this week.”). I find that to be tedious and it doesn’t always work. You also can print coupons from competing stores’ websites (like Target if you usually shop at Kroger, for example), and your store should have to accept them because it’s a competitor’s price. This is a cool option because you can usually end up stacking deals (store sale + manufacturer’s coupon + competitor’s coupon = big savings).
Utilize store sales.
Honestly, this is where you save the most money and it doesn’t even take that much work on your part. You just have to know what’s on sale and plan your upcoming eating habits accordingly. I write down sale prices next to the items on my grocery list to make sure I get the right product. It’s also a nice visual to look over your grocery list and see if (almost) everything you’re buying is on sale or otherwise discounted.
Stock up while things are on sale.
Supposedly products go on sale every 6-8 weeks, so to make the most out of a sale, you buy as much as you’ll use in those two months and you won’t have to buy the product until it’s on sale again. This is great in theory, but it’s really expensive at first. You haven’t stocked up on anything yet, so you’re buying all your normal groceries plus an extra 6 weeks worth of certain things. It’s worth it in the long run if you can manage the higher up-front cost. Or, you can just pick a couple items to do this with. For example, ground turkey was on sale for a really great price a few weeks ago. We use it quite a bit, so we bought a few extra pounds and were saved from having to purchase it for a little while.
Join your store’s rewards program.
Not all stores have these, but a lot do! It’s an awesome resource. My local grocery store has a program called mPerks, which offers digital coupons to choose from and gives you rewards whenever you spend a certain amount of money. We get $3 off every time we spend $150 on groceries. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re going to spend the money anyway, you might as well get rewarded for it! The coupons usually coincide with store sales, so it’s like a double discount. It takes maybe 5 minutes a week to go through the coupons and clip the ones you want, and then 30 seconds at checkout to enter your credentials to use them.
Download an app that gives you cash back.
I actually just downloaded Ibotta this morning for this. So far, it’s pretty great. You pick the stores you shop at most frequently, and then they provide you with a bunch of rebates at each store. To unlock the deals, it just asks you to watch a 15-second video, answer one survey question, or look at a fact for the product. Then you scan the barcode and upload a picture of the receipt to cash in on the deals. I made $12 already from scanning a couple things we purchased last week and the $10 welcome bonus. Like the rewards program, this will take 5 minutes a week to go through the rebates, and maybe 5 minutes after shopping to scan barcodes and upload the receipt.
Don’t shop while you’re hungry.
Seriously. This goes back to the impulse-purchasing point. If you’re like me, you get hangry and either a) want to buy everything you see, or b) rush to be done and forget half the things you needed. Do yourself a favor and eat something before you go to the store.
Splurge on one small thing.
Depending on how big your budget is, you can reasonably spend $1-10 each month (or each shopping trip) on something that’s just for fun. This is important so you don’t feel deprived and end up splurging on a bunch of things later. It’s like a cheat day for a diet: it doesn’t ruin the diet, but it keeps you from getting bored. My husband and I have a $3 limit, that each of us can pick something that’s $3 or less and the other one can’t question it. He usually picks a beer or his favorite veggie chips, or maybe a chocolate bar. I’ll pick coffee creamer or maybe a smoothie drink. Or we can combine and pick something a little bigger, like a bottle of wine or ice cream. This takes no extra time, and you’ll probably save more money in the long-run because you’re less likely to give into cravings.