How to save money on groceries and household Items
To save money on groceries, we have to get tactical. The consumer expenditure survey estimates a normal American household spends about $300 monthly on groceries. I call B.S. I think the number is much higher than that.
If you’re like most families, grocery day seems to come around every so often. You only shop once a week, and yet, feels like there are more grocery days than there are Sundays. Why?
I feel the same way about grocery day like I do about Mondays. Only 52 weeks in the year, but there’s just too many Mondays crammed in there.
It’s extremely easy to shimmy down the grocery aisle and just grab stuff.
Most of this is stuff you just don’t need. It works every time though. Someone is clapping all the way to the bank, and it ain’t you. To save money on groceries, you have to beat the grocery stores at their own game.
In this post, we’ll dive into learning how to save money on groceries.
1. Make A Grocery List & Stick To It
This may seem mundane ordinarily. However, it is the first and easiest way to plan for exactly what you need upon arrival at the dreaded grocery store.
Keep yourself organized with your grocery list. It helps you avoid the pitfalls of placing items in the cart you just don’t need.
- Refer to your list of weekly meals. Make a list of foods and drinks you will need to make up your weekly plan. Do not leave out veggies and fruits that may not necessarily show up on a recipe, but are nonetheless essential.
- Organize the List. Cut your shopping time in half by organizing said list into sections or food groups.
- Add as you go. Use a free app or go old school and post a note on your refrigerator. Keep an ongoing grocery list and add items as you run out.
2. Rethink The Whole Dinner Thing
If the word “dinner” automatically invokes thoughts of a 3-course meal, slow your roll a bit. Times have changed, and our waist lines have learned to adapt.
Dinner does not have to be some event.
Think outside the box, like waaaay outside the box come dinner time. The number one dinner in our home by far is a special dish called leftovers.
Make it simple. Sandwiches, omelettes, things like that. The kids will turn out just fine regardless, I promise.
3. Track The Money Spent As You Spend It
To save money on groceries, maintain a running tally of how much you are spending in real time. Burst out your phone and use the calculator. Keep track of the fruits, veggies, milk and other items you are placing in the cart.
Looking at the tally rise just might help you stop and think, do I need that expensive kale or those pre-sliced apples?
Some grocery stores offer “scan it”. You can walk around the store, scanner in hand, and scan every item you pick. The tool keeps a running total for you so you know how much your’re spending.
It saves you the embarrassment of being uber surprised at prices when you are at the checkout stand. Also helps you decide in real time if you need certain items.
4. Make It A Point To Shop Cheap
OK, so you can run into the occasional sale at Whole Foods or Tom Thumb. Nothing beats the constantly cheap prices at Aldi or Costco though.
Here in the U.S., top 5 cheapest stores ranked are Aldi, Market Basket, WinCo Foods, Food 4 Less and Costco.
If you’re unsure what is true in your particular geographical area, ask around, there’s always a friendly neighbor willing to drop some knowledge on you.
Depending on where you are, you may or may not have a local Aldi or any of the others above. You likely do have a supermarket, very much known to be the hangout spot for all the super-savers.
Make it your new spot. It would add up to substantial savings over time.
5. Shop Seasonally
When figuring out how to save money on groceries, this is an important rule to live by.
In-season items are always way cheaper than out-of-season. This is because out-of-season produce has to be shipped in. All that storage and travel cost is passed on to you by the grocery stores.
Moreover, by the time these items get to you, they have lost most of their freshness and nutritional value.
If you’re at a loss as to what’s seasonal, the USDA provides this chart.
How To Save Money On Groceries Without Coupons
6. Know When To Shop
Knowing when to visit your local grocery store can be a game changer.
Here are a few tips to consider…
- Shop super early or a tad late. Clearance items are typically placed front and center early in the morning. These are quickly picked up by the early risers. In the same token, right before close, the store leaders get antsy about bakery and produce items. As such, they reduce the prices on these items to entice late shoppers to clear the shelves.
- Shop Midweek. Wednesdays to be exact. This is the best day to shop as it is the day the weekly circular is typically released. Show up on Wednesday and you get the first crack at the week’s items on sale.
- Don’t Shop on Tuesdays or Saturdays. Tuesdays are crowded. Everyone is trying to get in on soon to expire shopping deals. Saturdays are by far the busiest day of the week to shop. Avoid them.
7. Leave The Kids At Home If You Can
Kids are such a bundle…of joy.
If you leave your kids at the house, you’re more likely to focus on your list and tracking with your phone calculator. Chances of getting distracted by extra requests are eliminated.
I find it works on not just kids but spouses & partners too.
8. Don’t Go Overboard With Produce
Get picky about your produce selections. The mega sale on produce should not entice you. It never ends in your favor.
Select a couple of produce items at most, each week. This helps you not only reduce cost, but also, waste.
9. Hit Up The Meat Market
I still remember the days when my buddy Drew and me would hit up the meat market in Edmond, OK.
Smaller meat markets and butchers often have better deals on meats than even your best local grocery stores.
Also, they often sell in greater quantities and for much less. Whenever you have it in the budget, stock up on your meats and throw them in the freezer.
10. Look Beyond The Eye Level Items
Ever notice how the most expensive items, always seem to be right at eye level? I tell you, these stores are evil. Every one of those items are strategically placed there, to make you spend, and you fall for it every time.
As you shop, look way up and way down. You may have to call for an attendant’s help every now and then, but that’s okay. You’ll feel rewarded for taking the time to look up, when you find a nicely priced item tucked away at mile-high.
11. Never Shop Hungry
What is it the snicker commercial says? “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” That’s because we do the silliest things when hungry.
Discipline yourself and be sure to be completely satisfied when you walk into the grocery store. You’ll be surprised how much better you do at sticking with the plan you had in place.
12. Don’t Buy More Than is Needed
Everybody and their nana love a good deal. If you get tricked into buying items you don’t need however, did you really get a good deal? Did you?
My lovely wife likes to announce – “honey I ran into a sale”, and I just sit there and wait for it….the final tally.
This is an example of how not to save money on groceries.
If the “sale” was not part of your plan, was not on the grocery list, and not budgeted for, you overspent. It’s really quite that simple.
13. Cash is King
To steal Dave Ramsey’s catch phrase – cash is king. One of the best ways to ensure you keep the grocery bill low is to pay with cash.
When you walk into the grocery store cash in hand, once the cash runs out, that’s all she wrote. Shopping’s over.
With a cash mindset, you do a much better job of prioritizing necessities like meats and veggies, over nice-to-have’s , like cheese and cookies.
14. Join Your Store’s Rewards Program
A lot of grocery stores today have a rewards or loyalty program of some sort. There typically are no strings attached to join. Pop in your phone number (they won’t call you) and that’s it.
Tom Thumb, Publix, CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, you name it – all have rewards programs.
With your loyalty card in-hand, you get to save sometimes amazing amounts of cash and walk away from the register grinning ear to ear.
I love me some Bluebell Ice cream. At $6.59 for the gallon of cookies and cream however, we pass on it most times.
When they have a loyalty sale though, you pop that card it and sometimes the price drops as low as $3.99. What! #winning.
Get you a loyalty card. They’re free.
15. Take Inventory of What You Do Have
Before you head out to the grocery store, take inventory. Look in the pantry, the fridge and at all your other household items.
By taking stock of items running low, and taking a final inventory before you step out, you prevent buying more of items you really did not need.
If a particular item is running low, as a habit, take if off the list. Yes, you run the risk of running out before the next grocery day, but you save untold sums by doing this one thing.
Of course you’ll have to decide items you can afford to use this strategy on as sometimes a necessity is a necessity.
How To Save Money On Groceries With Coupons
16. Use Paper Coupons
In this push, tweet, swipe world we live in, it’s easy to ignore paper coupons.
Some of the very best coupons are still offered in print. Your Sunday morning paper, or even the very grocery store you are shopping has them in stock.
Coupons.com is an example of an online company that lets you print out coupons at home, as you head out to the grocery store. Another great option for printable coupons is the company Swagbucks.
Staying on the topic of shopping with coupons, make sure the grocery store you visit accepts competitors coupons.
No one wants to show up at Walmart in the checkout lane, all groceried up, and have the cashier deny your very well organized coupon collection.
Here are some of the known stores that accept competitor coupons:
- Super G
- Lowe’s Foods
- Price Chopper
17. Leverage Apps
Don’t forget all the cash back apps out there.
Ibotta, Checkout51, Receipt Hog and Fetch Rewards are just a short list of some of the really good groceries apps out there, built to save you money.
18. Skip The Bottled Water
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates the cost per gallon of bottled water at $1.21. On the flip side, the cost per 1000 gallons of tap water is only $2.
What this means is, bottled water is more than 600 times more expensive than tap water. Eye-opening stuff really.
To provide a bit more perspective, spending $1 each day on bottled water would amount to $365 each year. It would cost right under $0.10 cents to get the same amount of water from your tap.
If any of this resonates with you, and you feel safe making the switch, Amazon has some amazing Brita Filters that will save you a ton.
You also feel good knowing you are doing something good for the environment.
How To Save Money On Groceries And Eat Healthy
19. Don’t Take The Bait
I love a good deal. We all do. Pay attention however, to the terms of the deal.
Just because it says buy 5 bottles for $5, doesn’t always mean you need to buy 5 bottles to get the deal. Get two instead, and only pay $2.
The idea behind advertising 5 for $5 is exactly for that purpose. To get you to buy 5 or 10 for that matter. If there are no stipulations precluding you from only getting what you need, stick with your plan.
If the store’s a stickler however and tries to force your hand, you always have the power to just walk away.
Remember, sales are designed to make you spend more, not less.
20. Don’t Shop At the Cashier’s Desk
The cashier is there to check you out. That’s it. That’s his or her one job. If you let the cashier sell you anything in that tight squeeze of a check-out lane, you are loosing big time.
The markup for items in the checkout lane is insane. Some items in the check out lane you will find are priced so much lower at the back of the very same store.
Plus, the cashier’s desk makes how to save money on groceries and eat healthy almost impossible. So much candy and goodies to get you off track.
Don’t do it. Let the cashier check you out. Nothing more.
21. Choose Frozen Over Fresh
The cooked food always smells so appealing, but aroma can be expensive.
Instead of basking in the ambiance of the sweet smelling chicken, walk on back to the frozen aisle and get the same chicken – for cheaper.
Same goes for fresh fish. It is more expensive than frozen. Quite frankly, sometimes the frozen is better packaged and preserved in transit than fresh, and may even taste so much better than Mr. “fishy fresh”.
22. Explore Other Foods
Most of us buy and eat the same foods again and again. The grocery stores took notice and plan or fix their prices accordingly.
They hence rotate sales, week in and week out, to ensure your favorite items are not on sale at the same time.
To get around this, and save money on groceries, you’ll have to expand your palate individually, or as a family.
Go for store selections outside of your norms. Select the items on sale over your usual go-to meats, or jelly, or whatever the item is.
Expanding your palate is a great one on the list of how to save on groceries.
23. Cook From Scratch
We live in an I-want-it-now world. Everything is fast. Fast food, fast money, express this and express that. If we took the time to slow things down however, it could mean some cost savings.
Nothing wrong in prioritizing convenience. And as pointed out above, sometimes, the frozen foods are cheaper than fresh.
As much as possible however, whip out the crockpot, or George Foreman, and prepare meals requiring very little supervision.
24. Reduce Your Meat Intake
Hey, it’s tough. I’m a meatitarian myself. But meat is also expensive. Don’t hesitate however to slide in one or two meatless meals each week though.
This is also an example of how to save money on groceries and eat healthy. Meat is great. Too much meat can be detrimental to health.
Make it fun for the family. You can make up stuff like Meatless Mondays or Soupy Saturdays. Anything to take away the sting of no meat.
How To Save Money On Groceries Online
25. Shop Online. Pick Up At The Store
Shopping online and picking up at the store is super convenient. A lot of stores are adopting this practice so it’s gaining popularity.
Convenience and popularity are not the reasons why shopping for groceries online makes the list of how to save money on groceries though.
When you shop online, you select exactly the items you want, and pay for them. When you get to the store, your exact list of items is brought to you, placed in the trunk of your vehicle, and you drive off.
As far as I know, stores do not have the McDonald’s you forgot, or we forgot button.
This negates the impulse buying and helps you stick to your list of groceries and household items.
26. Checkout Amazon Pantry
We all knew it was just a matter of time before Amazon stuck her big toe into the online grocery game.
Well, the time is now.
With Amazon Prime Pantry, you can shop low-priced, every day sizes of groceries and household items. This translates to savings, without having to buy in bulk.
They would typically also have weekly deals and coupons exclusive to Amazon Prime members.
Try out Amazon Prime for Free.
Other Ways To Save Money On Groceries
27. Use Your Military Discount
You’ve served your country, and we appreciate and applaud you. Now get what’s due you.
Be sure to find out from your grocery store clerk or one of the friendly associates if they offer a military discount. Then use it every time.
28. Bring Your Own Bag
Not a thing at every store, but at enough stores to deserve an honorable mention.
A lot of grocery stores will give you some sort of discount if you bring in your own bag. Want to know how to save money on groceries…how easy was that?
Savings could vary from store to store, but you couple that with one or more techniques on this list, and you are making some moves.
29. Don’t Be Shy. Put It Back. It’s Your Money
I am quite literally speaking to myself on this one.
Do not be afraid to put back items or leave them with the cashier at the last minute. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
If there’s something in your grocery cart that takes the bill over the top, gift it back to the cashier. This is especially true if you know you are not in dire need, or can find the same item cheaper elsewhere.
30. Pay Attention To Historical Prices
Be familiar with how much your regular food items cost.
If you don’t pay attention to historical prices, you’ll have no idea whether or not you’re getting a great deal.
Just because an item is marked as “sale” doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. Plus, these signs are being put up my humans. You know how imperfect we are.
If you are up-to-date on prices however, no one’s going to pull a fast one on you.
31. Pay Attention to the Loss Leaders
What is a Loss Leader?
Loss leaders are those items of grocery advertised on the front of the weekly sales circular.
You can save money on these groceries without coupons as they are rotated out weekly and typically have this one general characteristic. They are advertised and hugely discounted.
The idea is to get you in the door in hopes you’ll relax and splurge once on the inside.
Strictly shopping loss leaders is possible. Hone down this skill and you’ll be saving big on groceries and other household items.
32. Don’t Sleep On Dollar Stores
There are a few items you should only get at the dollar store.
Spices are one of these items that are uber expensive at the grocery store, but you can always get a great deal on at the dollar store.
Be wary however. Just like you would with the grocery store, only get the items you’ve specifically left for the dollar store – at the dollar store.
Full on grocery shopping at the dollar store can get pricey very quickly, which could mean the exact opposite of how to save money on groceries.
33. Stretch It Out
Get creative with your meal prep.
If you find you’re running low on items in the home, don’t automatically move up grocery day.
There’s always leftovers in the fridge and freezer that’ll just need some creative genius on your part to whip up.
Still unsure? Fire up YouTube. I bet there’s some sassy mama or groovy pop willing to show you like 10 quick leftover recipes in 10 minutes.
Wrap-Up On Making Money From Home
Start small and scale. You don’t have to take on more than one or two savings methods mentioned above for starters.
One or two new habits can go a long way in helping you save money on groceries.
Use Cash Back Apps. They save you a ton and you don’t have to change any of your current habits.
Just download unto your phone and save.
No need to reinvent the wheel. Several ordinary people like you and I are already putting some of these items into practice.
If you spend $250 each week on groceries, that’s $13,000 annually. Cutting that by 10% means putting $1,300 right back in your pocket.
That’s money that could go right into paying down some debt, investing in real estate, or starting your own online marketing freelance business or blog.
Dive into the comments below. Let me know if you have already, or would be adopting any one of these techniques on how to save money on groceries.
I read your article, and was impressed.
I should be more frugal with money.
You inspired me !
Thank you, Sandra. My Pleasure!
Great article, excellent tips. I would 3 more.
1. Menu Plan then Meal Plan. It all starts here. For, the menu plan, choose 14-28 meals that fit your budget. When I first started menu planning, I chose 14 meals I could make for $2-3 each for dinner. Then I search store adds to buy those ingredients at rock bottom prices using sales, coupons and rebates. I kept a minimum pantry of 3mos.
2. Use the Flipp app to see all the sale ads in one place. Some ads are early. Flipp also allows store price comparisons using the search function.
3. Some stores offer discounts to senior. Mine is 5% off on Thursday.
Bonus ideas: buy discount gift cards for 3%-7% off your purchase including sales tax. Keep a price book of prices, regular and rock bottom prices until you have them memorized. Add expensive meals to your menu plan to serve once every 7-10 days as you get that grocery budget way down, it solves the deprived feelings. Serve it when the expensive item is on sale. Above all be patient waiting for rock bottom prices.