Everyone’s monthly budget includes spending on food. The good news is you can control how much you spend on your food so your grocery budget stays under control.
Many people shop for groceries by having a basic sense of what they need at the store. Then, they pick up what’s on their list, plus whatever else they find there that they think they also need.
That buy-as-you-go strategy can work. Chances are you do better – and still get what you want – when it comes to saving money on groceries.
These super-easy basic grocery shopping tricks (and one Golden Rule of Saving Money on Groceries) are so essential, they should probably be taught in school!
1. Buy in Bulk Often
Buying groceries in bulk can save you substantially in the long-run. The trick to buying in bulk is learning how to store food properly. For nonperishable items like canned goods, storage is fairly simple.
But, if you’re buying something like chicken breasts, vacuum seal and freeze the portions properly for later use. It’s worth the small extra steps to buy in bulk.
Even when you’re buying in bulk, check those “per unit” prices to make sure you’re definitely getting a better deal than if you bought in lower quantities. In rare cases, bulk might actually cost more.
2. Choose Veggies Wisely – Frozen Versus Fresh
Vegetables in general are excellent groceries both for your wallet and your health. When vegetables are in season, they are usually good deals for your wallet.
A few vegetables are worth buying in bulk. Bon Appetite magazine recommends buying frozen spinach, artichokes and peas on the regular. With spinach, you can get a much higher volume with the frozen packages. And peas are often time-consumer to blanche on their own, but they take just 30 seconds to add, say, as a final ingredient to pasta dishes.
3. Hug the Perimeter
An old rule of thumb to grocery shopping is to try to stay along the outside of the grocery store and avoid the middle aisles as much as possible. The idea is that along the edge of most grocery stores are the more affordable – and healthier – essentials.
You’ll often find produce, fresh meat, bakeries and dairy along the outside edges of the grocery store.
The aisles come with unnecessary temptations like candy, chips, cookies and soda. Of course, there are always some exceptions – like canned goods and pasta, which are on the more affordable side of grocery items.
4. Become a Meal Planning Pro
Meal planning is key to getting the most out of saving at the grocery store. Yes, it takes a hot second to set out what you plan to eat for the week. But the money, not to mention the time, that you can save with meal planning can be substantial.
When you know what you’re going to cook in advance, you can easily make your grocery shopping list. With meal planning, your grocery list will have some solid direction. And you can take the cheapest path.
5. Product Comparison Apps
Using product comparison apps to save money on groceries is a little cumbersome for many people. If you’re more serious about frugal grocery shopping, using a shopping comparison app can help you make sure you’re getting the absolute best deal possible on a grocery item you planned to buy.
Some examples of popular product comparison apps that are ideal for grocery stores include ScanLife, which lets you scan barcodes to price compare, or Flipp, which compares weekly grocery store fliers for the best grocery store sales.
6. Let Grocery Store Sales Lure You In
While you do want to try to stick to your list, you can let your impulse guard down a tad around sales. If a product that you regularly buy at the grocery store is discounted, consider stocking up.
Of course, take into account whether you can properly store it until you can use it. Otherwise, your money could go to waste.
7. Tally Your Spending as You Shop
This easy little trick can help you save substantially just by helping you be aware of how what you’re buying adds up. Just bring along a calculator – or use one on your phone – and start adding up the prices of what you put in your cart.
For extra motivation when your trying to save money on groceries, round those prices up to the nearest dollar. That way, you’re less tempted to err on the side of buying and more likely to practice discretion.
8. Use Cash When You Can
Using cash gives you an extra boost of awareness to what you’re spending. If you physically have to hand over money, you feel the hit from your grocery spending more than if you just used a credit card or payment app.
Giving up your cash helps you realize what you are losing and can encourage you to cut back on your grocery spending.
9. Keep a List and Check it Twice
Play Santa at the grocery store. Yes, Santa does bring gifts. He still follows his list to a T.
Know exactly what is on your grocery shopping list and stay loyal to it. If you stray from what you planned to buy, your splurges can add up quickly. Sticking to your grocery list helps keep your spending contained and predictable.
10. Shop Online for Store Side Pickup
Ordering your groceries in advance for curbside pickup is a fool-proof way of sticking to your grocery list.
With this strategy for how to save money on groceries, you won’t see something tempting and impulsively buy it. Instead, you can create a plan in advance, and make sure you stick to it.
The side benefit of online grocery shopping is that you can also save a significant amount of time walking through the aisles and waiting in the checkout line.
11. Give Generic Brands a Chance
If you have a favorite brand of a specific item, say cookies, why not buy what you love? You should!
You can still turn to generic brands for many of your grocery shopping needs. Generic brands typically cost about 20% to 25% less than private label brands, according to Consumer Reports. For basic items like pasta, canned goods or spices, you likely won’t even notice a taste difference.
Trying out generic brands for different products is a harmless way to try to learn how to save money on groceries. The downside is small, but the savings can be large.
Some generic brands, like Trader Joe’s, have actually attracted more buyers with some of their own products more than comparable private brands.
12. Learn to Preserve
When fruits and vegetables are in season, they are usually on sale. When you can buy fresh product at its prime, why not buy in bulk and preserve?
Learning how to preserve foods is fairly simple. Of course, the main thing you need are jars that can seal well.
13. Grow Your Own Food, Especially Herbs
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can offer not only savings on groceries, but also an enjoyable pastime. Whether you have a large slice of land or a small deck, you can grow a variety of foods on your own, from strawberries to tomatoes.
If you regularly use herbs like mint, oregano, rosemary and dill, you can save a tremendous amount of money on groceries if you grow these herbs yourself.
You can find that just a few sprigs of an herb can go for a few dollars at the grocery stores. While growing your own can cost you a fraction of that for an ongoing supply with a plant of your own.
14. Redefine “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner”
People have a misconception that certain food is for the morning, certain food for the afternoon and certain food for the evening.
Redefining what you consider should be “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” is one key way for how to save money on groceries. It opens the doors to innovative meal planning that can help you cut back on what you spend for food.
For example, you don’t necessarily need to get you evening protein from steaks. Consider having an egg-based dinner instead, as eggs are much easier on your grocery budget. Some people even make meal plans for five small meals a day.
In fact, redefining what you eat and how you eat is Dave Ramsey’s Number One Tip for saving money on groceries.
The Golden Rule of Saving Money on Groceries
Never shop when you’re hungry. You must have heard this one before! It bears repeating on a list of tips for how to save money on groceries.
If it’s not obvious, the idea is that when you’re hungry, food seems more urgently delicious, and you tend to over-buy. So, if you grocery shop when you’ve recently eaten, you can make decisions for how to save money on groceries more clearly instead of impulsively.
The Bottom Line
Throughout your life, you’ll always need to buy food and groceries. It’s an expense you can’t escape – but one you can manage well.
Developing good shopping habits like sticking to your grocery list and strategically buying in bulk will have major payoffs in savings.