Food is expensive these days. With consistent inflation, everyday items have become less affordable. As a result, Americans nationwide have had to revise and tighten their budgets, especially in the grocery category.
Although money may still be tight, with some planning and creativity, you can still prepare great meals for your family without breaking the bank. Learning how to save money on groceries may feel like an impossible task in this economy, but with the right resources, you can reduce your food spending and save some money.
Learn To Cook
Takeout may be eating away at your monthly grocery budget because you don’t know how to learn how to cook or don’t feel like you have time, but it doesn’t need to be that way.
Cooking can be daunting for people who have never done it and feel like there’s not enough time in the day.
Thankfully, you can ditch your cookbook because the internet is full of cooking videos and blog posts with recipes for every type of person.
New to cooking? Let YouTube teach you the basics. If you don’t feel like you don’t have time to cook because you’re busy with work or kids, there are tons of “quick and easy” meal ideas that don’t take a lot of time to prepare.
How to Save Money on Groceries
These 17 grocery hacks will have you spending less money on groceries on your first few shopping trips. Implementing as many of these small changes as possible will have a big impact on your grocery bill!
1. Use Cashback Apps
Using apps to scan grocery receipts and score cashback offers on purchases is one of the easiest ways to save a substantial amount of money on your groceries.
Popular cashback apps allow you to earn cashback rewards when grocery shopping; redeem your rewards for free gift cards and real money.
Fetch Rewards is a free app you can use to scan every receipt you get. Each receipt you scan earns you a minimum of 25 points. You can redeem your points for free gift cards to your favorite stores and restaurants.
Fetch Rewards offers you a chance to win extra points each day. Just scan a receipt and spin the wheel to receive your bonus points.
Pogo gives you rewards and savings on every purchase, helps you find additional ways to save on your finances, and will even pay you for sharing your data!
Ibotta offers thousands of cashback offers on grocery items and household goods. Download the Ibotta app, set up your free account, and save your favorite offers in the app. After you shop, use your phone to take a picture of your receipt in the Ibotta app and submit it to collect your cashback.
2. Avoid Impulse Purchases
The grocery store checkout line is stocked with sneaky impulse buys, tempting you to bust your budget at the last minute. Items in the checkout line are unhealthy and overpriced because the store has a captive audience as you’re waiting to pay for your groceries. Avoid giving in and tossing these items in your cart!
3. Avoid Overpriced Snacks
Buying portion-controlled snack packs for yourself or your kids can be tempting. Brands may market them as healthy foods, but the unit pricing is often higher, and they are rarely as healthy as they claim to be.
Make cheaper alternatives at home using similar items like fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and dried berries, cheese, and anything else you want to add. You can portion them into small reusable containers, so you still get the “portion controlled” aspect.
4. Shop at Farmer’s Markets for Produce
Swing by your local farmers market to purchase your fresh vegetables and fruit. Not only will you support local farmers, but their produce often has fewer pesticides, and in-season options tend to be significantly cheaper than most local grocery stores.
You can also make it a fun outing if you have kids. The kids can help pick out their favorite fruits and veggies while taking advantage of the free samples most fruit stalls offer. This is also a great way for your family to eat more whole foods.
5. Sign Up for Emails and Apps
If you don’t use coupons when food shopping, you are missing out on a simple way to save. Signing up for your different store’s email lists and newsletters will allow them to send you coupons and exclusive discounts straight to your inbox.
Stores will often send you printable coupons and grocery delivery or pickup offers. Be sure to only use coupons for grocery purchases you were already planning to make. Don’t get sucked into making additional purchases when you see great deals on items you typically don’t use.
While you’re at it, download the store’s app and create an account. Many grocery chains offer app users additional perks like secret discounts on specific items not advertised in-store, coupons on grocery purchases, and online shopping specials.
6. Only Buy Perishable Goods in Quantities You’ll Use Immediately
Food waste – food thrown away because you didn’t use it by the expiration dates – is equivalent to flushing money down the toilet.
Many people buy perishables in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco because they believe they are getting a better deal. However, they end up throwing half of it away once it goes bad in a few days. This is a surefire way to increase your food costs. You may be paying cheaper prices up front, but if the food is wasted, so is your money.
If you won’t be able to eat or freeze food before it spoils, consider buying smaller quantities. One of the easiest ways to avoid wasting food is to buy frozen produce instead of fresh. Purchasing frozen is also a good way to get out-of-season produce at lower prices.
7. Shop Around for Deals, Don’t Only Shop at One Store
Odds are sales are happening at virtually every grocery store in your area. Don’t limit yourself if you can get a better deal on an item at a different store than the one you usually go to. A deal is a deal.
Grocery stores constantly compete to provide customers with the best deals, so take advantage of that. Shopping around and using your options is a great way to save money. Look at the weekly circulars or check the websites to find the best price for the items on your shopping list.
8. Buy Necessities in Bulk
Buying in bulk can help you save a lot of money in the long run. If your local store doesn’t offer bulk items, check for a wholesale club in your area.
This is a great place to find cheaper prices on some of the more expensive grocery items. Meat options like chicken breasts, and ground beef, whole grains like cereals and bread, and household goods like toilet paper, paper towels, and laundry detergent are all specific items you’ll likely find at cheaper prices when you purchase in large quantities.
Don’t be afraid of putting in some extra work for lower food prices. For example, you can buy a whole tenderloin and slice it up at home – if done right, one tenderloin should give you several fillets.
9. Switch to Store Brands
Almost all grocery stores sell their own generic, or “store brands” for less than their name-brand equivalents.
Store-brand goods are independently produced and packaged by the store, making them less expensive.
Not every food has a store-brand counterpart, but most pantry staples (things like cereal, canned goods, and condiments) will. Purchasing as many store brands as possible will significantly lower your grocery costs.
10. Limit Purchases of Ready-Made Foods
Sometimes you don’t feel like cooking, and that’s okay. However, ready-made meals are always more expensive than the same meal would be if you made it at home.
Meal prepping is a great way to pre-cook meals or ingredients throughout the week, so when the time comes, you don’t need to put much thought or effort into cooking.
Ready-made meals are also full of preservatives and added sugar and salt. Buying fresh foods and making dinner at home will cost less money and is a healthier option.
11. Learn Proper Storage Methods for Your Groceries
Fresh foods often have a relatively short shelf life. However, there are easy ways to store your groceries, so they last longer and result in less waste.
Here are a few examples:
- Storing chopped veggies like carrots and celery in water will keep them from drying out.
- Wash all fruit and keep it in sealed containers.
- Reseal frozen foods before putting them back in the freezer to prevent freezer burn.
12. Get Creative With Leftovers
You can often repurpose leftovers from one meal for other meals throughout the week. For example, vegetables from tonight’s dinner can be reheated and served with tomorrow’s meal.
You can also use various leftovers in soups and casseroles. Check out some websites or Pinterest for inspiration to get creative with your leftover food.
13. Pay in Cash
People are prone to spending more money when paying with a debit or credit card versus cash. This is because when you use cash, you can physically see how much you can spend. Therefore, you can only justify spending the allotted amount. Using a card, however, doesn’t have the same feeling of parting with your hard-earned money as you’re just swiping a piece of plastic, making it easier to spend.
14. Join Loyalty Programs
Most grocery stores have loyalty programs to reward their customers for shopping. When joining these programs, you will receive a loyalty card to use when checking out, which often gives you access to exclusive rewards and member-only deals in-store.
Often, the special prices on sale items only apply to reward members, so you can only get the deal if you join the program.
15. Use Manufacturer’s Coupons
Many grocery stores offer manufacturer coupons on their websites or third-party sites such as Coupons.com or Red Plum.
You can use these coupons in-store or online to find great deals at your favorite stores.
16. Shop at Discount Stores
Shopping at discount stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s is a good way to get the lowest price on groceries. Additionally, frequenting day-old bakeries is another excellent way to save money on food, as prices can drop by up to 50% on select items.
Bread products freeze well, so you can take advantage of sales and stock up at the lowest price.
17. Buy Produce In-Season
Buying fruits and vegetables in-season is the best way to get the most wholesome foods at the best price.
Local farmers often supply seasonal fruits and vegetables. So, if you like to buy locally, this is a great way to support your neighborhood farms.
A quick Google search will help determine which fruits and vegetables are best in each season. You can print out a guide and keep it on your fridge, so you know which ones to get when you go to the store or shop online.
Save Money While Still Eating Healthy
With the right tools, grocery shopping on a budget is relatively easy.
Learning how to save money in every area of life can help you achieve your long-term goals while filling your bank account.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Robyn is a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. She has her MBA and has been studying Personal Finance on her own for as long as she can remember.
She has always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start her blog after a period of extended unemployment. She says that experience really changed the way she viewed her relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education. Read more at A Dime Saved.