How to Save Money When Grocery Shopping
We all want to know how to save money when grocery shopping. Buying food is essential, but paying more for it is not! Here you will learn 20 tips that are guaranteed to save you money when grocery shopping.
Our Success Story: Saving Money When Grocery Shopping
Aside from our mortgage payments, groceries were always one of the biggest expenses in our monthly budget. We started to explore how to save money when grocery shopping early on in our marriage. The strategies I will share with you here helped us reduce our grocery bill by $50 – $75 per week. This may not sound like much, but if you do the math, that is almost $4000 per year! These savings helped us kickstart our mortgage payments which was the first major step we took toward living a financially free lifestyle.
Let’s dig in!
Guaranteed Tips for Saving Money When Grocery Shopping
This list is most effective when you start at the top and follow it in order to the end. Certain items toward the end of the list will not be as effective without applying the earlier ideas. For example, you need to have a budget figured out for what you should be spending on groceries before you start stocking up on items or buying in bulk!
#1. Set a Grocery Budget
The first thing you should do prior to getting started saving money when grocery shopping is to set up a budget. It’s important to know how much you are currently spending on groceries each week. From here, you can start to figure out how much you should or could spend on groceries each week (based on your income and your other expenses).
A budget is a crucial savings tool that is especially important if you are working hard to save money. Budgets help us lay out all of our expenses and income, while identifying our wants and our needs. They help us have conversations with ourselves and our loved ones about the best places for our money to go.
When aiming to save on groceries, starting with a budget will help you understand how much you are spending on groceries, and will give you a benchmark that you can compare to after you start using the ideas on this list. This will help you see just how much you have saved! This is the most exciting part!
#2. Take Inventory
Take inventory of the food you have in your house before you leave to go grocery shopping. Don’t leave the house assuming that you need eggs if you still have eggs. Taking inventory will ensure that you don’t buy duplicate items, and will help make sure that the food you already have in your house doesn’t go to waste or expire.
Taking inventory also helps you see whether you even need to go for groceries. Life gets so busy that we just kind of assume we need to go for groceries because we do so out of habit. If you take inventory and realize that you don’t need to shop that week, by all means, don’t shop that week!
#3. Meal Plan for the Week
Once you know what you have and what you need, it is time to see how the power of meal planning can save you money. Meal planning is a highly effective strategy for saving money when grocery shopping. It also helps us eat only what we need to rather than over-eating. Yet, even with these benefits, many people do not meal plan! Think about it: if you know exactly what food you will be eating throughout the week, you should only be buying that food when you shop, right?
One of the reasons people may not meal plan is that they may not have the right tools to do so. All it takes is a simple but effective meal planning tool and making sure to carve out a few minutes each week to plan ahead.
At this stage, you want to focus on learning to get comfortable with meal planning to see how it can be used to make sure you are not buying more food than you need to. To plan meals, start with the things you know your family likes to eat. Think about a few cheaper meals where possible. Spaghetti and other types of pasta are one of the cheapest yet most versatile foods out there.
Pro-tip: Schedule in a day for leftovers! If you find that you are making lots of food and throwing it away, save it or freeze it and use it again later in the week!
#4. Make a List, and Stick to It!
Most people prepare a grocery list to take with them, but how many actually stick to it? Many people buy extra things that are not on their grocery list which leads to a more expensive bill. This may be because of impulse buying, or because they are worried that they forgot to add items to their list.
If you have meal planned properly, you should be able to stick to your list with confidence. Write down the things you need (or use a handy grocery list app), and do not buy anything that is not on the list! Since you spent time taking inventory and planning meals, you can be confident that you aren’t forgetting anything!
#5. Use Grocery Pick Up/Online Ordering
One of the reasons grocery bills end up so expensive is because of impulse buying. When shopping, we see things we think we want or need in the moment and we buy them, even if they aren’t on our list.
My favourite idea for saving money when grocery shopping is to pick out and order my groceries online for pick up. I find that ordering groceries ahead of time is effective because it gives me time to think about what I need. It lets me take a look at my meal plan, my budget, and what is left in my house before I shop. This helps me make sure that I only buy what I will use, resulting in less money being spent. Grocery pick up is a service that is offered by most grocery stores since it is a very convenient way to shop.
By ordering ahead of time, you are giving yourself time to make sure you are not impulse buying, and to make sure you are sticking to the budget you worked so hard to put together! Combining meal planning with online grocery shopping for pick up will ensure that you avoid impulse buying and save money while grocery shopping.
#6. Only Shop Once Per Week
Avoid the habit of shopping multiple times a week. Many people stop at the grocery store after work to grab a few things. These few things tend to add up and push grocery bills outside what our budgets allow for. If you are looking to figure out how to save money when grocery shopping, it is important to remember that if you have meal planned properly, you should not have to make multiple trips to the grocery store each week.
#7. Take Grocery Trips Every Other Week
How often do you go grocery shopping? Once per week is common, but stretching this out to every two weeks may be something you want to explore. You would be surprised just how much food is still in your house when it comes time for you to go grocery shopping for the week. Next time you sit down to meal plan, consider planning for two weeks worth of meals to see if this lets you stretch out your grocery trips to every other week!
#8. Use Weekly Flyers
When you do your meal planning, check any flyers that come your way to see what is on sale. See if you can work cheaper food into your meal plan for the week. This takes a bit more work, but can be the secret to figuring out how to save money when grocery shopping.
#9. Use Coupons
In addition to flyers, coupons can be the secret to elevating your money-saving game while grocery shopping. My mother-in-law has an entire book of coupons she keeps and consults every grocery trip. Again, this can be a lot of work, but the savings will be worth it in the end!
#10. Stock Up When Things Are On Sale
Even after consulting flyers and coupons, you may notice things on sale while at the grocery store that you hadn’t planned to buy. Sometimes there are crazy sales you just can’t say ‘no’ to.
However, you need to be careful that you aren’t buying things on impulse. If you have something on your list that you know you buy quite often that happens to be on sale, buy a few week’s worth! Find a designated space in your house to store your ‘overstock’. You will thank yourself when the item is double the price on your next grocery trip!
#11. Buy Certain Items in Bulk
Where possible, you may notice that it is cheaper to buy certain items in bulk or club size packs. Certain things like ground beef often come in larger but cheaper packs. If you eat hamburger often, it is worth buying the bigger pack and portioning the beef out when you get home.
#12. Buy Generic Brands
In some cases, generic or store brand items are just as good (in some cases even better!) then name brand items. They are almost always cheaper. If you are wondering how to save money when grocery shopping, buying generic brand items is the way to go! Find a few items that you buy regularly and try the store brand. If you don’t notice a difference, make this a regular purchase and watch your savings grow!
#13. Do Not Browse
While you are in the grocery store, avoid the temptation to browse around. Your goal is to get in, get the stuff on your list, and leave. It is very easy to wander down different aisles just to see what is there. Doing this will increase the chances that you buy something on impulse.
#14. Avoid Pre-cut Foods
Certain foods will come in a pre-cut form for your convenience. The thing with convenience is that it costs more! Remember, you are here to learn how to save money when grocery shopping! Spend the extra thirty seconds it takes to cut your pineapple yourself (that darn can opener doesn’t work half of the time anyways!).
#15. Buy Less Meat
Meat is one of the most expensive items you will buy on your grocery list. It also seems to just keep increasing in price more and more! There are also healthier and cheaper alternatives to protein out there!
#16. Shop Solo!
While it can be tempting to bring company with you, your children, your partner, and your friend will only increase the chances that you will end up buying something that is not on your list. If you absolutely have to have someone with you, be sure that they are advised of your commitment to saving money on grocery shopping.
#17. Compare the Cost of Shopping at a Cheaper Grocery Store
Our family switched grocery stores a few years ago and it saved us almost a quarter of our grocery bill every week! To do this, go about shopping as you normally would. Save your receipt. For your next grocery trip, plan to eat the exact same meals. Instead of heading to your regular grocery store, buy the exact same foods at a different grocery store that is known for being cheaper. This may take a few tries, but it will be worth it in the end if you can make a permanent switch!
#18. Hungry? Do Not Shop!
If you are feeling hungry, shopping for food is the last thing you want to do. We struggle to make informed decisions on an empty stomach. Even if you have your trusty list and meal planning in mind, a hungry belly will convince you that buying 5 different bulk sizes of kids cereals is smarter than saving money.
#19. Grow a Garden at Home
Not only can fresh produce get expensive, but it often ends up going bad before it is eaten. If this happens, your money will literally be going into the garbage (or the green bin!).
Consider planning out a garden that you can maintain throughout the summer months. Plant all of your favourite vegetables and have fun watching them grow! Before you know it you will be harvesting only what you need and wasting way less.
Our family loves to eat veggie wraps, so we plant lettuce, cucumbers, onions, and carrots. The onions and carrots tend to take longer, so we always plant those earlier then the rest. For a few months in the summer, we have what feels like an unlimited supply of the veggies we need to make our favourite lunch!
For the cold months, consider investing in an indoor gardening system such as an AeroGarden. These hastle-free systems help you grow your fresh favourites year round!
#20. Find a Good Rewards Program
This final tip is a ‘highly advanced how to save money when grocery shopping strategy’ that I only recommend if you are good with managing your credit card.
Consider signing up for a credit card with a grocery store that has a good rewards program. Look for one that lets you redeem your points for free groceries. Make sure that you find one that has no annual fee or hidden costs and gives you rewards points for every dollar you spend everywhere (not just in their store). Use this credit card for all purchases and watch your points add up! When you redeem them, you will literally get free groceries (we pay for all of our groceries for the entire month of November and December with our points! It’s like free Christmas!).
Now, I cannot overstate this enough. DO. NOT. BUY. MORE. THAN. YOU. NORMALLY. WOULD. Credit card companies want you to spend more money so that you can earn more points to get your rewards. Doing this makes literally no sense. Do not spend more money elsewhere and justify it with saving money on grocery shopping.
If you are using this strategy, it is also important that you never pay interest on this credit card. There should never be a reason that you should use this card if you cannot afford what you are buying. You should be able to use your card and then go home and pay your card off right away. If you can’t, do not use it! Always be sure to educate yourself on how credit cards work and how you can effectively manage a credit card before signing up for one!
Enjoy Your Savings!
Unless you live a lifestyle that does not depend on grocery shopping, it will always be essential. Spending lots of money on groceries, however, is not essential.
Following all (or even some) of these ideas will guarantee saving money on grocery shopping. The trick is to recognize that even a few minutes a week can lead to massive savings. Like any other routine or habit, it will take time to shift your thinking so that the decisions you make while grocery shopping become automatic.
Finally, enjoy the feeling of spending less money on groceries. Now take all of that money that you saved throughout the month and put it on your mortgage or use it to pay down any debt you may have! With these tips you will be on your way to living the financially free lifestyle of your dreams!
Don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family on social media! If you know someone who could use help saving money while grocery shopping, this could be what they need to start saving today!