For most folks groceries are a huge budget line item. For my family I try to get creative to save money in this area. Our household consists of three adults (myself, husband and my father in law) and four kids (ranging from toddler to teen). For years I’ve tested out every possible method of bargain shopping, grocery planning, and couponing. Here are some strategies to implement to save money on groceries.
Set a budget.
Make it realistic. It’s nice to have pie in the sky dreams of spending $200 a month to feed a family of 6 but if you don’t make it realistic you’ll end up disappointed. Look at your receipts for the last few months. Tell yourself that now that you’re buckling down and paying attention you will do better. Set your budget at a percentage below the average of the last few months. Adjust accordingly every month as you kick butt!
Shop Your Pantry
How many times have you been surprised by an ingredient in your pantry? Or been frustrated as you’ve thrown out items that expired without being used. By building a meal plan and grocery list off of items you already have you’ll save yourself from waste. Utilizing items you have in your pantry will save money on groceries.
Before making my grocery list I make a list of items I have in abundance in my pantry/fridge/freezer. Then I plan meals that will utilize those first before adding other meals onto my list. It is one of the habits that allows me to shop sales, snatch up specials, and freeze discount meat. If you aren’t shopping what you have then none of those strategies will save money.
Meal planning is key. Knowing what you need to buy and what you’ll be cooking is a time-saver and money-saver. I lay out some meal planning strategies over here. Even if you aren’t into labeling a calendar with the meal du jour I promise I have some ideas to make meal planning easier for you.
Go shopping less.
I know, that sounds obvious. Less trips to the grocery store, less money spent. It’s not that simplistic though. When you plan and shop for a week or two at a time you limit your exposure to “extra items”. You know what I’m talking about- those items you pick up that are on sale, look yummy, or that the kids ask for. By having a clearly set out plan and a list that will last a week or two you can cut temptation and costs.
For some families warehouse stores like Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s can help to trim your grocery budget. There is some research involved though. You need to look closely at items you buy there, the price and what the price per unit (pound, box, etc) works out to. In many instances, the warehouse stores can end up being more expensive.
If you do use a warehouse store look into Rakuten (used to be called ebates). Most warehouse stores participate and shopping online to have bulk items shipped home is super convenient. Click here to sign up for Rakuten and get $10 after your first purchase.
Become a prepper.
Becoming a big batch queen or king can save you time and money in the long run. By making large batches of soup, an extra two quiches or some extra fajita filling you can plan for future meals, stock your freezer, or rock leftovers at lunch time.
Use a shopping service.
Have someone else do your shopping with a service like curbside pickup, Shipt (click through to get 1/2 off membership fees), Instacart, Amazon or Thrive Market (25% off). Now, this involves organization and also a bit of a “let it go” attitude. I have to admit that I stink at this tip. I’ll use curbside pickup every once in a great while when I need only a few specific things but I like to pick out my own groceries. For folks on a tight budget though? This will be your best bet at sticking to that budget.
Aldi. Save money on groceries every time.
Have an Aldi near you? Y’all I promise it isn’t just hype. You will save money if you shop at Aldi. I could devote an entire post to how to save money at Aldi- in fact I probably will but here are the basics.
Stick to Aldi brands. Milk and eggs are always cheaper there. Don’t go in with a produce plan. This is the area where I recommend “winging it”. I set a budget line for fruit and one for veggies. So if I have $10 for fruit and $15 for veggies I can see what’s on special that week. Their prices alter so those .99 pineapples may be 2.37 next time. For quick meals always check their ready to bake pizzas. They mark them 50% off the day before the sell by date. We buy them then and freeze them.
Make your own food.
This one is going to depend on your skill level and time available but choosing to bake or create certain items will save money on groceries. It costs me about 21 cents a loaf to bake bread when I buy flour and yeast in bulk. Plus I know that it won’t have any azodicarbomanide in it. Yogurt is another easy DIY. With milk under $2 a gallon at Aldi I can make 4 quarts of yogurt for half the cost of buying one quart in the store. That yogurt can be made into drinkable yogurts, frozen yogurt pops and more- multiplying our savings.
Have “special” money set aside.
When you make your monthly grocery budget have a certain amount of “special ” money set aside. I set $100 aside every month. That $100 goes to sale items that we use a lot of, meat specials that I can freeze and bulk produce specials that might come up at our produce market. I find that planning this way actually saves us money in the long run. If I find a bunch of meat on sale that I freeze, then I shop my freezer and pantry when making my meal plan we end up spending less in subsequent months.
Have a leftover night.
Schedule in regular leftover or fend for yourself nights. It’s a great way to minimize food waste while saving money on groceries. We give our kids the option of leftovers, cereal or fruit/cheese/crackers.
Use apps to get cash back.
This one can be tricky. Don’t spend money to make money. I know way too many folks who will buy everything with high value rebates. You’re putting money out here to get it back. If it’s something you won’t eat or a higher price than you’d normally spend then you aren’t saving anything. Generic rebates are great because they’re normally on items you already buy like milk, eggs, or fruit.
Clip coupons to save money on groceries.
Couponing works for some people. You can get coupons a few different ways. First, you can clip from Sunday papers. Second, you can search and print online from sites like coupons.com. Third, you can reach out to companies you like to request coupons or sign up for their emails.
Coupons can save money especially if you’re able to combine them with existing sales. Here’s the deal though- you need to be cautious as to how you calculate your savings. It’s easy to double attribute savings. If you’re saying “What? How?” let me give you an example. Chatty Carol in your coupon group talks about how Chunky Soup was on sale at Target. They were 5/$5. She had coupons for $1/3. There was also a gift card back offer where if you spent $20 on groceries you got a $5 gift card for later. Carol posts about how she bought 21 soups, used 7 $1 off coupons and got a $5 gift card back. She calls her OOP (out of pocket) $9 or 43 cents per can. Impressive right? Well, next week when she posts her cookie haul she uses the $5 gift card and deducts it from her OOP. Now she’s counted that $5 gift card twice and is actually spending more than she thinks.
Don’t be Chatty Carol. Do the math to make sure you are actually saving as much as you think.
Your protein doesn’t have to be meat.
In many people’s minds a meal isn’t a meal unless meat is the main component. My husband grew up this way and he has come around to my cooking over the years. Meat can be a pricey part of your grocery list. I’m not saying go vegetarian but making some meals every week with plant based proteins may save you money on groceries. We do a lot of roasted vegetable quinoa bowls. They’re filling, I can use veggies that are cheap from Aldi, and prep is easy. Other great protein options are eggs, tofu, grains and beans.
Buy large and divvy it up later.
If you’ve got kids with school lunch needs or you eat on the go a lot, the temptation to purchase individual servings can be great. However, they’re almost always more expensive. Getting a good supply of little containers or even snack sized bags and doing it yourself can save a lot of cash. Even convenience items like pouches of applesauce can be made at home. We bought reusable pouches on Amazon and can fill 6 with a container of cheap Aldi applesauce at a fraction of the price. Plus the servings end up being larger. One of the only convenience items we still buy are cheese sticks for the toddler.
Buy seasonal clearance.
This is one of my favorite tricks to save money on groceries. A lot of us groan a little bit when we see stores decorating for Halloween in July or Christmas in August BUT there are great savings to be had from seasonal items. Keep an eye on what is available and head back after the holiday for markdowns. Target is one of my favorites for this. I can snag seasonally packaged Goldfish, fruit snacks and more to stock my pantry. World Market has some great snack items around Halloween (individual pretzel and cheese puff bags) that I put in my car for quick snacks. If you want to get really ahead of the game the Halloween candy usually doesn’t expire until the following August or September. Pick up Hershey bars for summer s’mores, peanut butter cups for Valentine treat bags, mini chocolate bars for Easter eggs. Shop one holiday ahead.
How do you save?
What creative ways do you save on groceries? Share below!