We all want to save money on our grocery bills. Food is expensive! According to the USDA, the average family of four (2 adults and 2 children that aren’t teenagers) spends somewhere between $200 and $246 per week on groceries. That’s nearly $1000 per month just for food, and that doesn’t include eating out.
If you fall into this category, your grocery bill might be bigger than your mortgage or rent payment. If you try out some these ideas, you might just be able to lower your grocery bill by as much as 50% or even more.
Some people find they can significantly reduce their grocery spendings with coupons. My brother-in-law used to be an incredible grocery shopper, getting all kinds of deals with double and triple coupons on top of store sales. After awhile, extreme couponing became a terrific way to save money on food and supplies at the grocery store.
My apologies to the Krazy Coupon Lady, though. She’s got fantastic ideas, but I just can’t keep coupons organized, much less be a super user of coupons to save money on groceries. But I have a gaggle of kids and a small amount of money to spend on food, so I have a host of tips and tricks to keep my food bills under control.
1. Set up a budget.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it makes sense. If you have a budget, you’ll force yourself to make decisions based on needs verses wants in order to stick to the dollar figure. The USDA has guidelines for food costs that may help you choose how much you want to spend.
If you keep track of what you’re spending on what items over the course of a month, you’ll also find out where your money pitfalls lie. One bottle of soda per day can really add up over the course of a month. Or maybe it’s the fancy coffee beans or prepackaged snacks that blow your budget.
Keep track of what you’re already spending and some of those tough food decisions will suddenly become a little bit easier when you see how little things add up over the course of a month or year.
Once you have a budget figured out, you can be creative in finding ways to stick to it. Perhaps high end coffee is important to you, but name brand snacks or oatmeal are not. You can use a little give and take in your budget to choose the things that are most important to you, and let go of the things that don’t matter nearly as much. Aim to come in under budget and put those extra dollars towards something fun.
2. Use price points.
Know how much things typically cost and how much a good deal is. For where I live, cereal is upwards of $3.50 a box on average. However, some generic brands and sales on name brands make it cost less. I try to only buy cereal when it is on sale for less than $2 a box. For meat, I only pay less than $2 a pound.
When items hit below my desired price point, I stock up. Some weeks, I have a stack of cereal boxes on the counter with no place to put them because the deal was too good to pass up. But with 6 kiddos who seem to have blackholes instead of stomachs, its totally worth catching the good deal.
3. Buy generic when it doesn’t matter.
Generic versions of name brand products are usually less expensive. Some things do taste a little bit different, but if you’re using it in a recipe, you probably won’t notice a difference in the outcome of the final meal.
Your casseroles, spaghetti sauces, and other dishes will taste just as good if you give them a chance. Other times, the name brand product is the same food, manufactured and packaged in the same facility, just with different labels.
Read about 10 products whose name brand is the same product as the generic, here. Don’t get tricked into spending more money for an identical product.
4. Buy name brand when it costs less.
Sometimes store sales are so good that the name brand product costs even less than the store brand. Use unit pricing – the small numbers on the shelf tag – to tell which product is actually cheaper.
Unit pricing will help you get the best deal, especially on prepackaged snacks or bulk items that are hard to figure out.
5. Buy meat on the “sell by” date.
Meat is expensive! But stores have to sell it by the sell by date or they will end up throwing it away. Often times, they want to move these items fast, so they are heavily discounted on the “sell by” date. Peruse the coolers until you find some of those sale stickers.
You will probably have to process those foods right away so they don’t go bad, just make sure you plan ahead to do so. Otherwise, you may end up throwing away food that went bad and wasting a good deal. So remember to stock up, divide up, and freeze the extra cuts for another time.
6. Buy different cuts of meat.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts sure are convenient. But they are also more pricey. Try a different cut of meat – such as thigh quarters, or an oddly shaped ham hock – for a cut of meat that tastes just as good but costs much less.
Thigh quarters are usually around $1.88 per pound in my local store, where boneless skinless chicken breasts are easily double that. Don’t be afraid to substitute ground turkey for ground beef, it will stay be delicious.
7. Have meatless meals.
Of course we need protein, but don’t be afraid to have a meatless meal here and there to cut down on your grocery bill. Spaghetti is an easy and cheap meal to make when you skip the meat. Another great option are soups, salads, and even sandwiches for supper.
8. Grow your own greens.
Greens – lettuces, arugula, spinach, and kale are some of the most expensive vegetables per pound and they go bad quickly after you purchase them. I’ve lost a lot of fresh greens simply because I couldn’t eat them fast enough. But greens are also some of the easiest and quickest vegetables to grow.
If you only grow one thing in your garden, make it greens to save money and add nutritional value to your food. If you don’t have garden space, you can easily grow lettuce in a container on your balcony or a few sprouts right on your kitchen counter. It’s inexpensive and easy.
9. Stock up when there are sales.
Designate a portion of your grocery budget for sale foods. When you buy a good deal, stock up to save money in the long run. Grocery store sales tend to be cyclical. The same items go on sale around every 4, 6, or 12 weeks.
If you know how often your favorite cereal or brand of peanut butter goes on sale or when breakfast items become the hot deal, you can stock up with enough to last you until the next sale comes around and you won’t have to pay full price in between.
10. Consider pharmacy deals.
Pharmacies like CVS have their own little grocery section. While generally these convenience aisles are more expensive, they do have great deals on certain foods from time to time. Combine that with your ExtraCare bucks for an extra hit of savings. If you time it just right, you might even make money on the deal.
11. Buy in bulk.
Often, foods like rice, oatmeal, and flour are cheaper when you buy in bulk. Even meat costs less per pound when you buy it in larger amounts. You can purchase these items in bulk and split it up into smaller packaging to use at later times.
12. Go in with a friend and divvy it up.
Rather than wasting money because a product comes in a size bigger than you need, share it with a friend. Split the cost and split the spoils to get a better deal on something you use less of but still need.
Things like avocado, lemons, and limes often come in big bags that spoil before you can use them up. Find a friend and share.
13. Create some food storage space and store food correctly.
If you don’t store food correctly, it will go bad and you’ll lose all of the money you were trying to save. Create the proper food storage – a deep freeze in your garage or basement is invaluable for stocking up on meat and breads
Create extra pantry shelves in a spare closet or anywhere that is cool and dry. Often, the basement isn’t a great place to store dried goods because the humidity causes things to mold quickly. Don’t lose good food to bad storage.
Bonus, stocking up on food means you won’t ever have to make an emergency trip to the store to prepare for bad weather. You’ll always have food on hand even for the worst of emergencies. Not only will good food storage save you money, it will help you be prepared.
14. Cook from your pantry.
Before you hit the grocery store, dig through your pantry to see what treasures might be lurking in there. You might be surprised by what you already have on your shelves. With a little creativity, you can cook right from your pantry without having to purchase a lot of ingredients.
Using up food before it goes bad definitely saves you money on wasted food. Look for pastas, cans of soup, or any other items that got pushed to the back or bottom of your pantry.
15. Raise a couple of chickens.
If your town allows it, a couple of hens in your backyard not only make fun pets, they also provide breakfast. If you just have a couple of hens, allowing them to free-range and supplementing their food with your table scraps means you feed them for free while getting eggs in return. Here are twenty ways to save money on chicken feed to lower the cost of your eggs.
16. Ask for rainchecks.
Sometimes a deal is so good the store runs out before you get there! That’s ok – ask for a raincheck so you can still get the deal when it is back in stock. Just don’t forget to go back and use it.
17. Use the apps!
Bonus cards aside, stores now have their own apps to help you save money. Get them to your smart phone and put them to good use. Turn on notifications to get informed of the best freebies and sale items.
Other apps that can save you money on groceries are ibotta, Fetch, and even ebates. We love Fetch because you don’t need to do any prep work. Once you’ve signed up for the app, just scan your receipts and you’ll get rewards to buy gift cards for online stores such as Amazon.
18. Read the sale flyers and the fine print.
I’ve made the mistake over and over of not reading the fine print! Some stores offer very specific deals. The deals are great unless you don’t do follow the directions, so make sure to read and follow through on the directions.
For example, sometimes, 10 for $10 means you have to buy all ten items to get the deal, sometimes you only need to buy one and the limit is ten.
19. Shop around.
I have found my local grocery store has great deals on certain things like meat and produce, and some of their store brand prices are fantastic. But their prices on prepackaged snacks are nowhere near as good as the larger chain stores, such as Giant.
On the other hand, for specialized foods such as goat cheese and raw milk, I like to visit my local Mennonite store for amazingly fresh dairy items at a great price. I alternate trips and stock up so I’m not going to multiple stores in one week.
20. Use bonus cards.
Bonus cards really do make a difference, so make sure you use yours every time. Most of them will allow you to input your phone number in case you forget your card, or you can even scan the app on your phone.
If for some reason you can’t access your card, then ask to use the store card or manager’s card. You won’t get the bonuses or gas points but at least you’ll get the card savings. Use it every time, otherwise, you’re throwing away free money with your groceries.
21. Buy fresh foods.
When you purchase prepackaged food, you’re not just paying for the food, you’re also paying for the packaging. If you compare the cost per serving of a banana verses the cost per serving of a fruit snack, you’ll come out much further ahead by buying the bananas. You’ll get more food for your dollar and much less waste. (Bonus, you can turn those banana peels into goat treats or compost!)
22. Shop farmers markets at the end of the weekend.
If you’re really looking for a deal, shop the farmer’s markets at the very end of the week. They’ll likely have fresh produce that they are looking to move since it won’t last until the following week.
And don’t forget to haggle a bit – if they’re in a rush to get out of there, they may just throw in a few extra goodies with your order. It helps them create loyal customers and helps you save money. If they’re good to you, spread the word.
23. Don’t overeat. Portion control is a big deal!
Healthdata.org estimates that 160 million Americans are overweight or obese. This works out to ¾ of adult men and over half of adult women. This means there are a lot of Americans who simply overeat.
Controlling your portion size will not only save you money on food, it will also save your health and added healthcare costs. Try using smaller plates or leaving a few bites behind. Eat slowly and think about what you’re doing so you can enjoy your meal and not have to feel deprived.
24. Don’t waste food.
Imagine going to the grocery store and immediately throwing half of your purchases in the trash can. That’s basically what happens – almost 40% of food in the United States gets thrown away (Check out marketwatch.com).
You could conceivably save nearly half on your groceries by simply not wasting food. This means eating your leftovers, planning meals around leftovers, and controlling how much you put on a plate rather than let it sit, uneaten.
Save the landfills and your budgets by carefully planning your meals and then actually eating them. Still have leftovers? Feed the scraps to your chickens. They’ll reward you with delicious eggs.
25. Don’t be afraid of stale bread.
If you have stale bread, don’t just toss it. Turn it into a delicious French toast casserole. This recipe calls for French bread, but any stale bread will do. Don’t have any stale bread? Shop the day old bread sale for discounted breads.
26. Cook from scratch.
Ordering a couple of pizzas cost me about $45. Buying the same amount of frozen pizzas costs me about $15. But if I make my own pizzas from scratch, I can do it for less than $10.
You don’t have to do it all at once, just pick a few easy foods and learn how to make them from scratch. It will add a fun tradition to your family and save you money.
27. Think outside the box.
It’s ok to buy cheap convenience foods, but sometimes starting from scratch is still cheaper. A good friend blew my mind when she told me she could save money by making her own version of Ramen noodles. I thought Ramen was about the most inexpensive, easy food you could buy. But in some cases, you can save even more by making your own.
Want to see if you can save money on Ramen? Compare the cost of Bouillon cubes and spaghetti noodles (on sale, of course!) to the cost of the same amount of Ramen. Which way is cheaper for you?
28. Don’t buy something you don’t need just because it is on sale.
Stores love to promote their sales and coupons. Nothing sucks me in faster than a great big sale sign. But if it isn’t something I need or use, it isn’t worth the money. Don’t let good marketing fool you into buying things you don’t need; you’ll just end up wasting your hard-earned money.
29. Don’t waste money on convenience.
Grocery stores know you’ll fall in love with beautifully packaged, cut up watermelon, sliced apples, and other conveniently processed fresh foods. Do it yourself and save a lot of cash. Just compare the cost of a whole watermelon to the cost of a few ounce of precut watermelon. You’ll save a bundle.
30. Don’t buy things at eye level.
Jordan Page from funcheaporfree.com says don’t buy things at eye level, they are the most expensive. Instead, look towards the bottom of the rack for a less expensive version of the same thing.
31. Shop less often.
The less you shop, the less opportunities there are for impulse buys. Shop a little less often to prevent extra purchases that you don’t need.
32. Buy in season.
Strawberries are pretty inexpensive in June when they are in abundance, but the rest of the year, the price goes way up because they have to be imported from warmer areas. Instead, eat apples in the fall when they are in season, and strawberries in the summer. The flavor is much better that way, as well.
33. Make a meal plan but be flexible while shopping.
Plan ahead so you know everything you need to purchase to make it through the week. However, be a little flexible because you never know what might be on sale when you get to the store.
Maybe you planned to chicken fajitas for supper on Saturday, but when you got to the grocery, the price of ground beef was much less expensive. Just make the switch and be proud that you saved a bit by thinking on the fly.
34. Avoid shopping when tired, hungry, or emotional.
Try to shop when you are full, happy, and well-rested so you are less likely to just throw things in the cart to get it over with. Enjoy the challenge of sticking to your budget and you’ll come out much further ahead.
35. Drink water.
Skip the sodas, juice, and fancy drinks. They are expensive and plain water is much healthier for you, anyway. A soda a day adds up fast.
So, what are your tips that’ve helped you lower your grocery bill? Please share them below, and don’t forget to pin this article on pinterest. 🙂
Amanda is a homesteader and a Jesus-loving, mother of 6 toddlers. She’s raising lots of fancy chickens and goats on her small homestead (among other things).