Is one of your biggest expenses your food budget for your family? With grocery prices always rising, it’s so important to find new tips to help you spend less money on groceries and save money at the grocery store.
Finding ways to reduce your grocery budget can take a little work, but saving extra money is worth it overall! Here are 40+ tips on how to save money on food costs.
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Before Going to the Grocery Store
It’s so important to have a plan of attack before you head out to shop! If you’re unprepared, you’re going to spend more money than you planned to, I promise you that.
Think of it like a challenge– they want you to spend more money on things you don’t need, and you aren’t going to fall for it!
So before you head out, be prepared!
1. Check Your Fridge, Pantry & Freezer
Take stock of what you already have at home in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and double-check that with what you plan to buy. No need to buy extra unless it’s needed for an upcoming recipe or event.
Also see what’s expiring soon so that you can meal plan using those ingredients. You don’t want anything to go to waste.
2. Read Through Grocery Store Sales Fliers
You may get grocery store sales fliers in your newspaper, mailbox or in your email. You can also go online to each store and normally find the fliers for each week for your area.
To make it even easier on you though, you can also use Flipp online to view all the stores sales fliers for your area at once.
You can compare prices among grocery stores and see what the big “loss leaders” are for the week at each store. Loss leaders are what they call products that the store is taking a loss on in order to lure you into the store.
While you’re there, they hope to convince you to buy more than that of course! So it’s worth it for them to take a slight loss for hopefully bigger gains in the end.
3. Set A Shopping Time Limit
How many times have you been grocery shopping and lost track of time? I’ve seriously lost count of how often that’s happened to me.
Did I end up buying more than I thought I would? Uhh, yeah. Every. Single. Time.
So if you’re serious about trying to save money on groceries, set a reasonable time limit for your shopping trip. Use your phone, your watch or whatever, but set a time limit. And be sure to add in the checkout time!
I also like to set another timer to let me know that I need to start wrapping it up. Otherwise if I’m lost in my own little world, I can get off track kind of easily.
4. Know Their Marketing Tactics
Grocery stores are all about marketing, but do you realize that they even play certain music to make the atmosphere just right so that you’ll buy more? Yep! (Read about it here.)
They play easy listening or classical music to make you feel more relaxed, and you stay longer in the store. And if you stay longer, you’ll buy more.
If you really want to get in and out faster, it might not hurt to bring your earbuds and make your own energizing playlist to shop by!
Grocery stores want you to stay there as long as possible since that means more sales for them. That’s why there’s normally no windows (except for the front) or clocks. Take a look around next time you’re shopping to see if your store is the same!
Stores like to give you bigger shopping carts so that you’ll buy more. It’s a lot easier to fill it up without realizing it! If you don’t have a lot to buy, get a smaller shopping cart if they have them.
5. Stay Focused with a Grocery List
A grocery list is an absolute necessity! Otherwise, how will you know you don’t need another 2 boxes of cereal, and that you’re actually out of milk to go with the cereal you already have??
There are tons of options out there to help you with keeping track of what you need to buy at the grocery store.
My favorite is using our Amazon Echo to make a shopping list. I just go through the fridge, pantry and freezer to see what we need, and tell Alexa what to add to the list as I go.
The items get added to the shopping list that Alexa keeps, and I can look at it on my Echo Show’s screen and also through the Alexa app on my phone. If I’m shopping in person, I just go through the store and mark off the things on my list as I get them. When shopping online, I mark them off as I add them to my cart.
If you like using your phone to make your grocery list, you could use Google Keep or your native notes app on your phone.
Otherwise you could try a grocery list app on your phone. Here are a list of popular grocery list apps that have been ranked as some of the best grocery list apps for you to take a look at. (All of them have free versions, but some features you might have to pay for.)
If you prefer writing down your grocery list on paper, here are some super helpful (and cute) options for paper grocery lists:
6. Set a Grocery Budget
Depending on how tight your finances are, you might have a grocery budget that’s always the same and down to the penny. Or you might just have a rough idea of how much you can spend.
Either one is fine, but at least have a rough amount of money in mind for your budget so that you don’t overspend.
Want to know how much you might expect to spend? Iowa State University came up with this Grocery Budget Calculator based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Low-Cost Food Plan.
Read more about how they calculated this estimate on the second half of this page under Calculate Overall Costs.
Enter the info below and find out what they estimate.
7. Go Alone to Shop for Groceries
Most of the time, this is a no brainer. Going alone to the grocery store without your kids, spouse, and/or additional people to distract you, or complain about wanting to buy candy, or not wanting to be there, is always going to be the best way to shop.
Trying to handle an irritated/sleepy/hungry child (could be the kids or the spouse, lol!), while at the same time attempting to check your list, and do everything else is not a fun situation to be in. Everything is 20 times harder, and you’ll be tempted to just grab random stuff and hope you got it all.
So it will normally be so much better if you can plan to do your grocery shopping without distractions.
The only time I recommend you don’t go alone is if you have someone who can really help you when you shop. If your spouse or an older child is truly helpful, and can make the process go faster, then bring them along.
Also, if you know that you yourself tend to get distracted at the grocery store, and the other person is excellent at staying on task, then it’ll be best to bring them with you.
I’m only speaking from experience, lol, so do what works best for you!
8. Find The Best Day & Time To Shop
All stores have different stocking and markdown schedules. Talk to the employees to find out when they get in shipments and restock.
You can also ask them if there are certain days and times that they do markdowns. Or just take note of when you see markdowns in sections like meat, dairy and produce, and you can probably figure out a pattern.
It’s always better to go when it’s not as busy– so see if you can find a sweet spot where they’ll be restocked, have markdowns, AND not be packed.
9. Don’t Go Grocery Shopping While Hungry!
Sometimes it happens that I go to the store hungry, and I always regret it! Being hungry at the grocery store will make you buy more in general and increase your impulse buys.
Sometimes you’re so ready to get out of there because you’re hungry, that you won’t pay attention to prices and just shove things in your cart. We’ve all been there.
Eat before you go, or bring a snack that you can easily eat before you go in, or while you’re shopping.
Related Post: How to Save Money Eating Out
10. Bring Your Own Grocery Bags
Some stores charge you per grocery bag that they use when bagging your groceries. Other stores will give you a discount for bringing your own bags.
Check with the stores you go to and see if you can save some money by bringing your own grocery sacks. There are so many cute ones here. I’d definitely get ones that stand up on their own, to make them easier to pack.
11. Don’t Go Into the Grocery Store At All!
Use Grocery Pick-Up or a Delivery Service Instead!
My favorite way to shop is not having to go inside at all! Almost all of the grocery stores around us offer free curbside grocery pick-up, so this is what we use the majority of the time.
I love love love that I can just add things to my cart right from my computer or my phone! When we’re about to run out of something, I go ahead and add it right then, to make it easier on myself.
Shopping online for your groceries means you don’t have to deal with crowds, it saves you so much time not going inside, it cuts down on impulse shopping, and you can schedule the pick-up for what time fits your schedule the best!
Don’t have time for a grocery run this week? Use a grocery delivery service or check if your grocery store offers delivery! There are several delivery services out there to choose from- especially if you live near or in a bigger city.
Of course grocery delivery charges a fee, but you’re saving money on gas, saving time, and saving peace of mind if you have a lot of other more important things going on that only you can take care of.
If it’s your first time using a grocery delivery service, you can often find coupon codes for free delivery. Be sure to check online before you shop!
You can also get cash back on some delivery services by using Rakuten.
Right now, when you use my link to sign up, you’ll get $30 back when you spend $30 within 90 days. If you aren’t signed up, sign up today!
If your grocery store doesn’t offer delivery, check these grocery delivery services to see if they’re available near you:
12. Make A Meal Plan
Even though meal planning feels like a never-ending chore sometimes, it really does save you money on food. If you can meal plan using the loss leaders and sale items in the store fliers, you will definitely spend less money on groceries overall.
Besides saving money, meal planning also saves you time and additional stress. You already know what to make for dinner ahead of time, so no need to be rushed at dinner time.
You’re also using up what you have in your fridge and pantry before it expires. I hate finding things that are expired because I forgot to use them- what a waste! Once you get the hang of meal planning, it’s easy!
How to Save Money When Shopping AT the Grocery Store
13. Check Clearance & Markdown Areas First
Most grocery stores have specific clearance areas. Check those areas first to see if they have anything you need, and mark that off your list. You could also discover some good finds that you can plan a future meal around.
14. Buy Frozen Fruits & Veggies
Frozen fruits and vegetables have a lot of benefits to them. They’re normally cheaper than fresh, frozen at their most fresh and nutritious, last longer than fresh, and reduce your preparation time– no peeling carrots or potatoes, or removing strawberry tops. In some cases, they can even be healthier than fresh according to this article.
15. Buy Groceries Based on Unit Price
ALWAYS check the unit price of an item when you’re comparing it to another similar item. Or if you’re comparing it to a larger size of the same item.
For example, if I buy a larger bag of frozen broccoli florets at my local store, I noticed that by unit price it’s actually less expensive for me to buy multiple small bags! And yes, I get the same amount of broccoli. Isn’t that weird?
Sometimes it could just be a price mistake, but other times they might be trying to get you to spend more money. So always check the unit price!
16. Use Grocery Savings Phone Apps & Grocery Store Loyalty Programs
Phone apps and store loyalty programs can definitely help you spend less money on groceries over time.
Some grocery saving phone apps will offer coupons for you to buy certain items, others will have you scan items and give you points, and/or upload receipts and give you points. There are quite a variety out there. After you submit what they need, your reward is cash back in the form of gift cards, or a direct deposit into your account.
My favorite cash back app is Ibotta. Believe it or not, but I’ve received over $700 cash back so far! Of course that’s over several years using it, but that’s still pretty awesome! Sign up here if you don’t already use it, and start saving money on groceries today!
Be sure to check with the grocery stores you shop at the most to find out what loyalty programs they have.
Related Post: 7 Apps That Save You the Most Money on Groceries
17. Avoid Buying Pre-Cut Fruits & Vegetables
Pre-cut fruits and vegetables might be convenient, but they are overpriced like crazy! So if you’re trying to save money, cut your own fruits and vegetables. You can get a lot more for your money.
18. Avoid Individually Packaged Items
Individually packaged items are priced higher since you’re paying for more packaging and convenience. This could be snacks, produce, etc.
For example, if you buy individual bags of chips, you could save more money and get more chips by buying the regular sized bags. Then separate them out into smaller reusable containers if you need individual servings.
19. Take a Raincheck
If your on sale product is out and the store offers you a raincheck, take it! Or just ask if you can get a raincheck if you don’t see anything posted. Take advantage of the low price while you can!
20. Buy Refills
Some items are sold in a refill package, such as handsoap. It’s normally a lot cheaper for you to buy the refill than buying new small handsoap pumps every time. Be sure to check the unit price though!
Looking for more ways to save money?
Use a Budget Planner!
Check out our printable one in the shop!
21. Don’t Always Buy Name Brand Products
Brand name items are often more expensive than their generic counterparts. Compare the prices and ingredients, and you might find that you can change to the generic on some items.
22. Shop What Food is in Season
Produce in season will always be less expensive. See what you can use that’s on sale instead of paying extra money for items that aren’t in season right then.
23. Check On Item Prices Around Holidays
After a big holiday, stores want to get rid of seasonal stock fast, so they mark items down a lot!
Before holidays, you may also find some good deals on particular items. For example, around Memorial Day and July 4th you can find grilling items and chips and dip on sale, so keep an eye on sales around holidays.
24. Shop The Lower & Higher Shelves
Grocery stores figure that it’s easier for you to buy items at your eye level, since you don’t have to bend down or reach up for them. So they put products that make them the most profit there.
Less expensive items are at the bottom normally, and more expensive items at the top. So check the bottom shelves and you might find a lower-priced item that will replace a higher-priced staple in your diet.
(Of course, they’ll also put things that they know kids will like on the lower shelves, so that kids can see them and annoy you to buy them, lol!)
25. Skip Items at Checkout
The infamous impulse buys at checkout. Who hasn’t bought something there? We all know the prices are marked up. Sometimes it can’t be helped, but steer clear of buying an overpriced pack of gum, candy or chips whenever possible.
26. Watch that Your Purchases Ring Up Correctly Priced
Items can easily be mispriced, so watch that you get the correct prices (especially the sale prices) when you’re at check out.
27. Keep Track of What You Spend as You’re Shopping
Keeping track of what you’re spending while grocery shopping is helpful to make sure you aren’t going over budget. You can keep a running tally in your head, write it down on your phone, or use your phone’s calculator.
28. Buy Frozen Meat Instead of Fresh
Buying your meat frozen can save you a good amount of money over time, normally because it comes in larger sizes than buying an individual package of meat. It stays good longer too.
You might find the best deals on frozen meat at your local bulk warehouse store, so shop around to find the best price.
29. Check Sale Tags
Some sales are trying to make you buy more than you really planned. For example 10 for $10 sales. Check the fine print on the sale sticker to see if you really have to buy all 10 to get the sales price. Sometimes you don’t!
30. Check Expiration or Best By Dates
Stores are not always careful to remove expired items from the shelves. Check expiration dates while shopping to make sure nothing is expired, and also to see how long you have to use it.
31. Buy Herbs on Sale & Freeze
Herbs are so expensive! When you find them on sale, buy more than usual and freeze them. Here are 4 ways to freeze them.
32. Buy Meat on Sale & Buy Cheaper Cuts If Needed
Watch for markdown and sales on meat. Different cuts of meat are also cheaper than others, so consider looking through the meat department and comparing prices. When you find a good deal, buy more and freeze it to use later.
33. Buy Spices in Bulk
Buying spices you use a lot in bulk sizes can save you money over time. Spices normally have pretty long expiration dates too, which is even better! Check the unit price before buying to make sure you’re really getting a good deal.
34. Shop at Discount Stores
Depending on where you live, you may have specific discount grocery stores nearby. These can have some great deals on name brand items, fresh fruits and vegetables, and cheap generic options.
Many of them also have coupons and loyalty programs that can help you save even more!
Check out one of these popular discount grocery store chains if you have any of them nearby:
- Market Basket
- Family Dollar/Dollar Tree/Dollar General
- Smart & Final
- Grocery Outlet
35. Check Prices at Different Grocery Store Locations
You may be shopping at the cheapest store chain in town, but if your area has multiple locations- the store location you shop at might NOT be the cheapest!
For example, we have multiple Walmart stores near us, and often the prices for milk and eggs are higher at one store than another!
Check online if you can, or make a trip to both sometime to see what you can find out.
36. Shop at Salvage Grocery Stores
Did you know the average 4-person family in the U.S. throws away around $1,500 worth of food every year?? Outrageous, right? What a waste!
Salvage grocery stores sell food (and other items) that might: have dented or torn packaging, be near or past expiration, be from a manufacturer overstock, and more. The prices are often half of what you’d normally pay, or even less!
You can help reduce food waste AND save money by buying from these stores. Don’t expect to be able to find everything you need there though, as their stock keeps changing.
Check this store directory to find a salvage grocery store near you.
Before you go, read these tips for buying food from salvage grocery stores here to get the most out of your grocery shopping trip.
Depending on where you live, you might also be able to take advantage of using the apps Flashfood and Too Good To Go to find other grocery stores, restaurants and bakeries selling surplus food near you!
37. Keep a List of Best Prices
Write down the prices over a month (or two if you can) of your most often purchased items at the grocery store.
This way in the future, you’ll be able to compare a sale to past prices and know if the current sale price is actually good or not.
When it’s on a “good” sale price, then you can buy a few extra for future use until the next good sale. You’ll spend less money on groceries in the long run by doing this, instead of just buying when you assume it might be a good sale price because it’s a sale.
If you buy extra, be sure to only buy what you think you can use before it expires. Or make sure it’s something you can freeze or preserve another way for later use.
38. Be Careful Using Coupons
Make sure the coupons you’re using are for items that you or your family will really eat! I don’t know about you, but I’ve bought a few items in my day just because I had a coupon. Sometimes we ate it and sometimes it ended up getting thrown away. If you buy it, make sure it’s something someone in your family will really eat!
Also if you’re buying a product as a replacement for something else you normally buy, make sure the price is less than your normal item. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing money in the end!
39. Shop Fewer Times
The more you’re in the grocery store, the more money you’ll spend. So it only makes sense to go as few times as possible over a week. It’ll also save you gas and time!
40. Pay With Cash
Paying for groceries with cash helps you to stay on budget. You can’t buy over, or else you won’t have the money for it!
If you’re the kind of person who always pays off their credit cards each month, you could also look for a credit card that gives you cash back for grocery shopping.
Just take care that you always pay off your credit card balance each month, or you’ll be hurting when the credit card company’s interest rate kicks in!
41. Do a Last Check
Right before you head to check out, scan your grocery cart to see if there’s anything you DON’T NEED and put it back!
Also, check to see if you missed anything you need, so that you don’t have to make another trip!
Cutting down on your family grocery budget might be difficult, but hopefully some of these tips will help you spend less money on groceries every month, and put more money in your bank account instead!
What’s your favorite tip to save money at the grocery store? Share yours below in the comments!