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How to Save Money on Groceries: 45 Frugal Shopping Tips

Save money and eat well with these frugal grocery shopping tips and tricks for shopping on a budget.

By: Kaylee Pope, Editor, CheapThirftyLiving.com
How to Save Money on Groceries

Learning how to save money on groceries is one of the easiest techniques to conserve a little cash month to month. Groceries are a large part of any individual or family budget. On average, Americans spend anywhere between 9-14% of their take-home on food and groceries. While food is an unavoidable expense, there are plenty of ways to save money on your weekly or monthly bill (and it is not just couponing)! Check out the list below to find ways to buy frugal groceries.

Whether you are grocery shopping on a tight budget or just want to improve your spending habits, you're sure to find a hack that helps keep money in your bank account.

The list below includes simple ways to meal plan, how to make sure you don't get duped into spending more at the store, as well as daily habits that can save you money! There's a ton of ideas listed below. Some may or may not work for your budget.

Planning Ahead: Frugal Grocery Budget

Our number one tip for saving money while grocery shopping is to always plan ahead! It is really easy to spend more than you would like to at the store when you do not have a list ready-to-go. Being frugal and smart about your food budget means arming yourself with a list (or two) in order to make sure you have a plan in place. Try out the following budget meal planning and grocery store tips before you even head out to the store.

  1. Meal plan in order to use up all your groceries and around grocery store deals. 
    Meal planning is the easiest way to save money on groceries. It allows you to plan ahead and plan to use up all your grocery store purchases. You can easily use ingredients like meats and veggies in multiple meals to avoid food waste. Plus, if you know your favorite store is having a deal on a specific ingredient, planning your meals around sales easily saves money, especially when the coupon or sale is for an expensive item like meats.
     
  2. Shop at multiple locations.
    If you have the time, plan on stopping at multiple locations while you are shopping. Places like Aldi often have fantastic deals but do not always have everything on your list. Plus, if you know your local Farmer's Market has great prices, you can easily save some money and buy better quality produce.
     
  3. Buy home goods at the dollar store or pharmacy.
    It might surprise you but a lot of personal care and home good items are more expensive at the grocery store. You can often find better deals at the dollar store or pharmacy for these items. Consider splitting these shopping trips in two to save money. You can also save on items like vitamins and non-perishables by signing up for monthly delivery services.
     
  4. Collect coupons and know when they expire.
    Using coupons is the oldest money saving trick out there! We don't have to tell you the importance of making sure you get a good deal at the store. Make sure to check coupons to see when they expire. If they expire within a week, you'll want to use them up. Sometimes stores run deals for a little bit longer so you can either grab two copies and receive the deal two weeks in a row or you can save it for the following week.
     
  5. Know what stores accept competitor coupons.
    Some stores are more than willing to redeem competitor coupons while others have a policy against it. Make sure you know which stores do and do not have this policy. This makes it easier for you to decide where to shop. If you can get multiple deals at one spot, it is more prudent to shop there. A great coupon or two on big-ticket items might be worth an extra trip, too.
     
  6. Sign up for a credit card that gives cash back on groceries.
    If you plan on using a credit card while shopping, there's no reason why you cannot be earning cash back! Many credit cards have programs where you can earn extra points on groceries. Save money or earn benefits like airplane miles by using one of these cards every time you shop.
     
  7. Download grocery cash back apps from your favorite stores.
    Many grocery stores (like Walmart and Target) have mobile apps that can help you save money and track your purchases. If you shop at any of these big name stores often, be sure to download their app and start saving. There are plenty of other money-saving apps, as well. 
     
  8. Always go with a list.
    Never go grocery shopping without a list! If you have a list, it is much easier to talk yourself out of purchases you don't actually need. Bring a list to the store and stick to it every single time. 
     
  9. Eat before you go to the store.
    Never go to the grocery store hungry! Rumbling bellies make it much easier to buy impulse items like snacks. Try shopping around 9 or 10 AM after you've had a full breakfast or in the early afternoon.
     
  10. Listen to music while you shop.
    Grocery stores often play slow and gentle music in order to keep people in the store. Relaxing music can slow your brain down and make you shop at a much more leisurely pace which leads to browsing and impulse buys. Put together a peppy playlist for shopping that will get you in and out of there quickly.
     
  11. Use a smaller cart or walk to the store if possible.
    A smaller cart means less room for impulse purchases. This helps you shop for what is on your list and nothing more. Walking to the store can also help you save money since it severely limits the number of items you can cart home.
     
  12. Sign up for rewards.
    Whether it is an app or a store-specific savings card, always sign up for any sort of loyalty program a store has. If you're shopping at the same place week after week, it can quickly add up.
     
  13. If you buy in bulk at stores like Costco or Sam's Club be sure to examine if you are actually saving money.
    Shopping at stores like Costco where you can buy in bulk can often save you money, especially when you have a big family. This may not always be the case, however. If you shop at these stores regularly, be sure to re-examine this habit from time to time. If you are buying some perishables in bulk and end up tossing out a fair amount, you could actually be losing money even if the initial purchase was a good deal.
     
  14. Keep track of what you are running out of to avoid unnecessary trips to the store.
    Use a notepad on the fridge or in your pantry to track when you are running low on household items like garbage bags and paper towels or pantry items like sugar or flour. This way you will always know which staples you need to buy during your next trip. A running list of these items will help you avoid unneccesary extra trips to the store.
     
  15. Use up everything you have at home before shopping.
    While the tail end of your grocery supply might not be as delicious as the fresh fruit you ate the moment you arrived home, using up everything before your next trip will avoid food waste. Make sure to eat your entire meal plan before heading back to the store.

Frugal Grocery Budget

At the Store: What You Buy

What you purchase at the store can actually have a huge impact on how much you spend. Some items are way more expensive than others. Grocery stores are also set up specifically to try to get you to spend more money. Making sure you know what to look for allows you to avoid falling for a "deal" that is just a marketing scheme. Plus, simple habits like shredding your own cheese can really add up.

  1. Consider trying to shop with cash only.
    If you only bring enough cash to pay for the number of groceries you budgeted for, it is really easy to avoid over-spending. It makes you think twice about what you are buying and when.
     
  2. You don't have to be brand loyal.
    While we all have brands we love and cannot do without, avoid being too stuck in your ways when it comes to certain items. One week one brand of butter may be cheaper than the other, but that might not be the case all of the time. For certain items, always scan for the cheapest option over the brand you usually purchase. This is especially easy for things like canned veggies, butter, peanut butter, etc.
     
  3. Buy fruits and veggies that are in-season.
    Produce that is in-season locally is always going to be cheaper than something that was shipped for another state or country. Plan your meals around what is in season to save money. Really want something that is not in season? Consider buying from the frozen section or, better yet, freeze it on your own next time it is on sale.
     
  4. Look up and down on shelves, stores put the most expensive brand names at eye level.
    Grocery stores purposely place the brand name and more expensive items at eye level so that shoppers who are not paying attention grab those items out of habit. Make sure to look up and down for cheaper, generic versions for the item you are looking for.
     
  5. Shop for the best deal by weight.
    Just because one item is more expensive than another by the jar or box does not mean it is actually the better deal! Check the price by weight, as well. Many stores provide this for you. If not, there's no shame in using your smartphone to do some quick math.
     
  6. Buy generic brands.
    9 times out of 10, the generic version of a food item is going to be a lot cheaper than the name brand. Unless the item is your favorite brand or thing on the list, go for the cheaper version.
     
  7. Do not buy bottled water.
    Bottled water is an unnecessary expense! If you do not like the way your drinking water tastes at home, invest in a Britta pitcher which will save you money in the long run. If for some reason you must purchase your own water, buy it by the gallon.
     
  8. Shop bulk when it is appropriate.
    For items like canned food or dry goods that have a long shelf life, always buy in bulk when it is a good deal. As mentioned earlier, however, always be mindful when buying in bulk. If you end up tossing a fair amount of excess, you're likely losing money.
     
  9. Buy seafood frozen.
    By and large, fresh seafood will always be more expensive than the frozen version. Unless you're looking to cook up a fancy, fresh meal that night, frozen shrimp and fish tastes just as yummy for a fraction of the cost.
     
  10. Buy some frozen veggies.
    There's no denying that fresh veggies and fruit are yummier than their frozen counterparts, but when you are baking or cooking with these items it often won't make much of a difference. Price check fresh and frozen produce for the best deals. Plus, frozen veggies last much, much longer.
     
  11. Buy veggies in bags.
    The potatoes and carrots that come in bags are way cheaper per pound than purchase them one by one. Since these don't expire all that quickly, there's no reason not to stock up.
     
  12. Do not buy pre-washed or pre-prepared salads.
    Convenience comes at a cost! Buying pre-washed and pre-packaged salads and other produce is significantly more expensive. If you have the five minutes to do it yourself, there's no reason to spend the extra money. Pre-cut and pre-washed produce also tends to have a much shorter shelf life.
     
  13. Shred your own cheese.
    Buying cheese by the block or pound instead of pre-shredded will save you money. It will also last much longer than the shredded bags.
     
  14. Avoid the pink tax.
    Items marketed specifically towards women are often much more expensive than those marketed towards men. Some of these items are essentially the same thing! Purchase men's razors, deodorant, or other toiletries to save some cash and avoid the dreaded pink tax.
     
  15. Plan for bigger meals as they are often less expensive than cooking for one or two.
    Cooking bigger meals is often much cheaper than cooking for one or two people. If you do not have a big family, you can always eat the leftovers for lunch or freeze them for a later date.
     
  16. Ditch items last minute.
    Before getting in line at the checkout, double check the items in your cart. If there's something you do not actually need, don't be afraid to ditch it and put it back. Doing a quick check for impulse items can save you some money.
     
  17. Make sure a sale is actually a sale. Don't buy things at the end of the aisle.
    It's a pretty well-known secret that the displays at the end of grocery store aisles aren't actually sale items. These displays are generally there to entice you to try new products or brands. Always double check the aisle for a better deal.
     
  18. Consider shopping more often for perishables to eliminate food waste.
    If you love cooking with fresh veggies, consider shopping more often to eliminate food waste. Going to the store more can lead to more spending, so meal plan for the beginning of the week and both shopping trips so you have a list for each.
     
  19. Watch the cash register and check your receipts.
    It can be easy to miss when you have been charged twice for an item or the cashier rings up a sale item incorrectly. Always double check your receipt once you've purchased your items.
     
  20. Stock up on non-perishable sales items.
    When items with a long shelf life (like canned goods) are on sale, always stock up on extras if you know you are going to use them in the future.

At the Store: What You Buy

At Home: Making the Most of Your Groceries

Saving money on groceries does not end after you leave the grocery store. Making sure you get the most out of the food your purchased is a low effort way to really maximize your food budget. The biggest way we lose money on groceries isn't actually at the store. Food waste contributes to a lot of money lost, as well. Every time you have to throw food away, you're throwing money away! 

  1. Freeze what you don't eat.
    Despite meal planning and sticking to your list, you will always have some leftovers. Whether you just bought too many fruits and veggies or you just had a family member miss a meal, you can always freeze any leftovers you don't eat week to week and save it for later.
     
  2. Eliminate food waste as often as possible.
    Whenever you can, make sure you do not throw food away! Whether it means adding some extra veggies to a meal to use them up or freezing some chicken, always take steps to avoid food waste. The best way to do this is to keep tabs on what you have on hand and when it will expire. Always be sure to store your food properly.
     
  3. Learn from your mistakes by keeping a running list of foods that spoil often or recipes that were unexpectedly expensive.
    Keep a short list of grocery dos and don'ts week to week. A spending journal can help you learn from other meals. If something ended up costing you more than you thought it would make a note of it. It is also a good idea to keep a running list of easy, cheap meals for your family. Eventually, you will have enough to rotate out meals without thinking or planning too much week over week.
     
  4. Keep a few super easy staples at home (like spaghetti sauce and noodles) for nights when you don't feel like cooking.
    Planning can save you money, but some nights you might not be up for cooking or not have the time. Keep some cheap staples in the house like spaghetti sauce and noodles to cook easily. You can also stock up on frozen food sales and splurge on a frozen pizza from time to time.

Making the Most of Your Groceries

Changing Your Eating Habits

Changing your daily eating and snacking habits can go a long way when it comes to keeping your food budget tight! These habits aren't necessarily ones that take place in the grocery store, but they can really help you save some money in the long run.

  1. Learn how to break down full chickens yourself since buying full chickens is cheaper.
    Buying a full chicken can help you save money. Learn how to break down full birds into recipe pieces (like breast, thighs, wings, etc.) in order to save money.
     
  2. Grow your own veggies and/or herbs.
    Growing your own veggies and herbs will cost you money up front, but in the long run, could save you a ton of money.
     
  3. Skip meat a few times a day.
    Meat is one of the most expensive items on just about any grocery list. Consider eating like a vegetarian for lunch or a few meals a week to save money.
     
  4. Start prepping your own snacks.
    Learning how to make your own snacks like granola bars, chips, or trail mix in order to save money on snacks.
     
  5. Give up expensive luxuries like buying Starbucks coffee or K-cups.
    Habits like heading to the coffee shop every morning can really add up. Reexamine daily habits like how you drink your coffee to find ways to save money.
     
  6. Set a budget for delivery and take out and stick to it.
    Skipping lazy meals like delivery or take out can really add up. It also might not be realistic to plan on stopping this habit entirely. Instead, set up a budget for delivery each month and stick to it.

How do you save on your grocery shopping?
Give us your tips and tricks in the comment section below!

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Absolutely loved this article! As a college student, I think these tips will definitely benefit me in the future. I'm always trying to save money, but I find it hard to do so when my spending habits aren't that great.

I love tip #38. I never think to use certain things and then when I do, it's gone bad. So frustrating and wasteful. I will try to plan better using these tips.

Wow, these are excellent tips! I always feel a bit of sticker shock when I'm checking out at the grocery store, so I will definitely keep some of these money-saving tips in mind.

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