My grocery store spending has been increasing lately. Ironically enough we only have two people (plus a baby) in the home right now, so it should be going down.
The problem is that I’m shopping on auto-pilot right now – probably because of sleep deprivations.
This morning as I was cleaning out the fridge and throwing away yet another head of broccoli I realized I needed to get a handle on my grocery habits.
I know that everyone shops differently, so I’ve compiled 14 different ways to cut your grocery bill. I can guarantee that at least 4-5 of these methods will work for you.
I can guarantee that at least 4-5 of these methods will work for you.
1. Start each week with a meal plan.
Meal planning is a quick easy way to ensure you have the right ingredients at the right time to cook.
I hate cooking but have discovered that if I have 2-3 meals planned in advance then cooking isn’t this huge laborous process. The trick is to know what you are cooking in advance, so you can do the proper prep work.
I have a lot of friends who swear by meal planning services, so I just signed up for a meal planning service called Plan to Eat. Hopefully, it will help enough to incentive me to write a review of their service in the future. Plan to Eat and other similar program make meal planning super simple since they literally do all the work for you.
With these programs, they give you list of potential meal ideas based on your family’s size and eating habits. They provide the shopping list and everything.
If you just need some helpful hint on meal planning, check out this post by Faith Durand on “15 Tips for Better Weekly Meal Planning“.
2. Create your shopping list based on weekly ads.
If you aren’t doing formal meal plans, base your shopping on weekly ads.
If chicken is on sale then most of the meals that week will be chicken based. Meat is often the most expensive part of your grocery shopping, so plan your meals around weekly sales.
Aaron loves to grill, so I’m constantly watching for sales on Ribeye Steaks or Salmon. I’m always willing to let him cook.
I also watch for sales on certain staples that I always need.
We have four grocery stores within a reasonable distance, so I look through the ads and then plan my trip based on who has the best sales. I keep a mental list of staple items like beans, pasta, rice and when I see a good deal I buy extra.
My goal is to always keep 3 months of food in my pantry. I know this seems like over-kill to some of you, but by doing this I can ensure I’m always getting good deals on the long term shelf products I use. Most grocery stores tend to cycle their staple items on a 6-8 week sale cycle. Plan ahead and get your staple items when they are on sale.
Plan ahead and get your staple items when they are on sale.
3. Create a shopping list
Always create a shopping list. I keep a notepad on my fridge and write down items throughout the week. I separate my lists into items purchased at Walmart, the regular grocery store, and Costco.
When you shop without a list you are going to end up with extras, or worse you’ll forget stuff and have to go back to the store later and spend even more money. Grocery shopping isn’t my favorite thing to do, so I like to streamline the process as much as possible.
4. Stick to your shopping list
This sounds like a simple step, but how often do you come home from the store with a few extras. It is amazing how quickly those little extra can add up to be hundreds of extra dollars.
This is a problem point for me. I usually have my list, but I’m easily distracted by sale items. I have such a hard time skipping a good sale price. However, if you can stick to your list, you will always end up saving money.
5. Use generic brands when possible
Generic brands can save you hundreds of dollars. I love generic brand and 8/10 times will go generic when I have the option.
There are a few things that just don’t work in generic – like Oreos. Aaron is addicted to them.
Obviously, you need to make sure it is a quality product, but most of the time, generic products will save you money and are typically made in the same plants with the same products. I’ve eaten some generic food that I literally can’t tell the difference.
6. Don’t get side-tracked by amazing sales.
This is an issue for me (see #4). I like feeling like I’ve gotten a good deal.
However, it isn’t a good deal if you don’t actually need the product. I would recommend leaving some room in your budget for when you find a good deal, but do the math and make sure it really is a good deal.
Also, remember that just because they have a big red tag on an item saying it is on sale doesn’t mean it is really on sale. I’ve lifted those tag many times to find the exact same price underneath.
Pay attention to pricing on your regular items so you know a good deal when you see one.
7. Don’t shop hungry
This is a big one for me. I don’t end up buying a ton of extra food, but without fail, if I’m hungry I’ll buy myself a donut. Donuts are my weakness (especially the made from scratch ones at Basha’s) and if I’m grocery shopping and hungry I will almost always give in.
I know for other people, they just tend to purchase more food than they need.
Either way, shopping while you are hungry is a bad idea. Over the years, I’ve started to keep nuts and dried fruit in my purse. It is a quick and easy snack that helps satisfy my food cravings till I can get home.
8. Use cash
If you are using cash, you will almost always spend less. There is something about having to hand over actual money that makes it more real and causes spending pains.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten to my car and don’t have a clue how much money I put on my credit card. When I use cash I can always remember.
9. Keep track of your bill as you go
When I was a struggling college student, I could tell you to the dollar how much I had in my grocery cart.
I was on a tight budget, was using cash and in general just paid more attention. If you keep a mental list of how much you are spending you’ll pay more attention to the extras you are adding.
10. Use coupons
I used to hate using coupons. It was just such a hassle. Using coupons is very easy now. You can download coupons to your phone, there are multiple apps that can help and tons of online resources to help you find the best deals.
I’m not a crazy coupon lady, but I can consistently save $5-15 each time I go to the store with coupons. I have friends who save hundreds of dollars each year through couponing. It takes time and organizational skills, but can be worth the money if you have time.
11. Use your calculator
Most grocery stores have the unit price next to the items, so this item isn’t as critical. However, don’t assume the store’s numbers are right. Look at pricing and quantities and calculate the unit price before making decisions.
People often assume that the larger items are cheaper. Do the math, bigger isn’t always better. This is also a good time to compare pricing on generic versus regular brand items.
12. Buy in bulk, but make sure you are actually getting a good deal – bulk isn’t always better.
I love Costco, but have noticed over the years that their prices really aren’t always better. Certain items I purchase there regardless of the price because of the quality (the Kirtland generic line is awesome). Items that don’t fall into this category I watch with care.
Just because you are purchasing 8 cans of chili doesn’t mean you can’t get it cheaper when it is on sale at the grocery store.
The other things to watch at bulk stores is the quantity. It isn’t a good deal if you buy so much of a product that you can’t eat it all before it goes bad.
I love the quality of their produce, but I virtually never buy it because with just Aaron and I at home it goes bad. Same with their milk. When the girls lived with us we went through 3-4 gallons of milk a week, now I’m lucky to get through a gallon before it goes bad.
Only buy bulk items that will get used in a timely manner.
13. Check out Amazon pantry for larger bulk items
I’ve only started to research this recently because of diapers and formula. However, if you go through a lot of pantry type items on a regular basis the amazon pantry is a great opinion.
Amazon pantry is a recurring ordering system for pantry type items through Amazon. It is a flat fee of $5.99 per box. The boxes come in a variety of sizes, but are limited to 45 pounds. They also ship via ground, so don’t count on getting them within 2 days if you are an Amazon prime member.
14. Consider grocery pick-up
I’ve only used this feature once for a work function. It was awesome. I placed the food order, Albertson’s packed everything up and had it ready for me to pick up at a specific time. Most stores charge between 2-10 for this service.
If you have a larger family and a fairly set grocery list then this option could save you money if you are the type that comes home with a bunch of extras.
Grocery Pick-up can also be a huge time saver.
Why Saving Money on Grocery’s Matters
When I speak with people about budgeting I often discover that their discretionary spending is killing their budget. Controlling your grocery spending is a great first step to getting out of debt.
Last summer I got busy and stopped paying attention to my spending. You can read about my experience here – What I learned From Busting my budget.
This experience reminded me yet again how important something as simple as grocery shopping can be when budgeting. If you take a little bit of time to plan out your grocery trips you can turn it into one of the best items on your grocery list.
Let me know if you have any other helpful hints for grocery shopping. Please share if you know of anyone who would appreciate this list.
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