Tips to save money on groceries

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Remember the days when a loaf of bread didn’t cost $7.99? Today, with grocery prices rising and grocery items shrinking, it’s no surprise that consumers are hungry for ways to save money on groceries.

Woman unpacking groceries in kitchen.
Photo credit: YayImages.

If you haven’t tapped into the potential of budgeting, smart shopping, leveraging rewards and minimizing waste, then keep reading. You might be surprised to learn how much you can save on your monthly grocery bills.

Plan your grocery budget

With so many ways to track your spending, it’s never been easier to budget your grocery shopping. Whether you use a budgeting app that integrates with your bank accounts, prefer to plan things out in spreadsheets or just rely on good old paper and pencil, you can find a budgeting method that works for you.

When budgeting, it’s important to be realistic, even as you strive to increase your savings. You might find it helpful to look back at the past few months of grocery bills and calculate your future budget based on how much you’ve actually been spending. You may also want to look at how much money you spend on takeout food and dining out. All of this information can help you set practical weekly or monthly limits for your spending.

Person writing on a document with a pen.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Once you’ve set a realistic budget, you’ll be able to make a shopping list that reflects how much you should spend that week. Hitting the grocery store with a list can prevent you from impulsively spending money on items you don’t actually need. And, of course, don’t forget the golden rule of grocery shopping: never, ever shop on an empty stomach. 

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Smart shopping

If you’ve mapped out your grocery budget and jotted down your grocery list, you aren’t out of ways to save yet. Save money on groceries by taking advantage of these smart shopping strategies:

  • Don’t feel shy about comparing prices. If there are staples that you tend to buy every week, keep track of how much those items cost at different grocery stores near you. The extra effort will pay off when you know you’re getting the cheapest price for an item you need.
  • Buy bulk. Set aside some time to make a few dishes with the same bulk items. For example, buy a tray of chicken thighs and use them to make both creamy dijon chicken and a chicken and veggie stir-fry. Drawing from two cuisines will prevent you from feeling like you’re eating the same meal endlessly. Plus, you can freeze the leftovers for later: your future self will thank you.
  • Don’t fall for marketing tricks. If an item appears to be on sale but isn’t in its normal location, make sure to compare it to similar products in the aisle where it is normally found to see whether you’re actually getting the best price. 
  • Shop seasonally. Print out a poster of seasonal fruits and veggies and keep it on your fridge to inspire you when you make your weekly grocery list. Seasonal food tends to be cheaper, tastier and more environmentally friendly. Farmer’s markets, community gardens, co-ops and bulk-buying clubs are great sources of seasonal produce.
  • Think carefully about convenience foods. Pre-chopped ingredients, like diced vegetables, are almost always more expensive than their counterparts. But if a jar of minced garlic gets used while regular garlic will go to waste, the more convenient option may be worth the higher price point.

Make coupons and rewards your new best friends

You don’t need to be into extreme couponing to unlock the potential of coupons. If you’ve never used coupons before, consider subscribing to store newsletters or following stores on social media to find out about deals. The truly dedicated will want to stack coupons to maximize their savings or plan their grocery trips around double coupon days. 

If you use a credit card, consider switching to one that offers points or cash back on grocery purchases. Many grocery stores also have loyalty programs that can help you save money on groceries. And don’t forget to download your store’s mobile app: some grocery stores offer exclusive discounts that can only be accessed digitally.

Minimize waste

The greatest budget in the world won’t help much if the majority of your food is going to waste. Some waste is inevitable, but these tips will help you make the most of what you buy.

Proper food storage

Did you know that refrigerating potatoes actually harms their taste and texture? To maximize your food’s potential, look up how to store each item properly before putting it away. 

You should also think carefully about the storage methods that will work best for you. For example, you might want to invest in clear containers so that you can see what food you already have in your fridge at a glance.

Creative leftovers

With the internet at your fingertips, it’s never been easier to come up with new ways to enjoy every bit of the food you bring home. For example, cabbage is an affordable vegetable, but most cabbage recipes will leave you with plenty of leftovers. Instead of letting those extras wither away, look for easy recipes to use up the rest. This 30-minute cabbage and sausage dish only requires a handful of ingredients and comes together with minimal effort. You can apply the same principle to any perishable products you buy.

A fork in a bowl of food.
Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Meal plan with what you already have

When planning what to cook for dinner this week, don’t overlook the potential of what you already have. Have you got pasta noodles, canned tuna and frozen peas in your pantry? If so, you’ve got almost everything you need to make this easy tuna noodle casserole. It’s tempting to stock up on a bunch of new items, but by using what you have at home first, you’ll save money and avoid waste.

How to save money on groceries

Whether you live alone or are shopping for a big family, grocery shopping can be an unnecessary source of stress. However, individual actions — like establishing a budget, shopping smart, embracing rewards and minimizing waste — can add up to big savings. If you don’t know where to start, pick just one strategy to try out this week. Once you see the results, you’ll be hungry for more.

Sara Nelson is the creator of Real Balanced, a food blog that showcases easy and balanced recipes. Since 2017, she has shared these recipes with thousands of blog readers and social media followers. Sara lives in Wisconsin with her family.

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