If you’re looking to save money on groceries, you’re definitely on the right track to getting your finances in order. Below are 40 actionable steps you can take to save a ton of money when food shopping!
1. Always go to the grocery store with a list. Always.
Have you noticed that when you casually walk into the store with no shopping list, the world is your oyster – treats, coffee, meat (just in case) and oh the bottle of wine you’ve been meaning to try for ages. Before you know it, the 2 items you left your house intending to get have turned into 7.
A shopping list ensures that you walk in with a mission to only get items you need and accomplish what you set out to do.
2. Stick religiously to that list.
While preparing a list is the first step in ensuring a smooth budget-friendly shopping experience, sticking to the list is the next practical step.
The easiest way to stick to a list is to carry a pen with you and cross off items as you go, otherwise impulse purchases will be a real temptation!
3. Stick to drinking water.
Soda, alcohol, fruit juices – while these items may lure the taste buds they are sure to add to the waist while drilling holes in your pocket. Drink water instead.
4. Drink tap water.
We are so blessed to largely have clean running water in the U.S. With this advantage, we can save a ton of money by drinking tap water instead of bottled.
If the taste isn’t so great, a water filter will boost the taste profile by a few notches.
5. Got meatless
Once a week or more, prepare meatless meals and save as meat tends to be a pricier item in any food budget.
6. Use cheaper cuts of meat
Alternatively, look for cheaper cuts of meat. While these generally take longer to cook, they are just as tasty if not tastier than prime cuts.
Cheaper cuts generally include brisket, ribs (great for a cookout or family meal), skirt steak, flank steak, sirloin steak for pork, or shoulder chop for lamb. These cheaper cuts tend to work well for slow cooker meals or soups.
7. Avoid leaving the house on an empty stomach
If you can, avoid shopping on an empty stomach. Shopping while hungry drives us to often purchase unnecessary items that we likely don’t need. Science also confirms that shopping while hungry makes everything in the store look good and encourages us to purchase higher calorie items.
8. Know the prices of your “go-to” items
Setting up a price book is one of the best grocery tactics you can implement. A price book is basically a little book you make that tracks the prices of all your staple, go-to items that you purchase on a regular basis. The book will help you clearly establish price points for your go to items and will make it much easier to identify when a sale is not really a sale or when you’ve spotted a really good deal. There are only so many shops you buy your groceries from and although it may be a little bit of work to put one together, it will sure help you save hundreds of dollars over the year!
9. Stick to food you actually like
Experimenting with food can be so much fun, however, it can also be costly if you purchase items that you don’t eat and end up needing to throw out. If you’re really curious about new food items to your diet, try purchasing them one at a time over a long window.
10. Be realistic about how much you actually need
It can sometimes be challenging to gauge how much food you will actually need for a week. Items such as beef can be trickier to measure, but with a little trial and error for a week or two, it will be much easier to note quantities and to stick to them.
11. Brew coffee at home
For coffee lovers, there is nothing that gives boost to a morning than a greatly brewed cup of coffee. This can save you $20 – $30 a week or up to $2,000 a year. Additionally, it can help you curb impulse purchases while at places such as Starbucks where items like cake-pops can be so enticing!
12. Learn to carry a small meal or snacks with you on long days out
On days when you are out of the house and on the go running errands, remember to carry snacks with you. These can help carry you to your next meal at home and can be a winning strategy in beating constant eating-out situations.
13. Avoid using your credit card at the grocery store
Over the past years, credit cards have been all the rage with many credit card companies offering tremendous perks such as travel miles, cashback, Amazon points among others. People tend to flock to these, with good intentions to pay off their credit cards and a lot more often than not, credit card bills go unpaid, interest is charged and fees are levied.
It is so much easier, and better to shop with cash. Cash is king as it helps you be intentional about your use of it and it avoids often unwelcome surprises!
14. If you drink, consider cutting out alcohol
Alcohol can easily shoot any budget through the roof while adding inches to the waist. Depending on one’s habits, it is easy to drink away your retirement savings and therefore advisable to consider cutting out the alcohol from your routine.
15. Shop at ethnic stores
Meats and other goods are often cheaper at local ethnic stores as compared to large chains. If you’re fortunate to live close to any, definitely look for those with great quality food. Many Asian or Mexican stores also sell common American staple items as well!
16. Be strategic with leftovers – out of sight, out of mind
Left overs are a great idea, until they backed up in a corner in your refrigerator for days and are no longer edible. The key is to place them at the front of the refrigerator so that you see and remember them each time you open the fridge.
17. Stick to generic
For the most part, generic store brands are identical to name brands in content of the actual product. While name brands tend to be enticing with the use of clever marketing and big, colorful boxes, when you compare the actual ingredients of items, they usually contain the exact same items.
18. Eat solid meals
Not only is eating a healthy meal good for your health, it also curbs cravings for unnecessary and unhealthy snack items that can be pricey.
19. Resist the urge to buy junk food
Often healthy food is given a bad rap because of the sometimes-higher price points, but if we were to closely examine our food budgets, we may find that snacks, condiments and beverages can be consuming a big chunk of our food spending. Not only will cutting down on these items stretch our budget further, but in the long term it will help improve our health.
20. Explore farmers’ markets in your area
Food from a farmer’s market is fresher and cheaper as the food is in season. Buying fruits and veggies in season always ensures that your diet is varied naturally.
21. Meal prep
Meal prepping has so many advantages including saving money, saving time and potentially helping in weight loss efforts. The easiest way to start and stick to a meal prepping routine is to pick one day of the week where you do your cooking, and commit 2 to 3 hours to cooking for the week.
22. Cook one substantial item, and serve it multiple different ways
Sometimes eating the same meal prepped meal can seem like it will be boring but this doesn’t have to be the case at all! One way to add variety is to cook one core item and serve it up in multiple ways. For example, you could make rotisserie chicken which you could serve with rice on some days, eat as sandwiches on another or eat with a salad. Using your main protein creatively can introduce a lot of variety in your meals.
23. Avoid eye level shelves
It is no secret that stores often keep the pricier version of goods on the middle shelves that are within eye level and are easy to reach. Be sure to check the top and bottom shelves as well!
24. If you have kids, leave them at home when shopping
Shopping trips with kids can be a fun time for the everyone to get out together. However, really young kids can easily be enticed by colorful packaging of goods and feel that they must have the item immediately! Of course parents love to give gifts to their children so it can be hard to resist! Easiest plan of action, shop alone when the kids are engaged in other activities.
25. Avoid pre-cut fruits and vegetables
Pre-cut fruits and veggies often cost more because of the labor that went into preparing them. Instead, buy whole fruit and vegetables and put in the extra 5 minutes it takes to cut them at home.
26. Improvise, improvise, improvise
You don’t always have to buy specific items for the household – you can certainly improvise with sufficiently good substitutes.
For example, paper towels are a really convenient kitchen item to get rid of dirt but using a kitchen towel that you wash regularly will serve the exact same purpose.
27. Skip the deli section (food is fancily packaged but same unprocessed item is a few aisles down for a fraction of the cost
Skip the deli section entirely and opt to purchase cold cuts whole that you can slice at home yourself. It will only add very few minutes to your routine but will save you quite a portion of money.
28. Use a handbasket and avoid the large shopping carts
Cruising down the aisles of your grocery store is certainly a fun experience and an easier one too, but shopping carts were designed with so much space to encourage huge purchases. Using a small hand basket can help you keep up with your purchases more realistically.
29. Avoid the middle aisles in a grocery store
When shopping, stick to the outer perimeter of the store where you will find all the fresh food, meat, and vegetables that you will need. Central aisles are filled with all the packaged goods. The middle aisles tend to be calorie heavy, costly food items that you likely don’t need.
30. Take a quick inventory of everything in your cart before you get to the front of the line
A study by Reader’s Digest found that that 60 percent of shoppers look to get rid of items they no longer want from their shopping cart when they are in the checkout line. However, supermarkets moved to counter this by creating narrower lanes.
In light of this, shopping with a list and sticking to it is hugely important.
31. If food is reaching its “use by” date, freeze it
Frozen food can store for much longer and helps you avoid throwing out items you could still eat at al later date.
32. Learn how to cook
You may find yourself in a position where you live on your own and you eat out all the time simply because you don’t know how to cook – which is totally understandable as we all started somewhere. However, the truth of the matter is that ordering food or eating out will undoubtedly drill deep holes in your pockets, the kind of holes that could take years and years to sew back (i.e. forgone savings and investment income). If this is where you find yourself today, the best place to start is to commit to the process of learning and focus on simple meals with few ingredients.
33. Keep track of your cart total as you shop
With smart phones, keeping track of your cart total is so much easier. Paired with using cash, this will really help you to avoid any surprises at the register.
34. Don’t give in to “buy one get one free” when you don’t need the items
Many stores display buy one get one free offers and unless you’re in market for the particular item, don’t give in to them as you may end up buying something you don’t really need and may not use.
35. Be careful of buying items in mini-packs
Often, miniature snack packs of goods tend to be more expensive than buying the regular sized version. This is because companies have to use more packaging to prepare the items for sale.
36. Use your store’s loyalty card
While this shouldn’t tie you down to a particular store, if they have a loyalty card, take advantage of it as the savings over the course of a year from using it can be over $100.
37. When comparing prices, look at the price per unit
When shopping, it is wise to check for the unit price of a good because buying in bulk can sometimes prove to be cheaper, and in other cases it may not make a difference at all.
For example, your shower gel may cost $3.99 for a bottle, but then getting a 2-pack could cost $7 resulting in almost a dollar in savings.
38. Be strategic about the space in your refrigerator
When packing your fridge, remember that the coldest part is in the back at the bottom and the warmest part is actually at the doors. Armed with this knowledge, it is much easier to pack your fridge strategically.
Foods that need to be coldest (such as meat) should go in the bottom while those that don’t need to be cooked such as yogurt or leftovers, should go to the top.
39. Make your own snacks
Making your own snacks is a great way to save money. From trail mix, baked oatmeal goods, popcorn, muffins, shakes, – the options are endless!
40. Always be ready for those lazy nights
Its inevitable that on some days, cooking will just be a huge inconvenience either after a long day at work or when you just don’t feel like doing it. It is always great to have some ready to go meals that you have prepared in advance and frozen. These can include frozen smoothie packs, casseroles, frozen sandwiches to go, baked ziti, lasagna among many others.
As you can see, there are so many ways to eat healthy meals without breaking bank. Many of these can be incorporated by trial and error but they are sure to lead to a happier bank account.
If you have any additional tips or comments you’d like to leave, drop me a note below!