Buying Groceries

Top 6 Ways to Save Money on Groceries

Nov 12, 2021
By Mariclare Cranston, Content Specialist

I Need To Save Money On Groceries

Ever experience that, “I’m sorry, how much?!” moment in the grocery store? You know – the one that makes you look back at your cart and wonder how so little could cost so much?

Yeah, us too. In fact, NerdWallet puts the average annual grocery spend for U.S. households at $4,643. But there are ways to cut back – without sacrificing delicious meals. The top 6 ways to save money on groceries include:

  1. Limiting your trips
  2. Forgetting name brands
  3. Cutting and downloading coupons
  4. Buying seasonal or aged produce
  5. Making – and sticking – to a list
  6. Avoiding Food Waste

1. Limit Your Trips

Sometimes we visit the grocery store like it’s an old friend we can’t get enough of. But each time we go? We’re spending money. So cutting back on how many times you’re heading to the store is an automatic boost to your wallet.

  • Aim for one trip each week. The best way to make this happen? Plan your meals. Go through your cabinets, fridge, freezer and pantry to figure out what ingredients you already have on hand. Next, check your store’s flier for sale items. Using your on-hand ingredients and those that are on sale, write out your meals for the next week.
    Once that’s done, take inventory of staples, household items and personal care items that you’ll need to resupply within the next week. These tasks won’t take long, and they may prevent making extra trips to the store during the week.  
  • Shop from home. Most major grocers offer online shopping now. Take advantage of this to eliminate those last-minute temptations that always seem to pop up as we shop. As an added bonus, online shopping typically offers curbside pickup or delivery.

Groceries iconFree meal plan download

Get your free meal planner and grocery list download and get yourself down to one grocery trip a week. Get My Download 

2. Forget Name Brands

 We’re so tempted to reach for name brand products because we believe they’re higher quality. In fact, a survey by Ask Your Target Market showed that 70% of respondents believed that brand name products were usually of higher quality. It’s also perceived to be easier to buy name brand – we recognize and trust brands and don’t always want to invest time in looking at generic alternatives.

But here’s the thing:

If you want – or need – to cut back on your grocery bill, taking a look at generic products is worth it. Ramsey Solutions did a calculation. And they discovered that by switching to all generic items – just for dinner – you can save $1,040 a year. So imagine the savings potential if you open yourself to generic products across the board.

Save over $1,000 a year by purchasing generic

Check out this comparison chart showing how you can rack up the savings by going generic for a chicken casserole dinner
grocery comparison chart

One caveat? If there’s a sale on the brand name version that makes it more economical than the generic product.

3. Cut + Download Coupons

 According to Inspiring Savings, the typical family saves between $5.20 and $9.60 per week using coupons. That’s $270 to $500 each year.

There are a couple of ways to get in the habit of using coupons. Digital coupons are probably the easiest. Most major grocery stores offer a mobile app. And, once you register, you can access and download coupons. These are then automatically applied to your purchase. If your coupons initially seem irrelevant, stick with it. The more you use them, the more the app can “learn” what you like to purchase and dish up relevant savings.

Don’t discount your store’s weekly flier, though. There are two main reasons you’re going to want to glance at that each week.

  1. Often, stores have short-term sale items advertised in their flier. These may be deeper discounts for a shorter amount of time. You don’t want to miss out on those extra savings. Take note of what these sales are. Then try to build your menu and shopping list using those items.
  2. There are often additional coupons available in the flier. Sure, it’s harder to remember to use coupons that you’re cutting out and sticking in your wallet. But remember, this is all about building a habit. You may even want to clip coupons right to your debit card or phone to help you remember to use them.

Eating Healthy on a BudgetEating healthy on a budget

Watch this 6-minute Friday Financial episode to hear how you can eat healthy – without destroying your budget. Watch it Now 

4. Buy Seasonal or Aged Produce

You’ve probably heard that you should stick to in-season produce. And there’s good reason for that: produce is more affordable when it’s more readily available. Buying in-season produce also helps support local growers. Many stores work with farmers to offer their in-season fruits and vegetables. Plus, it's fun to visit local farm stands for your produce needs!

According to The Penny Hoarder, there’s some produce you can buy all year – its growing season makes it consistently-priced. This includes:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Lemons
  • Limes

What about winter? If you know you’re going to crave strawberries in January, you can freeze some when you buy them fresh. Check out this guide for help in freezing your favorite fresh fruit.

Purchasing aged produce is another savings hack. Aged produce isn’t rotten – it just needs to sell faster, before it goes bad. If you know you’re going to use those vegetables in a stew or soup in the next day or so, you can keep some money in your wallet buying produce that’s due to be taken off the floor soon. If you’re not sure where your store displays aged produce, simply ask the section manager.

5. Use a List

So simple, yet so effective – if you can stick to it. Making a list keeps you on track at the store. It’s easy to get distracted by displays and cravings. Sticking to your list puts you on a mission. Stay focused, and your wallet stays fuller.

Your list is only as good as your plan, though. So be sure to spend some time going through your cabinets, pantry, fridge and freezer before writing items down. You may even want to organize things by expiration date. Get those that are closer to expiring towards the front so you remember to use them. And, like we noted earlier, search for recipes that include those ingredients. 

Build recipes with your ingredientsBuild recipes with your ingredients

SuperCook lets you hunt for recipes that include what you already have on hand. Check it Out Here.

 It doesn’t matter if you make your list on your phone or on good old-fashioned paper. It just needs to be consistent and disciplined. If it’s not on your list – and you really don’t need it – it doesn’t go in your cart. Staying vigilant about that will keep more money in your pocket. And make grocery shopping go a little faster.

6. Avoid Food Waste

 In the U.S., food waste is estimated to be an astounding 30-40% of the entire food supply. Think about your own refrigerator: how much food have you thrown out in the past month? And every time you pitch food, you’re wasting money.

One of the simplest ways to cut back on food waste is to pay attention to what you have on hand. Those forgotten leftovers, the cheese that expired. These things slip our mind but if we commit to taking stock of our supplies – before assuming we’ll just buy lunch today – we can reduce waste and save money. Don’t be afraid to experiment with soups, salads, and stews to use up produce that’s nearing the end of its freshness. You can invent a new sandwich or dinner entrée using what you have on hand. There are plenty of websites – like this one – that let you search recipes by ingredient. Create a labeling system that works, too. What’s in the container? When did you make it? Easily identifying your food will make you more likely to use it a second time.

Save While You ShopSave while you shop: Webinar Recording

This recorded webinar presents our savings tips in video format. You can watch it here.

Additional Savings Tips

  • When possible, make extra dinner to use for lunch the next day
  • Take the time to cut your veggies instead of paying more for the pre-cut option
  • Embrace frozen fruit and vegetables, especially when produce is out of season
  • Don’t cave to cravings – avoid shopping hungry!
  • Avoid eye-level products…those are usually the most expensive options

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