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I wasn’t always one to make a budget and stick to it. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I realized it was a good idea to start keeping track of my expenses.
Doing this really opened my eyes to exactly where my money was going and at the time, a lot of it was spent eating out, going out to bars for happy hour, and surprisingly a fair amount was spent at the grocery store.
Now that I’m older and somewhat wiser when it comes to my expenses, I’ve managed to maintain a budget that covers all the bills and leaves a little extra for savings and just for fun activities
Despite this, my family and I still struggled to keep our grocery bill low.
My goal for a family of three was to keep our weekly grocery haul under $100 and with a few tweaks we’ve managed to do that.
Below I have listed 15 easy money saving tips for grocery shopping on a tight budget.
I can personally attest to the fact that these tips do indeed help in keeping your grocery bill under control.
You can view this article in video format by clicking the play button below:
I first became aware of grocery store apps a few years ago. At first I wasn’t too sure about them, but the more I used them, I realized I was in fact saving a lot of money.
Below I’ve listed my top favorite grocery store apps. I like to use multiple apps as they all offer something a little different in terms of cash back offers.
Typically, when I’m starting to make my weekly grocery list, I’ll check through the apps first to see what deals are going on and compare with my list to see if there’s anything I’ll get a deal on.
Sometimes I’ll add an item to my list if the cash back offer is especially good.
- Ibotta ($10 bonus when you redeem your first offer)
- Fetch Rewards ($1.50 bonus with promo HH3MN)
- Makeena ($1 with promo code lizzod)
- BerryCart ($2 with promo code 7xYw14Jb and scan first receipt)
2. Shop At Different Grocery Stores
Don’t make the mistake of getting roped in to using only one grocery store. I used to do this as my grocery store of choice was ridiculously close to my apartment at the time and therefore walkable.
Unfortunately, doing this means you’ll miss out on some really great deals happening at other stores. No two stores are alike in terms of pricing, though they all pretty much carry the same things.
You could have one store that offers cheaper prices on your produce, while still another store is better for things like milk and eggs.
I suggest you sign up with a few different stores (especially ones with fuel perks), as not only will you receive whatever shopping perks they offer, you’ll also receive their sale’s flyer in the mail.
Checking out each flyer will let you know what to shop for and where, and unless the other stores are a long drive, this will ultimately save you more on your groceries in the end.
3. Make A Grocery List
How many of us are guilty of popping into the store randomly after work and coming home with a lot more than was needed. Not to mention the extra money spent on unplanned items.
I try to never go to the grocery store without a solid list in my hands. Even if the list is small, like you realize you don’t have any potatoes in the pantry for dinner or you ran out of milk that morning at breakfast.
If you keep a list with you, this will help you stick to only buying what you need and not getting distracted by the deals going on in the store that week. While deals are great, stores usually place them in a way to encourage you to buy them…even when you don’t need them.
4. Stick With Cheap Staples
There are certain foods that I think everyone needs to keep in their pantry…that is, assuming you like them. These include things like rice, beans, oatmeal, potatoes, a can or two of diced tomatoes, eggs, milk and cheese.
These items are generally fairly cheap at the grocery store, as long as you’re not buying organic. Plus they store well, so you don’t have to worry about them going rancid (with the exception of the cold items).
Cheap staples in stock will make it easier to whip up a meal when you need to. And with those basics you could have frittata for breakfast, a cheesy baked potato for lunch and rice and beans for dinner.
5. Buy Frozen
Sometimes, I find it cheaper to buy my vegetables and fruit frozen. And really, as long as you’re eating fruits and vegetables, consider that a win in terms of maintaining a healthy diet.
I like frozen fruit best for items that are out of season in the winter, like berries, pineapples, mangoes, and strawberries. I found it to be much cheaper than buying the pint of strawberries you see in the store during the off season.
Plus, you can get a huge bag of frozen fruit and have it last quite a while. You can opt to eat the fruit frozen like a dessert, blend it into a smoothie, or let it thaw out a bit and eat with your oatmeal.
I like frozen vegetables because I often have coupons for a free bag of them at the store and they work in a pinch when you’re throwing together dinner and realize you don’t have any fresh vegetables.
Plus, when it’s frozen, you don’t have to worry about consuming it as quickly because there isn’t the risk of spoilage.
6. Meal Plan
Personally, the best way I’ve managed to save money at the grocery store is to meal plan in advance…and to never shop when hungry.
Meal planning in advance means planning out your entire week of meals, to include all breakfasts, lunches and dinners. This plan should cover you until your next grocery trip.
When you plan your meals, keep them simple and basic. This may mean meals will be repeated frequently and a bit boring, but frankly boring is cheap. Here are a few ideas for cheap, but filling meals:
- Oatmeal: full of fiber and protein, a pound of oatmeal is super cheap and last for several weeks even when eaten daily.
- Breakfast Burritos: eggs, salsa and tortilla shells will give you breakfast for a week.
- Garden Salad: lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, olive oil, and lemon. This is very basic and simple. You can always add beans, quinoa, hard boiled egg or even chicken for a protein boost.
- Wraps: Tortilla shell, turkey breast, lettuce, and tomatoes. Great way to get more out of your tortilla shells.
- Spaghetti: Ground beef, ground turkey or go meat free. Pasta sauce and whole wheat noodles make this a really easy meal. I usually pair with a salad.
- Rice and Beans: Rice and beans are cheap, staple basics that I always keep on hand. This meal is really filling and I usually pair with some avocado or a steamed vegetable for added nutrition.
7. Plan for Leftovers
If you don’t mind leftovers, then this tip will be perfect for you. I personally thrive on leftovers as I can’t stand to cook every single day of the week.
Instead I plan on three or 4 bigger meals with the intention that they will be repeated at some point that week. I do this mainly for dinner, as with breakfast and lunch I usually decide on one meal for the week and stick with it (keep it basic).
For my family of three, I can get a pound of chicken or ground turkey to stretch between two meals, especially when paired with hearty veggies.
By not cooking a new meal every evening, I’ve found I need to buy fewer items at the grocery store and thus I’ve kept my bill cheap.
8. Use Coupons
This tip is an obvious one, but I’ll put it out there anyway as I know how easy it is to forget about coupons.
If you’ve signed up with a few different grocery stores to receive perks and have shopped there frequently, you can expect to get a few coupons in the mail each week.
Grocery stores track your shopping habits and will send you coupons for whatever particular brand of milk, yogurt, eggs, or cheese you may have bought a few weeks earlier.
Stores want to keep your business and to do this, they offer coupons to entice you to come back and shop more.
Save these and compare them with the coupons you get from other stores. Often I’ll plan my meals around the coupons I have in my stash.
Just remember to keep an eye on the expiration date, though some cashiers (the really nice ones) will still take your expired coupon.
9. Take Grocery Store Surveys
I used to disregard the little surveys suggested on the bottom of my receipt until I took one and won a $25 gift card to that store. Trust me, grocery shopping is more fun when you have free money to spend.
This was a random bit of luck that happened not once, but three times, so now I try to remember to take the surveys regularly in the hopes of winning more free money.
I highly suggest you take these surveys in the off chance that you could win some cash.
This tip may not work for everyone, but if it does it can help you reduce your grocery bill quite a bit during the spring, summer and fall.
You don’t have to be a homeowner to start a vegetable garden. It can be done in an apartment too if you have a patio or balcony.
Vegetable seeds are cheap and if you plant smartly, you can get a few crops out of your seeds and save yourself some cash at the grocery store.
If you decide to start a garden, I’d start small just to see how it works for you and pick two or four vegetables that you love or find yourself buying often. My top four are tomatoes, spinach, bell peppers and carrots.
11. Eat Less Meat
I’m not a vegetarian, but I do promote a lot of meat free meals in my house as I find not buying meat to be cheaper.
On our meat free days, I tend to load up on vegetables and heavier starches like rice, pasta or potatoes. For extra protein I’ll use beans in a dish or cheese.
When I do buy meat, I always try to get it on sale and have a coupon. I also like to stretch my meat, by slicing chicken breast in half in order to turn two breasts into four.
Or even better, you can buy a whole chicken and carve it up to yield two breasts, thighs, drumsticks, and wings. A whole chicken can be cheaper than individual chicken breasts.
You’ll get more meat this way and can simply freeze what you don’t use and save for the next meal.
12. Drink Water
Budgeting for groceries meant I had to start loving water a whole lot more and ditch the sugary sodas and juices that I found myself buying in the past.
Juice and soda are unnecessary shopping cart fillers. They do nothing for you nutritionally and don’t really quench your thirst.
If you aren’t a fan of plain water, throw in some of that frozen fruit you bought (tip number 5) to give it some flavor.
13. Skip The Junk
I still struggle to do this at every grocery store haul, but have found that when I stick to my budget goals, it gets easier to pass up on things like junk food.
Chips, candy, fruit snacks, cookies, and cakes are all foods that taste wonderful but provide absolutely no nutrients to your diet.
Junk food is expensive, especially if you find yourself consistently stocking up on it. I’ve found it best to just avoid these aisles in order to resist temptation.
If you are someone that needs snacks in your life I would keep it simple with things like fruit (blending frozen fruit with water can yield a sort of chunky slushy) or you can buy a bag of whole popcorn kernels and pop them whenever you’re craving something crunchy and salty.
Processed food is convenient but it isn’t always the cheapest option.
Frozen meals, prepackaged entrees, meals in a box, etc don’t yield as much food as it would to simply buy the ingredients needed to make a dish.
While the packaged item may seem cheap in terms of price, you’ll likely only get one meal out it and need to buy several to get by.
When I suggest you eat real food, I mean buying items that require some prep. This means real chicken breast, rice, or boxes of pasta. You can stick with plain, frozen vegetables or buy fresh.
Real food will not only mean you’re eating healthier, but you’ll be getting more out of the money our spent.
15. Buy In Bulk
This tip works great for anyone with a large family or even for two to four friends to take advantage of a cheaper grocery bill.
Buying in bulk will give you a larger quantity of items that are usually cheaper when you look at the cost per ounce. Bulk shopping is best for items you tend to buy regularly.
I like to buy bulk items with the intention of freezing nearly half. This has cut down on buying the same thing every week and means I can keep my freezer stocked and ready to go when I need to make a meal.
You can also buy in bulk and then split your items with a friend of family member by having them cover half the cost.
Bulk items are especially great when it comes to stocking up on cheap staples (tip number 4) like rice, beans, and oatmeal.
Saving money at the grocery store gets easier once you start adopting better shopping habits. These tips have made a world of difference in my personal life when it comes to shopping and keeping costs low.
These tips have helped me not only save money, but I eat healthier and even cook better than I did before. When you’re working with simple, limited ingredients, you learn quickly how to infuse a seemingly simple meal with flavor.
If these tips end up helping you lower your grocery bill, let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and happy shopping.