Over the past few months, I’ve tried everything to save a little extra money each month.
My husband and I became a single income family towards the end of 2017. Since then, saving money became one of my top priorities. After reviewing our expenses, I knew that we needed to make some changes ASAP because our new income wasn’t enough to cover our current lifestyle. We did an entire budget makeover and saw a huge opportunity to save on food.
I learned that other frugal families were spending on average of $100 – $150 per person each month, which was a lot less than what my husband and I were spending.
Even though we technically already had a grocery budget, we never took it seriously. We pretty much let our stomachs do the talking which resulted in us going over budget every. single. month.
I set a new grocery budget and pushed myself (even though it was really hard) to make a conscious effort to stay within my budget. I couldn’t afford to go back to my old ways.
I did everything I could to stretch every dollar and save every cent. It almost became a game for me and the more I saved, the more I wanted to save even more. After a lot of trial and error, I’m excited and proud to say that I’ve reduced my grocery spending dramatically!
With that said, here are some of my favorite ways that helped me cut $165 from my grocery budget. A yearly savings of $1,980!
1. Always check your own pantry, fridge, and freezer first
I bet if you looked in your pantry, fridge, and freezer right now, you’ll find a handful of things that you completely forgot that you had. And some things may even be expiring or have expired…Yikes!
Throwing away food is the worst because not only are you wasting food but you’re practically throwing away money that you’ve worked so hard for.
In order to avoid that awful situation, make it a part of your routine to check what you have on a regular basis. That way, you can plan your upcoming meals around what you already have.
I promise you that doing this one thing will dramatically reduce the amount of food you waste which means you’ll be saving lots and lots of money!
A good rule of thumb to follow is to clean out your freezer every 2-3 months and fridge/pantry every month or so. This way you don’t forget what’s in there.
I did this recently and found that I had more meats and veggies in the freezer than I remembered. And to ensure that I used everything, I used pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory sheets and crossed off the item as soon as I used it.
2. Meal plan
Meal planning is one of the most important things you can do to save money on food. If you don’t meal plan then you’re definitely leaving money on the table (or in this case the grocery store!).
Meal planning is great because like with anything else you’re more likely to succeed if you have a plan in place. Not only that, you’ll be reducing the amount of food that you waste by planning your shopping trip around the ingredients you already have on hand. This means you only need to buy the few needed ingredients to complete your delicious meal.
Pinterest is one of the best ways to help you build a meal with what you already have. We post a bunch of different recipes (15-minute meals, crockpot cooking, freezer meals, and cheap & easy meal recipes) so follow our board if you’re looking for new ideas!
When you plan in advance, you’re more likely to buy the things you really need so you don’t start aimlessly putting stuff in your cart, which I have been guilty of plenty of times.
Meal planning can be a little intimidating for someone who’s never done it before or if you’ve tried it in the past but couldn’t stick to it. However, we have a great article for anyone new to meal planning. Check it out.
It’s simple with step-by-step instructions that’ll teach you how to meal plan successfully without overwhelming yourself.
Make sure to get our free meal planner in our Resource Library.
Related: 11 Super Easy Money Saving Tips
3. Make a grocery list…and stick to it
Once you meal plan, make your list. I normally keep it in my notes section because I almost always have my phone with me.
Review your list to ensure that you included everything you needed for the week. This way you know exactly what you’re buying. Do not stray away from your list. This step is critical! I repeat, do not stray away from your list!
If you get back from the store and then remember that you forgot to add something to your list, chances are, you’ll be a-okay without it until next week. The only exception to that rule is below.
4. Stock up on sales (within reason)
There’s probably a number of staples you have in your house at all times. For me, we almost always keep rice, broth, and canned tomatoes on hand. Since these are things that we use on a regular basis, I make sure to grab a few when it goes on sale. This way if I do end up running out I’ll already have one readily available. This helps avoid impromptu shopping trips and having to pay full price the next time I need it.
Here are some general rules to follow when building up your stockpile:
- Set a limit on how much money you’ll spend on your stockpile. For instance, some people only allow $10 a week while others give themselves a smaller wiggle room of $5
- Always look at the expiration date. Make sure you’ll be able to use the item before it expires
- Don’t go crazy. No need to stock up on 6 months worth of coffee, or anything for that matter, UNLESS you have coupons that make the item free or end up making you money. It will most likely go on sale again between now and then
5. Use cashback apps to earn money
I love Cashback apps! I get paid money for buying the things I need!
As I’m making my grocery list, I make sure to check out the available offers on the different apps that I have. For the most part, I’m not brand loyal when it comes to food. If I need milk and I see a rebate for the store-branded milk, that’s the one I’ll get as long as the overall price (after using the app) of the milk is cheaper. Some of my favorite cashback apps are Ibotta, Checkout 51, SavingStar, and Fetch Rewards.
These apps have different offers so it’s always worth looking at all or at least a couple of them. If the thought of looking at multiple apps overwhelm you, I recommend starting with Ibotta and Checkout 51 as they have the most grocery items to choose from. Occasionally the apps offer cashback for the same item which means even more savings!
6. Shop around
Instead of ALWAYS shopping at the same store week in and week out, give others a chance.
I’m not saying you should go to 5 different stores every week but don’t be afraid to venture out a little. I used to do all of my grocery shopping at one store. I never even thought about going anywhere else because I was afraid the quality of the products wouldn’t compare. So discount grocery stores were definitely out of the question.
But then I kept hearing about families of 4 spending just as much (or even less) than my husband and I. So I finally ventured out and was surprised to find that the quality was on par (for the most part) with the grocery store I always shopped, even though the prices were much cheaper.
Now, I’m a HUGE fan of Aldi. Even though their selection is smaller, they usually have what I need. Another thing I love about Aldi is that they offer some organics for half the price of traditional grocery stores.
7. Shop alone
If going to the grocery store is a whole family affair try shopping alone (if you can). Why? Other than deserving a little you time (even if it’s for an hour at the grocery store) your kids and significant other can be a distraction and mess up your game.
There are a number of scenarios that could take place like feeling rushed and forgetting to stick to your list or being convinced to buy something you normally wouldn’t. I’ve also found that sometimes things just “magically” appear in my cart and by the time I notice, it’s too late.
8. Buy generic
Did you know that many of the generic products you see at the store are made by the exact same manufacturer that makes the name brand product? Usually, the only difference between the generic and name brand is the price. So unless you just like to pay more for your groceries, you should try the store brand.
If you’ve already given the generic brand a shot and decided that it wasn’t as good, try out another store’s brand. Don’t let one bad experience hold you back from the potential savings opportunity.
Plus, a lot of stores offer a satisfaction guarantee on their products. So it’s a risk-free way for you to try their products. If you dislike their product be sure to return it. If you end up liking their product, then you just found a cheaper alternative going forward.
9. Use coupons
If used correctly, you can get things for super cheap or even free when using coupons. Especially on things like toilet paper, toothpaste, and detergent. If clipping traditional paper coupons aren’t your thing, don’t worry.
Nowadays, there are so many different kinds of coupons to help you save like printable coupons, store coupons, and electronic coupons. Coupons.com offers printable coupons. I like to browse their selection and print them out before I head to the store. Get them here.
A lot of stores offer their own app to help save you money. My grocery store even sends me personalized coupons in the mail for the products that I frequently buy.
On top of the savings that you can get by using coupons, you can save even more by remembering to use the money-saving apps like I mentioned earlier. Sign up for Ibotta and Checkout 51 now before you forget so you can have them ready for your next shopping trip.
Related: 59 Awesome Freebies
10. Watch the register price/Check your receipt
It’s crazy how common items ring up differently than they were advertised. I can’t stress how important it is to pay attention and make sure that each item rings up correctly.
If you do catch a price discrepancy (which I guarantee that you will at some point), the cashier will usually correct it immediately without making you go to customer service (because no one wants that). Some stores even offer the first item that was rung up incorrectly for free. So pay attention!
Also, make it a habit to check your receipt for any duplicates or mistakes before leaving the store. This way, you don’t have to make a special trip back to get it corrected.
Pro Tip: If you have a store rewards card hand it to the cashier before they start ringing you up so you can see everything at the discounted price
11. Shop once a week
When you only allow yourself to shop once a week, you’re cutting down on unnecessary trips to the store where you may be tempted to buy something that isn’t on your list (plus you save on gas).
If you stick to shopping once a week then you force yourself into being prepared because you don’t have the option to go back if you accidentally forgot something.
If you do happen to run out of something, make sure to add it to the list for your next trip. Don’t be tempted to head back to the store unless it is an absolute emergency, like running out of milk for the kids. In that case, put on your blinders and ONLY grab the milk. Nothing else!
12. Focus on seasonal produce
Have you ever noticed that some fruits and veggies taste better/sweeter/fresher sometimes and not so much at other times? It was probably because it was in season.
Not only does your food taste better when it’s in season, but it’s usually cheaper too. Why? Because it’s more affordable to grow and there’s a lot more of it. Also, when things are in season, it’s easier to get locally and it doesn’t have to travel as far to get to your grocery store.
Focusing your menu on the season can help you save money and increase the quality of your produce. Just remember, when it’s more affordable to grow, it’s more affordable to buy. Check out the Seasonal Food Guide to see what’s in season in your area.
13. Grow your own
There’s a lot of advantages to growing your own produce and herbs. It saves you from having to buy them at the store. It doesn’t get fresher than your backyard. And you get a lot of street cred. I mean how cool would it be to make a delicious meal (or side) with things from your own garden?
Unfortunately, it isn’t for everyone. I don’t have a green thumb whatsoever, but luckily I have parents who do and they share their veggies with me.
If you want to be adventurous and give gardening a try, here are some of the easiest veggies to grow.
- Bell Peppers
If you can’t grow your own, see if there is a community garden near you, maybe you know someone who does and would be willing to share with you, or visit your local farmers market.
There are a number of reasons you may want to save money on your groceries. You could be looking to save up for a car or expecting a new baby, but regardless, every penny saved counts. With these tips, you’ll be able to reduce your grocery spending. You don’t have to sacrifice the foods you love or the quality to save on food.
What have you done to save on food?
Related: 100+ Easy Ways To Save In 2019