My weekly shopping trip to the grocery store is always hectic. Just getting my two toddlers out the car and keeping track of them in the store seems like a job in itself #amiright?
I’ve looked into subscribing to meal delivery services but it’s just not affordable once the promotional period ends. So, I’ve tried several different ways to save money on groceries and streamline my grocery shopping experience at the same time. Below are some examples.
1. Use Cash
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to save hundreds on my grocery bills is to use cash. I always suggest others try a cash envelope just for their groceries because when you use cash, you can’t spend more than what you have on hand. You are more likely to avoid impulse purchases and you have to think ahead to the rest of your month too.
You can also geek out and bring a calculator to the store with you. Add up things as you put them in your basket so there are no surprises at the checkout. The benefit of this is that over time, you’ll become more aware of prices and will get a sense of how much your groceries will be at the end of your shopping trip.
2. Use Coupons Or Coupon Apps
If you have the time to clip coupons, it can save you a ton of money at the grocery store. While traditional couponing may take some getting used to, there are many people who are able to save as much as $200 every week.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of couponing the traditional way, you could always try saving money with coupon apps. Apps like Ibotta ($10 for new users!) and Checkout51 make it easy for you to “clip” coupons and save money on the groceries you were going to buy anyway. Ibotta will even deposit rebates in cash via PayPal or Venmo if you follow their instructions. Also, one of my favorite general couponing apps is Coupon Sherpa, and they also have grocery store coupons in addition to coupons for many of your favorite stores.
(SavingStar is another similar program, lauded by the WSJ, Time, Boston Globe and Parents Magazine)
2a. Use Shopping Rewards Apps
I listed this as 2a because it's similar to #2, using a coupon app, but this is specifically for rewards app Drop Rewards. Drop Rewards is a rewards program where you link up a credit or debit card to earn rewards for the spending you're already doing.
It's completely automatic – you spend as you normally would and earn points at the same time. If you get credit card reward points, you get those too. If you're at Starbucks and get Starbucks Stars, you get those too. Then redeem your Drop points for gift cards!
3. Start Meal Planning
Meal planning can be a great money to save hundreds on your grocery bills. Not only is it fairly easy to do, but it can also save you time in the grocery store as well. Since time is money, less time in the grocery store means more time in your day and week. Plus, as I said, I find the grocery store very stressful since I usually have my twin toddlers with me. If I have a nice, organized list, I can often get in and out of the grocery store quickly, provided a kid doesn’t lose a shoe or knock over an entire display of cookies (not like that’s happened to me or anything.)
If you aren’t a fan of meal planning, you could always try a meal planning service like $5 Meal Plan. Meal planning services are cheaper than meal delivery and take out, and you get to have a shopping list ready to go.
With $5 Meal Plan, you can use their pre-set weekly meal plan or their app to build your own. It's a drag and drop planner that lets you pick meals based on sales at your local grocery store. When I use this service in combination with cash envelopes and shopping at an affordable grocery store like Aldi, I save a lot of money each month.
4. Shop Using Store Ads
If you aren’t interested in paying for a meal planning service, you can still mimic their service by planning your shopping trip around store ads. Instead of meal planning based on recipes you want to make that week, instead open up your store ads every weekend and see what’s on sale.
For example, if there is ham on sale, you can decide to make a ham. If black beans are on sale, you can make a chili. By being flexible with the meals you make and shopping based on what’s on sale, you can spend less without sacrificing quality.
5. Buy In Season
Out of season produce is incredibly expensive, and it can be hard when your kids really love one particular thing. For example, my kids love strawberries, but the truth is that buying strawberries in the middle of December just isn’t feasible. I try to get different types of fruits and veggies so they don’t expect to get the same food every single week.
Buying in season is also a great option if you want to start helping support your local community. In the spring and summer, heading to the farmers market is a great way to get affordable, fresh produce. Plus, since you’re buying directly from the farmer, you can often negotiate on the price. An added benefit is that in season produce just tastes better too.
6. Buy Generic
For the most part, generic products will taste very similar to brand products. If you are easing into trying to save money on your grocery bills, buying generic is a simple switch. The great thing is that this doesn’t have to be a permanent change. If you make a switch to generic and don’t like it, go back to buying the name brand the following week (but try to find a coupon to go with it to make it less expensive!)
Ultimately, I know how hard it is to save money on groceries. This has been a pain point for my budget for a very long time. I like buying quality groceries for my kids and like to buy organic when it comes to milk and eggs. However, after regularly spending over $1,000/month on food, I knew I had to get serious. Using cash helps me to cut down on impulse purchases, and meal planning services help me to stay organized. I hope that some of the advice above helps you too. I honestly believe that if you can get the grocery category of your budget under control, many other positive money choices will follow.
What are some of the ways that you cut down on grocery costs? Do you have a favorite money saving app for groceries that I didn’t mention above?