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. Sign up for Drop
Drop is an app wher eyou link up your credit and debit cards to earn bonuses from brands as you shop. It's seamless, free, and you don't have to click on an offer before it's loaded into your account. It's always loaded. It's like a reward program that spans stores so you earn points no matter what.
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 Shopkick and make it easy for you to “clip” coupons and save money on the groceries you were going to buy anyway. It 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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?
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Dave E says
Buy meat in family pac and repackage and freeze.smaller portions that can be used as needed. you must repackage before freezing. You can save by buying a whole boneless pork loin for instance and cut chops from it. A whole loin will make over 20 thick boneless pork chops and they are often on sale for less than $2.00 per pond. Look for turkeys and hams the week after a holiday. They are often on sale for 1/3 of the pre-holiday price and can be frozen of cooked later. Just plan to use it fairly soon. By bacon on sale and freeze it. Most bacon brands are the same just wrapped in different packaging. Think milk – not much difference. Eggs will keep for weeks so stock up when prices are low. Buy rice in large bags and put it in a jar. Pet food and coffee can be purchased sales tax free and shipped free at some on-line sites. Automatic shipping can also be used to ship monthly and save more.
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
These are great ideas! We usually buy generic brands, look for sales, and avoid snacks as much as we can. We usually shop at Great Wall (Chinese grocery store) and Costco where we buy fresh food and fruit rather than processed products. 🙂
Yes I do the same thing! Oriental grocery stores like Chinese, Indian or Vietnam stores always have more variety of produce and even cheaper and fresher than Costco. and it is fun to try something I’ve never seen before.
Pam Porter says
The only problem I can think of when shopping generically, is all of the genetically modified food. I have digestive issues which do best with organic, but fine with non-gmo. My parents accused me of being a “fussy eater,” but that wasn’t it at all.
beth white says
Most of the grocery stores have the regular private label and a slightly higher priced (but still cheaper than name brand) line of organic and GMO free also
Thank you for your tips! I agree with you that making a plan is essential so you can eat everything you buy instead of tossing food in garbage can. Buying in bulk like in Costco can save you money but can also waste your money if you don’t plan ahead, especially for fresh produce that can’t freeze. I’d like to add a couple more:
1. Always look at unit price instead of the total price, it is much easier to compare price between different package sizes and brands.
2. Make meal plans based on nutrition categories(protein, vegetable with different color etc). For example, deep greens, I will choose the cheapest dark greens in store, like kale or spinach, and usually the on sale items are in season. So I can eat cheap and healthy. Usually I only buy $2 or less/per pound fresh produce and never lack of variety.
Since I’m a disabled veteran, I get paid once per month and so sometimes buy myself gift cards to grocery stores. I usually buy 4-5 gift cards and divide the money I would spend that month on groceries into weekly amounts, with one extra week’s worth. Some weeks all of the card balance is used, some weeks very little or none of the allotted money is spent, so it’s saved for either the next month or if something special is on sale during the present month.
Mike Collins says
I’ve become a big fan of coupon apps like Ibotta. If you can stagger the savings with manufacturer coupons and store sales you can get amazing deals and even get items for free.
I am vehemently anti-coupon. I used to be all about coupons, but I realized that the psychological effects of them just manipulate me into buying unhealthy pre-packaged foods and thinking it’s normal to pay $4 for a pack of fruit snacks. It’s cheaper to buy a sack of potatoes and some oil than it is to get a dollar off a bag of frozen fries.
I’ve written about this at length on my own blog, but the long and the short of it is that the CDC did a study which found that vast majority of coupons are for desserts, snacks, and sugary beverages. They also found that clipping coupons influenced shoppers towards making unhealthier choices.
My preferred way of saving at the grocery store is to think in terms of dollars-per-calorie and dollars-per-nutrition. I have a few recipes which are high on both (potatoes, rice, beans, veggies, chicken, pork) which I make into ready-for-work freezer meals on Sunday afternoons 🙂
Your tips are 100% spot on! 🙂
Jim Wang says
Jim, great post and enjoyed the comments from everybody. I tried ibotta for a while but eventually gave up on it. I think the number one thing you should do is create a list of the things you really need before you head out. If you do that you’ll lower the temptation of getting something that happens to be on sale. I recognize sometimes you might miss certain items on your list but it should not be a lot. The next thing we do is buy generic but we check the nutrition table in the back just to make sure we stay away from crappy stuff. The other item that might create healthy conflict is using a grocery-specific credit card like Amex’s Blue Cash Preferred which gives you 6% cash back on your shopping. As long as you have the discipline to use this card just for things you need then you might get the benefit that comes with it. FYI the 6% one has an annual fee but I think the Blue Cash everyday gives you 3% cash back with no fee.
Mr. Hammocker says
Thanks for the great insights. I recently started using the Ibotta app and it starts to add up. Marketers want us to believe that their brand is the best. Billions of dollars are spent trying to convince us that their brand is better than the generic store brand. In some cases, there is some quality difference. But it is usually not worth the extra money to buy the name brand item.
Louis Borrego says
Has anyone used Trim?
Kathy Fuller says
Today I got 1.32lb of strawberries for the price of a16 oz. package. This method occured to me awhile ago when I was choosing a bag of onions. I wondered if the pre bagged produce was reall the weight specified and how could they make them all weigh the same. Well they can’t make them all weigh the same without a lot of fuss, so they pretty much just toss in items till they see about the righ weight, I used the scale in the produce dept to weigh several bags of onions, not all of them of course, I’m not that obsessive. I found significant differences in weight. All over the specified weight but some heavier than others by as much as 4 or 5 ounces.
So today looking over the strawberry packs for the best looking berries I had the impression that some “felt” heavier than others. I took several packs to the scale and sure enough they weighed in at 1.15#, 1.25#, and 1.32#. Since they are priced at 2.50 per package (16oz) I was able to get 30% more for my money.
So next time you are looking to buy pre bagged produce (potatoes, apples, oranges, berries, etc) take several packages over to the scale and look for the heaviest