If you want to save money on groceries, you have to be more strategic about the way you shop.
Groceries are one of the biggest expenses for most Americans and the costs can vary significantly from month-to-month. But with a few minutes of planning and organization every week, you can put a lot of money back into your pocket.
In this article, I’ll share my 10 best grocery savings tips that you can apply no matter where you buy groceries. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents:
- Set a Monthly Grocery Budget
- Check Weekly Sale Ads for 2 Grocery Stores
- Make a List Based on Sale Items
- Plan Your Meals for the Week
- Build a Stockpile of Nonperishable Foods
- Buy Frozen When Fresh Is Overpriced
- Keep 3 ICOE Meals in Your Freezer
- Check Ibotta and Fetch Rewards for Offers
- Stick to Your Shopping List at the Store
- Pay With a Rewards Credit Card to Earn Cash Back
1. Set a Monthly Grocery Budget
The first step to save money on groceries is to make a budget for the month. If you’re going to the grocery store every week and filling up your cart without knowing how much you have to spend, get yourself on a budget ASAP. To start, look at your grocery receipt from the past week and multiply it by four. That will give you a rough monthly budget. Once you implement some of the other tips in this article, you may be able to adjust it down next month. If you’re just getting started with budgeting, here’s a step-by-step tutorial of the method that I use.
2. Check Weekly Sale Ads for 2 Grocery Stores
Next, gather the weekly circulars for at least two supermarkets in your area. These sale ads are often delivered to your mailbox, but you can also find them on your grocery store’s website. You want to check the ads for at least two stores to compare prices. The ads are how I’ve learned over time what’s a good price for milk, eggs, bread, chicken and the other supermarket staples. By reviewing these ads regularly, you’ll also learn how often particular items are on sale and can stock up accordingly. Monitoring at least two sale ads may lead you to question your store loyalty and switch to a store with lower prices.
3. Make a Grocery List Based on Sale Items
The third strategy to save money on groceries is to build your list around the sale items. You’ll need to refer to the weekly sale ads from the previous step to do this. I keep my weekly grocery list on my smartphone and put an asterisk next to items that are on sale. When I’m making the list, I try to include as many sale items as possible. This requires a bit of flexibility when it comes to your weekly menu, but the savings are worth it.
4. Plan Your Meals for the Week
If you don’t plan your meals for the week, you may have to make additional trips to the grocery store that will cost you time and money. That’s why I like to use the grocery list from step three to put together a sample menu for the upcoming week. Getting organized before shopping not only saves me time, it helps speed up my meal prep sessions. I usually prep my meals twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays. When you’re planning your meals, make sure to account for any lunch or dinner dates where you’ll be eating out.
5. Build a Stockpile of Nonperishable Foods
The fifth tip to save money on groceries is to stock up on nonperishable foods and other household essentials when they’re at a deep discount. Things like pasta, beans, soup, coffee and condiments have a long shelf life. You can save a lot of money by monitoring the weekly sale ads and purchasing nonperishable foods only when they’re on sale. Once you develop this habit, you’ll never pay full price for these items again.
6. Buy Frozen When Fresh Is Overpriced
Fresh meat and produce make up a good portion of my food budget. Although I try to build my menu around the sale ads, there are inevitably going to be a few non-sale items that I want to purchase. In these cases, you may be able to find deals in the frozen foods section to substitute for fresh foods. As with nonperishable foods, I keep a reasonable stockpile of frozen vegetables and fruits that come in handy a couple of times a week.
7. Keep 3 ICOE Meals in Your Freezer
I’m sticking with frozen foods for my seventh money-saving tip. In addition to the frozen vegetables and fruits, I stock my freezer with a few ICOE (In Case of Emergency) meals. How does this save money on groceries? I reach for these meals when there’s a gap in my meal prepping and I just don’t feel like cooking. These ICOE meals keep me from getting takeout, which is typically more expensive and unhealthy. The key to the ICOE meals is to buy things that you like, not love. Here’s why: If your favorite brand of frozen pizza is your ICOE meal, you might be tempted to eat it right away. Instead, purchase ICOE meals that are similar to what you would cook on a normal weeknight.
8. Check Ibotta and Fetch Rewards for Offers
I’ve earned more than $4,000 cash back over the last several years by uploading my grocery receipts to Ibotta and Fetch Rewards. These are separate apps, but you can use them together for the same grocery receipt. After I’m done building my grocery list around the sale ads, I open up these apps and review their offers. Many times, there will be an offer for something that’s already on my list. After I select the offers that appeal to me, I mark “Ibotta” and “Fetch” next to the items on my grocery list as a reminder. While in the store, I open up the apps to double-check that the item on my list is eligible. Both apps are great, but you’ll earn more with Ibotta than Fetch Rewards. There are typically welcome bonuses for new users. Here’s how to get started!
9. Stick to Your Shopping List at the Store
If you’ve done all of the prep work that I’ve outlined so far, don’t let it go to waste at the store. Stick to a written or digital shopping list as much as possible. To avoid the temptation of impulse buys, eat something before you head to the grocery store. I firmly believe that shopping on an empty stomach leads to a higher bill. For those who really struggle with this, consider grocery pickup or delivery. Many stores are offering those services. The only downside is that there may be an extra fee involved.
10. Pay With a Rewards Credit Card to Earn Cash Back
My final tip to save money on groceries is to pay with a rewards credit card at checkout. My card of choice is Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, which awards 6% back at U.S. supermarkets. When I researched the best credit cards for groceries, this was the clear winner. However, you may already have a good alternative in your wallet. Chase Freedom and Discover it typically offer 5% back at grocery stores for at least three months out of the year. Of course, paying for groceries with a credit card is only an effective strategy if you don’t carry a balance. For those who are in credit card debt, pay cash instead. You may find that ditching plastic altogether is a more effective way to lower your grocery bill.
If you follow these strategies, you may be able to cut your grocery bill by as much as half. But don’t feel like you have to follow all 10 strategies to be successful. These are the tips that work for me. You can pick and choose the ones that you want to apply to your life and still free up money in your budget.
Have you been able to cut your grocery bill? Share your money-saving tips in the comments below!
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