After housing costs, food is probably one of the higher cost budget categories. But there are lots of ways to save big on food costs and slash your grocery bill. It just takes a little planning. Here are twenty tips to help you lower your food bills each month.
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TIP #1: SHOP YOUR PANTRY FIRST
If you haven’t done so in a while, it is important to do a complete inventory of foodstuffs in the kitchen. Go through the cabinets, fridge, freezer, and pantry writing down each and every item. Toss out expired items and place a * next to any that need to be eaten in the next week.
This will not only help you save money by eliminating duplicate purchases, but also by avoiding food waste. Once you get in the habit of utilizing tip number two below this won’t need to be done as often. A simple sniff test in the fridge and double-checking dates on boxes and cans in the pantry should suffice each week.
TIP #2: MAKE A MEAL PLAN AROUND INGREDIENTS THAT NEED TO BE EATEN
Meal planning is a great way to slash your grocery bill and avoid food waste! Make your first meal plan around the food on your inventory list. Choose meals in which you already have the majority of ingredients needed. You can also check out my recipe page for more dinner ideas.
If you want more tips on meal planning I also have a YouTube video breaking down how to get started!
TIP #3: MAKE A LIST – AND CHECK IT TWICE!
Once you have your meal plan settled on, make a list of items still needed. Be sure to include breakfast and lunch options that don’t take a lot of time to prepare so that you’re not pressed for time in the mornings and tempted to rush through the drive-thru if you didn’t prepare anything the night before.
TIP #4: DON’T GO SHOPPING HUNGRY
This one is so simple and yet so effective! It really does help eliminate impulse purchases if you’ve already eaten prior to stepping foot in the grocery store.
Otherwise, you’re apt to end up walking out with a snack, a soda, and food from the deli or convenience section for dinner that evening if you’re not careful. No judgment, it’s happened to me too! Just make sure you go shopping on a full tummy. At least have a snack at home beforehand to avoid a weak moment.
TIP #5: AVOID CONVENIENCE FOODS TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL
It’s true what they say; you really do pay more for convenience! The convenience of purchasing prepared produce can easily double the cost of what should be an inexpensive food item. By taking a few minutes when you get home from the grocery store to wash and prepare any fruits and veggies you like to have chopped or sliced will save you money at the store and time when preparing meals.
I also find the sooner I slice open that cantaloupe or wash that head of lettuce the more likely we are to eat it before it goes bad. So this little step can save you time and money in more ways than one!
TIP #6: GRAB NEXT WEEK’S SALE AD ON YOUR WAY OUT THE DOOR
Admittedly, a lot of items featured in the store’s weekly flyer aren’t exactly pantry staples, but there are good deals on meat and other essential categories from time to time.
Just skip over the special buys in housewares and home organization and you’ll be fine! It amazes me how many extra categories the grocery stores have! Do that many people really buy socks at the grocery store?
TIP #7: STOCK UP ON PANTRY STAPLES SO YOU CAN COOK FROM SCRATCH
We save a lot of money on groceries by cooking more from scratch; items such as bread, tomato sauce, soups, and meatballs are so unbelievably easy to cook from scratch. They also taste yummy and can be healthier for you because they do not contain the additives and preservatives store-bought items might.
It does take more time to prepare bread, but most of that time is just spent letting the dough rise. I can get lots of other things done in the meantime if I plan my baking time out in advance.
Simply keeping flour, bread flour, active yeast, olive oil, sugar, brown sugar, seasoned bread crumbs, broth, and tomato sauce opens up a lot of possibilities with little money spent. It can be really easy to make your own broth as well. I haven’t done it myself yet; our vegetable scraps typically end up in the compost pile.
It’s also a good idea to keep a stock of uncooked pasta on hand. I like to keep egg noodles, spaghetti, and penne or rotini stocked in our kitchen for easy meals. You can choose organic, gluten-free, and even vegetable pasta, so there is typically something available to work with a particular diet.
Personally I love the idea of hiding vegetables or new grains anywhere I can, so I am always up to try a red lentil rotini or vegetable-based spaghetti pasta. Anything to make a meal healthier without being obvious to the kids is a win in my book!
TIP #8: PLAN MORE MEATLESS MEALS TO SAVE BIG
Our kids prefer cereal or bagels for breakfast. I typically have a small breakfast or just stick to coffee till lunchtime. My husband typically doesn’t eat breakfast as he is out the door before 6 AM and doesn’t always have an appetite that early.
I’ve started opting out of adding a second protein and instead of scrambling with ground meat I like to cook it over easy and eat over a slice of homemade bread or on its own. Bacon and eggs is still a nice treat when the whole family is home for breakfast/
You don’t have to go completely meatless to save money; simply controlling portions better and getting creative can help cut costs and be better for your health. If you’re working with ground beef you can reduce the amount of beef and supplement with black beans.
Something as simple as cutting the meat and mixing it in with the pasta can also help reduce the amount eaten compared to eating a whole steak, pork chop, or chicken breast with a side of pasta. Adding more vegetables in soups can help stretch your dollar further as well.
A nice salad in a jar is a tasty and visually satisfying lunch option. Throw in sunflower seeds or chickpeas for a little added crunch.
Substituting beef with ground turkey is also a very effective way to save money. We cook mostly with ground turkey and I love the fact that it takes less time to cook and typically doesn’t need to be drained. It’s also less fattening.
Fish makes a great weekly substitute for meat as well. Our family enjoys tuna casserole or salmon patties from time to time. Occasionally I will fix fried rice with shrimp instead of chicken.
TIP #9: SHOP IN-SEASON PRODUCE TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL
It saves to shop in-season. And while it may seem that everything is always in season consider how far that produce had to travel to get to the grocery store you bought it from. If it is out-of-season locally you can bet that you are paying for every mile it had to travel.
Save yourself the money, make your choice a more environmentally friendly one, and only buy in-season produce. It’ll probably taste better as well! I can’t wait for the spring gardening season to be here! We have our garden plot plowed up. While there is a lot of prep work to get ready, we will save quite a bit of money this summer by eating out of our own garden.
Local produce stands and farmer’s markets are also great places to buy fresh, in-season produce. Just be mindful of the cost. Sometimes they are pricier than the grocery store, but they’re usually better quality and you get to meet the person who planted it!
TIP #10: USE CASH IF YOU TEND TO GO OVER BUDGET
If you have a tendency to walk in a grocery store with a list and the best of intentions and walk out with a receipt that totals up much more than budgeted making this a cash envelope budget category might be the ticket.
You can’t spend cash you don’t have. Leave the debit card at home and go to the grocery store with your list and your cash envelope. ONLY have the budgeted amount for groceries that week in the envelope. Holding up the line once or twice asking the cashier to remove certain items until you’re back in the budget may be just the kick you need to get it under control.
Once you have a habit of walking out with a little cash left (starting with a practical amount of course) you can try swiping the debit card again.
TIP #11: UTILIZE GROCERY PICKUP WHERE POSSIBLE
If getting to the grocery store in the first place is a chore it may be beneficial to try grocery pickup. Most stores that offer this service do not charge. Simply sign in online or an app, add the items needed to the cart, and see a running total. This can help slash your grocery bill and keep you from having to get out of the car!
If you are headed over budget simply go back to your cart and make adjustments necessary. This can be especially handy when you have small children that make grocery shopping trips more of a… challenge.
No need to worry about little ones whining about not getting that sugary cereal or any of a number of items at the checkout; just pull into the designated parking spot at your appointed time and they’ll bring your groceries to your car!
TIP #12: ONLY BUY FOODS YOU KNOW YOU CAN/WILL PREPARE
Most of us have been there at one time or another; you go to the grocery store and buy lots of healthy items for new and exciting dishes to prepare at home. Then reality hits.
You’re tired when you get home from work and don’t want to take the time to figure out a new recipe. You need to pull out the dictionary to even understand the instructions. Takeout or pizza delivery just sounds so much easier at this point, doesn’t it?
So the week goes by and those fancy grocery items are still in your fridge. The next week goes by as well, and the next, until you guessed it – into the trash can or compost heap goes all that wasted food… and money.
Why do we do that to ourselves? I’ve found that picking tried and true recipes and only trying one or two new ones every month or so makes things so much easier. It also increases the chances my kids will eat whatever I’ve prepared for them. Lesson learned there.
TIP #13: SHOP THE PERIMETER OF THE STORE TO TRIM YOUR WAISTLINE TOO!
Typically you walk through a grocery store and find that the fresh items are found along the perimeter. You can get produce, dairy and meats here. This should be where you spend the majority of your time. Just avoid the corner where the convenience foods are stored! They’re sneaky.
There is an exception to this; we shop at a store that conveniently places snacks on the perimeter. Of the main aisle when you walk in. As I said, they’re sneaky, right? We’ve learned what we like to get on a regular basis and where it is. I grab what I need and keep the cart rolling through this section!
The middle aisles of the store contain boxed foods, snacks, toiletries, and paper products, as well as special buys. Just stick to the list and get out of these aisles as quickly as you can! This is sure to help slash the grocery bill when you get to the register.
TIP #14: LOOK AWAY FROM THE ITEMS BY THE REGISTER SO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL!
Chances are you don’t need any of the items stocked at the register! Read that again. You probably don’t need any of them. The store knows that too. They’re trying to entice you to buy more at literally the last second possible.
Who doesn’t need batteries? Hand sanitizer? A snack? Shopping made you hungry, didn’t it? Here, have some granola. A chocolate bar? Cold coffee or soda? No, no, and no! You ate before you started, remember? It is crucial to your budget that you only put items already in your cart on that conveyor belt! You’re almost done! Stay strong! Now is not the time to lose focus.
TIP #15: BRING YOUR OWN SHOPPING BAGS
This isn’t true everywhere, but some stores offer you a little cash back for each bag you bring in. It isn’t a lot, but it does add up and makes for a good incentive to remember to return the bags to your car each week.
I prefer using my own bags anyway; I’d rather reuse my own bags than have to toss or store and then drag them off to recycle every single week.
TIP #16: BATCH COOK FAVORITE MEALS BY BUYING COMMONLY USED INGREDIENTS IN BULK
This is one I need to do more often! Buying bigger containers can save you some money. I find it cheaper to buy three-pound packages of ground turkey. It also makes it convenient to prep two batches of dishes we eat often like meatloaf and toss one in the freezer. This saves me time and money.
The key to buying in bulk is to make sure you will use it. Don’t buy just anything in bulk because it is cheaper. It’s not saving any money if it goes bad before you get around to it.
It also isn’t very convenient if you buy things in bulk and then have nowhere to store them. Do you really need to buy 100 rolls of toilet paper at once? I’d rather buy a smaller package that fits under the bathroom sink every other week.
TIP #17: SAVE MONEY AND AVOID FOOD WASTE BY EATING YOUR LEFTOVERS
I build in one or two leftover nights into the weekly meal plan depending on the menu. If there’s something we love to eat I might make a little more to ensure we have it a second time later in the week.
During the winter months, soups and other hot dishes like chicken and dumplings are great to reheat the next day. Stick them in a thermos for a warming lunch at work or school. This cuts down on waste and makes a nice change from the usual packed lunch.
TIP #18: SHOP DISCOUNT GROCERS SUCH AS ALDI TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL
I shop almost entirely at Aldi and it saves our family a lot of money every month. We’ve trimmed our grocery bill down at least $100 a month by changing grocery stores. Yes, you read that right. How’s that for slashing the grocery bill?
I used to spend considerably more money on groceries when we shopped at the larger supercenter. There are also so many more opportunities for impulse purchases to wind up in the cart at a supercenter.
Once a smaller neighborhood market opened in our town we started shopping there. The selection went down compared to the supercenter, but the prices went up! We decided to give Aldi another chance.
I still make one or two trips to the smaller neighborhood market a month for items we can’t or won’t buy at Aldi (phone card for hubby, bread flour, and shrimp come to mind), but the majority of our shopping is done at the discount grocery store.
TIP #19: SKIP THE ONE-TIME-USE PRODUCTS
I’ve already talked about this before, but stop buying one-time-use paper products! They seem cheap, but they’re really just a waste of money and they end up in the landfill.
Use cloth napkins or tea towels at mealtime and beeswax food wraps to cover leftovers. There are all sorts of frugal and sustainable alternatives to one-time-use products. You can find several of my favorite reusable alternatives here.
TIP #20: USE CASHBACK AND REBATE APPS TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL
Technically you’ll spend the money and then get some back, but a little money back on planned purchases is better than nothing, right? I like to scan my receipts into Fetch Rewards and check Ibotta for deals after I’ve completed my shopping. Click here for my referral links and more information.
I do this after I go shopping so I don’t end up spending more money just to get a little cashback. That is counterproductive in the long run.
Couponing is another way to save money at the grocery store. I don’t personally do this since I don’t use a lot of name brand items. Again, it seems counterproductive to my current methods.
USE THESE TIPS THE NEXT TIME YOU GROCERY SHOP AND YOU WILL SAVE MONEY
These are pretty simple, but very effective tips when it comes to saving money on food costs. Using these in combination with the no-spend challenge will help maximize your savings and progress on your financial goals! Continuing to use them will only help increase those savings!
What are you waiting for? Take inventory, start meal planning, and start saving money on your groceries this week! If you want a free meal plan delivered to your inbox every week subscribe to the blog and I’ll send you seven dinner ideas each Meal Plan Monday. To make it even easier print out the meal plan and write your shopping list in the space provided! I’ll even provide some of the recipes!
Stay tuned for more tips to help save money and make the no-spend challenge a little easier.