27 Super-Useful Ways to Save Money on Groceries

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We all know spending less is the key to living a frugal life. But finding ways to save money without sacrificing your sanity isn’t always so easy, especially when it comes to grocery shopping.

Spending money on food is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to break your budget. There are ways to save money at the grocery store and still eat well.

27 Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

Cutting down your grocery bill will free up money that you can use for other things.

Whether you’re looking to get out of debt, build your retirement savings, or get enough money to pay for a family vacation, you’ve come to the right place.

Before you go

1. Check your budget

The key to saving money on anything is to spend less than we make, and you can only do that with a budget.

Setting up a budget to track your spending will let you know at a glance how much money you have available to avoid overspending on groceries.

2. Inventory your cupboards

How many times have you gotten home only to discover you already had four cans of tomato sauce in your cupboard?

Check your pantry and refrigerator to see what you have and cross it off your list. There’s no sense in spending money on food you already have. 

It’s also a good idea to inventory your garden for ripe produce so it doesn’t go to waste. 

3. Use a grocery store rebate app

Finding time to clip coupons is impossible. But you can save money on groceries with an app like Ibotta if you’re in the USA.

Cashing in on grocery store rebates for products you’re going to buy anyway is an easy way to cut costs without sacrificing a lot of time.

You can get a $10 Welcome Bonus when you join Ibotta – read more here.

4. Plan your meals

If you already know what you’re having for dinner, you won’t waste money by making frequent trips to the store.

Plus, planning meals around your schedule means no more drive-thru dinners or take-out lunches at work, and that saves you money, too.

5. Make a list

No matter how good your memory is, chances are that you’ll miss something.

Writing out a grocery list will make sure you don’t forget things you need, and it will stop you from buying the stuff you don’t.

6. Go less often.

Limit your grocery shopping trips to once a week or once a month to better plan your shopping strategy. Shopping less often will also cut down on the temptation to buy impulse items.

7. Consider a wholesale membership

Wholesale shopping clubs like Costco and Sams Club sell foods in higher quantities, and buying in bulk usually means you pay less overall.

Take a look at the store advertisements to check the prices of products you typically buy and compare it to your regular grocery store.

Often, you can save more than enough to make up for the cost of the annual membership fee – a great frugal tip.

8. Leave the kids at home

It’s easier to stay on track when you shop alone.

Kids (and sometimes partners!) will always ask for items that aren’t on the list, and buying extra things you don’t need will eat up your grocery budget.

Leaving the kids at home means you can focus on what you need to buy, and that will save you money.

9. Eat something

Shopping when you’re hungry is a recipe for disaster. Everything looks delicious when you go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, and you’ll end up putting more in your cart.

Eat something before you go and carry mints to help curb your hunger.

At the store

10. Shop at discount grocery stores

Don’t be afraid to shop at discount stores to save money on groceries.

Their supply might be limited, but they still feature the same types of merchandise you’d find in a supermarket, like produce, milk, frozen food, and hygiene products.

Some will even accept manufacturer’s coupons, but if they don’t, the low prices make it worth the trip.

11. Buy generic

Skipping the name-brand national labels is an excellent way to save money while grocery shopping.

Why pay more for a can of green beans just because it has a fancy logo on it? Value-brand labels offer the same product but come at a lower cost.

12. Don’t shop at eye level

There’s a strategy when it comes to placing items on the shelf, and companies pay top dollar to have their product at eye level.

Putting it directly in your line of sight makes you more likely to buy that item, and you’ll spend less if you don’t shop at eye level.

13. Join a loyalty program

Grocery stores value return customers and will offer discounts for joining their loyalty program. By giving you rewards for shopping at their store, you can save money and get access to better savings and promotions.

You might get a 5% discount on everything you buy or qualify for free shipping if you shop online by joining a store’s loyalty program.

14. Add up costs while you shop

Use a calculator to add up your total as you add items to your cart.

Keeping track of how much you’re spending as you go will help you stick to your budget.

Whether you bring a calculator with you or use the one on your smartphone, knowing what you’re spending will guide you toward better choices in the store and cut your grocery bill.

15. Learn sales cycles

Almost every single item in the store is on a six-week sales cycle. To get the most savings, buy products when they’re at their lowest price and get enough to last until the next sale.

Keeping a price book to record the cost of products you buy regularly will let you know at a glance when you should stock up to get the best deals.

16. Buy in bulk

Buying larger packages usually means you pay less per unit. For instance, the price of a one or two-pound package of ground beef might cost more per pound than if you bought the larger, five-pound package.

The same is true for shampoo and paper products – buying in bulk almost always means you’ll get a better price.

17. Use the right payment method

You could pay using cash or your debit card, but most credit cards offer decent rewards programs that you can use to your advantage.

Some credit cards give you 5% cash back on grocery spending, and those rewards can add up to free airfare and hotels, or you can exchange them for gift cards to your favorite stores.

18. Don’t pay for convenience

Convenience costs us money, and putting a little more time into our food preparation can shave tons of cash off your grocery bill.

Skip the bottled water and pre-cut food, and buy the box of powdered Jelly mix instead of the premade cups.

19. Avoid impulse purchases

Sticking to a list at the grocery store isn’t always easy. Everything from the placement of packages on the shelf to the upbeat music coming through the speakers is designed to entice you to spend more money at the grocery store.

Even if you resist that temptation, the checkout aisle is filled with impulse items that can sneak into the cart if you’re not careful.

20. Put back items at the last minute

If you did succumb to a few impulse purchases and find things in your cart that weren’t on your list, there’s no shame in putting them back.

When you get to the checkout counter, tell the cashier you changed your mind and ask her to please return it to the shelf for you.  You’ll save a little money by doing this, and that can add up to hundreds in savings throughout the year.

21. Don’t buy more than you need

Unless the item is on sale at a rock-bottom price, don’t buy more than you need. Having too much food can lead to it going bad before you can use it.

Check the expiration date on products and never buy more than you can eat before it expires. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money away.

After shopping

22. Check your receipt

Computerized scanners and registers have eliminated a lot of errors, but they aren’t always accurate. Take a look at your receipt to make sure you weren’t charged twice for certain products.

23. Submit your receipt to Ibotta

Since you added offers to your account before you went to the grocery store, now is the time to redeem them. Open the Ibotta app and snap a photo of your receipt to get cash back on groceries.

You’ll find the money in your account within 48 hours, and you can use it to buy gift cards or transfer it to your PayPal or Venmo account to spend on whatever you want.

24. Do some food prep

Doing a little preparation now when you have the time will help you use up your food before it goes bad.

You can separate vegetables and other snacks into individual containers to make it easy to grab and go or put together some freezer meals for a quick weeknight dinner.

25. Store food properly

Proper food storage is key to making it last longer, and that gives you more time to use it up before the expiration date.

Putting your bread in the refrigerator will keep it from growing mould so quickly, and using produce bags for your fresh fruits and vegetables will help preserve them longer.

26. Track your use of products

Making a note of how frequently you use up products can help you save money. If you know how long certain items will last, you can stock up on them when you find them on sale.

27. Update your budget

Now that you’ve spent money on groceries, it’s time to update your budget.

Whether it’s written on paper, in a spreadsheet, or logged in an app, add the amount you spent on this shopping trip under your grocery budget category to keep your budget on track.

Saving money on groceries isn’t rocket science. But before you decide any of these tips aren’t for you, give them a try.

And if you do nothing else, planning your meals and making a list ahead of time is the best way to cut your spending.

Related: Does Target Take EBT? What You Need to Know

About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.