Food can be one of the spendiest areas in your budget if you don't have a handle on your spending. While there are several reasons that your money just disappears while at the grocery store, you are still ultimately in control of how is being spent. You can save a lot of money by just making a few adjustments to your shopping list and routine. You can save even more money by taking charge of your food supply and shopping around a bit.
While I have always been fairly frugal in my grocery shopping, I have easily blown my budget too. I started taking charge of my grocery spending and finding creative ways to lower my costs while increasing my output. These are also ways that I have used to not only save money but to get my food storage started and become more self-sufficient. However, if you are just looking for ways to save money at the store, these tips will help you immensely.
25 Ways To Save Money on Food and Groceries
1. Shop at home. Many people just go to the grocery store out of habit and not because they actually need to get groceries. If you think you need to go to the grocery store, stop a minute. You should take stock of what you have in the fridge and the freezer. More than likely, you can still delay that trip for another day or two.
Bonus Tip: Shop from home. Ordering groceries online can save you money because you won't be tempted with all the deals and offers in the aisles at this store. You can schedule a pick-up time or have them delivered by what services are offered in your area.
2. Shop the loss leaders, clearance aisles, and case lot sales. If an item is on the front or second page of a grocery flyer, that item is on sale at a pretty good price. When you make out a grocery list for the next week, consider what is on sale and incorporate that into your menu plan. When you are grocery shopping, keep an eye on clearance items. You can save a lot of money buying food on clearance.
3. Buy in bulk. If you are feeding a large family or eat something every day, buying in bulk is generally cheaper. One tip to make your bulk goods last longer and be fresher would be to repackage them into jars or resealable containers/bags.
4. Make food from scratch. Processed and convenience foods are definitely handier when in a rush to make a meal, but you spend a lot of money on those foods. They are generally budget killers. Cooking from scratch can save a lot of money. Don't have the time? Spend a few hours on the weekend or one night after supper preparing meals and snacks for the next few days or weeks. Homemade freezer meals also help keep the grocery bill down while providing a good supper for a few nights. Using your slow cooker and your pressure cooker also help provide delicious meals from scratch with little investment.
5. Grow your own herbs. Buying herbs from the store is not a deal-breaker. The mark-up on them can be crazy though. Most herbs are insanely easy to grow on a windowsill in your home. You can start them from seed (very frugal) or buy a plant from the store. With a little love, you will have fresh herbs whenever you want them.
6. Freeze food. Food waste should be a crime, but it still happens. Even at my house! One way to combat this is to freeze food. Most food can be frozen with little problem. You can freeze produce that is about to go bad, leftovers, meat, meals, herbs, cheese, and more. You aren't wasting the food then and you aren't losing money.
Bonus tip: Eat your leftovers! You may get tired of them, but they are just food that is meant to nourish your body. Not every meal is going to be a foodie's dream experience. Get over it and just eat the leftovers.
7. Dehydrate or Preserve your food. If you want to make food ahead of time or just made way too much soup/sauce/whatever, you can usually freeze or preserve it by canning. You might need to use a pressure canner depending on the acidity of your food and whether any meat was involved in the making of the food. You can also dehydrate a lot of foods, but especially herbs, fruits, and vegetables for later use. Dehydrating and canning also come in handy when you score a killer deal in the clearance produce bin.
8. Garden. You can grow a lot of food frugally from a packet of seeds or a few plants from the greenhouse. Yes, getting a garden started can be a little spendy, but your investment usually lasts for years. You can get a lot of food for very little investment after that. You can go even cheaper and just garden in containers or grow in a community plot.
9. Shop at scratch and dent stores. These are not in every area, but if you have one close by, shop at them. They may have a lot of short-dated food, but they also have a lot of overstocked food. They also have food that had a case damaged in transport so the whole pallet was rejected and more. (It's crazy how much food is wasted before it even gets to you in the store!) The savings are usually significant and worth the time/trouble, but you can also lose money by not being cautious. Don't buy food there that you will not eat no matter how good the price is!
10. Glean food. You can find a lot of food for free with a little ingenuity. Orchards, farms, and gardens often have some food they have to throw away because it didn't meet quality standards or no one purchased it in a certain amount of time. Ask if you could pick the product or pick up fallen produce for free.
Side note: Some of you will mention dumpster diving. Yes, you can save a lot of money by dumpster diving. I understand that. It's not something I condone or condemn. You have to do what you have to do sometimes and scoring food for free can literally be a lifesaver.
11. Shop at bakery outlets. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a bakery outlet, by all means, shop there. The products might be a day old, but still delicious and at a significant discount for quality goods.
12. Menu planning. Planning meals is always going to be a money saver. Whether you have a regimented meal schedule or a list of meals for a week, you will have a better idea of what you need to purchase. You can then make your shopping list from the menu plan and save money.
13. Eat less meat and replace that protein with something else. Meat is expensive. It doesn't have to be, but it is at times. Especially if you have meat at every meal. Having a meatless or vegetable-heavy meal 1-2 nights a week will help you save a lot of money on groceries. Mushrooms are cheap and a great substitute for meat in a lot of recipes. Beans and rice can be delicious with the right condiments. Pasta with a vegetable-heavy sauce will be filling and delicious.
14. Prepare cheap meals. You can make a lot of meals for under $2-5 a meal. Incorporating a few cheap meals for lunches or suppers can mean more money back into the budget. Like I already mentioned, rice and beans are delicious when seasoned well and with the right condiments. Casseroles can be super cheap and can also use up leftovers in the fridge. Soup is also cheap and can use up little bits of leftovers and pantry goods.
15. Only shop once a week, twice a month, or once a month. The less you go grocery shopping, the more money you save. If you are used to going several times a week, you are also spending more money. We also have a tendency to impulse buy when we are at the grocery store more than once a week. The key to shopping less is to have a good list with sales wrote down, a list of ingredients you need for meals, and anything you have run out of in the pantry.
16. Get creative when missing ingredients. Your meal is not ruined because you don't have a certain ingredient. Oftentimes, you have a perfect substitute on hand to save the meal. Keep a food substitution list taped to your inside cabinet or do an internet search for food substitutions to save the meal. You can also take the opportunity to try something a little different from a standard meal. You and your family might like the change! However, if you run to the store for that one ingredient, you are spending money on gas and more likely to buy more than that one ingredient. Get creative at home and save money.
17. Always keep certain meals on hand like spaghetti, casseroles, etc. My meals have been saved time and time again by keeping ingredients to certain meals on hand all the time. Things like spaghetti, pasta, pasta sauce, cream soups, canned vegetables, canned meats, beans, rice, and more have saved me money by not running to the store again and not eating out.
Side benefit: You can teach your family to make those same meals that you rely on to save you in a pinch. My daughters could make corn casserole, spaghetti, tacos, chili, and more when they left home. They are simple meals that are easy to make and easy to learn.
18. Always keep some frozen back-ups in the freezer like pizzas, chicken patties, and ravioli. Now, I know what I said about convenience foods, but hear me out. One of the biggest budget killers besides groceries is eating out. Most people end up eating out because they do not have any quick options to cook at home. They had a long day at work or a really stressful day with the kids and do not have the motivation to cook. Keeping some options in the freezer makes that decision as brainless as you want it to be. It takes no time to cook a frozen pizza or heat up some chicken strips and fries. It may not be the healthiest meal, but that meal may only cost $5-8 dollars versus eating out for $20-40.
19. Buy meat from a local source or a meat locker in bulk. Meat is expensive at the store unless you watch the sales like a hawk. Even though the upfront costs can be a little surprising, you will save more money per pound by buying meat in bulk. If you buy a quarter of beef or half of a hog, your cost overall is cheaper per pound than buying at the store. You often will get cuts that you can't afford generally at the store. If you are committed to organic or grass-fed meat, this is hands down a cheaper option than buying at the store where the mark-up is high for those items.
20. Shop at less expensive grocery stores. Places like Aldi and others are generally more bang for your buck. They keep the overhead down and don't offer many frills to keep the prices. If you are fortunate enough to live near one, you should take the opportunity to do most of your grocery shopping there. You can also shop at ethnic grocery stores which generally have ingredients and food at cheaper prices than a regular grocery store.
21. Buy generic, not name brand. Name brand is generally overrated in most items. Generic and store brands are usually cheaper and taste the same. If they don't quite taste the same, the savings are usually worth it.
22. Quit the expensive habits and foods. Soda pop, candy, chips, and anything else premade and processed has a good size mark-up on those prices. You can often find them on sale, but they are still budget killers. Cutting these things out of your diet and not purchasing them will save you a lot of money every week.
23. Keep a stocked pantry. Seriously, keeping your pantry stocked can keep you from running to the store every day and busting your budget. It can help you if you gave guests or need a last-minute dessert. You can make cookies for a fundraiser without spending money at the bakery.
24. Don't shop hungry. It's been said a lot, but it's also the truth. The hungrier you are, the more likely you are to impulse shop which is a budget breaker.
25. Shop with a list, cash, and a calculator. If you struggle to stay on your grocery budget, write a list. Be realistic about your list. Then get the cash together to go to the store. As you are shopping, keep a running tally on your phone or calculator. This will help you know where you are at on your budget and when you need to make some decisions before you get to the register.
Let me know in the comments your favorite places to get groceries and how you save money!
Thanks for reading,