Feeding your family a healthy diet can be incredibly expensive. The average cost of groceries for a family of four enjoying a healthy diet ranges from $146 to $289 per week, which can add up to more than $15,000 per year.
For comparison, the US median household income is $57,617. Thus, the average American family could be spending more than a quarter of its income each year just on groceries.
While groceries can be a big financial burden, they can also be a surprising source of savings. With a few changes to your shopping style, you could save big at the store. Here’s 23 ways how to save money on groceries.
Before you buy
Preparation is the name of the game. Before you hit the grocery store, you need to make sure that you’ve done your homework and set yourself up for savings success.
1. Take a full inventory of your kitchen once a month
Over 30% of the US food supply goes to waste every year. That adds up to well over $150 billion annually in wasted food. Be a part of the solution and waste as little food as possible.
Once a month, take the time to do a full inventory of your kitchen, pantry, freezer, and refrigerator to get a sense of what you have and what you don’t have. By taking inventory, you’ll prevent yourself from buying products you don’t need while keeping an updated record of what you’ll need to replace soon.
2. Proactively find items that are about to expire and use them
As you’re making your inventory, make a record of expiration dates as well. If something is going to expire soon, make a note of it. You might even have a special spot in your pantry or refrigerator for soon-to-expire items. Once you’ve gathered these items, commit yourself to using them before they go bad. Recipe search engines that allow you to plug in available ingredients can help you come up with ideas.
3. Consult the ads to see what’s on sale before you make your list
Supermarket ads are like a secret message from your savings guardian angel. They’re not just trying to sell you more stuff; they help the grocery stores move the products they need to get rid of, ASAP.
As such, these ads are full of incredible, timely deals. While some might just be limited-time offers, others are “loss leaders” that cut prices below cost just so the grocery store can get you in the building.
Most people make the mistake of only consulting these ads after they’ve made their lists, which drastically reduces their chances of saving. If you structure your list around the ad, though, you’ll be better poised to take advantage of the best deals on offer.
4. Make a comprehensive list so you don’t need to make multiple trips per week
Make sure your list is comprehensive. If you end up having to stop back at the store multiple times per week, you are likely to make impulse purchases that undermine your carefully planned savings goals.
The best way to ensure your list is comprehensive is to plan your meals and snacks for the week. This upfront effort allows you to structure your shopping with confidence.
5. Identify your most expensive purchases and find substitutes
As you’re making your list, grab your latest grocery store receipt and find the most expensive items on the list. Some of them might be necessities, but you may be able to find cheaper substitutes for others. For instance, ground turkey tends to cost less than ground beef, and it might be healthier for you anyway.
At the very least, this exercise will make you more conscious of just how much each purchase contributes to your total, inspiring you to be even more frugal.
6. Keep an eye out for common price fluctuations and buy at the bottom
The prices for most items that you buy at the grocery store fluctuate according to sales cycles and seasonality. By tracking these cycles, you can ensure that you buy what you need at the lowest price possible.
To track these sales cycles, keep a price book. Log the prices of your most common and most expensive items, including the price, date, and size. You can also use the weekly ad to fill out your price book.
Keep up with this for a while and you’ll have a running list of price fluctuations for the items that are important to you. While some prices might stay the same, others should follow a predictable pricing cycle that you can exploit. If you buy enough of each item at the bottom of the pricing cycle to last you for the entirety of the cycle, you can be certain you’ll never overpay.
7. Use the Internet to supercharge your couponing
Couponing used to be such an intensive endeavor that TLC made shows about it. With the Internet, you don’t need to go to extremes to find savings. A quick Google search for coupons should yield tons of couponing sites that make finding savings for your local supermarket a breeze.
8. Find the store with the best prices for your staples
While your grocery bill varies week-to-week, you probably buy the same handful of items every time you go. What you might not realize is that the prices for staples such as bread, milk, and meat can vary dramatically depending on the store.
Do some reconnaissance and check out the prices for your staples at all your local grocery stores. Make a list and tally up what each store would charge you for these essential items. If you find significant savings at a nearby grocery store, make the switch.
What you buy
If you’re shopping for a family, you might not feel like you have a great deal of flexibility in what you buy. You know what your family likes, and you’re set in your routine. That said; great savings exist if you’re willing to change your mindset.
9. Buy by weight, not by sticker price
Sticker price can be misleading. A lower sticker price doesn’t necessarily reflect a lower absolute price for an item, just that the item is cheaper in that quantity.
When comparing two times, follow the price per ounce instead, which is likely listed on the tag on the shelf. You’ll get much more bang for your buck that way.
10. Buy in bulk when the deals are good
The hardest part about buying in bulk is getting started. When you’re short for cash, it can be tempting to buy a roll of paper towels for $1 rather than 30 rolls of paper towels for $20.
Buying non-perishable items in bulk will pay for itself over time, however. This advice goes double when a bulk item is on sale. If you know you’ll use it, buy as much as you can afford.
11. Buy meat in bulk
If you have the means to store it, buying meat in bulk can save you tons of money over time. Call ahead to your grocery store and ask if you can buy 40 pounds of chicken at once, for instance. This one-time cost will cut your grocery bills for weeks to come.
Can’t store all that meat? Team up with a friend and split the order. You’ll both save.
12. Slice your own foods
Pre-sliced or otherwise pre-prepared foods are usually pricier because they carry extra costs associated with added labor, packaging, and processes. From pre-sliced meats to pre-shredded cheese to pre-cut pineapple, you’re paying a premium for someone else to do some minor work on your behalf. Slice it yourself and save.
13. Buy your milk elsewhere
While drugstores and convenience stores often mark up their prices in the name of convenience, they usually have the best prices on milk. If you spend a lot on milk, make the extra stop at the drugstore on the way home and grab what you need.
14. Grow fresh herbs
If you cook with fresh herbs, you’re probably paying too much. Instead of buying bundles of herbs at the store, grow your own. Buying the pots and the seeds won’t be much more expensive than buying the herbs at the store, and you can be certain you’ll never run out.
15. Buy in-season produce
As the supply of certain types of produce goes up, the prices go down. In-season produce is much cheaper as a result. Plan meals around whatever produce is in season and, if it’s viable, buy in-season produce in bulk and freeze it so you’ll have it later when it’s more expensive.
How you buy
Just as important as what you buy is how you buy. Are your in-store habits saving you money or costing you tons?
16. Make sure that advertised discounts actually save you money
It’s easy to see a big sticker that says “10 for 10!” and think that you’re saving money by buying in bulk. In reality, the store might just be trying to nudge you into spending more without actually offering a discount. Make sure you’re saving money before you fall for it.
17. Wait for the best time to use your coupons
When you find coupons, it’s tempting to want to use them immediately. However, savvy shoppers know when to wait. If you hold on to those coupons until the store is running a sale on the item, you’ll be able to combine in-store discounts with coupons for maximum savings.
18. Photograph your receipt for kickbacks
Many different apps and services will offer you kickbacks and coupons just for taking a picture of your receipt. Do a little bit of research and find the ones that work for you.
19. Build up loyalty points
Shopper loyalty cards keep you coming back, and they do so by offering accumulating deals and discounts as you shop. Instead of spreading yourself thin, commit to a single grocery store and start racking up points there to unlock the deals reserved for the most loyal customers.
20. Walk down as few aisles as possible
Get to know the layout of your store of choice and try to plan your shopping trip so that you walk down as few aisles as possible. The more you explore the store, the more likely you are to make impulse purchases that will cut into your overall savings.
21. Shop by yourself
If you bring your spouse or your children along for your shopping trip, you’re more likely to spend more than you intended. Other people might not be as dedicated to savings as you are, and they might talk you into buying more expensive or unnecessary items.
22. Don’t shop hungry
You know better than to go to the grocery store hungry, but we all do it sometimes anyway. To curb your appetite (and stop yourself from making impulse purchases driven by hunger), eat a mint, which should satisfy you in the moment and prevent you from being overpowered by the delicious smells wafting out of the bakery.
23. Put your headphones in and get in the zone
Zoning out and listening to music can be relaxing, but more than that, it saves you from falling into the rhythm of the store. Studies have shown that stores play music with slower beats that encourage you to walk more slowly through the aisles, giving you more time to browse and make impulse purchases.
By themselves, these common-sense tips might not make or break your shopping trip. Together, they can add up to huge savings.
If you’re still struggling to make ends meet, however, and debt is the reason why, you might need more than advice on how to navigate the grocery store. Call National Debt Relief or browse our reviews today to learn more!