Who isn’t looking to save money on groceries? Just when I think my pantry is stocked and I’m good to not visit the store for a while, I find a key staple or ingredient I’m in need of, so off to the store I go!
Saving money any way you can is important, but the clipping and filing and crumpling of coupons is not for everyone. But, don’t fret. There are so many easy ways to not eat your money when it comes to groceries that have nothing to do with coupons!
Check out how to save money on groceries without coupons below.
Saving on groceries starts at home
1. Check out your own pantry (and freezer) before hitting the store
Before you buy something, check that you don’t already have one or more on hand at home already. It’s counterproductive to pick something up if you already have it on hand. Plus, food can get buried and freezer-burned at home if you don’t eat in a somewhat appropriate time frame. So knowing what you already have and not buying the same thing is helpful.
2. Check the weekly sale flyer before you leave home
Meal planning around items you find on sale is one of the smartest ways to shop for groceries. You can save money on groceries without coupons by paying attention to sale prices. It actually works well twofold: you not only can save money, but you have a meal plan for the week as well. No rushing around after work thawing meat or arguing about what’s for dinner. You have a plan for what’s for dinner. You shopped for what’s for dinner. You’re ready to go!
3. Sign up for your local grocery store’s loyalty program
I’m always amazed when I’m standing behind someone at the checkout and the cashier asks if they have a loyalty card? And the answer is “no.” I get that for some it may not be “worth their time” but really, the time investment is incredibly small. Sign up for a loyalty program right now, from home, before you even set foot in the store.
Then typically all you need to do is scan the card or type in your phone number at checkout. In many cases, you can get access to digital coupons, exclusive sale prices for cardholders only, and or additional incentives like cents off gas.
4. Don’t assume all deals are deals
As you’re looking through the sale flyer and start crafting your shopping list, do some quick math to make sure the deal is really a deal.
Not all buy/get or “buy 5, get $5” off or “10 for 10” sales are real sales. If the 10/10 item is originally $2.00 and on sale for $1.00, then yes, it may be a deal. But, if the original item is always $1.00 and you’ve seen it on sale for $.75, then no, it’s not a deal. Simply paying attention to sale prices will be a reference to know if something is a deal or not. If you’re not sure, start paying closer attention. Over time you will begin to know what is a good deal or not.
5. Make a list, and stick to it
Truly sticking to a list will help curb impulse buys. I made this a habit during a recent no spend month challenge and was amazed at how often I’m adding things to my cart that I didn’t step foot into the store intending to buy. Even if it’s a good deal, you don’t always have to purchase things. Especially if you don’t technically need them.
6. Organize your shopping list by store aisle
If you really want to get efficient, organize your list by store aisle. If you start shopping in the produce department, then list produce (fruits, veggies, etc.) first on your list. Or at least put all produce items together on your list. You’ll find that not only will you shop more efficiently and save time, but you won’t have to retrace your steps to pick up that one item you forgot on the back of the list that you passed three aisles back.
7. Shop online and pick up or drive up
This is a great way to shop efficiently and save money. When you shop online and pick up, you will then know exactly how much you are spending. It’s a great way to avoid impulse purchases and stay accountable to your grocery budget. Plus, many stores offer a discount for your first order. So look around for promo codes if you are doing this for the first time. You should be able to save some money on your first transaction.
8. Consider Grocery Delivery
Similar to grocery pick-up, this can be a great way to stay accountable to your grocery budget if you are susceptible to impulse purchases. I use Shipt grocery delivery and love it. If you use my affiliate link, an annual membership is only $49 total ($4.08/month!).
I still do a lot of my own grocery shopping in-store, but there are those times when I use grocery delivery for convenience and time savings. For example, if we have company coming over and I couldn’t find the time to get to the store before they arrive. More than anything else, grocery delivery has really helped my sanity when life gets really busy.
Check out my Shipt Review to learn more about how I use grocery delivery.
9. Get to know your store’s schedule (new flyers & markdowns)
Browse the sale flyer and write your shopping list the night before the new sales start. Hopefully, you received a flyer in your junk mail, or check you can it out in the store’s app. They typically post a ‘preview’ a day or two before the flyer goes live.
Ideally the day the new sales start is the day you shop. Why? Because the good deals are always the first to sell out! It’s a bummer to hit the store, start racking up your 10 for 10 sale items only come to find that some of the items you needed are already sold out. Now you’re not going to get as good of a deal and/or you’ll have to scramble to find other items that qualify for the 10/10 to fill in.
Pro tip: My best advice, shop the day the new sales start for the best chance that every item you want is in stock.
Save on groceries while you’re shopping at the store
1. Consider generic / be open-minded about brands
There may be certain items you will never buy a different brand of. That’s totally fine and I’m the same way. We all have our brand loyalty to some items. It’s the other items you consume that you wouldn’t notice or care if you change brands. Try it and save money along the way.
2. Check out the ingredient list of what you’re buying
You’ll likely find that ingredient-for-ingredient the brand name and generic have nearly identical ingredients. Make choices that you feel comfortable with, but the savings by purchasing generic or off brands will really add up!
3. Scan the shelves near the floor for better prices
Eye-level = expensive.
Floor = cheaper.
Make sure to scan the entire aisle before you make your selection as you’ll be surprised by the price differences the further you get from eye level.
4. Compare prices per unit of measure
Bigger is not always the better value. It’s crazy, but sometimes the larger item is not the most cost-effective way to purchase. Grab your phone and divide the total volume (lbs., oz., etc.) by the price to get a cost per unit. Do this for a larger size item and a smaller size item. Or, look at the price sticker below the item, many times it lists cost per unit of measure for quick reference.
5. Check out cheaper cuts of meat & manager’s specials
My husband loves to grill and I swear can make any cut of meat taste like a filet mignon. Okay maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but preparation and seasoning can make a huge difference in the taste of food. Don’t overlook a cheaper cut of meat and seasoning it right and or adding it to a casserole or as part of a dish.
Also, the manager’s specials are usually recent markdowns on meat that need to be used asap. Usually today or tomorrow. So don’t hesitate to purchase as you’ll likely get a great deal, but be prepared to use it tonight.
6. Leave the kids (and spouse) at home
If you want to stay on a budget and spend less time in the store, shop alone if you can. It never fails, every time I bring my husband and daughter it takes twice as long to shop, and our total is twice as much as I was expecting.
You + Family = Twice as long and twice as expensive
You Alone: Efficient and on budget
7. Get to know the average price of what you typically buy – stock up when there is a really good deal!
If you’re starting your grocery saving journey and haven’t been paying attention to prices this may be harder for you at first. Over time as you become more aware of the price you are paying for key household items, you’ll get to know a good stock up price when you see one.
Start a note on your phone, or grab a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet. Jot down awesome prices you pay on things you commonly buy. Over time, you’ll know if paying $5.00 for 50 oz of Tide is a good deal or not.
8. Shop seasonally
It’s a no brainer. I know you like berries, but if it’s the middle of winter and they are out of season, go with oranges or something in season. Not only will you avoid paying $4.99 for a small 8 oz carton of berries, but likely the berries aren’t going to taste the best anyway. I know you convince yourself you’re eating healthy so you’ll pay what it costs to eat healthily, but grab something in-season to save money, and something that will likely taste much better!
9. Never shop hungry!
You are going to purchase something, not on your list, I guarantee it if you go with an empty stomach. Shop right after you’ve eaten and you are much more likely to stick to your list and not buy anything you weren’t intending to.
10. Stock up on staples: beans, rice, canned soup, etc.
It’s amazing what a delicious meal you can slap together with a handful of basic ingredients. Keep a few staples on hand so you can whip together a quick dinner on the fly as needed. Beans, rice, soup, oatmeal, frozen chicken, etc. are all things to keep on hand to put together a quick, delicious, hot dinner.
11. Keep a mental note of how much you are spending
It doesn’t have to be exact, but each time you put something into the cart, add it up and keep a running total in your head. That way, when you approach the check out you at least have a rough idea of how much you are going to be spending. It helps keep your overall total in check so you aren’t blown away at check out. Plus if you know approximately how much the total should be, if you are far over, you know to check your receipt and make sure you weren’t overcharged for something by accident.
12. Use a cash envelope and pay with cash!
Using a cash envelope system, in general, is a great way to keep your finances on track. Whether you actually use one or not, paying with cash period is a good idea. You are far more emotionally tied to physical dollars and cents and physically handing over cash is a lot harder than swiping plastic. So withdraw cash before you shop, and use it to pay. if you only brought so much into the store with you, you can only spend so much.
13. Bring your own bag(s) and save
Some stores will give you a discount of $.05 to $.10 per bag for bringing our own. Target and Whole Foods are both known to do this. Okay, it’s not much money. But it’s something. You probably use 3-5 or more grocery bags per visit. if you do this each time you shop not only will you save some coin, but you’ll not waste bags. Get into the habit of bringing your own bags.
14. Get a rain check
if you are shopping for an item that is out of stock, check to see if your store offers rain checks. This provides a great opportunity to lock in the sale price and be able to take advantage of it once the item is back in stock.
15. Watch the register
Try to keep your eyes on the register if you can. That way, you can spot a pricing error on the spot and see if the cashier can correct it at the register. You can always go to customer service after the transaction if you find an error. But watching the register to make sure items, sale prices, and or coupons are ringing up accurately is recommended.
16. Buy larger cuts of meat and ask the butcher to cut it up
Many butchers will cut up meat any way you want it. They may even tenderize it for you. Watch the fine print as sometimes if there is a big sale on a cut of meat it may be as-is. But in general, the butcher should be more than happy to cut up a larger cut of meat how ever you’d like it.
17. Watch expiration dates!
It is so frustrating to get an item home only to realize it has expired or has a really close expiration date. Get into the habit of checking expiration dates as you put items into your cart. it’s good practice for all items, but especially true for any significant sale or clearance items. Many times the item is on clearance because of the looming expiration date.
18. Use a basket instead of a cart
It’s practical to use a basket over a cart if you only have a few items. you’re far less likely to overshop when you literally can’t hold anything more.
19. Check out the clearance aisles/sections
You never know what you’re going to find when you hit the clearance section. The balance here is making sure if there is something you want to buy, it’s something you actually need and not just an impulse buy. But if you find something you can’t live without, odds are it’s pretty darn cheap if you are shopping a specific clearance aisle.
Save more on groceries after you’re done shopping
1. Use rebate/cash-back apps
This is a must. There are many out there, my favorites are Ibotta, Fetch (Sign up and enter my referral code M2CNU and you’ll get 2,000 Fetch Points ($2.00 in points) when you complete one receipt.) and CoinOut. You can view offers on Ibotta and Fetch before you go shopping, but I prefer to not have these apps influence my purchases. So I usually wait until after I’m done shopping to clip offers and use these apps.
After shopping, I’ll view offers, clip any that I qualify for and upload my receipt once I’m done shopping. Or, you can view offers before and specifically shop for items that have the best deals.
2. Review your receipt (in store)
Don’t wait to put your groceries away in your car then check your receipt. The odds of you actually walking back into the store are slim at that point. Immediately after the transaction, pull your cart aside and glace at the receipt while you’re still in the store. Any questions or concerns, head to customer service and they can correct it for you.
3. Store groceries properly to extend life (ex. Produce)
You’ve just spent money on groceries, take some time to put them away properly. If you bought veggies but have a history of them rotting before eating them, spend the time to wash and chop now so they are ready for snacking. Store fruit in your refrigerator or pantry as needed. Keep them visible and readily accessible so you remember to consume them before they go bad.
Other ways to save on groceries without coupons
1. Try to buy more, less often
I fall into a trap of trying to take advantage of every deal. Because of that I never spend too much at one time at one store but make frequent trips. With each trip you make, the odds of you making an impulse buy are that much greater. There are so much money-savings and time-savings that can be had by making fewer trips to the store. That means meal planning but overall saves time and money. So make your list, shop and avoid going back to a store unless you truly need to.
2. Explore different stores
If you take the time to learn what stores have the best deals on specific products, this could be to your benefit. Maybe one store is better for household consumables like paper towels and toilet paper. Perhaps another is good for meat or fresh produce. Knowing what to buy at what stores, or more importantly, what not to buy, will save you money.
3. Try going meatless or enjoy breakfast for dinner
Typically meatless meals are less expensive than those with meat. Eggs are a great protein and can be just as delicious for dinner as they are for breakfast. Try a meal planning schedule where you choose one night per week to go meatless or to have breakfast for dinner. Not only will you save money, but you may find it a refreshing change to your normal dinner routine.
4. Double your recipe and freeze for later
If you find a good deal on ingredients for a dish, for example, a casserole, buy enough to double the recipe. Make twice as much and freeze half. You’ll be happy to have a few frozen meals on hand for those crazy weeks that get away from you and don’t have a plan.
5. Try non-grocery stores to shop for groceries
I swear by the grocery selection at hardware stores, for example, Menards. They have a large selection of food and beverage items: everything from canned goods and sparkling water to snacks and frozen pizza. You never know what you’re going to find and their advertised deals on groceries each week rival any grocery store.
Plus the grocery aisles are rarely busy so you pretty much get them all to yourself. Check out my secret grocery shopping hacks at Menards for inspiration!
Grocery items to avoid purchasing if you can help it
1. Convenience foods
An example would be pre-cut veggies or fruit trays. Or premade dips in the deli section. While they are convenient, they come with a cost. If you have the time, avoid spending money on convenience and make your own food.
2. Soda/other bottled beverages
Water is above and beyond the cheapest beverage and the one your body needs most. I find myself getting on beverage kicks where I’ll buy various sparkling waters or get into the habit of buying Coke Zero. These are unnecessary items that can quickly drive up your grocery bill. Start small and swap purchased beverages with tap water as you can.
3. Paper products: plates, napkins, and towels
It’s hard not to purchase and use paper products. They are so much easier to use than actually doing dishes. But they can really add up! If you must buy them, use them sparingly.
4. Packaged snacks
Yes, it’s really easy to throw prepackaged snacks into your kid’s lunch boxes or backpacks. But ounce for ounce they are typically much more expensive than packing your own. Try a few large bags of snacks and purchase small snack bags to pack your own.
Whew, and there you have it. Tips and tricks to save money on groceries without coupons. Start by taking a tip or two, mastering it, and adding more to your routine as you can. You may find there are some things you are just simply not willing to give up or stop spending on, and that’s okay.
Make a few swaps you know your family can adjust to. Before you know it, you’ll find you’ve been able to trim your grocery bill by hundreds of dollars per month! Ready to take your savings to the next level?
Check out how to save even more on groceries by using coupons. Download my couponing makeover guide to lear more.
What’s your favorite money-saving tip for groceries?