It’s so easy to save on groceries. There are so many easy things you can do to trim your grocery budget. Saving starts at home before you even leave for the store with planning. It’s important to know the deals you are going after before you actually reach the store.
Saving is also not always about coupons. If you’re a couponer and love it, great.! We have something in common. If couponing is not your thing though, you can still find ways to trim your grocery bill by simply becoming aware of your spending habits and breaking them if you can.
I was let go from my first corporate job after 7 years. The company went through a restructure and I was one of the unfortunate casualties. It was July of 2011. My fiance and I had just moved into our first home two months prior and our wedding was 4 months away. I was crushed.
During a time of financial uncertainty, my curiosity for couponing and saving money grew, primarily of out of necessity. That difficult time proved to be one of the best times to get my financial life on course and recognize ways I could take small steps to save big.
Don’t spend more than you need to on groceries. Saving money at the grocery store means you can either save for something else or spend on something you want. Less money on groceries means more money to put toward a vacation or those shoes you’ve been eyeing up.
Check out tips below to save on groceries. There are different tips for each stage of the shopping trip. Use tips in combination with each other to save more on groceries each trip!
Save on groceries before you leave home
1. Don’t go shopping hungry!
Eat a light snack if needed to avoid buying items that are not on your list.
2. Create a meal plan for the week.
Click here to find an easy-to-use planner. Once you know what you plan to eat, it’s easy to pick up what you need, not what you think you need.
3. Make a shopping list.
Check out what’s on sale in the circulars already and make a list using those items. Even better, if you have a coupon to go along with a sale item!
4. Get familiar with product sales cycles
Items typically have a regular schedule as to when they will be on sale. So if it’s been a while since your favorite cereal has been on sale, wait another few days until you see the next sale flyer. The cereal may be on sale soon and you can save a lot by waiting.
5. Find coupons, either digitally or in print.
Click here to check out ideas on where to find coupons. If you’re willing to make the effort, coupons can save you a lot of money. Make sure to bring your coupon organizer with you at all times.
6. Check your pantry, fridge, and freezer before you leave.
What do you already have, what are you in need of? Taking a quick peek of what you have on hand already will avoid you spending money on things you don’t need.
7. Set your grocery budget and stick to it.
Calculate what you think the shopping trip will cost you. Keep a mental note of the total while you’re shopping. The amount at the register at the end of the trip should not surprise you.
8. If you are using a cash system to keep you on a budget, bring your grocery envelope.
Bring the amount of cash you intend to spend at the store. It’s hard to overspend when you only have so much money on you!
Save on groceries once you’re in the store
1. Sign up for your store’s app or loyalty card if they have one.
It’s a no-brainer way to save. You can clip digital coupons, gain access to special deals and earn various rewards depending on the program. It takes a minute to sign up and can save you tons.
2. Look for markdowns.
Is there an unadvertised sale? Is a generic brand cheaper than the brand name? Many times sale items are on an end cap so take a look at the end of an aisle to save.
3. Stick to your list.
That’s why you made one, to begin with! I can assure you you will save money but not making impulse purchases.
4. Shop seasonally.
Hopefully, the seasonal groceries like produce are already the ones on your shopping list because you saw they were on sale before you left your house. Shop what’s in a season which is likely the cheapest grocery items.
5. Shop the sales you identified in the store flyer before you left your house.
You already know what you need to buy, stick to those items.
6. Try to stick to the perimeter of the store.
The outside of the store contains all the staples you should need. Produce, dairy, meat are all on the outside perimeter of the store. It’s the middle aisles that contain more of the “junk.” Avoid those aisles if you can.
7. Check out manager’s specials (meat, produce, etc.)
You can score great deals on meat or produce that needs to be used immediately.
8. Price match if your store allows.
This saves you from going to multiple stores. If the store you’re shopping at allows price matching, and you found an item on your list for cheaper in a flyer elsewhere, head to customer service. They can adjust the pricing for you.
9. Shop sales.
Become aware of the sale price stickers and seek them out. Not all sales are advertised. So as you’re shopping, keep your eyes peeled for red sale and clearance stickers.
10. Compare units of measure.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Divide the total unit of measure by the price to see what is the best deal. You may be surprised to find smaller units of measure are better deals.
11. Pay attention to expiration dates.
This one gets me all the time, ugh! If something is significantly discounted, it may be because it’s already expired or very soon going to be expired. Know that upfront so you’re not disappointed when you get home.
Save on groceries after you’ve checked out
1. Double-check your receipt.
Were you charged correctly? Were all your coupons and sale prices accounted for? If not, head immediately to the service desk and ask for a refund or price adjustment. It’s so much easier and more convenient to do it now than it will be when you discover an error in your car or at home.
2. Did you grab all of your groceries from the cart?
After you’ve loaded groceries into your car, take a second look at the cart. It sounds obvious, but I once left an expensive filet mignon in the cart in the parking lot. I have no idea how! It was in its own bag and was flat I must have just missed it when unloading. Don’t make my mistake!
3. Use savings apps
Apps like Ibotta, Checkout51 and or Fetch Rewards can save you even more. Fetch is a newer app and is my favorite due to its ease of use. Simply snap a pic of each grocery receipt and qualifying offers are given to you automatically. (Sign up for Fetch and enter my referral code M2CNU and you’ll get 2,000 Fetch Points ($2.00 in points) when you complete one receipt.)
What to watch out for (avoid at all costs)
1. Buying food or beverages at the checkout.
Hello, expensive! Convenient, but expensive. Can you wait until you get home for that snack or bottle of water?
2. Buying pre-packaged deli meats.
Head to the deli counter. The meats and cheeses are fresher and typically less expensive
3. Watch out for convenience foods
For example, pre-cut fruit and veggies, dips or cheese trays…or even bagged lettuce. You can easily and cost-effectively make/clean/chop yourself.
4. Do you need a basket or a cart?
Depending on what’s on your list, could you use a basket instead of a cart? A cart is larger and can fit more which may tempt you to grab something you don’t need.
5. Buying in bulk
Not all bulk is a better deal. Compare cost per unit of measure with smaller items. Bigger isn’t always the better deal. If the item is on sale or you have a coupon it could be a steal relative to the smaller items, so do some quick math and save!
Becoming aware of where you overspend at the store is the first step in changing your behavior. Start with a list, stick to it, and keep those eyes peeled for sale signs. Your grocery bill will be coming down before you know it!
How do you save money at the grocery store? Let me know in the comments below!