There’s something about football season that increases my impulse to stock up on things in the grocery store. Maybe it’s the extra cookies and brownies I’m baking or the changing of the seasons. Regardless, if I’m not careful I’ll bust our grocery budget before the month is out.
Here are my favorite strategies to save money at the grocery store:
1. Shop sales only
I’ve saved a ton of money only buying necessary items, such as meat, the weeks they’re on sale. By dividing my list into categories such as snacks, fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy items I can get whatever items are on sale. For example, my kids like granola bars, cheese crackers, fruit snacks, and cookies. One of these is going to be on sale when I go to the grocery store. So, by getting a snack item without being specific about which one, I keep a variety of items and save some cash in the meantime.
2. Meal plan
Meal planning begins by taking an inventory of what I have on hand first. There are plenty times I thought I had very little available to make full meals, only to discover that my pantry had all the ingredients for our family favorites. My meal planning strategy is to pull ingredients out of the cabinet as I decide on each meal and write a menu out for the week which is posted in the kitchen. This method often saves both time and money. When I only have to run to the store to grab a few items for the week, I can be in and out in no time.
3. Take advantage of curbside pick-up
Even though some programs require a membership, you will likely save money with curbside pick-up simply because you won’t be stepping foot in the store. This also allows you to meal plan and add ingredients to your cart simultaneously, making the grocery process faster and more streamlined. If your budget for the week is $125 and you’re cart is currently at $157, you can comb back through your items and see what can wait or be substituted for cheaper, which is much easier than running around a grocery store. You are far less likely to impulse spend when you see the total before purchasing.
4. Utilize apps
Apps such as Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, and Berry Cart pay you a small amount for scanning your grocery receipt. Each program is different but a few minutes scanning your receipts can add up to a few hundred dollars cash back over the year.
5. Try Auto Ship
If you have an Amazon Prime membership you may find that auto shipping items in bulk such as diapers, laundry detergent, or vitamins can reduce your grocery bill.
6. Calculate while shopping
Using the calculator on my phone, occasionally I’ve tallied my purchases as I add them to the cart. Seeing the price increase with each item added instantly motivates me to look for the best deals and prioritize needs versus wants. Obviously, this is much easier if you do curbside pickup and can track it while you add items online.
7. Shop early in the morning
The stores are much less crowded at 7 or 8 am than they are most any other time of the day. With less people in the store I can take my time, compare prices, and walk as slowly as I want. I’ve found that my impulse to grab two or three of something is greatly reduced when I don’t feel rushed. This can be a tedious practice, so I don’t do it each time, but by rounding up to the closest dollar I have a good estimate of what my final total is before I hit the checkout line.
8. Don’t buy drinks
If you’re really trying to stick to a budget, an easy place to cut out costs is juices, bottled waters, Gatorades, and soft drinks. Not only do those add up quickly, but they definitely fall under the “want” category rather than the “need.”
9. Double and freeze
Buying larger packages of things often reduces the amount per ounce, but what do you do with the extra food? When it comes to things like ground turkey and chicken breasts, I find that buying meat in bulk, preparing the meals, and then freezing them is the best way to make sure food isn’t wasted. This is also a time saver. If you double and freeze one meal a week you will quickly find yourself with a week’s worth of meals in your freezer!
10. Cook from scratch
There are so many cheap items these days it can seem like a waste of time to cook from scratch, but it’s still worth it in many cases. For example, frozen pizza dough on sale can be $1-2, the same for pizza sauce. This can seem like a simple and inexpensive meal but making these two items from scratch using all-purpose flour and tomato paste drops your overall cost to less than $1 total!
Cooking from scratch works best if you make sure the ingredients are items you use all the time. Using the pizza dough example, ingredients like yeast will go bad, so if you don’t eat a lot of pizza, scratch will actually cost you more in the long run.