13 Ways to Save Money on Groceries, According to Financial Experts and Budget-Savvy Shoppers
Want to spend less on groceries? If you answered, “Obviously,” then you’ve come to the right post! In this list you’ll find 13 of the most essential tips for finding the best prices, cutting down on extra spending, reaping rewards, and having a more enjoyable time while grocery shopping. Lucky 13, indeed!
So scope out your pantry/fridge/freezer, plan a few meals for the week, and make your grocery list. But before you add a single item to your cart, whether that’s in a store or online, take a look at these smart tips to truly shave down your budget.
1. Shop in the middle of the week.
Both financial experts and grocery store managers agree: Grocery stores can be zoo-like during the weekends — especially at popular places, like Trader Joe’s. Doing your weekly shopping trip on a Tuesday evening won’t just make for a better experience, it could help you save cash, too. Grocery stores tend to offer better deals and discounts during the week, as they get ready to turn over products for the rush of weekend traffic, explains Bola Sokunbi, the founder and CEO of Clever Girl Finance and author of the Clever Girl Finance book series.
2. Get ingredients from the salad bars.
We love a savvy work-around, and being able to buy the exact amount of an ingredient for tomorrow’s dinner is close to the top of that list (and this one!). Next time you only need a handful of spinach or a quarter cup of feta, see if you can source them at the salad bar. This way, you can get exactly what you need and nothing will go to waste.
3. Reconsider that bulk warehouse membership.
Controversial, we know. But hear us out. Those oversized tubs of cottage cheese and jumbo boxes of baby wipes might be cheaper per ounce or wipe than at your average grocery retailer (more on that below). Then again, it might not. After some budget tracking, this longtime loyalist learned she could find similar deals at other stores in her area. So she canceled her membership and saved nearly $500 in the year since. Now, that’s a big deal.
4. Join your grocery store’s loyalty program.
For many shoppers, this tip might seem obvious (please skip ahead if you already do it!). For others, it might be the reminder you needed. Signing up for a store-specific rewards program is an immediate, and free, way to access savings meant for loyal shoppers. While not every single grocery store has one (we’re still waiting on Trader Joe’s to get in on the action), strategically taking advantage of the programs at other stores you frequent can make an impact.
5. And download your store’s app if it has one.
Similarly, not all stores have apps — but many do and they’re more user-friendly now than ever before. Look to see if your store does and download it. It’ll help you learn about sales and special deals. On top of those savings, you can earn fuel points, cash back, and even free items — all from your weekly grocery trips.
6. Understand unit prices.
Grocery stores put a lot of useful information on the little price tags attached to the shelves. Besides the name of the item and the total price, it will also list the unit price — the price per ounce/pound/liter/cookie you’ll pay when you buy that package. This number is there to help you compare products when they come in different-sized packages. It basically breaks down the cost per cookie when you’re looking at two packages — say, one with 24 cookies and the other with 12 — so you can find the better buy without doing any math.
And don’t be afraid to break out your calculator either! The unit price is often not listed on temporary sale signs, so you’ll need to do some quick math when applying coupon discounts to the unit price when comparing items. Still, understanding unit prices is one of the best ways to get your money’s worth in the aisles.
7. Create your own price index.
You can learn a lot just by tracking the prices of your weekly staples. If you shop at multiple stores, you can compare which one has the cheapest prices and make that store your first — or only — stop. After a few weeks, you might even notice a pattern in the markdowns, so you can stock up when items go on sale and avoid paying full price. You can also decide if it makes more sense (cents?!) to pass on certain products, like yogurt, peanut butter, and muffins from the store, and make (or grow!) them at home for less.
8. Consider frozen and canned fruits and veggies, too.
It’s easy to get carried away with a mountain of fresh fruits and vegetables this time of year. But that doesn’t mean you should sleep on frozen produce. Frozen fruits and veggies cost 20 to 30 percent less than their fresh versions, and they’re flash frozen at peak ripeness, ensuring optimal nutrients. Additionally, don’t be so quick to pass by the canned stuff: They’re just as nutritious as the fresh options.
9. Buy the store brand.
Along with the prepared foods, name-brand cereals, spices, and baking supplies have some of the highest markups in the store. Go for the store brand and you can shave 5 to 50 percent off your bill, according to some estimates. And guess what? Store brands are ridiculously good. A few we’ve been loving recently: Target’s Good & Gather, Thrive Market’s line, and, of course, Kirkland Signature.
10. Don’t grocery shop while you’re hungry.
If you go to the grocery store when your stomach is growling, you’re going to leave with more items than you intended when you walked through those doors — that applies to non-foodstuffs, too! While life can get in the way and sometimes you have to hit the store while hungry, if you can, shop after you’ve eaten something. Stash a snack bar in your bag or a snack mix in your glove box now, so it’s there the next time you need it!
11. Before you check out, put two or three things back.
Stores are really good at getting us to add extra items to our carts. The shelf talkers! The giant end caps! The vibrant packaging! This savvy tip, which came straight from a Kitchn reader, is a great way to thwart those efforts: “Before I go check out, I take a look at what is in my shopping cart. I can usually pull out two to three items that I don’t really need. Saves me about $10+ every trip.”
12. Do a comparison shop.
Do you spend less when you shop for groceries at the store or online? For some, a strategic shopping list — maybe organized by how you shop the store — means getting in and out with minimal (if any!) unplanned purchases. For others, like our staff writer, Patty, ordering groceries online (and even picking them up curbside) curbs extra spending and cuts down on shop time — especially when ordering a lot of the same items week to week. Which strategy will be kinder to your wallet? There’s only one way to find out: Try both, and compare the results!
13. Get a grocery rewards credit card.
Where you shop and what you buy aren’t the only ways to stretch your dollars. Thinking about how you pay can also benefit your budget. The best credit cards for grocery shopping offer a generous 5 to 6% cash back for grocery purchases. Whether you shop at Albertsons, Aldi, Kroger, Publix, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Whole Foods, or another supermarket, it pays to use a credit card that offers maximum rewards for the purchases you make the most.