11 Tips to Help You Spend $100 or Less on Groceries Each Week
If your grocery bills are higher than your grocery budget, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s start by saying this: You are not alone. Sticking to a grocery budget is hard (The fresh produce! The seasonal snacks! Is that seafood over there on sale?). And it’s only become more challenging for more people in recent months.
When we polled our readers (hey, that’s you!) back in 2020, almost half of you said you aim to spend around $100 a week. So, with inflation being what it is (annoying!) and grocery prices on the rise, we thought we’d round up some of our best tips to help you spend $100 — or less! — on your weekly grocery haul.
1. Log what’s in your freezer.
Grab a cooler and let’s get this icy box organized and documented. Whether you want to remove everything all at once, or work shelf by shelf, the idea here is to take inventory of what’s currently in your freezer and then log it somewhere you can easily access and update; a Google Sheet, Doc, or a free app, like Whisk are all excellent options. (If you’re not already doing so, labeling is key.) Knowing exactly what frozen ingredients or meals you already have on hand is an easy way to cut down on your shopping list from week to week. Bonus: It also helps limit your amount of food waste.
2. Ditto for your fridge and pantry.
Yup. The same goes for your fridge and your pantry. Creating and updating (updating is also key) a log for these areas will prevent you from wondering to yourself mid-shop: Are we out of mayo? It also limits your shopping list to necessary items and can help with meal planning for the week.
3. Start your meal planning with a bag of rice.
Easy-to-prepare grains, like rice, are the base of easy, affordable, and versatile meals. Cory Fernandez, associate food editor, makes a big batch of rice on Sunday or Monday and then uses it throughout the week. You can create dozens of budget-friendly meals just by pairing rice with a simple protein, fresh or frozen vegetables (more on that below), and maybe a vibrant sauce.
4. Make a strategic shopping list … and stick to it.
Once you’ve scoured the contents of your kitchen, you’re ready to make your shopping list. We recommend you organize it by how you shop the store. For example, if you shop the perimeter first, create a list that puts fruits and vegetables, and meat and seafood at the top. This strategy is more efficient and it’ll help you focus on what you need — and avoid those unplanned purchases.
Note: If you’re the type of shopper who tends to purchase items not on your shopping list, we have a plan for that too! Leave up to three blank spaces on your list (and in your budget) for these seasonal finds and unexpected sales.
5. Shop farmers markets toward the end of the day.
The freshness of straight-from-the-farm produce can’t be beat, but what about the prices? Generally speaking, your local farmers market probably has better deals than you think — especially if you go 30 minutes before the market closes. Farmers and vendors tend to discount some or all of the produce at the end of the day instead of hauling it back to the farm. Just know that certain items might be sold out or you might have less of a selection.
6. Shop the freezer section for produce.
While fresh produce is super tempting this time of year, go with the frozen stuff if you’re looking to save and/or have concerns about being able to use something up in time. Frozen fruits and veggies cost a whopping 20 to 30 percent less than their fresh versions. And they’re still packed with nutrients.
7. Buy the store brand.
Instead of the national name-brand product, 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.
8. Only buy meat when it’s on sale.
Meat — including beef, pork, and poultry — has been subject to some of the highest price increases over the past few years. (If you’re not lucky enough to live near a farm, chances are high you’ve noticed.) But. But! Between weekly, daily, and even end-of-day flash sales, with apps like Flashfood and Too Good To Go, there are ways to offset the higher price tag. You can also consider skipping meat for the week altogether. Tip: There’s a $4 cheese that’s perfect for grilling.
9. Make it yourself/at home.
This tip is purposely vague because we want you to make it your own. Cold brew, yogurt and its dairy-free counterpart, grilled pizza, salad dressings, and more — there are loads of recipes on Kitchn and across the internet that you can make at home and, this is the crucial part, can save you money week to week.
10. Grow it yourself.
Ditto on the open-ended nature of this one. Depending on where you live and how much space and time you have, growing your own produce might not be all that realistic. If it is, though, here’s a good place to start. Herbs, however, take up significantly less space, are low-maintenance, and can even be grown indoors. In either case, you’ll be first in line for some of the freshest and budget-friendly bounties you’ve ever tasted.
11. Use an all-cash system.
While it may seem old-school or even outdated, cash really is king in keeping your spend to a specific dollar amount — or lower. A few years ago, former Kitchn editor Meghan Splawn switched to an all-cash food budget. It was supposed to be a three-month experiment, but she ended up sticking with it for much longer. (Here’s how!) The financial savings, as she explains, were real and just so rewarding.
What do you do to stay within your grocery budget? Tell us in the comments below.