5 Surprising Ways to Save Money on Groceries, According to a Budgeting Expert

updated May 31, 2022
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Grocery prices are up — and they aren’t going back down any time soon. How much are they up? The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that grocery prices are up over 6% on average since last year, with some of the biggest hikes showing up in the price tags for beef, meat, and poultry. Considering inflation may continue to impact food costs for the remainder of the year, it’s more important than ever to review your grocery shopping strategies to find ways to stretch your budget.

While meal planning and shopping with a list are great places to start, there are obviously lots of other ways to save money on groceries. These are five of the most surprising tricks I suggest trying this month.

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1. Order online.

Although ordering groceries online comes with added fees — such as delivery charges and a potential markup on some items — there is some money to be saved with this shopping method. That’s because it’s much easier to stick to your list when buying food online, which mitigates impulse purchases that can quickly eat away at your grocery budget.

Keep in mind that grocery delivery costs vary from store to store. Take advantage of free delivery trials and use coupons to cut fees further. For instance, you can find coupons for $30 off $50 at Instacart for new customers and 15% off your first shipping order at Kroger stores via deal sites like CouponFollow.com.

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2. Shop the freezer section. 

Consumers have it stuck in their minds that fresh is better than frozen, but that’s not always the case — especially when it comes to produce. Vegetables and produce are flash frozen at peak ripeness, ensuring optimal nutrients when they’re defrosted. Even more surprisingly, studies show that fresh produce loses nutrient value after sitting on a store or refrigerator shelf for a couple of days. Most importantly, though, frozen produce is cheaper — especially if you opt for the generic or store-brand option. Stocking your freezer with your favorite veggies can also make it easy to whip up an inexpensive stir-fry, omelette, or smoothie to keep you from ordering takeout.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: CC Buckley

3. Purchase organic selectively. 

I’m all about protecting myself and my family from harmful pesticides and chemicals, but there are some foods that are perfectly safe to buy non-organic. In fact, The Environmental Working Group has identified 15 vegetables and fruits that have tough inedible peels in which pesticides can’t penetrate and affect the food you actually eat, called the Clean Fifteen, which includes things like avocado, onions, and cantaloupe. Review this list and skip organic for these foods to save yourself big bucks.

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4. Use self-checkout. 

Self-checkout sometimes seems daunting, but there’s an upside to doing it yourself: avoiding wasteful spending. A study by IHL Consulting Group found that female shoppers who used self-checkout slashed their impulse buys by 32% (the number fell to 17% for men). Using a hand basket on quick grocery store trips can also help you avoid buying unnecessary foods because you have limited room beyond the essentials.

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5. Get a new credit card.

When was the last time you checked your credit card reward program to ensure you’re earning maximum rewards for the purchases you make the most? Right now, it pays to look for a credit card that offers more money back on grocery purchases to offset the growing costs of feeding your family. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express offers 6% cash back at supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year in spending, which is the highest reward for this category. Before signing up for a new card, compare cash back programs at sites like CardRates.com.

While you’re at it, double up on grocery rewards by using cash back tools. For instance, shopping through a cash back site like CouponCabin.com can help you earn money back on various grocery delivery services (think: up to $2.50 back at Instacart and 1.5% back at Albertsons). Meanwhile, linking your grocery rewards card to a cash back app (like Dosh) will also help you earn added money back at partner grocery brands including Walmart and Instacart.

What will you be doing to save money on groceries this year? Tell us in the comments below!