How to Save Money on Groceries
It’s no secret the price of food is on the rise due to inflation and food shortages. And families are spending more than ever on their grocery bill. That’s why many people are asking themselves how can I save money on groceries even with today’s skyrocketing costs?
Early in our marriage Aaron and I didn’t have a lot of money. At one point while I was in college we were actually on food stamps. So I know what it’s like to have to stretch your food dollar. And I really wanted to provide our family with healthy food even though we were on such a tight budget. So I had to get creative real quick!
What I learned with a little trial and error was that it was possible to feed my family healthy food even with very limited resources. And I want to share that knowledge with you. Because who knows what we’re in for when it comes to shortages and food prices in the near future.
Overspending on Groceries is a Problem Most Families Face
Overspending on food has been a common problem for many families in the last 60 years or so. With the increase in the availability of convenience foods and the rise of grocery stores during the 1940s and ’50s, there was an explosion in the variety of foods available to families. Before that many people had to buy food from their local farmer, grow their own, or buy at the local small market. And they only bought what they absolutely needed. Supermarkets forever changed the way we buy food.
With all this abundance of choice came the habit of buying more than we actually needed. And grocery stores took advantage of this. One great example is the impulse buy shelves right at the checkout. Who hasn’t bought a Snicker’s simply because it was in arms reach of the checkout conveyer belt?
The problem really is that most people don’t have a plan before they go to the store.
Why Do We Spend So Much on Groceries?
There are a lot of reasons you may be spending more than you wanted to on your groceries. Even during normal times, our spending can get a little crazy. But it really is a double whammy to the wallet when food costs twice what it did last year or certain items aren’t even available to buy.
A lot of people think you have to be a crazy coupon lady to save a ton of money on groceries. Or you have to cut back to eating only ramen or rice and beans. That’s not the case. You can eat amazing, healthy food without even clipping a single coupon. You just have to address why your food spending might be on the high side. After all, you can’t fix a problem if you don’t even know what the problem is.
- Not having a spending limit. It’s easy to spend too much if you don’t have a limit.
- Buying produce out of season.
- Shopping at the wrong store
- Not having a list/plan
- Falling for impulse buys
- Buying too much for your needs or ability to store
- Buying too little and having to make multiple trips a week
- Not paying attention to sales
- Falling for pricing tricks
7 Tips to Save Money on Groceries
Tip 1: Set a Monthly Spending Limit for Groceries
This is probably the most important tip I can share with you to help you save money on groceries. If you don’t have a budget for your monthly grocery spending you won’t be able to keep from spending too much.
- A monthly grocery budget will help you keep overspending from getting out of control.
- Give yourself a couple of months and monitor your grocery costs to get a picture of where you can cut back.
- Set a realistic limit and stay within it.
- Using the envelope system of budgeting can really help when it comes to indulgent purchases.
Tip 2: Always Take a List With You
This is my second biggest tip. I have been guilty of making a list and leaving it at home, and then of course inevitably spending way too much on groceries. I have taken to using an app on my phone because I rarely forget my phone. A list will keep you on target and limit impulse buying.
- Take an inventory of the items you actually need and write them down. Do this after you eat dinner the night before your shopping trip (you are more likely to stick to the items you actually need and not a bunch of extras).
- Make sure your list is very detailed, down to the amount of what you need for each thing.
- Make a backup list on your phone in case you forget your written list at home. Or use an app like cozi.
Tip 3: Shop Sales Strategically
It is important for you to really do your research when it comes to sales. Shocker, they aren’t always a better deal! Often times you can buy items cheaper if you buy the store brand or if you buy in smaller quantities. 10 for $5 is a waste of money if the cheaper brand has the same thing for $1.50ea.
- Always, always check the sales flyers of your local stores and compare prices!
- Check the price per ounce or pound on the shelf sticker to make sure you’re getting a good deal buying the family size. I have noticed it is often cheaper to buy 4 small packages of something as opposed to the family size.
- Check the price of store brands vs. big name brands, they are usually cheaper and taste just as good.
- To save money on groceries you really need to be proactive about where you spend your dollar.
- Shop case lot sales if they are available at your local stores.
Tip 4: Buy Produce in Season
Buying produce in season is a great example of simple economics. If there is more inventory of a product it will be lower in price. That’s why it’s a great idea to buy your produce when it is most available in your region.
- Prices tend to be lower if produce is in season in the area you live in because of lowered transportation costs.
- Most stores have big sales on seasonal produce because they have an abundance of inventory.
- Fresh produce is also cheaper because of less packaging and marketing costs.
Tip 5: Shop the Clearance Food Section
This is a little-known tip that often time isn’t taken advantage of because of the idea that food in a clearance area is going bad or is old. I have had no problem with the food I’ve bought in the mark-down section because I know I can freeze it and it will be fine to use later. Also, most dates are “best by” dates which means they will be at their peak freshness but are not expired or “bad”. This is a great way to save a ton of money on groceries.
- Most grocery stores have a marked-down meat section and as long as you use it soon or freeze it to eat later there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. If you have a Target with a grocery section they often have a lot of meat on markdown because not too many people know that Target sells meat. I have gotten some amazing deals on beautiful cuts of meat for cheap from Target.
- Also, check out the bakery section for less than fresh bread they are looking to get rid of quickly. Same thing you can freeze bakery products until you’re ready to use them.
- In many grocery stores there is a whole shelf of clearance items, just ask the store’s customer service desk and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
Tip 6: Grow Your Own
I am never going to stop trying to convince people to start growing/raising the bulk of their food. After all, this is a self-reliance-focused blog. Food freedom is so important especially nowadays. Not only will you save money on your groceries, but you will know what chemicals are used in the growing of your food.
- Start with one item your family uses a lot. It could be eggs or something like tomato sauce. It is not difficult to start raising chickens even on a small property (and the payoff is huge). If all you grow is sauce tomatoes in a garden you will be able to make and store enough for your family to eat for a year. Start slow and just add more when you’ve mastered your first crop.
- Seeds don’t cost a lot of money, certainly a lot less than buying 25lbs of one type of fruit or veggie.
- If you raise your own small livestock you can sell some of your eggs or meat to cover the costs of feed and housing. And with the price of meat lately, this could be a huge money saver.
Tip 7: Buy Whole Foods/Cook From Scratch
I will always be an advocate for buying whole foods and cooking from scratch. I know a lot of people don’t feel like they have the time to cook a homemade meal. But there are so many options to help out these days like freezer meals, quick recipes, using a pressure cooker, dump and go, etc… We have so many modern tools to help us out in the kitchen there really isn’t an excuse anymore. Not only will buying whole foods and cooking from scratch save you money on groceries; it’s also healthier. Plus it’s a great way to bring the family together around a meal.
- Limit your grocery list to ingredients or staples like fresh produce, non-processed meats, or pantry staples. If you cook from scratch your food dollar tends to get stretched. Think of a package of Hamburger Helper, it’s cheaper to make your own version (pasta is cheap). Plus you’re more likely to get at least two meals out of a homemade version.
- Buying whole foods is better for your budget because as I said above there isn’t the extra cost of flashy packaging and marketing costs.
- The other reason this will save you money, in the long run, is buying whole, healthy, fresh food is better for your health. Which would rather do spend money on healthy food, or on medical bills later?
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Saving Money on Groceries
I have so many great ideas to help you save money on groceries I might have to make a part two for this article. But I hope these will help you get started on getting your grocery budget under control. I know they really helped me when I was struggling to make ends meet. Many of these tips are super easy to implement and don’t really require you to sacrifice much to change your habits.
I would love to hear from you about some tips you might have on how you cut back on your grocery bill. Leave a comment below!