Grocery prices are on the rise again, and with a severe drought impacting a large portion of our nation’s farms, prices are only going to get worse.
It used to be that you could fill a cart for $100. Now it seems like you’re lucky to fill the cart for twice that amount. It’s also gotten harder to save money with coupons. The really great coupon deals you used to be able to get a few years ago are harder to find because more folks are couponing and manufacturers are putting more constraints on their coupons.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways you can save money on groceries. And most of them don’t require a ton of effort.
11 Ways to Save Money on Groceries
Plan to save.
One of the best ways to trim your grocery bill is through careful planning. Make sure to do some menu planning using items you already have in your pantry or freezer. Then search the sales flyers to find the best savings at the grocery store. Finally, match up the coupons you have for sale items you need. The Favado app for your smartphone to find coupon and deal matchups for your favorite stores.
When you can plan out your menu and shopping trips, you’ll find yourself making fewer trips to the store, which will also save money. You won’t have to worry about picking up “just one thing” and walking out with five or six impulse buys.
Know where to look.
Stick to the perimeter of the store for the healthiest, least processed choices, and pay attention to where items are on the shelves. Merchandisers pay a premium to make sure their items are in your direct line of sight. And you’ll pay for that! Look up high and down low on the store shelves for better bargains. Don’t forget to check the forgotten corners of the grocery store where scratch-and-dent and clearance items like to hide.
Get to know your grocery store.
Get to know where to find sale shelves and clearance racks. Locate special coupon sources (the service counter often has extra coupon booklets or other coupons). Learn when fresh produce is put out each week. Learn when the meat department marks down meat. Sign up for e-mails from your favorite stores and be sure to sign up for any store loyalty programs as well.
And don’t forget to be friendly with the store employees. They know their inventory and can help you find the best deals. The butcher can help you find the best cuts of meat for the lowest prices. The checkout clerk can give you tips to save on your next grocery trip. Customer service can give you a raincheck on a sale item that was out of stock. Be friendly and courteous and you’ll find plenty of ways to save.
Skip the convenience.
I know that life is busy, but it only takes a minute or two to peel and slice your own carrots, and you’ll easily save 50% or more when you do it. Make your own breads and save a bundle. There are dozens of homemade mixes you can create for a fraction of the cost of the prepackaged convenience items. Books like Easy. Homemade can give you even more ideas. Making your own convenience items isn’t just cheaper: It’s also healthier. You know exactly what items have gone into your recipes. The less processed the food is, the better it is for your health and your wallet. Processed foods like soda and pre-portioned snacks are grocery budget busters to avoid.
Shop close to the sell-by date and in-season.
Plan your meals around the fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season to avoid paying a lot of money for those that aren’t. If something you really want isn’t in season – like strawberries – consider buying frozen instead. You’ll still get the taste, but not the expense.
Many grocery stores also offer deep discounts on fresh produce that is at or near it’s prime. I often find great deals on ripe bananas for making bread and muffins.
Grocery stores would rather sell items for cheap than have to pay to dispose of expired goods, so look for deep discounts on items at or near their sell-by date. I’ve gotten bacon for $1 a pound just because it was 3 days away from the sell-by date. I took advantage of the price to stock my freezer. Check the meat department, produce section, and dairy department for the best discounts.
Ditch the brand loyalty.
One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries is to stop being loyal to particular brands. Instead, calculate the best value for the price. Sometimes, store brands can help you save. Other times, a relatively new brand could be cheaper with a special promotion and coupon. Be especially flexible on recipe staples like pasta, rise, beans, milk, cream soups, cheeses and spices.
Find new places to shop.
It’s good to get to know your local grocery stores, but it’s also good to branch out. You can find some great grocery savings at unconventional places like drugstores, farmers’ markets, convenience stores, online retailers and more.
Grow your own food or buy it locally.
Growing your own food can be an incredibly economical way to save on your food bill, particularly when you start your plants from seeds. Anyone (yes, even you, city dwellers!) can learn to grow a lot of food in a small space. Gardening allows you to produce food for your family for a lot less than you would pay at the store, and it tastes so much better, too. If you are unable to garden (or don’t want to), be sure to shop your local farmers’ markets or join a CSA (community supported agriculture) group to save money on quality produce and meat.
Eat less meat.
A family of five can easily save $30 or more a month on groceries by eating just one meatless meal a week. Replace the meat with beans, lentils, or quinoa instead. If you don’t want to give up the meat in your meals completely, consider using 1/3 or 1/2 the amount in casseroles and soups. You may find that your family doesn’t even miss it, and you can stretch your grocery budget.
Go hunting or fishing.
If you simply must have meat at every meal, you could take up hunting or fishing. You’ll need to make an initial investment in some equipment, but if you buy quality gear, the only expense you’ll have is your annual license.
Waste less food.
One of the biggest ways to save money on groceries is to use up your food. Stop buying food your family won’t eat in hopes that one day they will. Make sure leftovers are stored in clear containers marked with identifying info, so that they are seen and eaten. Freeze what you can’t eat before it goes bad or trade your leftovers with a friend or neighbor. Compost food scraps you can’t use. A little planning can help you turn yesterday’s leftovers into tomorrow’s frugal meal.
It is possible to keep your grocery budget from ballooning when you know these simple tricks to save money on groceries.
What are some of the ways you save?