I used to love grocery stores as a kid. The endless aisles filled with bright containers and boxes. However, that love quickly faded as an adult when I had to swipe my card at checkout. I always ended up spending more than I was planning to. When I committed to My Food Budget Journey of reducing my grocery and dining budget by 30%, I knew I had to change the way I shopped.
Here are some of the ways I’ve been able to save money on groceries and cut my grocery bill in half!
1.Come prepared with a list:
Without it, it might as well be a free for all. The list keeps you on track to buy only what you came for. Which should already be planned out during your meal planning process (see article Meal Planning 101).
2. Don’t shop while hungry:
This one is a game changer for me, when I am hungry I grab all kinds of goodies and snacks. It is hard to stay focused and my low blood sugar makes me irritable. If you don’t have time to eat a full meal beforehand, be sure to bring a quick snack to eat.
3. Shop on the outside perimeter of the store:
Why is that? The outside aisles tend to be full of fresh product, meats, and dairy. The middle aisles typically have more processed foods. If you do need to go down the middle aisles, only go down the aisles you need to. Do not feel the need to “window shop” down the aisles of items that are not on your list. If it is not on your list, you most likely do not need the item today, so it can wait.
4. Cut down on snacks:
Check in with yourself. Are the foods you are buying nutrient dense or empty calories? I am not shaming anyone here! I just want you to take a look at your pantry and decide, what snacks are we actually using. I definitely have been guilty of buying a snack and then having it sit in the back of the pantry for weeks, maybe years. Make sure the snacks and food that you buy are what you and your family will actually eat. A bonus if they are healthy!
5. Buy local/in season produce:
Not only will they be cheaper, but they taste better and stay fresh longer! Here is a list of what is in season for each season from SNAP-Ed.
6. Maximize your organic items:
Check out the clean 15 and dirty dozen list from the Environmental Working Group. The clean 15 are the fruits and veggies that when tested, had the least pesticide residues. The dirty dozen are fruits and veggies that when tested, had the highest levels of pesticide residue. So when buying organic, focus on prioritizing fruits and veggies on the dirty dozen list to get the most bang for your buck! One item that surprised me was avocados! They are on the clean 15 list, so no need to pay that extra $2 or more for the organic avocados. The following foods are on the dirty dozen list: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s site for more info on how they choose the dirty dozen and clean 15!
7. Buy frozen fruits and veggies:
Frozen fruits and veggies are almost as good as fresh! The process of flash freezing the produce keeps the majority of the nutrients intake. Not only are they cheaper, but they last longer too! There are certain recipes that frozen fruits and veggies are better suited for than others such as soups, smoothies, omelets, pizzas, casseroles, and fried rice. I would not recommend using frozen for others like fresh salads, roasted veggies or fruit parfaits.
8. Buy generic:
Buying store brand or generic brand can save you some big bucks. As a Dietitian, I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing ingredients in products and 9/10 the ingredients for generic vs store brand are exactly the same! You are basically paying more for fancy packaging. For certain items, such as tomato sauce, I may buy certain brands that I like better. However things like canned items, cereals, and paper products, I buy generic for sure.
9. Maximize store or credit card rewards:
Almost every store has a rewards program these days. Signing up for a rewards program often gives you access to additional store discounts, discounts on gas and sometimes even cash back. If you shop at the same store often, these discounts can really add up! You could save hundreds of dollars by utilizing these programs. Most of the time, these programs are free such as stores like Shoprite, Giant, Safeway, Harris teeter etc. Big box stores may require a subscription fee, but depending on how much you spend, the subscription fee may be worth it. For example a Costco membership fee is $120 which includes a 2% cash back reward that you receive at the end of your membership year. As long as you spend $6,000 a year (or $500 a month) the membership will pay for itself. This may be high for just groceries, but Costco has a lot of non-food items at very competitive prices. For example, we just bought a washer/dryer machine for $1,300 that was retail $2,400 at other stores. For us, the membership price is worth it, but everyone is different.
Use credit cards with extra cash back/points for grocery stores. If you are someone who uses credit cards and pay them in full, then cash back or points rewards for groceries may be a good option for you! Some cards have extra percentages or points for use at the grocery store. I typically try to use these points or cash back for statement credit so I can save a little extra on my grocery budget for the month!
10. Limit your trips to the store:
The more often you go to the store or make a grocery order, the more likely you are to add on a few extra items. Trying to stick to a weekly or biweekly trip or order will make it easier to stick to save money on groceries.
Like my tips? Have any other tips to save money on groceries to share? Comment below! I would love to hear from you!