How to Save Money On Groceries

Want to know how to save money on groceries? We've come up with 20 tips that will help you cut costs when purchasing food.  

How to save money on groceries

20. List it. Instead of listing everything you THINK you need, first plan your meals for the week and then buy the ingredients you’ll ACTUALLY need to make them. By doing so, experts say you just might save up to 41% on your grocery bill.

19. Eat first. This tried and true hint bears repeating, as going to the grocery story hungry is the primary reason we buy on impulse.

18. Skip the processed food. Not only are they not good for you, they cost more than unprocessed foods.

17. Grate your own. Like processed foods, pre-grated cheese, carrots and the like, cost more.

16. No toiletries, please. If you can, buy only groceries at the grocery store. Make a separate list of toiletries and paper products for the discount stores, where they’ll cost 20 to 40 percent LESS.

15. Skip the pre-cuts. Like #17, cutting meat and produce will save you money, BUT it’s also safer to eat, as ‘many of the incidents of food-borne illness linked to fresh produce are traced to processing,’ as per The Times-Picayune.

14. Beware of the aisle maze. Grocery stores put dairy products and meat in the back of the store for a reason: they want to force you to walk through all those aisle of temptation to get there. So, if you’re making a quick trip for milk, keep this in mind to avoid manipulation.

13. Beware of the end-caps. And speaking of manipulation, just because items are displayed on an ‘end-cap’ doesn’t mean they’re on sale. Note: manufacturers of those items often times PAY for those prime display locations. BTW: the same goes for end caps in book stores. Just because a book is displayed on an end cap, doesn’t mean it’s good!

12. Toast your bread. Consider by-passing the more expensive fresh-baked bread and reaching for the day old selection, which you can keep in the freezer for toasting. Also, many–if not all–bagel shops discount drastically as the end of the day nears. Keep a look out for these fabulous deals the next time you’re hankering for an afternoon schmear.

11. Beware of bulk. Buying in bulk, when the price is right, is tempting, but only buy groceries that you know you’ll use before they’ll perish. Non-perishables, of course, are the safest to buy in bulk.

10. Beware of bulk part 2, or why you should take a calculator to the supermarket. Just because an item is available in a larger size/amount, doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. To make sure you’re not getting swindled, check the unit price.

9. Back to the tap. Bottled water is big business and big news, as of late. According to an August 1, 2007 New York Times editorial, "Almost all municipal water in America is so good that nobody needs to import a single bottle from Italy or France or the Fiji Islands. Meanwhile, if you choose to get your recommended eight glasses a day from bottled water, you could spend up to $1,400 annually. The same amount of tap water would cost you about 49 cents." And let’s not get started with all those plastic bottles heading to the landfills.

8. Freeze your dairy. When on sale, consider stocking up on milk and freezing it. Keep in mind that whole or 2% freezes better than skim. Of course, you’ll want to use the top inch or two of the milk before you freeze the container so it doesn’t explode when it expands.

7. And speaking of dairy.... Although manufacturers often print on the packaging of cheese that it’s not recommended for freezing, I do it all the time, as did my mother. Especially those kinds of cheeses, like mozzarella, that I use primarily in cooking.

6. Be flexible. Just because you have a list, doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of store specials you might come across.

5. Make a coupon file. A lot of people who dislike using coupons do so because they can be inconvenient. They get lost or you forget to use them. Consider making a coupon file to make the experience more ‘enjoyable’. You can buy files made especially for coupon organization, but how about rescuing an appropriately sized food canister and making a few file dividers out of index cards for your most popular product categories?

4. Make your own mixes. Pre-made mixes are expensive. Check out cdkitchen for some low cost and interesting alternatives.

3. Note what you have and have not. Besides keeping track of what you DON’T have, keep track of what you DO have, thus avoiding unnecessary purchases. (I remember a time when we had 3 bottles of ketchup in the pantry because we kept forgetting we already had it!)

2. Eat more beans! Beans are inexpensive, tasty and provide all kinds of nutrition. So, the next time you balk at the price of ground round, consider the almighty legume!!!

And the number 1 way to save money at the grocery store....

Keep an eye on the scanner. According to Robyn Moreno of Woman's Day, 'Grocery stores are not always reset with current sale prices. Your chances of being charged the full price on a sale item are high.' Robyn suggests to speak up immediately when you see an error. Think an error or two is no big deal? Americans lose anywhere from 1 to 3 BILLION DOLLARS a year on scanning discrepancies. 

For more money-saving tips, check out The Times-Picayune article, 50 ways to save money on groceries, as well as the MSNBC article featuring the advice of Robyn Moreno of Woman's Day.

Typical American Grocery Store' courtesy of Wikipedia.





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Rebecca on Nov 05, 2012:

20) List it. It's important to remember that when you write your list you need to be specific. I write my grocery list from the flyer in the middle of the week, and and go shopping on the weekend. It's important to write that you want a 'whole chicken at 1.49/lb' not just 'chicken' which if you forget what you wanted, could result in 'skinless boneless chicken at 7.99/lb.' Be sure to list the brand, exact product and quantity you want.

Becky on Oct 19, 2010:

Another thing that's good to do on the subject of a list and the "aisle maze", is to list your items logically. As in, write your list in such a way that means you walk between the items you need as quickly as possible, so you don't notice those oh-so-tempting double chocolate cookies or whatever. It seems like a hassle at first but you'll get to know where everything is quickly and eventually you'll do it automatically.

Also, don't shop with kids unless you've got no choice. Unfortunately, pester power does work.

On the subject of bulk buying, so long as you do your research, there's nothing wrong with it at all. Me, I regularly buy eggs, pet food, toilet paper and kitchen roll in bulk and that works fine for me. But not every family eats too many omelettes, two cats and a dog or enough loft space. The key thing is is to look at your family, what you get through quickly, what kind of storage space you have first, before you even start pricing things up. Wholesale outlets can save you a lot of money but they won't if you're trying to apply a universal idea of what's a good thing to buy in bulk.

Al on Oct 01, 2009:

Another way to save is to buy a second freezer so you can fit more froozen item when they go onl sale.

Also, keeping a good grocery list of what you actually need before you go to the store is a must.

I use wwwGroceryWiz.com to keep my grocery list and look for grocery coupons.

Another thing I do is keep a jar handy to stuff my grocery receipts and coupons in so I have them handy when I'm ready to head the the store. If you don'thave them handy you won't user them. Trust me. :-)


Magali on Apr 26, 2009:

I always take a list otherwise I go over budget every time. Thanks for the tips.

Caya123 on Aug 24, 2007:

The other day I went to Shaw's, and they had a deal on Hungry Man pancake mix- $1 for a 2 lb box after sale and coupon. It might seem cheaper to buy a 5-lb bag of flour for about $1.80, sift it together the appropriate amounts of baking powder, salt, sugar, and baking soda, and thus make my own pancake mix. BUT, once I looked at the box, and found that the store-bought mix was "complete", and didn't need oil or eggs- well, that, plus the convenience, made the difference. It was about the same price just to buy the mix, and a whole lot more convenient. You have to be careful not to buy more than you will use before it expires though, if you're not giving them away to a food bank. Just something to think about, when you go through the store.

getchoretro on Aug 24, 2007:

10. Beware of bulk part 2, or why you should take a calculator to the supermarket. Just because an item is available in a larger size/amount, doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. To make sure you’re not getting swindled, check the unit price.

I totally agree. Call me a nerd but when I go grocery shopping, I get a kick out of figuring out which is the best deal. Although I don't bring a calculator (it keeps me on my toes), I always have fun deciphering between which is the better deal. 

bigdaddyhame on Aug 16, 2007:

with regard to #14: (disclosure: i work in the grocery industry) my understanding from talking with the people who design our stores is that the reason the meat and dairy are at the back of the store is because a) it's much closer to the loading dock and the dairy case can be loaded directly from behind with no risk of a skid being abandoned in an aisle by a busy employee and b) the meat processing area needs to be close to the meat case and you can't generally put that out in the middle of the store.  As well in terms of airflow and energy concerns it is better to have the meat case against a back wall than it would be in the middle of the store or near the front door (outside airflow = germs too).

There is obviously a benefit to having people have to walk through the whole store to get to the meat and dairy but it's secondary to keeping the foods safe from contamination and spoil.

baconthecat on Aug 14, 2007:

(Well, also because we get lazy to cook sometimes.)

baconthecat on Aug 14, 2007:

Dang, I didn't know about the end caps in the bookstore thing. I will remember to beware of that. Thanks for the tips! It's funny, because I used to enjoy grocery shopping, but now I hate it. And it never ceases to amaze me that we'll come home with $150 worth of food, and then declare there's nothing to eat for dinner. I guess we need to start doing #20!!

Caya123 on Aug 14, 2007:

A person can also save by buying whole chickens. In my area, they are about 79 cents a pound. Once you learn how, it's not hard to learn how to separate the pieces, or you can just roast it whole. That is easy & delicious. Then you use the leftover meat the next day, and freeze the carcass. When you have about two carcasses, you stick it in the crockpot, cover it with water, and make broth. Add a splash of vinegar, to leach the calcium out of the bones. I'm told a bit of tabasco sauce clears up the flavor nicely, too. Add cheap chopped stewing carrots, a quartered onion, and celery leaves for flavor, if you want. I leave that on all day or all night on low. Then I put it in mason jars on a towel in the fridge (the smaller volumes cool off quicker). When it's cool, I skim off the fat and pour the jelly-like broth into ice cube trays, and when they are frozen, into ziplock bags. It sounds like a lot of work, but each step takes less than two minutes, most less than a minute, and there's tons of time in between each item. Another big money-saver is making bread in a bread machine. Good bread costs like $3/loaf, which is ridiculous- but you can make much better at home, for much cheaper. The cheapest I have found bread flour though is at Costco, like $10 for a big 50-lb bag. That 50 lbs of flour fits nicely in an unused tall kitchen trash contaner BTW. Don't know how food-safe that plastic is, but I don't know if the plastic would really leach, either.

Torgo on Aug 14, 2007:

These days, I find grated cheese often costs the same or only very slightly more than chunk cheese. You can also use it straight from the freezer so it keeps a very long time.

DIY Maven on Aug 13, 2007:

I hear ya! There's something about that cookie aisle... My downfall is #16.

Bjorkfansoph on Aug 13, 2007:

Thanks for this posting.  Just this morning I fell pray to # 14.  Those Chips Ahoy are soo yummy.

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