A big key to learning how to pay off debt is knowing how to save money on groceries!
When we first evaluated our spending habits at the beginning of our debt-free journey, we realized that we wasted far too much money on food. Much of our overspending came down to not planning our meals wisely.
For instance, an intended new recipe from scratch on a #ManicMonday would get trumped by Chinese takeout. Furthermore, this resulted in tossing out groceries and wasting a LOT of money.
Our poor meal planning wasn’t helped by our equally poor mindset. For this reason, frequent fast food purchases were justified with an, “It’s only $5…” mindset. We eventually realized that allowing ourselves to repeatedly excuse bad behavior was becoming a problem.
All things considered, we mustered up the courage to give our finances an honest look. And consequently, all of the, “It’s only…” purchases added up to $100s by the end of each month.
By becoming more intentional about our meals, we were able to significantly trim our grocery budget. In this way, we could apply more money toward our debt!
We managed to pay off $67,631 of debt in 16 months on a modest income! You can read all the details and steps on how to pay off debt here!
It’s important to see the big picture that every bit adds up. Then you can tell your money where to go instead of being surprised as to where it went.
So let’s dive into our most successful and enduring tips on how to save money on groceries! Not every tip will be for you but MOST of them will work for just about everyone regardless of income or household size. It’s SO important to commit to changing your lifestyle now so that you can experience the full and [guilt]free lifestyle you desire.
How to Save Money on Groceries:
1. Create a Grocery Budget
First and foremost, you need a target goal of how much to spend on groceries each week! If you’re just starting with a budget, aim to spend less than you previously spent before you started. Don’t set yourself up for failure by cutting the budget too much too soon. But don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. As a rule, try to budget $25 per person for groceries each week if you can!
2. Shop Once Per Week
Not only will shopping once a week help you stick to your meal plan, but it will also help avoid impulse and non-essential purchases. Moreover, you will become more intentional about what you purchase.
3. Use What You Have
Build a menu around what you have. That box of noodles that you’ve had for two years? It’s pasta night! EVERY BIT COUNTS! You don’t buy groceries for cupboard decor, you buy groceries to eat. Challenge yourself to use up those pantry items you already have on hand.
4. Meal Plan with PURPOSE
Recipes you really don’t enjoy eating, that require a lot of preparation and clean-up, or taste awful as leftovers are going to make you want to grab takeout when you’re tired and HANGRY. Plan meals that you ENJOY eating. Throw in some quick prep meals on days that you know you won’t want to cook. And consider how well a dish will heat up the next day in the microwave. Without a doubt, leftovers are a thrifty family’s best friend!
For inspiration, don’t miss these 25+ Dirt Cheap Meals to Make Today and The Ultimate Cheap Grocery List for a Month!
5. Go Meatless
Meat can be costly! Alternatively, you can incorporate some meatless nights into the meal plan to save money on groceries. Or even demote meat from leading lady to supporting cast. Use it as a garnish for a salad, soup, or one-pot dish instead of your anchor ingredient.
6. Use Produce Wisely
In order to avoid spoilage and waste, front-load your produce at the beginning of the weekly menu! And don’t be afraid to pop that wilting produce into the refrigerator or freezer to extend its life.
7. Use Leftovers
Get used to leftovers and say GOODBYE to eating out for lunch. Make dinner and thank yourself that you already have your lunch prepared for tomorrow too! Or you can even have a meal prep party! For instance, you can peel, slice, and divide all your food into containers for the entire week. Undoubtedly it’ll help make cooking less of a hassle, and you may even feel like a TV chef.
8. Avoid Waste
Still have leftover lettuce from the previous week? Incorporate that into the beginning of the next week! Sure, lettuce is cheap. But you need to get rid of the “It’s only $___” mentality. When you’re in debt destruction mode, reducing food waste is essential. Take care of those pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.
9. Freeze It
Leftovers and grocery perishables can be frozen and used later. For example, frozen meats and vegetables can be added to casseroles, soups and stir fry meals. If you have fresh fruit that has gone a bit lifeless but isn’t quite ready for the garbage bin, pop it into the freezer and add to smoothies later.
10. Know Before You Go
Take a few minutes and check out the sales ad for your shopping day to save money on groceries. Then plan your meals around what is going to be on sale! Don’t forget to review what coupons you have on hand. And check your rebate apps (such as Ibotta and Checkout51) to know what rebates are available for extra savings. Stacking promos is of the best ways to ensure you get the biggest bang for your buck. Sales + rebates + coupons = HUGE savings!
11. Understand Sales
Familiarize yourself with how sales work by reading the fine print on sales ads and store policies! Stores will advertise deals such as “2 for $4 or 10 for $10!” However, you typically do NOT have to buy the advertised quantity to get the sale price! Don’t fall victim to these tactics. In fact, retailers do all sorts of sneaky things to part you and your money. To arm yourself against these tactics, check out 19 Retail Tricks That Make You Spend More Money.
12. Shop at Walmart, Aldi, & Costco
If you have an Aldi near you and you’re NOT shopping there, get your booty there NOW! Aldi has killer prices, excellent quality, and great customer service. Your grocery budget will thank you! In addition to Aldi, we shop at Walmart for convenience and competitive pricing. And once a month we go to Costco focusing our attention on the monthly coupon deals and Kirkland store brand products.
13. Use Coupons
Coupons are basically free money so why NOT use them to save money on groceries? There is a bit of a learning curve with coupon lingo and knowing how it all works. Once you get the basics down, it can make a big impact. The key here is to avoid buying items you wouldn’t normally buy just because you got a great deal. Head over to Everyone Loves Couponing for a TON of resources to learn how to coupon!
14. Don’t Shop Tired and Hungry
Being tired and hungry are triggers for impulse buys. If you can’t completely avoid being tired and hungry while you shop, pack yourself a granola bar to bring along and listen to some upbeat music via headphones!
15. Stick to Grocery List
I use the free app ShopShop on my cell for my weekly shopping trip. It allows me to create a list for each store and helps me avoid distractions from what I planned to buy. Avoid browsing and just stick to the list.
16. Buy Generic
Don’t bust the budget on name-brand items that are typically the SAME as many generic products. If you must have a name brand item, buy it. The idea is to be vigilant when getting out of debt. That doesn’t mean that you must completely deprive your life of everything that brings you joy, including your favorite name brand product. But try to keep your selection to 80% generic if you can (if the generic is in fact cheaper, don’t forget point #10 of knowing sales which sometimes are cheaper when you stack your savings).
17. Check Your Surroundings
Stores purposefully put items that they WANT you to buy in very visible, high-traffic areas (center of the aisles, end caps, middle of the shelves). With this in mind, be sure to look up and look down to check out your other options which are often a better value based on unit pricing.
18. Avoid Pre-Cut, Individually Wrapped, Convenience Foods
Convenience foods are heavily marked up and are budget-busters when trying to save money on groceries. This goes for things like pre-cut produce, individually wrapped snack packs, individual freezer meals, etc. Your best value is to buy ingredients and prepare the portions yourself!
19. Buy Bulk
We mostly purchase bulk meat, oils, bread, cheese, and spices. Your freezer has a SUPERPOWER when it comes to extending the life of your food. I used to be picky and think that the freezing process changed the quality, taste, and texture of most foods. WRONG! Divide up those spoils and conquer the bulk baby! Be sure to verify unit pricing to see if buying bulk is the better deal.
20. Shop Clearance
Many companies put out limited edition items such as cereals, snacks, and drinks around the holidays. Once a holiday is over, they go on clearance.
Thrifty Tip: Seasonal foods DO NOT always get moved to the clearance aisle and may not have a marked sale price. Keep your eyes peeled as you’re shopping for seasonal packaging and SCAN those items. If it rings up on sale, it’s considered “unmarked clearance.” If it’s still full price, ask for a discount!
21. Get a Raincheck
How disappointing is it when you’re pumped about a great deal, but everyone has beaten you to it? Ask for a raincheck so that you can still get the same price when the product is back in stock.
22. Pickup Groceries for FREE at Walmart
Do you have little willpower in the store when you see items that are not on your list? See no evil! Opt for FREE grocery pickup at Walmart, and let them bring your food to your car. Impulse purchases avoided! Plus, you’ll save $10 off your first purchase of $50 or more by clicking here!
23. Ask for Discounts
Items that have damaged packaging or that are close to expiring will often be granted a discount by management. It never hurts to ask!
24. Check Receipt
It’s not uncommon for sale items to ring up at full price or to be accidentally scanned more than once. Check your receipt before you leave the store to make sure that you aren’t being charged for more than you purchased and that all discounts have been properly applied.
25. Use Money Saving Apps
Reviewing deals on the latest money savings apps will take a little more time than just checking a sales ad. BUT the payoff is AMAZING! If you’re new to using these sorts of apps, many offer a bonus just for signing up (Can you say, “FREE MONEYYYY?!”). Once you’ve signed up, choose your store, and browse the current rebates available. After you’ve made your purchase, upload your receipt and receive the cashback rebate. Rebates can be deposited in your bank, PayPal account, or in the form of a gift card!
Here are our FAVORITE trusted rebate apps:
- Ibotta (new users get a FREE $10 bonus!)
- Checkout 51
For more on rebate apps, you’ve got to check out the list of Our Favorite Cash Back Apps!
26. Return It
Did you buy a surplus of chips for that family cookout that was never opened? There is NO shame in returning items if you don’t need them!
27. Speak Up
Does an item not meet your satisfaction? Take it back! We love to shop at Aldi and Costco for this very reason. Aldi has a “Twice as Nice” Guarantee which replaces the product AND refunds your money! Costco firmly stands behind its products and accepts returns on groceries for ANY reason. If a product is bad due to quality control, writing the manufacturer is helpful too! Most of the responses from companies include a FREE product and/or coupons.
28. Keep Cheat Meals on Hand
By the end of the week, most people are SPENT and are ready for some R&R. This usually affects the foods we crave, usually wanting more comforting, celebratory foods from a restaurant. Combat those urges by keeping cheat meals on hand that WILL be cheaper if you make them at home instead of buying them from a restaurant. This Cheap & Easy Doritos Nacho Bake is a family favorite on a cheat meal night!
29. Make Your Own Food
We are certainly not above using frozen pizza some nights. But typically, your dollar will stretch farther, and your body will thank you if you avoid packaged foods and opt to make your own foods from scratch. Speaking of pizza, try out our Pizza Recipe with Homemade Dough.
30. Make Copycat Recipes
Have fun and try out your favorite restaurant recipes at home! You’d be shocked at how easy it is to make a restaurant’s signature dish in the comfort of your own home. It’s a fun activity that will boost your confidence in the kitchen and fatten your wallet at the same time. Check out some of the best recipes from CopyKat and Six Sisters’ Stuff!
31. Make Your Own Baby Food
A bundle of fresh produce and a little preparation will save you a TON of money. Making your own baby food at home requires only basic ingredients, a bit of patience, and a blender or food processor. To make uniform quantities, use ice cube trays to freeze individual size portions. For more tips, head over to read 36 Guaranteed Ways to Save Money on Baby!
32. Make Freezer Meals
Frozen homemade chicken tenders, pancakes, pizza rolls, muffins, burritos, and breakfast croissants have carried us through many “MUST EAT NOW” moments! Don’t be tempted to swing by and pick up takeout. It only takes about 2 minutes to heat up some cheaper, tastier, and healthier foods at home that you’ve already prepared.
33. Make Spice Blends
Spice blends and seasoning packets are WAY overpriced (and full of a lot of unnecessary ingredients). Making your own spice combinations allows you to make custom blends that fit your taste buds, all the while pinching those precious pennies.
34. Try Fasting
This applies to adults and NOT children. If you have no major health issues, intermittent fasting may be a great way to cut back on the amount of food you consume and ultimately save you money. I do the 16:8 fasting method which allows me to eat during an 8-hour window and I fast for 16 hours. I eat FAR less food using this method because I’m aware of my body’s actual hunger signals and not just eating mindlessly.
35. Cut Out Bottled Water
Bottled water costs 2000x more money than tap water. Switch to a refrigerator filter, faucet filter, or filtered pitcher to save BIG.
36. Kick K-Cups Out
K-Cups are more expensive than brewing a pot of coffee. It’s time to kick those little cups to the “K-urb!”
37. Sign-up for Samples
Stay in the know about the latest FREE samples which add up big time. Many major retailers participate in a “sample club” that allows you to gain access to current samples that can be shipped directly to you at no charge. You can get everything from granola bars to clothing detergent for FREE!
My go-to sites for sample news are:
38. Email Companies
Have a product you love? Have a suggestion to make a product better? Take time to email the product manufacturer! Often, they will thank you for your feedback with some great coupons.
We hope this list has inspired you in a new way to save money on groceries. We would LOVE to hear your favorite money-saving tip in the comments below!
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