With the cost of food continually going up, many consumers are looking for ways to save money on groceries. Cutting out restaurant visits and fast food runs are easy ways to reduce how much you spend on food. Beyond those, there are lots of little things you can do when buying groceries that will stretch your food dollars. Read on for 101 ways to fill your pantry, fridge, and stomach for less.
Where to Shop:
1. Not all grocery stores are created equal, so scope out the ones near you and shop at the the store that’s the least expensive. A quick pass through will give you some telling clues. Do you see lobster tanks, olive bars, sushi counter, and other premium services like those? They’re nice, but you’ll pay more for everything at stores with those perks.
2. If you have a big family to feed, join a warehouse stores like Costo or Sam’s Club. The small membership fee usually pays for itself very quickly.
3. Find a store that has a rewards club program, then sign up and use it. Depending on the type of offerings, you’ll get exclusive coupons, bonuses, and other ways to save.
4. Don’t purchase items like toiletries and paper goods at the grocery store, where they’re often priced higher than they are at stores like Target.
5. Check out the ethnic grocers near you. You may not normally think to shop at them, but be open-minded. You can sometimes get staples, especially fresh produce, at great prices.
6. Check your local dollar store! It may sound crazy to buy food at deep discount outlets, but shelf-stable items can often be found at great bargains. Just be sure to note the expiration dates.
7. Visit a bakery outlet store for great prices and lots of buy one-get one offers on breads, higher-end packaged cookies and cakes, and other types of baked goods.
8. Lots of grocery stores do price matching. Find out if one by you will honor lower advertised prices at other stores, then watch the sales and ask for lower prices to be matched.
9. Keep an eye on grocery prices at your local big box drug store. Their sales on pantry items like pasta and canned goods can rival any grocery store’s.
10. Avoid shopping for groceries at convenience stores and gas stations, where everything costs more money.
Planning Your Shopping Trip:
11. Make a habit of reading the weekend circulars or checking your favorite store’s website. Find out what’s on sale, and plan your meals around those items.
12. Find out when your local store gets its deliveries of perishable items. The fresher they are when you buy them, the longer they’ll last when you get them home, and the less likely they are to go bad before you can use them.
13. Be flexible so that you can take advantage of unadvertised sales.
14. Get out your scissors and clip coupons. Store them in a convenient place, and grab them before you go shopping.
15. Combine coupons plus store sales for truly amazing savings.
16. Join a coupon swapping group to load up on the coupons that you can really use and help others get the ones they need. Saving money can be a group effort!
17. Find out if any of your local grocery stores have double coupon days, and take advantage of them.
18. Ask if your store accepts expired coupons.
19. Some grocery stores offer discounts for seniors, students, and military. If any of these apply to you, find out when they’re are available (typically it’s one day per week), and take advantage of them.
20. Before you shop, take stock of what you already have at home. There’s no sense in buying a jar of pasta sauce if you bought four when they were on sale last week.
21. Make a budget and stick to it. Bring a calculator to the store if it helps.
22. If you know that you have trouble sticking to a budget, leave your credit cards at home and bring only cash to the store. That way, you’ll really have a limit!
23. Make a shopping list and buy only what is on the list. This takes some discipline, but it can be done.
Putting Technology to Use:
24. Use the Ibotta app to get rebates on specific items.
25. Check out grocerysmarts.com for lots of printable coupons.
26. For more printable coupons and discounts, visit coolsavings.com.
27. Use inboxdollars.com, a website that pays you to use their coupons. So, you not only get the discount offered on the coupon, but you also get a small amount of money just for using them.
28. If a sale item is out of stock, ask for a raincheck to get the sale price at a later date.
29. Consider using a meal planning site. Many of them have meal ideas tailored to families on a budget, and they’ve already done all the math for you.
30. Invest $5 a month for emeals.com, a meal planning site that incorporates supermarket sale items in their menus. The cost often pays for itself within the first few days, helping you make the most of mealtime on a shoestring.
31. If you live in an area that offers a local grocery delivery service, see if there are discounts for first time users.
32. The same goes for online grocers: take advantage of first time buyer discounts. For example, vinemarket.com offers 20% off your first order.
What to Buy, What Not to Buy:
33. Learn how to cook. By buying ingredients rather than packaged food and preparing meals yourself, you save a lot. Plus, you eat healthier to boot.
34. Buy ingredients that you can use in more than one meal. For example, buy a whole chicken and roast it for one meal, then use the leftover chicken for chicken salad or chicken soup.
35. If a product comes in different sizes, check the unit price. If it’s a product you use a lot and the unit price goes down for the bigger size, it’s worth it to buy the bigger one.
36. Look at expiration dates. This is especially important with dairy. If a product that will usually last you a week expires in two days, don’t buy it. You’ll just be throwing away your money.
37. If you can, buy in bulk. Things like flour, sugar, oats, rice, and other simple grains are often cheaper in bulk because you’re not paying for packaging.
38. If you have a large family, large packages of meat often cost less per pound than smaller packages. Divide a big tray of chicken parts or pork chops into single-meal packs, then freeze until you’re ready to use them.
39. Don’t buy individual portions of things like chips or candy — you’re mostly paying for packaging. Instead, buy larger bags, then make smaller portions at home.
40. Buy big tubs of yogurt rather than small cups. You pay much less per ounce, and you’re not wasting as much plastic.
41. Staples that come in five or ten pound bags are almost always a good deal. This goes for things like potatoes, rice, apples, and more.
42. Consider buying less expensive cuts of meat. For example, chicken breasts are lean and delicious, but they’re also the most expensive individual part of the chicken. For half the price, you can buy chicken thighs, which can be prepared the exact same way as breasts and, according to many people, have a superior taste.
43. Buy fruits and vegetables in season for the lowest price and the best taste. A pound of peaches in the summer costs a fraction of a pound of peaches in February. If you really love something in season, buy an extra five pounds and freeze it.
44. If the produce you love isn’t in season, buy it frozen. It’s much cheaper than fresh, and when frozen veggies and fruits are cooked or used in recipes, you can almost never tell the difference.
45. The checkout line is full of potential impulse buys like candy, soda, and gum. Don’t give into temptation.
46. Avoid buying convenience foods at the grocery store. You pay a premium for them.
47. Pre-washed and pre-cut fruits and vegetables are convenient, but they’re also substantially more expensive than whole fruits and vegetables. Buy the whole ones and wash and cut them yourself.
48. The same goes with bags of shredded cheese. Convenient? Yes. More expensive? Much more. Buy a block of your favorite cheese and take two minutes to shred it yourself. You’ll save money, plus freshly shredded cheese melts better.
49. Supermarket delis are full of prepared foods, but they’re often expensive. Unless something is on sale for half price, it’s usually cheaper to make your own.
50. Canned beans are cheap, right? Sort of, but they’ve got nothing on dried beans, which cook in just water and cost literally pennies per serving.
51. It may be tempting to buy an expensive spice mix for your next cookout, but you’d be paying a lot for what is essentially a shaker of salt. Instead, buy herbs and spices that you like and use those.
52. Love popcorn? Real kernels popped on a stove top (or in a microwave) are much less expensive than bags of microwave popcorn.
53. Tap water is very cheap. Bottled water is not. Don’t buy bottled water. If you want it filtered, it’s still cheaper to buy a filter and do it yourself.
54. Limit how much juice and soda you buy. Water relieves your thirst better, costs less, and is much better for you.
55. If you must have fizz in your water, skip the soda altogether and invest in a Soda Stream to make your own.
56. if you must have juice, buy one bottle. When you drink a glass, dilute it with water. You’ll buy half as much juice this way, and after a few glasses, you won’t even notice the difference.
57. Beer, wine, and liquor are expensive. Try cutting back your alcohol consumption or giving it up during the week.
58. Go for store brands or generics rather than name brands.
59. The priciest items in the grocery store tend to be at eye level. For less expensive items, look on the higher and lower shelves.
60. Breeze by the produce shelf with items reduced for quick sale. It usually contains things like very ripe fruit and slightly dinged vegetables. If you are going to eat them in the next day or two (or use them in recipes), you can often get a lot for your money.
61. If you rely on deli meats and cheeses for lunches, try shopping later in the evening. Many stores will close their deli counters at around 9:00pm, bag up any sliced items that didn’t sell that day, and sell them for half price. Hit the store at the right time, and you could score a pound of freshly sliced turkey for about three bucks..
62. The same goes for bakery items: the box of donuts that cost $3 at 5:00pm may be 99¢ at 9:00pm. Ask your local store when they mark down fresh items.
63. Meat can be expensive, so consider proteins that cost less. Things like beans, eggs, peanut butter, and tofu can make great protein-rich meals without meat.
64. Brand new products are often introduced on sale or at a discount. If you see something new, and if it’s something you can use, take advantage of the low introductory price.
65. However, if it’s not a product that you know you’ll use, skip it and stick to your list.
66. If a product you love goes on sale for an amazingly low price, stockpile! Try to get enough to last you until it goes on sale again.
67. When you buy highly perishable items like produce or dairy, have a plan for using them. Otherwise, they’ll usually end up in the trash.
68. Consider cheaper alternatives. For example, many people love a bowl of cereal in the morning, but cereal tends to cost a lot. Try switching to oatmeal: it’s usually healthier than cold cereal, fills you up better, and is significantly cheaper too.
69. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store for food that is the freshest, healthiest, and least expensive when in season.
70. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. If it’s not something you’ll use, you’re really not saving any money.
71. Pay close attention to sales. A two-for-$4 may be a great deal for an item that’s usually $2.99, but check to see if you have to buy two to get the deal.
72. Products on aisle end caps often look like they’re a good deal. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they’re not, so be sure to compare prices.
Beyond the Grocery Store:
73. Try shopping at your local farmer’s market. Items in season are often priced low, and if you buy larger quantities, there’s often room for price negotiation.
74. If you have the means, go hunting. If you’re successful, you won’t have to buy meat at the grocery store for a while. One deer can yield well over 50 pounds of meat!
75. If you live near a safe body of water, go fishing. Not only is it relaxing, but you can reel in a variety of tasty fish.
76. Grow a garden. Even if it’s just herbs or a few tomatoes, those are things you can enjoy without having to buy them at the store
77. If your garden has a great year, can and freeze your bumper crop. You’ll enjoy the fruits of your labors all year long.
78. If you’re constantly running out of room in your freezer, invest in a stand-along freezer. These keep meat and anything else fresh for a long time, and they don’t cost much to buy and operate.
79. If you have a friend or neighbor who grows or raises food, try bartering.
80. Join a CSA. Short for Community Supported Agriculture, a CSA keeps you and your family in fresh foods for an entire season (or more, depending on the CSA) for a reasonable up-front fee.
81. Try a bit of foraging. This takes some know-how and patience, but things like wild greens, berries, mushrooms, and more can all be found in accessible public place. (Just make sure you know something is safe before you eat it.)
82. Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. You’ll be more likely to buy things you don’t need.
83. Pay attention to what you buy each week and what you have left over. Take note of any food that you throw out as well. Based on this, see where you can cut back.
84. Try to go grocery shopping just once a week. The more trips you make to the grocery store, the more you’re likely to spend.
85. Eat leftovers!
86. Encourage leftovers by cooking big meals like soups and stews. You can even freeze some for a meal in a few weeks.
87. Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are running at the proper temperatures to avoid early spoilage or freezer burn.
88. Watch the scanner as your groceries are being scanned, and be sure to point out any errors.
89. Check your receipt before you leave the store, and point out discrepancies at the customer service counter to get the difference back. Additionally, some states require that stores pay the customer a small fee (like $5) for any wrongly marked or scanned item in addition to the refund.
90. Don’t shop with your kids. They tend to ask for lots of items you didn’t plan on buying and don’t really need. If you give in (which you’re likely to do in order to avoid any tantrums), the cost of your grocery trip goes up.
91. Get what you need and leave. Lingering leads to spending.
92. Use your own bags. It’s better for the environment, plus some stores will give you a few cents off your order for each bag you bring. It’s not a lot, but every little bit adds up.
93. If you pay for groceries with a credit card, use one that will give you either cash back or useful rewards.
94. Try not to throw anything in your refrigerator away. If you’ve got a little of this and a little of that, be creative about turning them into a meal. Keep in mind that eggs and pasta cook well with lots of different ingredients — they’re like leftover glue.
95. Bake your own bread. It costs next to nothing, and your house will smell amazing.
96. If there’s a baby in your household, making your own baby food from fresh, in-season produce (and freezing it in small portions) is almost always cheaper than buying individual jars or pouches.
97. Become a discerning label reader. Packaged goods make all sorts of claims: high in this, low in that, and so on. But check to see what’s really inside your food. Many times, there’s a cheaper equivalent with less fancy packaging.
98. Plan your meals so you don’t make extra trips to the store. Every trip adds up.
99. Know your weaknesses and don’t linger near them. Love chips? Walk quickly past them, or avoid that aisle altogether
100. Don’t shop during busy times, like Fridays and weekend afternoons. You’ll feel less rushed, which gives you more time to comparison shop.
101. Have reasonable expectations about what you’ll eat. It’s great to decide you’re going to buy only healthy foods, but if you fill your fridge with greens and don’t eat them, you’ve wasted a lot of money.