Learn how to save money on groceries every month and build 10 habits that will change the way you shop and help you save on food expenses.
How to Save Money on Food Expenses
Make a Budget.
Step one and the most important step to getting your finances under control and on your way to spending less money at the grocery store is to start a budget.
Start doing your groceries on a budget and you will be more conscious about what you’re spending and start saving on groceries every month.
Need help starting a budget, Learn How to Build a Budget.
How Much Should I Spend on Groceries? This answer will change for everyone. The most important thing is to look at your income and what you have been spending in the last few months to determine what the right number is for you.
I aim to spend less than $400 per month on groceries for me and my husband. I also allow $100 per month on going out to eat/entertainment.
Write A Grocery List.
Set aside an hour every week to plan your meals and write a grocery list. It’s simple and the most effective way to save money on groceries.
When you write a list, and stick to it, you avoid buying random groceries on an impulse.
A grocery store is a business like any other, and they use techniques to try and get you to buy more than you need. The layout, the size of the cart, the candy counter, even the music are all designed to get you to buy more. Don’t fall into the trap!
You started a budget, you have your grocery list, now it’s time to start shopping for groceries more consciously. Start getting in the habit of comparing prices.
Compare prices between stores.
Compare prices of advertised items across stores with Flipp. Flipp makes it really easy to view all the circulars from your favorite stores. So now, when you’re planning your grocery trip you can just look in one app to see all the deals.
Compare prices of items across stores with Basket. This app compares prices of items across grocery stores. If you’re looking for the best price for milk between Aldi, Costco, and Walmart, this is the app for you. It’s not perfect, and sometimes won’t include grocery brand items, but it’s so much easier than doing all the searches yourself.
Start a personal list of price comparisons for common items. Alternatively, you can start your own chart in a notes app and write down the prices of common things you buy when you’re passing by different stores. It’s more personalized and you get the prices of exactly what you would buy.
Compare prices between items.
Look at the unit price. The best way to make sure you’re getting the cheapest item is by looking at the unit price.
The unit price is the cost per pound, ounce, or unit of a packaged item. It’s usually printed on the price tag on the shelf below the item.
Price/Units = Unit Price
For example, you’re looking to buy a container of peanuts. Planters has a 26 oz container of peanuts for $4.23. While the Great Value peanuts is 34.5 oz for $5.34. Per ounce the Planters container is $0.16/ounce while the GV peanuts are $0.15/ounce. Even though at first the GV peanuts look more expensive, they are actually cheaper per unit.
Apps to Calculate and Compare Unit Prices
Don’t like doing math? There’s an app for that. These apps will calculate the unit price for you and make it easy to compare between multiple items.
Tip: Make sure to look up and down the whole shelves, because the most expensive items will usually be found at eye level.
Change your Diet.
Eat less meat. One of the biggest expenses on any grocery list is meat. I’m not saying to go vegetarian, but consider eating less meat and finding recipes that make a small portion of meat stretch. Start thinking of it as a side dish or as an ingredient to add flavor to a dish instead of the main meal.
Incorporate more beans. There’s a reason that most of the world survives on a diet of whole grains and legumes. Together they make a complete protein and have all the essential amino acids to support life. Start getting in the mindset of adding it to your meals to bulk up the dish, use less meat, and save more money on groceries.
Make More Food From Scratch.
When you buy a pre-made item, you’re paying for the convenience of not having to prepare that item yourself. Get in the habit of making things from scratch. I try to balance buying things that make my life easier and taking the time to prep things in advance to save money. Below are some of the things I do and don’t dare buy.
- Oven Ready Pizza. I’ll buy the Great Value brand of pizza for 1.98 and add toppings like mushrooms, salami, or leftover chicken to make it extra tasty and still way cheaper than ordering pizza.
- Frozen Vegetables and Fruit. I usually have a bag of frozen broccoli and strawberries in the freezer. They tend to be a lot cheaper than buying fresh.
- Bread. I don’t know about you, but I’m not baking bread every week. Plus, fresh baked bread disappears a lot quicker than store bought sliced bread.
- Chicken Nuggets/Tenders. I’m guilty of loving chicken nuggets. When I’m feeling healthy and have the patience, I’ll make my Almond Crusted Chicken Nuggets . But, there are nights when I just want to pop something in the oven and avoid the mess of breading chicken. To me, saving that amount of time and energy is worth the price.
- Pre Cut Fresh Fruit and Vegetables. I encourage you not to buy these pre packaged diced fruit and vegetables. It’s just not worth it! Instead of a small container of pre cut watermelon you can get a whole melon. Instead of a bag of cut romaine lettuce get you can get three whole heads for half the price! If you want convenience, the better option is to buy frozen fruit and vegetables.
- Microwaveable Meals. If you practice making more than you need in one sitting, you can store leftovers in the fridge or freezer for later.
- Hummus. Hummus is one of the most over priced spreads you’ll ever buy! For your sake, please checkout my recipe for hummus and start making it yourself.
- Canned Beans. When you buy a can of beans you’re paying for the water that comes in the can. For the price of one can of black beans you can make enough dried beans to fill at least four cans worth.
Buy in Bulk.
Freeze Meat. When you find a really great deal on meat, it’s time to stock up, seal, and freeze. Some may recommend getting a vacuum sealer. Personally, I don’t find it necessary. I only have one freezer, so any meat I freeze in ziplock bags don’t stay in there long enough to worry about freezer burn.
Consider Joining a Wholesale Club. For the most part, the larger the package, the cheaper the item is per unit. Which is why it may be beneficial for you to join a wholesale club.
Ditch Brand Loyalty.
I’m loyal to Hellman’s mayonnaise and kikkoman soy sauce, and not for lack of trying. There are some things that you should be loyal to, and others that you should just buy the grocery brand for.
This step takes some trial and error, but generally things like beans, oats, flour, nuts, jellys, breads, deli meats and cheeses, and canned goods are going to taste about the same.
Mental Hacks to Save Money on Groceries.
Grocery stores have researched you to try and get you to buy more. Use these mental hacks to save more money on groceries.
Use a Small Cart or Basket.
There was a time when people would just use baskets to do their groceries. Then, marketers realized that shoppers buy more when they have a larger cart. Grocers made it the norm to use larger carts by having actors walk around the store with the larger carts!
Don’t get me wrong, the convenience of having a cart instead of lugging around a basket makes it a lot easier for me to shop in bulk. But, if you’re just going in for a few things, try and get a small cart or basket so you’re not tempted to walk out with more than you intended to.
Order Online and Pick Up in Store to Avoid Impulse Buys
Avoid impulsive purchases all together by shopping your store online and then picking up your groceries at the store. This is also a convenient way to build your list and shop at the same time.
Eat a Snack Before Grocery Shopping
We’ve all been there. You go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, pass by the fresh baked bread, and now you’re ready to binge on everything in the store.
Being hungry is the number one reason for impulse buys! It’s so hard to stick to your list when all you’re thinking about is diving into the snack isle.
Do your wallet a favor and have a snack or small meal before going to the grocery store.
My Favorite App to Help You Save Money on Groceries
Scan receipts and earn points towards gift cards. For every receipt scanned you get 25 points plus any additional points offered from different brands. Generally, 5000 points is equal to $5 in rewards. It’s a low maintenance way to get a little extra cash every now and then.
When you use my Fetch Referral Link to join, you’ll get $2 in rewards points after your first scan.
Scan receipts and earn cash back. Ibotta often has rewards just for scanning a receipt, and works with grocers, like Walmart, to make it as simple as scanning the receipt and earning cash back based on any rewards offered that week. For some stores, you may need to add these items first and then scan your receipt.
Big brand items tend to have the most rewards, but there is usually a $0.10 reward just for scanning your receipts.