When trying to curb expenses, you might be quick to cut costs on the “fun stuff” like entertainment and personal shopping, or maybe start dipping into savings for a purchase here and there. But before you go digging into random nooks and crannies of your finances, it may help to start by considering more routine expenses like your grocery bill. Your spending decisions at the grocery store can sometimes hide impulse purchases that may not be as essential as you think. We all need to eat — but learning how to save money on groceries may surprise you with how small adjustments can potentially add up to savings.
How smart shopping helps
While a great coupon deal can certainly be part of a grocery budgeting plan, learning how to save money on groceries is about more than just netting the daily discount to save a buck or two here and there — it’s about the ripple effect those seemingly small-time savings can have over time. Think about it: A few dollars saved per trip, multiplied over weeks and months, could add up to a larger sum by year’s end. It might be easy to dismiss these savings as minor in the grand scope of a year, but imagine holding that cash in your hand, free to spend or save as you wish.
But there’s more to it than just the numbers. Learning how to save on groceries may help sharpen important money skills like budgeting, comparison shopping and value assessment, training your ability to recognize wants versus needs to help your money go further. The objective isn’t to live on a shoestring budget — it’s about finding out how much further your grocery budget can go with a few tips and tricks to keep in mind.
10 tips for saving money on groceries
You might know a few ways to save money on groceries already. Practicing those skills regularly may help you avoid some of the temptations that often fill the shelves of grocery stores.
1. Plan your meals
As the name might imply, meal planning is the act of planning out your meals ahead of time, typically on a weekly basis. Knowing what you’re going to eat ahead of time, and preparing a grocery list based on that might help you stick to buying only what you need. Since you’re only buying specific ingredients in specific amounts, there’s also less potential for food waste — no more regrets about throwing out that broccoli you bought with good intentions … but forgot about until it was too late.
2. Compare prices between stores and use loyalty programs
Using loyalty programs at grocery stores can help get you special deals and points towards exclusive discounts. Keep in mind that different stores offer different deals, so regularly checking prices between stores might present additional opportunities to get more bang for your buck. Striking the right balance of store loyalty and opportunity can help you get the best of both worlds.
3. Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables
You might know that seasonal produce tends to taste better, but have you ever noticed it sometimes comes at a better price point, too? Seasonal produce is often cheaper, due in part to a higher abundance in the market. Local availability also means those fruits and veggies are likely to have traveled a shorter distance to get to you, which might help preserve their nutritional value.
4. Try freezing or canning
In-line with eating seasonally and jumping on good deals, freezing and canning lets you buy in bulk without wasting any excess. It also lets you enjoy some of your favorites all year round!
5. Get creative with leftovers
Reinventing last night’s leftovers may be a great way to extend the value of your meals and reduce waste. Yesterday’s roast chicken, for example, might make for a flavorful chicken salad at lunch today. Toss in some croutons made from the bread you used for grilled cheese night a few days ago, and you’ve got yourself a gourmet upgrade on a dime. Giving your leftovers a remix adds variety to your meal plan, potentially helping you stick to it longer too.
6. Check unit prices
Larger packaging might make it seem like you’re getting more value for your money, but savvy shoppers know to check the unit price (like cost per ounce) for a clearer picture. This tells you how much you get for every dollar you spend, regardless of flashy packaging.
7. Buy non-perishable items in bulk
Items with long shelf-lives provide opportunities to buy in larger, more cost-efficient quantities. If you have the space, buying in bulk may help you save more later by spending just a little extra now.
8. Cook large meals and freeze portions
Tying all these tips together, one of the most straightforward ways to save money on groceries is not just buying in bulk, but also cooking in bulk. Cooking in larger batches helps you stick to a meal plan and may give back some time to your day that you would’ve otherwise spent over the stove.
9. Grow herbs and vegetables at home
Gardening can be more than just a peaceful, rewarding hobby. Homegrown produce saves you from paying store-bought prices, and you just can’t beat it for freshness either.
10. Track your expenses
At the end of the day, the only way to learn and adjust is review. Away from the bright packaging and arrays of attractive deals, what does your receipt have to say about your spending decisions? Do the numbers show that sticking to a list helps? Did staying seasonal with your produce help save money on food? Tracking your expenses helps you understand your habits and measure what works for you and what doesn’t.
Learning how to save money on groceries may also teach you how to save money everywhere else. The grocery store is an excellent testing ground for the key money skills that may set the foundation for successful personal finance. Smart shoppers put every purchase into perspective with their larger money goals. Just remember that saving money on groceries is like exercising — in theory it’s great, but consistent practice is essential for results.