The Complete List of Best Ways to Save on Groceries

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With the inflation rate hitting a 39-year high this week (now at 6.8% on an annual basis), finding ways to save on groceries has become priority number one on steroids! According to the Consumer Expenditure Survey, a typical American household will spend at least $400 every month (conservatively speaking) on groceries. That can represent over 10% of a typical family’s total income in many cases. Just think about it for a second. That’s a lot of money for groceries, no matter how big or small your family is.

A grocery store aisle representing the best ways to save on groceries

But with some minor and clever changes, and yes, even insane tactics, you can actually spend a whole lot less. Because unlike some expenses, food spending is one of the few things that you can make major adjustments to. So here it is, my all-encompassing, super-duper, cleverly “insane” complete list of ways to save on your groceries.

Best Ways to Save on Groceries

Some ideas are crafty, some you may already know, and some may take a little bit of work and maneuverability, but in the end, you’ll definitely save a reasonable chunk of money on your grocery bill.

1. Set up tracking for your expenses

One of the most important things to do before you grocery shop is to track your expenses. That way you can determine what you have left as your actual grocery shopping budget. You need a month to get a realistic readout, but then you can start with confidence!

2. Planning your meals

Planning out your meals in advance for the week (or even a month) will help you determine what exactly you’ll need from the grocery store and how much it will cost. You can even break down the meal cost for every day and set a target.

3. Make and use a grocery shopping list

This is almost a given. Wait…it is a given! Using a shopping list is the easiest way to see what you need and estimate how much it will cost. Don’t vary from it.

4. Don’t forget to check out the store flyer before you shop

Check the flyer in your mail or online (yes, it has the coupons and the weekly ads) for the latest promotions.

5. Locate and shop at the “cheaper” grocery store

Sure you can still find decent bargains and deals at big stores like Whole Foods or Walmart, but nothing will ever beat a cheaper supermarket like Aldi, Lidl, or your local discount market. By shopping at these cheaper grocery stores too (at least check them out), you can find plenty of great food options.

6. Shop at drugstores like CVS and Walgreens

Although some of these places tend to hike up prices as a “convenience” cost, you can actually find some really great deals on snacks and drinks here. Use your store loyalty card and coupons to save even more!

7. Consider a local farmer’s market

Most farmer’s markets have great deals on fresh produce. Just a simple search on Google will bring up the nearest farmer’s markets for you to check out!

8. Get a cookbook

Investing in cookbooks (particularly budget ones) can help you save money on food costs while also feeding you and your family. Just by making minor switches in your diet and meal plans, you can truly save a lot of money. Can’t find or afford one? Use the internet and get free recipe suggestions in a few seconds.

9. Don’t shop with the kids

By leaving the kids at home, you can focus on what you need to buy without having anyone nagging you about buying extra things you don’t need. And it’s not just kids—significant others and roommates are guilty, too.

10. Don’t shop when you are hungry

When you shop while you’re hungry, everything looks delicious. This is dangerous, especially if you’re on a budget, because you can easily blow through your grocery shopping allowance with things you probably don’t need.

11. If you can, shop at multiple stores

If you can shop at several stores without running up your gasoline bill or using up all your precious time, it is worth it. Not all stores are created equally and the same applies to prices. By shopping at multiple stores (it’s called “cherry picking”), you’ll be able to find cheaper prices and deals that one store couldn’t give you.

Just by watching the sales and collecting coupons, you can get a better grasp on which stores will have the cheaper products and when.

12. Shop your pantry before you grocery shop

Before you go to the store, be sure to check and see what you have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. That way you can create an accurate grocery shopping list.

13. Keep track of all the items you’re about to run out of

By keeping track of everything that is running low, you save yourself the risk of buying something when in reality you don’t need it yet. If you’re not running low, you may be able to wait until it goes on sale.

14. Shop only with cash if you can’t control yourself

As much as I love using credit cards (I hate cash), bringing only a certain amount of cash will help you make the most of your grocery budget while keeping a very close eye on how much you’re spending.

15. Use competitors’ coupons

The last thing you want to do is to go to a grocery store and have them deny your coupon because it’s from a competitor. Ask the store beforehand what the policy is so you will know. Many stores will accept their competitors’ coupons if you have them.

16. Shop generic store brands

In most cases, generic store brands are just as good at the name brands. And in some cases, the generic store brands actually beat out the more popular brands. Just try it, you can make your mind up after you do!

17. Buy bagged produce

Bagged produce is typically cheaper than loose items, especially fruits and vegetables. Do the math. Just make sure you can use (or freeze!) the perishables before they go bad.

18. Don’t buy pre-cut food

When you buy any food that has been pre-cut, you are likely paying a huge premium. This is true whether it’s vegetables or a chicken.

19. Bring a calculator to keep track of your spending

Keep a running total as you shop. Your phone calculator will work just fine.

20. Use coupons, all the coupons

You already know this, but coupons are by far the best way to save money on groceries. This includes digital, paper, loyalty card discounts, the ones that print at the checkout (Catalinas), etc.

21. Take advantage of double coupons

Some supermarkets have days during the week when your coupons are actually doubled in value, meaning that you’ll get double the savings! There have even been days when coupons are tripled!

22. Don’t buy bottled water

According to estimates, the average cost per gallon of bottled water (packaged as single serve units) was 2,000 times the cost of tap water!

The better option is to invest in a filter. Pay one time for a system and save every time you use it. You’ll be amazed. Your wallet and the environment will thank you.

23. Watch the cash register at checkout

Sometimes cashiers and point-of-sale systems make mistakes, so there is always a possibility of getting overcharged or not getting that special deal pricing. That’s why it’s always important to watch the cash register. Yes, they do make mistakes!

24. Shop for certain items right after a holiday

Many goods—including holiday-themed candy, baking mixes, spices, etc.—are heavily discounted after the holidays.

25. Don’t buy anything at the checkout aisle

You’d be amazed at the overcharge and premium pricing that you’ll find at these checkout counters. Sure it’s convenient, but the unit size to pricing ratio is way out of whack.

26. Avoid individually wrapped items

When food comes individually wrapped, it’s almost always more expensive. If goods are priced for convenience, they will cost you.

27. Price match

Without a doubt, price checking is the easiest way to ensure that you’re maximizing your shopping savings. Ask your store if they will match the competition and save yourself a trip and the money too!

28. Check unit package size or weight

If you’re comparing two or more products/brands, it’s always important to look at the individual unit size or weight so that you know if one has an advantage over the other when it comes to the amount of product you’re getting and how much it costs you. The cheaper items are sometime the most expensive!

Unit prices on the shelf tags are a great guide, just make sure they are comparing the same type of units.

29. Stock up on great sales items

If an item you always use or consume is on sale, it’s always best to stock up, especially if it’s one of the basics like toilet paper, soda, detergent, air fresheners, etc. Just keep in mind that perishables must be used or frozen before they go bad.

30. Shop the clearance items

Most grocery stores will actually have a clearance section where you can find discounted products, both perishable and non-perishable. Always a bargain if it’s something you use.

31. Be wary of the sales like 5 for $5 or 10 for $10

If you ever see some items marked as 10 for $10, be sure to check the individual unit price because sometimes these items can be only $0.89, costing you $1.90 extra.

Also, know your store’s policy. If an item is 10 for $10, you may not need to buy 10 to get the $1 sale price if it doesn’t say “must buy 10”.

32. Get a raincheck for out-of-stock sales items

If a product is on sale, but they’re all sold out, you can ask for a raincheck that will honor the sale pricing. That way, whenever the product is in stock again, you can still purchase it at the sale price.

33. Limit your shopping time

Many supermarkets will actually play slower, more calming music which makes you take your time and spend more time perusing the aisles. Wear headphones and listen to your own music, and you’ll be in and out in no time.

34. Avoid the “professional” bakery cakes

Sure you can spend anywhere from $15 to $40 on a professional cake, but in reality, you can make a great one at home for a fraction of the cost. Buy the cake mix and experiment with a bit of love and have fun too.

35. Buy certain “deli” cheeses in the dairy section

Some of the cheeses that you find at the deli counter can actually be found in the dairy section, for a whole lot cheaper. The price difference between deli-sliced and pre-packaged is quite astonishing.

36. Buy frozen food, not the freshly prepared dishes displayed in the fancy front food counters

This is self-explanatory really, it’s like dining in a restaurant!

37. Buy frozen seafood instead of fresh seafood

Fresh fish is more expensive than frozen fish and frozen is just as healthy for you.

38. If you buy fresh baked bread, make sure it’s airtight

Make sure to keep bread in an airtight container/bag because the brown bags they come in make the bread go stale faster, thus making you go back to the store and buy more.

39. Buy yesterday’s baked goods

Some baked goods like donuts and bread actually will be marked ridiculously low if you buy it one day later. If it isn’t reduced, ask for it.

40. When any date is expiring on meat and bakery, ask for a discount

Usually you’ll tend to find products that are expiring soon or tomorrow. If that’s the case, be sure to ask for a price reduction from the manager. Usually you can save 30- 50%. It never hurts to ask.

41. Avoid the middle height shelves

If you ever look at any shelf in a grocery store, you’ll tend to see the more popular and expensive mainstream items right in the middle, in plain sight. However, if you ever look at the top and bottom, you’ll tend to see the least expensive items including generic and store brands.

42. Slice your own deli goods

It can actually be cheaper to buy the whole meat unit as opposed to cold cuts prepackaged in packets. Like salami, for example. Then you can take it home and slice it yourself.

43. Buy bagged coffee not K-Cups

If you’re someone who bought a Keurig coffee machine, you’ve probably already realized how expensive those K-cups are. If you must use your Keurig, buy a reusable cup you fill yourself. Your wallet and the environment will thank you.

44. Take advantage of your store’s price adjustment policy

If something you bought was later reduced in price, you can actually get the price adjusted and be refunded the difference. Ask about it when you see new sale items you just purchased. In almost all cases your receipt is all you will need as proof of purchase.

45. Purchase in-season produce (eat with the seasons)

When fruits and vegetables are in season, they are cheaper.

46. Don’t buy pre-washed salads

These pre-washed, bagged salads serve one purpose: convenience. And with convenience comes higher costs. You’re better off buying the vegetables for your salad individually.

47. Avoid impulse purchases

The grocery store is not your friend. If it’s not on the list, skip it.

48. Make your groceries last as long as possible

The last thing you need is spoiled food which equals money down the toilet. If you won’t be using something before it goes bad, perhaps you can freeze it.

49. Return the food you don’t like

If you ever buy something that you don’t like, perishable or non-perishable, you may be able to return it. That’s especially true if it’s spoiled. The same goes for boxed food, chips, snacks, etc.

Just make sure to look at your receipt and understand your store’s return policy.

50. Check your receipt *before you leave the store*

Even if you were watching the register, you’d be surprised how many overcharging mistakes are made on the daily. That’s why it’s important to always look at your receipt to make sure you aren’t being charged incorrectly or even twice for certain products.

51. Get cash back on grocery store purchases

Some cool grocery store rebate apps like Ibotta will actually give you cash back on your grocery store purchases. All you have to do is find a deal/rebate on the app and take a picture of your receipt, confirming your purchase.

Prime Pantry also provides great value with weekly deals and exclusive coupons.

52. Use apps

Thanks to modern technology, apps have become more and more useful when it comes to cutting grocery bills. Try these:

Grocery Pal: This app will show you where the sales items are

The Krazy Coupon Lady: This coupon app helps you find the best in-store and online deals

Unit Price Calculator: This app helps you calculate the unit price between different sized packages

Key Ring: This app will allow you to have all your grocery store reward cards with you all the time without having to have a bulky key ring

53. Get a cash rewards credit card

Some credit cards will even give you 5% cash back at grocery stores and warehouse clubs (like Sam’s Club). Some cards from Bank of America, American Express, and Chase will give you extra for groceries over the regular cash back rewards.

54. Sign up for email/newsletters

Just by signing up to your local grocery store or convenience store’s email newsletter, you can receive weekly coupons, deal alerts, and so much more. Don’t forget to sign up with your favorite manufacturers, too.

55. Use a separate email address to get your coupons

Email addresses can be had for free, so set up a secondary email to sign up for your coupons and newsletters. This way they don’t clog up your primary email, and all your savings will be in one place.

56. Make sure you join the rewards programs

By joining a store’s reward/loyalty program, you can get access to greater savings, promotions, and so much more.

57. Sign up for Rakuten

By signing up for Rakuten (formerly Ebates) and shopping for certain goods online at Walgreens and Amazon.com (as well as many other retailers), you can save up to 7% on your purchases.

58. Buy and use discounted gift cards

The amount of discounted gift cards that you can purchase online is insane. And the best part about it is that some of these discounted gift cards are actually for grocery stores, Walmart, and Target.

59. Email your favorite companies and ask for coupons

Just by telling your favorite companies that you love them and politely asking for coupons, you can get some special deals. Even if you have a complaint, their customer service will try to make it right with free or discounted product.

60. Get your food delivered to you?

If time is money, then getting your grocery goods delivered to you may be the best option. Use a service like Instacart or your local grocery chain to get your groceries delivered to you. Although you’ll pay for it, you save hours shopping and lugging it home which may be worth the 5-10 dollars you’ll have to pay. Bad weather, health reasons? Your time is worth money too! Plus you avoid all those impulse purchases.

61. Shop less frequently

Going to the store every other day will only increase your risk of spending more money. By going once a week or every other week, you’ll be able to better plan out your grocery shopping strategy. Plan ahead and go when you actually need to go.

62. Create a price book

This one takes a little bit of work, but the results are worth it. Create your own price book of the items you buy regularly and track the prices from week to week (or even store to store). After six to eight weeks, you’ll not only know the very lowest sale prices available for the item, but you’ll be able to predict when they will go on sale at that price again (it’s usually in a cycle) so you can stock up.

Final Thoughts

Are you still with me here? I hope so. These tips come from my decade-long experience working with supermarkets and learning their tricks. It also comes from my lifetime of trying to beat the system that “they set up” to try and beat me. Now you can use my best ways to save on groceries and save money when you are out there shopping.

If you have a special money-saving tip that I have missed (is that even possible?), then send it along in the comments and I will add it to my list for everyone to share!

Happy money-saving grocery shopping trips to all!

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