12 Ways to Save on Groceries
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Keeping a curb on your grocery spending not only will help you save money and stay in the black, but it will also allow you to do more with your money.
You gotta eat, it’s true. But you don’t have to go into hock to do it. Here are 12 ways to save on groceries.
Once upon a time, I spent as much to feed my husband and me as I did years later to feed us and five kids! Believe me when I say, I know how to be extravagant at the grocery store.
It’s really not that hard.
But, neither is saving money at the grocery store all that difficult. It just takes some patience and self-control.
Keeping a curb on your grocery spending helps us save money and stay in the black. Here are some ways that you can do it, too.
1. Use what you have.
They say that the average American household wastes up to 25% of the food they buy. If that’s you, then you can save a heap of cash just by using what you have.
Shop your kitchen and make a point to use up food before it goes to waste.
2. Buy in bulk — when it makes sense.
While bulk buying doesn’t always pay off, sometimes it does, whether you need a small amount of something or even just a little!
My local health food store has massive bins and dispensers of lots of bulk foods, including nuts, flours, spices, and grains. You can get the very best prices on oats and rice from these bins, as low as $0.69/pound which is amazing compared to their name brand, packaged counterparts.
Bonus: you can buy just as much or as little as you need.
Always be sure to check the unit price to make sure the purchase makes sense.
3. Choose wisely.
Where you shop is just as important as what you buy. Do a little price comparison at the grocery stores within your area to see who really offers the best deals on the things YOU buy.
As you are able, make that store the focus of your shopping for the biggest bang for your buck. In my neighborhood ALDI consistently beats Walmart, Costco, and Trader Joe’s for the best deals.
4. Bake more.
A few months ago, I did a grocery spending audit. It was very insightful, revealing that I had been spending a lot of money on bread and other baked goods. By baking my own bread, I am able to shave off a few dollars from our grocery budget, customize our meals more and still eat well.
I even found out that the bread I was baking turned out to be about $0.25/loaf. Talk about encouragement to bake more!
5. Make it from scratch.
Baking is probably the easiest thing to work into your regular kitchen activities. Who doesn’t like to bake cookies?
But, making other foods from scratch, particularly expensive, heavily processed foods, is a great way to further stretch your dollar. Homemade mac and cheese or homebaked pizza are easy and so much tastier if you make them at home.
6. Limit your condiments and other expensive ingredients.
Years ago when we moved to one income, one of my first changes was to eliminate expensive ingredients, like packaged sauces and salsa, canned green chiles, olives, salad dressings and other pricey condiments.
I found out that it was easy to make my own and often better tasting than storebought. Chopped fresh chiles add just as much kick as the canned variety. We can live without olives on our pizza and be none the worse for wear. Homemade salad dressing is way better than bottled. Way.
I used to run to the store “real quick” for a missing ingredient and spend lots of money “while I was there anyway.” I’ve found that we can wing it, without the ingredients that I once couldn’t live without.
7. Join the club.
Either you love warehouse clubs or you hate ’em. Very few people are lukewarm about Costco. We fall into the first camp. We are Costco fans.
It’s important to note that not all Costco stores are created equal. I didn’t know this until we moved to San Diego where three different Costco’s within a 30 mile radius offer vastly different products and prices.
I’m thinking that may be why you’re not yet sold out on Costco.
We find it to be a great source of very inexpensive dairy products, meats, breads, and produce — many of these items are organic, too! I know that we save above and beyond the cost of the membership every year.
8. Use less meat.
Meat, particularly quality meat, is one of the most expensive parts of your menu. If you can go meatless, or at least limit the portion size, you can trim your budget as well as your diet. Beans and rice make an easy, filling meal that doesn’t need the meat. There are lots of meals like that: pasta with red sauce, mac and cheese, lasagna. Experiment until you find the right match for your family.
9. Grow your own.
I am not an avid gardener. Once upon a time I was. I look on those days fondly, hoping they will return. Gardening is fun — but it’s also a great way to save money on groceries. My dad blesses us with the abundance from his garden and fruit trees, so I get the best of both worlds: free lemons and no weeds to pull!
Consider planting a garden to grow your own food.
10. Avoid boxed items and processed foods.
For most of my cooking life, I have favored scratch cooking over packaged and processed foods. Oh yeah, there are days when I need the quick fix convenience item, but I prefer to make things myself. I can tailor the ingredients to suit our family’s tastes as well as save money.
I’ve found that boxed mixes and packaged meals are very expensive for what they provide and are better left avoided.
11. Fill your freezer.
Cooking in bulk has been a great technique to help us save money on groceries. If I know we’ve got a meal waiting in the freezer, I’m less likely to stop for take-out. We eat more healthfully at home and can reap bulk-buying and bulk-cooking savings at the same time.
Not to mention the kitchen stays cleaner.
12. Pay cash.
Yeah, you’ve heard this before, haven’t you? If you pay cash (as opposed to credit or debit cards), you will probably save money. If you have a limited number of green backs and no alternative source of payment, you will be forced to focus on your needs as you throw things in the cart. Impulse buys can’t take the place of milk for the children.
Paying cash is a great way to limit what you spend.
This post was originally published on May 31, 2012. It has been updated for content and clarity.
Hi, I am wondering which Costco has the best price in San Diego. The one closest to me is not cheaper than the local stores 🙁 . I used to shop Costco monthly until I moved here and saw the prices at my local store.
Thanks and have a great day
I honestly have no idea. They vary based on the grocery stores within a certain radius. I don’t buy everything at costco, but there are some great prices on some things, particularly organics.
I would just like to say, I think you are pretty amazing. I could not take care of (and homeschool) 6 children while managing a frugal household that delivers nutritious meals to said children,engaging them in fun, productive activities and they all seem to be progressing normally on top of that. I think I would be bonkers. Pat yourself on the back. This is more of an accomplishment than our academic degrees . You have produced the future.
You are very sweet to say so. Thanks. I do it so imperfectly/ineffectively. Thanks for your kind words.
I have #13 for you. Know your prices. Keep a price book, even if it is just for a few items that are a splurge or very expensive like diapers/wipes/formula. I used to use a check register and would list out different stores and their prices for diapers, package size and per diaper cost. Today (all 4 kids are potty-trained, yeah!) it might be K.C. Masterpiece (my favorite bbq sauce), mayo (my husband’s love), or organic produce. 🙂
#11 is my favorite. I am totally in love with my deep freezer…I am considering getting one more. 🙂
I’ve linked up a post called The Biblical Response to Lending Money.
Thank you for hosting!
Mind sharing which Costco you like best? I’m also in San Diego.
Thank you for the ideas! My husband has made the decision to retire from the military, which will take place next year. So we are on a journey of cutting our grocey costs. One way was going meatless a couple of nights, and reading your post confirmed it. Thank you for the other ideas. Love the pay cash because I use debit and I NEED to get use to using cash at the grocery store.
Great tips! I actually posted today about an easy way to save some of your garden extras! http://behealthybehappywellness.com/blog/2012/06/save-your-kale
Mmmmm I love baking my own bread. These are all great tips! We should work on limiting condiments. We don’t buy them often, but when we do…
Great ideas! I posted on the exact same topic this week 🙂
Thanks for the great ideas.
I have also found that Big Lots now carry organic items. I got a box of organic black tea for like 3.00 a box. It has the USDA organic seal on it.
Linked up a post on growing lavender this week and lots of great links for using it:-) Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network ( Seasonal Celebration Sunday) x
Great tips. I do a lot of these, but I hadn’t thought about limiting condiments before. I’m sort of wondering why not?! Also, I like the thought of eating down the pantry in January and July. I could definitely get creative with whatever is in the way-back of my pantry.
Great list! Our Costco is more expensive than the stores I frequent so we go once a year or so with friends.
My hubby loves meat and doesn’t feel good without a lot of it. I’ve been guilty of trying to save money at the expense of people’s energy, but that’s foolish and backfires in the long run.
On the other hand…one more tip to save on groceries: eat less. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it is a double bonus to those who want to lose weight.
We have all of 1 costco in our state and its an hours drive away, but I do have a Sam’s club membership and use it often whenever I am passing through a town that has one. It really does make a huge difference in our grocery budget.
Great list of ideas for saving on groceries! This week I am sharing a post on planning, organizing, and enjoying staycations.