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.