Start by knowing the average prices for all the grocery items that you buy. I keep an inventory list of all the prices in Excel. Then, browse the weekly ads and base your meal plan for the week on the meats and produces that are on sale that week. For instance, if chicken breasts is on sale for $1.49 per pound, think of some chicken recipes that you want to make and build your shopping list that way. Have a stock up price for certain items like meat, produce, dairy, dry goods and when it hits that price buy in bulk and freeze what you don’t need. You can build your pantry for less that way and when you hit hard times, you can shop from your pantry.
Aside from checking out weekly ads, I also look at coupons and cash back apps for other sale items. Then upload my receipts to Checkout 51, Ibotta, and Savings Catcher. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. You just have to get in the routine of doing it. For me, some grocery items just have to be brand name (Tide, Dawn, Kraft, etc.), but I only buy them when I have coupons and can stack with sales. The Krazy Coupon Lady is my favorite coupon website. I subscribe to the mailing list so the deals for the week come to my mailbox, which saves me the trouble of having to look them up.
Another way to save on groceries is sign up for the reward cards and loyalty programs for stores that you shop at (Plenti, CVS, Walgreens, etc.). You get special sales, coupons and points for future savings. You could also get store credit cards to save even more, but that would only save you money if you are paying it off in full every month. Otherwise, the interest rate of the cards will be more than you receive in savings.
If you know when to shop, you can really save. Know when the manager specials and clearance stuff goes on the shelves. I’ve seen expensive meat that about to expire go on sale for 80% off and it’s still perfectly good. You just have to freeze it or use it soon.
Where To Shop
Knowing where to shop matters just as much as how to get discounts on grocery foods. It’s hard to be specific about where to shop though because there are so many regional differences. Based on my interactions with other frugal shoppers, I can say that 95% of the time that ALDI is going to be cheaper than any supermarket. Groceries at ALDI’s in my area are about half the price of other grocery stores so I am able to get more groceries for my money. If you don’t have an ALDI, the next best thing would be Save-a-lot.
Another type of grocery store where you can find good deals is called a salvage grocery store (aka scratch and dent) . They sell things that are past expiration, dented, overstocked,and unsold seasonal items. Their prices will be about 50%-75% off and you can find some great buys if you know what you doing. Obviously you shouldn’t buy cans with big dents or stale chips a year past their expiration date. You just have to use some common sense and do a little research.
Ethic grocery stores will sell the same brands as supermarkets but for a lot cheaper. I am lucky to have some really great asian and latin markets near me that have great prices and selection, but it will entirely depend on your area and what’s available.
Produce markets can SOMETIMES be cheaper than grocery stores, but almost certainly will be better quality and last longer. Along those lines, you should always buy what’s in season and grown locally to get the best deals on produce.
Bread outlet stores are a great place to get bread. Contrary to popular belief, not all the bread there is stale and the stale bread can be used to make breadcrumbs, stuffing, bread pudding, croutons, French toast, etc. You can buy it in bulk and freeze the bread that you don’t use right away.
What To Buy
A big part of saving money on groceries is knowing what to buy and what not to. The first rule is to never buy convenience foods (e.g. bakery items, pre-cut vegetables, pre-made anything). You will always pay a lot more than making it yourself. Make what you can from scratch. Pie crusts, condiments, and dressings are easy to make and they taste much better than what you buy. I realize not everyone has the time to make everything from scratch so just think about what you use most often and start making that. You can save by shredding your own cheese and slicing/grinding your own meat cuts because often they charge more to do that for you. For example, buying a whole ham and slicing it yourself is considerably cheaper than buying sliced ham from the deli.
Buying in bulk can save you money, but you need to make sure that you are actually saving money by checking the unit prices and comparing with the average price at the grocery store. Always remember to freeze what you don’t use and doing batch freezer cooking.
Food waste is wasting your money. You can reduce your food waste by meal planning and storing food properly. Eat your leftovers or repurpose them into something else (e.g. making potato cakes out of left over mashed potatoes). Freeze foods to keep them from going stale or bad. Pay attention to expiration dates, but know the difference between sell by, best by, etc. so you don’t throw out something that isn’t bad yet. Also, you can use all your food scraps. Whether for composting or making soup stocks. There’s always some use for them.
Do you have any other ways of saving money on groceries?
Tell me about them in the comments!