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Since grocery prices have risen tremendously for the past year, I want to share with you some easy ways to reduce your grocery budget.
While I have never been an expert at personal finance, I have learned a lot over the last 20 years. This is a collection of my best tips and while some might seem like common sense, perhaps you will find one little thing or even a few extra ideas for cutting your food bills.
Grocery statistics for the average family
- According to the United States Census Bureau, the average household size is 2.51 people. (Source)
But in our family, we currently have seven people (5 of whom are ages 12 to 18.) Chances are your family is larger than average too.
- According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2022, corn crops have decreased between 2% and 4% (source) while livestock like cattle (source) and pigs (source) are down 1% to 2% from last year.
Those percentages might not seem extreme but when you consider these percentages as numbers in the millions, the loss becomes more significant.
- Also according to the USDA, over 41 million people in the United States received help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps. (source)
Food insecurity is a significant problem in many households. Even our family had to use supplemental help (Women Infants and Children) when our children were small.
NOTE: If you receive SNAP benefits, you might qualify for a discounted Amazon Prime membership. See if you qualify here.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment is declining but the pay increase is only up by $0.15. (source)
Meanwhile, inflation is up with the average cost of groceries increasing over 10%. Likewise gasoline is up over 50%, and utilities has increased between 12% and 30%. (source)
- Average grocery bill per month Also from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average spending on food at home is $4,942 annually or about $412 per month for the average households. (source)
Keep in mind that the average American household is only 2.51 people. Single-person households would be lower.
Based on the USDA food plans, Mint built a grocery budget calculator (available here.) According to the calculator, the average cost of food for a family size of seven with a thrifty plan should be $1,251.46.
Reducing your grocery budget before you shop
Your grocery savings start BEFORE you even leave your home. How you prepare for your trip to the grocery store is critical.
Monthly Grocery Budget
Using the food statistics or grocery bill calculator mentioned, set an amount for your monthly grocery spending. Then, break that down into weeks or categories so you don’t approach the end of the month with nothing left in your budget.
If you have a well-stocked pantry in your own home, then your need to go to the store will be less often.
Need help deciding what to stockpile? I recommend you take a look at the Online Coupon Workshop where I talk about that extensively.
Have a price list
If your eyes roll back in your head at the thought of making a price list, you can go ahead and add at least $15 to each trip you make to the store. Paying more for basics like toilet paper will destroy your grocery budget. Seriously. A price list will be your best friend when it comes to cutting your grocery bill.
While keeping a running list of prices might seem tedious, you simply cannot recognize the best sale price possible without knowing what you currently pay. Keeping a price list is the best way to know a good deal when you see one.
Your price list does not have to include everything in the store, just the items you buy most frequently. Items you use on a daily or weekly basis are the products you should be stockpiling.
If you simply do not have the desire time to write out a price list, then I strongly urge you to use a grocery savings app like Flipp. (See all my favorite grocery savings apps here.)
Even if you do not strive to maximize your savings by building a stockpile, using even a few printable coupons with each trip will save you money. Granted, you will not end up saving hundreds of dollars each month but saving is SAVING.
And, since technology has changed over the years, you no longer need to cut out coupons. You can save using coupon and grocery apps.
Keep a running list
Those quick trips to the store can kill your grocery budget… not to mention your gas budget. So, keep a list handy for the odds and ends you find yourself lacking.
NOTE: Did you know you can save on gasoline with a Walmart+ membership? See all the benefits here.
Train your family to jot down the items they need too. Or, better yet, teach them to add items directly to your grocery app.
Our family syncs the Walmart+ app so the children can add what they use by scanning the barcode. Involving my entire family in tracking what we need is one of the easiest ways I can avoid multiple trips to the grocery store.
Also, before you make your trip to the store or schedule a grocery delivery, check your list.
As for those items that surprise you regardless of how hard you prepare and will need before another trip to the store, send your spouse. When I send my husband to the store, I know he will pick up what I need and nothing else. If I go to the store, I will scan the sales ad and check the meat aisle and think of something else we need.
Make a weekly meal plan
When I asked for tips from our Facebook community on the one tip they would stress to someone looking to reduce their grocery budget, the resounding answer was, “Menu planning.”
Personally, I have a rotating breakfast and lunch menu so I always know what I need for those meals. Dinner changes every week but I plan those meals based on what my food photography customers request.
Make the menu from your stockpile
Check your stockpile before you make your monthly food plan. There are several grocery and pantry apps that will make recommendations based on what you have in your pantry and freezer.
Brainstorm a list of meals you can make from what you have. These items have been purchased at a low price so you will save tons of money by using those items first. Fill in the ingredient gaps as needed.
Menu plan from the store sale
Every week, your local store will feature certain product they are willing to sale at a loss in an effort to get your into their store. They are hoping that once you are in the store you will fill your cart with unnecessary items and impulse purchases. However, you are a savvy shopper and smarter than the common marketing ploy. Right?
So, check the weekly sales advertisements and scan for the best deals on fresh food like fresh produce and meat. If your family is prone to junk food, watching for a buy one, get one deal that matches your coupons or rebates is a good way to save tones of money.
Skip the drive thru
Quick stops at restaurants are enticing especially for super busy days. But this is where you have to consider the food sitting in your house just waiting to be transformed into a home-cooked meal.
NOTE: If you are going to eat out, make sure to use a loyalty program or order through a rebate app. See more about grocery and rebate apps here.
This is another way menu planning can help. When you sit down to make your meal plan, also check your calendar. For those busy nights, use your slow cooker or instant pot. Or, pull a freezer meal out to thaw in the refrigerator.
You will save so much money by cooking at home.
Check coupon match-ups
Whether you use Southern Savers (like I do) or one of the fabulous coupon blogs to match your coupons to sales, you should always be adding to your stockpile. Look for those rock-bottom sale prices and add those items to your grocery list.
You can also check for the lowest price of the week using the ShopSavvy app.
Eat a Snack
Do not shop hungry.
When you shop and your stomach is growling, everything looks good and inspiration for fabulous meals seems to be all around.
You keep thinking about your stomach and stop thinking about finding the best price. You just want to get home and get something to eat as fast as possible.
So, grab a snack before you leave.
Saving money on groceries where you shop
You can shave even more off your grocery expense with WHERE you shop and HOW you shop.
Discount grocery stores
Be willing to shop at different stores. Shopping at a great place like Aldi or Save-a-Lot is a great way to help you save as long as you know your prices.
Typically, the quality of meat and fresh produce is of a good quality. The only way you will know is to go check it out. Keep an eye on the sales flyer and when you see something that looks good enough to warrant a trip, go plundering.
Buy specialty items online
Even if online grocery shopping scares you, I recommend purchasing organic maple syrup, agave nectar, peanut butter, Nutella, diapers, wipes, and some other specialty items from Amazon.com in bulk with Subscribe and Save. When you are an Amazon Prime customer, you don’t pay any delivery fees.
Typically, the discount for ordering more than 5 items in one shipment and the free shipping makes the value better than purchasing at our local Sam’s Club or Costco.
NOTE: Did you know that students can sign up for Amazon Prime for 50% off? (Check our Amazon Prime Student.)
We do have a Costco and Sam’s Club membership but reserve it for paper plates, baking basics, coffee, spices, pasta, organic produce, and nuts.
If you are considering purchasing a membership to a warehouse, understand that most do not accept coupons nor do they host a rock-bottom price on most items.
Keep in mind that the cost of the membership plan should be deducted from your potential savings to determine whether or not it will be a wise investment. And, be sure to click through your favorite rebate app to get the best value on the membership as most will offer cash back rebates.
Shop at drugstores
I was very surprised by the amount I could save when I first started using the stockpile-coupon method at drugstores.
By purchasing our toiletries from drugstores on sale with coupons, I was able to save up to 90%. So, I purchase our personal products from local drugstores when I can achieve huge savings and avoid paying higher prices at grocery stores, which leaves me with more money available for groceries.
Visit the Farmers Market
You can significantly cut food costs by shopping at your community’s farmers market or you-pick farm.
If you are seeking a more nutritious diet, you will find great prices on fresh fruits and vegetables when you buy direct from farmers.
Cutting your grocery bill with how you shop
Shop with cash
I truly believe in the envelope budget system made famous by Dave Ramsey.
If you walk into a store with $X, then you are going to be more mindful of what you place in your cart. The urge for impulse buys is stifled. Your choices become more apparent.
For instance, “I’m craving potato chips, but do I want to spend $4 on a pound of chips or get 2 pounds of chicken breasts with that money?”
And just a note from personal experience… leave the debit card at home. I cannot tell you the number of times that I walk into a store and realize that the contents of my buggy will be precariously close to the amount of cash in my purse. The thought pops into my brain, “That’s okay. I’ll just use my debit card for the difference.” Not a good idea.
Use your debit card as a credit card
I know… I just said to not take your debit card. However, using a debit card is more convenient and many banks offer a percentage back when you shop from certain stores.
If your bank offers a rewards program or cash-back for purchases at grocery stores (or gas stations,) make sure to swipe your debit card payment as a “credit” and not “debit.” This costs you nothing extra but activates the rebate. How card issuers think up these small, fine print issues, I have no clue. But work the system.
Shop from a list
You’ve made your menu and kept a list on the refrigerator for those items that need to be replaced. You’ve checked the sales ads and made notes of items to add to your stockpile. Your list glows with the sweat of your preparation. Now, stick to it.
And never, ever just go to the store to “window shop.” Browsing can put you in the hole really quick because marketing analyses show that the longer your spend in a store the more money you will spend there.
An even better idea is to write your grocery list in order according to the layout of the store. Not only will you save time, but you will avoid distractions by shopping each aisle strategically in order and having your lit arranged to match.
I love my husband. I love my children. But, I want to shop alone.
When they come with me, someone is going to ask for something that is not on my list. A child is going to demand my attention when I need to be looking at the price per unit to make sure I am getting the best deal possible.
Shopping will cost you if it becomes a social outing. My goal is to get in the store and out of the store as quickly as possible and without distraction.
I am a woman on a mission and my mission is to save!
Compare the price per unit
If you want to know a good price on a food item, always take a closer look the unit prices of different sizes.
When shopping in the store, most of the unit prices are on the shelf sticker. When grocery shopping online with stores like Walmart+, the unit price is listed in fine print besides the actual price of the item.
Cutting the grocery budget with what you buy
If you want to shave a lot of money off your grocery bill, you need to take a really hard look at what you are buying.
Keep a firm focus on the basic items you need to prepare meals. I have shared a list before for those with especially small grocery budgets but I cannot emphasize enough the need to purchase products in their simplest form. Think more about ingredients and less about meals.
Small cans of tomatoes are easy to use and do not need to be measured, but you can save more by purchasing the larger cans and then separating them into traditional sizes and freezing them.
(Note: Always check the price per unit because sometimes, the smaller can will be cheaper, especially if you are using coupons.)
Baking products can be significantly cheaper when bought in bulk. I purchase my rice, spices, flour, coffee and such in bulk quantities at Sam’s Club and then store them in large plastic storage containers.
Meat marked for quick sale is not bad meat, although I do skip it when it is already turning colors.
Now, I used to recommend purchasing meat in chubs, but with the recent attention to “pink slime,” I now urge you to purchase your beef as a roast (look for marked down or buy one, get one free deals) and ask the butcher to grind it for you. You could even purchase a grinder and do it yourself.
The best way to find a great deal on meat is to be at the store early. Markdowns happen within the first hour of the store opening, so be there.
Beans & Rice
Inserting one or two meatless meals into your menu each week can shave $10 to $25 from your grocery budget each month. Eating less meat will help you avoid the high prices of beef and chicken because many plant-based proteins are less expensive than meats.
If you have a meat and potatoes man, you could always try to fake him out by using beef or chicken stock for flavor.
You can also stretch the meat you use by fluffing the dish with beans and/or rice. Try to swap canned beans (rinsed and drained) in your favorite casseroles as a substitute for ground meat. Dry beans are a great source of protein and are an excellent way to combat rising food prices.
Shaving the grocery bill with what you avoid buying
What you don’t put in your grocery cart can save you a lot of money.
Just give me a second… We are very brand loyal on certain items. For these, I watch for sales prices, shop at Sam’s Club or Costco, or add them to my Amazon Subscribe and Save order.
But, for most food products, I am willing to try different brands based on the price per unit. Many stores offer their own generic, cheaper alternatives to name brands. You can save a lot of money by skipping the branded product and purchasing a discounted, similar item.
You really should avoid prepackaged foods for more than one reason: 1) Whole foods are better for you. 2) You have no idea what is really in there. 3) Food is cheaper when made from scratch in your own kitchen.
I know… I just shared ways to save on meat and now I am telling you not to buy it.
For the most extreme budgets, meat needs to be limited because it will still be one of the most expensive things on your list.
So, avoid specialty cuts. Keep steaks limited to special occasions.
Dairy is important for a balanced diet but when you have cheese on every casserole or present in some other form at every meal, your budget needs calcium rehab.
Cheese is very expensive so when you do purchase it, make sure that you shop by the price per unit or wait for sales that you can match with coupons.
There are certain meals in our home that beckon for an icy cold glass of Coke Zero. It’s a terrible thing but I am just being honest.
Instead of soda being a constant in your grocery cart, reserve it for special occasions. Water and tea are the most economical options.
This could easily fall under the convenience foods category.
Packages of snacks will eat your budget faster than the Cookie Monster can gobble down a plate full of cookies. So, try to make your snacks from scratch. We are particularly fond of Rice Krispie Treats and chocolate chip cookies.
If you cannot live without chips beside your sandwich, wait for a Buy One, Get One Free sale and then stock up.
Cut Your Grocery Bill WHILE You Cook
Your grocery savings can continue while you are working in the kitchen.
Cook from your menu
If you took the time to make a menu, then do yourself a favor and use it. Don’t let the food you have purchased spoil.
Remember to watch what you have in your pantry with your favorite pantry inventory app.
I love to cook one time a week. Some people prefer cooking once a month.
Even if you just double your quantity and then freeze half, you will end up saving money because 1) you are buying food in bulk and the prices are lower and 2) you will be less tempted to eat out because you have dinner waiting in the freezer.
Use your crock pot or instant pot
The temptation to stop somewhere on the way home is nonexistent when you know that dinner is ready to go.
Use beans, rice, and pasta
Again, beans and rice are excellent fillers for stretching your meat. Corn and pasta work well for stretching your meat too. Or, use those beans and rice for a wonderful meatless meal.
My husband eats leftovers for lunch every day. He never has to buy a lunch, and I have no idea how much that has saved us over the last 20-something years but I bet it is a bundle.
I package up what we have left into microwaveable entree containers and then put them in the freezer. My goal is to make at least two lunches from each dinner. He can then pick and choose from what we have, microwave them, and be the envy of everyone around him.
Make it your goal to use what you buy.
When I was in seminary, I remember a friend telling me about the $60 worth of produce she and her husband bought but never ate. I think about that story often when I open my refrigerator. I try to look through the produce every couple of days to see what needs to be used quickly.
Rotate items in your pantry so the most recently purchased items are at the back.
And, use a pantry management app to help you keep up with expiration dates.
Make from scratch
This is the one that kills a lot of people because of the time commitment for cooking something from scratch but with all the recipes available for packaging up convenience mixes yourself, there really is no longer an excuse.