Are you looking to free up some extra cash or save more money? One of the best ways to save money is to become a frugal food shopper.
Now if the thought of saving money on groceries has you thinking of the episode of 2 Broke Girls, where Caroline becomes addicted to extreme couponing and gets in a shoving match with the “Coupon Queen” don’t worry. Grocery shopping on a budget doesn’t have to get intense, just follow these money-saving tips.
How to Save Money on Groceries
1. Create a Meal Plan
One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to create a meal plan for the upcoming week or two. Think of meal planning like building a budget with food. Take stock of what items you have on hand, then consider what food and produce are in season or on sale at your local supermarkets.
With a little bit of pre-planning, you can search for recipes to cook and use what is currently on sale. Having a meal plan makes creating a shopping list more straightforward, and helps you avoid picking up any of the dreaded budget-busting impulse items.
2. Make a Grocery Shopping List
Once you have a meal plan its time to create a shopping list. If you are using recipes to create your meal plan creating a shopping list isn’t hard at all. All you need to do is write down the ingredients and quantities you will need to complete your menu or meal plan.
It’s helpful to keep a running shopping list of food items as you use them up. When you find a coupon or two for an item on your list make sure to notate it with a checkmark, so you don’t forget to use your coupon.
3. Stock up on Sale Items
When reviewing the store circular or discounts, you may find items on sale that do not currently work with your meal plan. If you have room in your budget, you can freeze meat, vegetables, and fruit to use later. Just make sure you use them.
If you can find fresh fruit or produce on sale, besides freezing, you may can items or dehydrate them. Dehydrated veggies are great to make stews or soups for camping trips or even to brown bag lunch at work.
Tip; Don't buy items just because they are the cheapest. You don’t want to end up like Murry from The Goldbergs who bought canned “Meat” and single-ply toilet paper just because it was cheap. Stock what you eat and eat what you stock; you won’t save any money if the items end up going to waste.
4. Avoid Impulse Buying
I’m guilty of impulse items, especially at specialty grocers like Wegman’s or the Asian food market. (I am easily swayed by wasabi flavored anything) Fight the urge to pick-up impulse items; having a shopping list in hand is great for sticking to the budget. Also, to ensure you don’t go over budget, add up the cost of items on your phone calculator, it’s helpful to see how much you're spending as you go.
Lastly, don’t shop hungry, you might be tempted to pick up items you don’t need or expensive prepackaged meals when buying on an empty budget.
5. Buy Items in Bulk
Buying food in the bulk aisle or bulk section can save a lot of money. The key is to make sure you use it before it goes to waste; this is where having a meal plan can come in handy. The best bulk deals may not be at your big chain grocery store.
If you have an Amish or Mennonite community nearby check to see where they do their shopping, many markets that sell to these communities offer great prices on bulk items. Also, if you have an Amish market, these can be a great place to buy fresh produce and baked goods.
Check out Amish America for a listing of Amish Markets near you.
6. Buy Wholesale
Check out your local restaurant supply stores. Many restaurant supply stores are open to the public, or to local business owners. Restaurant supply stores are great for saving money on pots, pans, and utensils.
However, many restaurant supply stores all sell produce, baked goods, coffee, dairy products and more. Here in the Northeast, we have Maines Food and Party Warehouse that is open to the public and sells restaurant-quality food at wholesale prices.
7. Check the Dollar Store
The dollar store is one of our favorite places to pick up art and school supplies for the kids. However, if you keep an eye on the circular, the dollar store can also save you money on groceries.
Usually, you will find a lot of prepacked items at the dollar store, such as Hamburger Helper. Prepackaged items typically are not the most cost-effective or healthiest choice, however, sometimes it is handy to have a quick fix on hand for when life gets hectic. When you find a great deal, it may make sense to pick up a few boxes, just make sure you check expiration dates and keep an eye on when the items need to be used by.
How to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons?
8. Purchase Discounted Gift Cards
Before you head out to the store check Raise and Gift Card Granny, grocery store gift cards often sell quick so if you see one for between .08 and 2.5 off, make sure to grab it.
9. Save Money Scanning Receipts
Scanning your receipts is a great way to save some money and get cashback for the shopping you are already doing on a day to day basis. All you need to do is download a couple of apps, and you can be saving hundreds of dollars a year.
Ibotta is a receipt scanning app where you earn cashback for your purchases. Before heading off to the store, you can search the app for relevant cashback offers and add them to your queue. (You may be asked a survey question before you can add an offer) Once you have loaded up your desired offers, you shop as usual. When you are done shopping scan your receipt, if you purchased any of the items in your queue, you will receive cash.
The best part of shopping with ibotta is it stacks with all your coupons, discounted gift cards, and any reward credit cards you shop with. Plus, ibotta offers up to 20 dollars in sign-on bonuses and you can earn money for referring friends with a little bit of effort you could easily make $100 or more.
How to Save Money on Groceries with Coupons?
Clipping coupons are one of the most effective ways to cut your food costs. The average weekly newspaper inset has over 50 dollars in savings.
Chances are you won’t purchase or use every item in the inset, however, if you spend an hour clipping coupons and making a meal and can easily save $20. Making $20 an hour beats searching the couch cushions for loose change and could add up to some real savings over the year.
If you are worried about annoying the cashier, don’t let that keep you from taking advantage of free money, you can always use the self-checkout.
10. Check the Store Circular or flyer
The store circular will often have store coupons in them, so make sure you check to see what items are on sale. Store coupons will usually stack with manufacturer coupons, as well as with any incentives from apps like ibotta or Receipt Hog.
11. Find Digital Coupons
Receive digital coupons by completing the Shoppers Voice Survey. Shopper's voice is an online survey that takes about ten to complete. Based on your survey results, you will receive coupons and discount codes geared to the items your household is likely to purchase.
They also, offer some free to download coupons on their site.
12. Use a Coupon Clipping Service
To purchase multiples of the same item you typically need one coupon per item. If you are looking to stock your pantry with your favorite food, getting a few extra copies of a coupon is critical. This is where a coupon clipping service like The Coupon Clippers comes in handy.
With The Coupon Clippers, you can order just the coupon you need or the whole Sunday insert.
eBay is also an excellent place to go for a coupon or two that you might be looking for. Prices on eBay tend to be a bit higher that what you might pay with a service like The Coupon Clippers.
13. Subscribe and Save Coupons
Several manufacturers have email newsletters where you can subscribe and receive coupons via email.
14. Newspaper Inserts
Check your local library to see if they receive the Sunday paper with the coupon inserts. If you ask they may allow you to have coupons on Monday.
Also, check with local gas stations and convenience stores that sell the Sunday paper, they may toss out unsold copies of the paper.
If you are not able to score free copies of the Sunday inserts hire a service such as Sunday Coupon Inserts. Sunday Coupon Inserts is a weekly service that will mail you each week’s coupon inserts.
15. Write Companies for Coupons in the Mail
A favorite couponing tactic online is writing companies complementary letters in hopes of receiving freebies and coupons in the mail. I would file this tactic under extreme couponing and possibly more effort than its worth.
However, if you a huge fan of a product and would like to let the manufacturer know, there is a good chance they might send you a freebie or packet of coupons. You can find a list of manufacturers that will send you coupons if you ask here.
Stack Your Efforts for Maximum Money Savings
To save the most amount of money stack a few of these options when you are grocery shopping to save serious money. Remember to stick to your shopping list, and make sure you don’t let an impulse buy or two eat up your savings. Keep track of how much you can save and make a game out of squirreling the savings away in your IRA or 401k, as you see your savings and investments grow saving money will become a habit.
Three Bonus Shopping Tips!
How to Save Money at Aldi?
Aldi’s has some of the best prices going on groceries, and they do not accept coupons. However, you can save some money shopping at Aldi with some preplanning.
- Save 1-5% with discounted ALDI gift cards from Raise.com or Gift Card Granny. Aldi cards sell quick so if you see a card for sale scoop it up. The owner of Trader Joes and Aldi’s are brothers; however, the stores are not connected so if you have a gift card for one it will not work at the other.
- Aldi charges for bags, so make sure you bring your own bags, also make sure you have a quarter for the shopping cart.
- Use your receipt scanning app for extra saving, ibotta is our fav app to use at Walmart and Wegmans, however for Aldi’s the best scanning app is Checkout 51.
- Know when to shop, the best deal on meat is usually Wednesday morning. Aldi discounts break 50% five days before the sell-by date, so if you use up bread quickly purchase when its on sale.
How to Save Money at Walmart?
If you do not have an Aldi nearby, Walmart has some low prices on grocery items. Items on the end caps tend to be priced competitively, however not all of Walmart’s prices are the best. Also, make sure you check the ingredients; the version of a product sold at Walmart is not always the same as what you would find at the supermarket or store.
Note: we found this personally with both baby formula and some supplements, the package looked similar; however when we compared labels at home the products were not the same.
Tips for saving at Walmart
- Walmart accepts coupons, so check your inserts.
- Purchase discounted gift cards, Walmart cards go quick. However, you can often pick up discounted cards for 1 to 2% off.
- Use a cashback or rewards credit or debit card.
- Make use of receipt scanning apps like ibotta.
Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries at Target
- Target places food items on sale on Tuesday
- Purchase discounted gift cards
- Target price matches identical items sold at other stores so bring in your circulars
- Stack store and manufacturer coupons
- Download Target’s Cartwheel app for additional coupons and savings
- Scan your receipts with Checkout 51, ibotta, or Receipt Hog.
Michael launched Your Money Geek to make personal finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.