Right now, inflation is at a generational high, and that means the price of groceries has spiked considerably within the last year and a half. For many, these double-digit price increases have forced them to find ways to save money on groceries.
It’s gotten much worse over the past several months.
To help you and your family better manage these difficult times, we present a list of practical ways to save money at the grocery store. Eating well and feeding your family does not have to cost an arm and a leg.
1. Take Advantage of Sales
The biggest weapon you have in your arsenal to combat high grocery prices is your ability to monitor sales at your local supermarkets. If you go online, you can check their weekly sales quickly and easily. This will help you find the best deals on higher-ticket items like meat.
It is also worth your time to sign up for any loyalty programs offered by your local grocery stores. Some offer member-only savings, while others let you accumulate points that can be used for future purchases.
And if you don’t like the idea of having to carry and keep track of multiple loyalty cards, try Key Ring, an app that conveniently organizes all of your loyalty and rewards cards in one place.
Remember, though, buying something just because it is on sale is not saving money. When it is a product that you use regularly, take advantage and stock up. But don’t buy something that your family doesn’t like just because it’s cheaper.
2. Meal Planning Makes it Easier
Once you know what is on sale, you can then start planning your menu for the week and making your shopping list around those items. Not only does this help you save money, but it also keeps you from getting stuck in a rut of making the same things week after week. As the sales items rotate, so can your menu.
As you plan your weekly menu, try to get multiple uses out of the items you plan on buying. For example, if ground beef is on sale this week, you can make tacos, spaghetti, meatloaf, or hamburgers, just to name a few.
3. Learn to Cook
One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to learn how to cook and stop relying so much on premade convenience foods. The savings can be significant.
- A 2-pound bag of frozen french fries might easily cost $5, while a 10-pound bag of potatoes could be less on sale.
- A store-bought cake might cost $15 or more at the store’s bakery, but you can make your own for less than $5.
- Stocks and broths can cost up to $5 per can, but they can be made at home for just pennies using festival scraps and bones that are left over from cooking.
The savings are even more dramatic if part of your “grocery” shopping involves fast food or dining out. Considering that nearly half of a typical US family’s food budget is spent on eating out, breaking this habit can make a real difference.
That same $10 that you spend on a fast-food combo meal for one person could buy a pound of hamburger meat, a bag of potatoes, and a pound of fresh vegetables that could feed your whole family.
4. Stretch Your Grocery Dollars
What you decide to cook is a big factor in the size of your grocery bill. Learning to make inexpensive meals that your family loves can save you a lot of money in the checkout line.
Typically, meat is the most expensive part of any meal. Would it surprise you to learn that the recommended portion size for red meat or poultry is only 3 ounces – about the size of a deck of cards? As Americans, we are used to eating much larger servings.
In fact, according to nutritionists, half of your plate should be vegetables, one-quarter should be starches and grains, and the remaining one-quarter should be a protein such as meat or fish.
To stretch your meat budget, you can try smaller servings that are closer to the recommended portions and you can also serve more vegetables and starches. Rice, potatoes, pasta, and beans are filling and nutritious ways to cut back on meat.
You can also make your meat go further by cutting it up into small pieces and serving it in casseroles, soups, and stews.
5. Coupons Can Save You Cash
Once upon a time, thrifty Americans relied on coupons and savings stamps to help them spend less money at the grocery store. Harder economic times mean that couponing is making a comeback. Combining weekly sales, specials, and coupons on the items that you already eat results in serious savings.
Even better, some grocery stores will double or even triple the face value of the coupon.
Cutting coupons out of magazines and the Sunday newspaper is still possible, but you can save even more money with your smartphone. Most manufacturers offer digital coupons that can be redeemed at the register simply by scanning a code on your screen.
6. Always Shop With a List
Two invaluable pieces of advice are to never shop when you are hungry and always stick to your grocery list. Following these two tips will keep you from making wasteful and expensive impulse purchases.
This is not an exaggeration. The typical US consumer spends an average of $450 per month on impulsive purchases that they never intended. That equates to $5400 every year. Over 70% of that is spent on food.
If you walk into the grocery store with a prepared shopping list, you save time and money by only buying the things on that list.
7. Buying in Bulk
If you have the storage room, you can often realize significant per-portion savings by buying staple items or sale items in bulk or in larger sizes.
For example, a 20-ounce bottle of ketchup might cost $.15 per ounce, while a 64-ounce bottle of that same brain drops to below $.10 per ounce. That is a savings of over 33%.
This economy of scale can be realized on most grocery items. This is an especially good strategy for staple items like sugar, flour, coffee, etc.
8. Don’t Be Afraid of Store Brands
One underrated way to save money on groceries is to choose store brands rather than more-expensive but otherwise identical brand names. “Identical” is the right word because many store brands are made by larger companies and then simply given a different label.
Even when the parent companies are different, the quality and nutritional value are still roughly the same. In fact, in a taste-off, the store brands were rated to be just as tasty as national brands over half the time.
This means you and your family are not sacrificing nutrition, quality, or chase to switch to the cheaper alternative.
And the savings can be considerable. Some store-brand products cost 60% less than their better-known and better-advertised competitors.
9. The Freezer is Your Friend
If you have the room, a freezer is a great investment that can help you maximize savings on your grocery bill. It literally pays for itself in almost no time.
Sometimes, some foods will go on sale and the savings will be so tremendous that you will actually miss out if you don’t take advantage.
Boneless chicken breast is a good example. While normally it costs $4 to $5 per pound, it often goes on sale for under $2 per pound. This is a tasty, nutritious, and versatile meat that can be prepared in many different ways.
Rather than missing out on such a good deal, a freezer gives you the ability to buy in bulk. You can freeze what you don’t need immediately for economical meals in the future.
The only caveat to this strategy is that if you purchase a freezer, you need to make a “freezer meal plan” that lets you use your frozen foods in a timely manner. Again using chicken breasts as an example, they should not be stored in a freezer for longer than one year.
Final Thoughts about Saving Money on Groceries
The top takeaways from all of this information are that you can combine any or all of the strategies to maximize your savings.
The biggest keys are planning and organization. Thinking ahead will help you save money and time and greatly reduce unnecessary waste.
The best news of all is that feeding your family on a budget is easier than you thought.
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