Budgeting 101: How to Save Money on Groceries

Published Jun 10, 2024


Save Money on Groceries Using These Simple Budgeting Tips

It’s safe to say that groceries make up a significant part of your monthly expenses. Everyone’s gotta eat, after all! But what if you could cut down on the amount of money you spend at the grocery store without compromising flavor, freshness, or meal variety? Turns out, you can – especially if you follow a handful of money-saving tips and tricks.

Today, let’s explore some of the best ways to save money on groceries each time you go to the store. In no time at all, you’ll find your bank account has more than a few extra bucks.

Why save at the grocery store?

Simply put, you should try to save money at the grocery store because:

  • Your grocery bill is one of the most consistent expenses, and you can't avoid it
  • Your grocery bill is somewhat flexible compared to other regular expenses, such as your mortgage, car payment, or student loans

Given these two facts, your regular grocery bill is the perfect place to look for ways to save, especially since food is becoming more expensive around the country. According to US News & World Report, consumers spend about 11.3% of disposable personal income on food! That’s no small portion of your monthly money.

Best ways to save money on groceries

Want to reduce that monthly grocery bill by 1%, 2%, or even more? You certainly can – and in several different ways! Let’s break down the smartest tips to save money on groceries one by one.

Set a grocery budget

The easiest way to prevent yourself from spending more money than you intend at the grocery store? Set a budget and stick to it.

Say that you do your monthly accounting and find you have $200 per week to spend on groceries for you and your partner. When you go to the store for your weekly groceries, take a calculator with you and make sure you don’t exceed $200 as you put things in your cart.

For many Americans, unexpected grocery expenses creep up by sneaking into their shopping baskets. Simply keeping your budget in mind can do wonders for saving money and helping you avoid impulse buying.

Stick to your shopping list

Similarly, write down everything you intend to buy at the grocery store, and don't deviate from your shopping list. Making a list and sticking to it isn’t easy, but it’s important for saving money on groceries. Even though it can be tempting to throw an extra candy bar or bag of chips in your cart or basket, it’s a much better choice for your wallet to only buy what you plan for. 

Not sure where to start for your shopping list? Draw up a meal plan for you, your partner, and any other family members you are shopping for. That way, you’ll know exactly what ingredients and proportions to target as you walk the aisles of your preferred supermarket.

Do your shopping on a full stomach

Many grocery stores offer ready-to-eat meals, like sandwiches or fried chicken, to customers, so it’s easy to get distracted if you do your grocery shopping right around mealtime! To save money on groceries, do all your shopping on a full stomach so you aren’t tempted to pick up lunch at the grocery store or grab a snack if there are still a few hours until dinner.

This is a smart tip, even if your store doesn’t sell food to chow down on while you shop. If you aren’t hungry, you won’t be as tempted by extra items you never planned on buying, like snacks or candy in the checkout line.

Buy generic or store-brand

Brand loyalty only benefits big companies, not your bank account. Don’t feel like you have to stick with the same brand you've always chosen if you want to save money at your grocery store. Instead, choose generic or store-brand alternatives to your favorite products.

In most cases, generic grocery store items are just as tasty and healthy as items from more well-known brands. But they’re often a few cents or even a few dollars cheaper.

Pay attention to the unit price, then compare

Speaking of price, don't be fooled by clever pricing schemes when you shop. Instead, always look at price tags' "unit price" for a particular item, then compare prices of several similar items to find what's really the cheapest option. Unit price tells you how much money you spend per ounce for a food product, so it's a great way to see the bottom-line value of any given purchase.

Don’t default to eye-level products

Products in grocery stores are strategically positioned, with more expensive items often being stocked on shelves at eye level. This trick can make you miss out on great deals for similar, tasty products.

Always look at the top and bottom shelves before choosing an ingredient for your next meal. In many situations, a similar product resting a shelf or two lower than eye level is a more cost-effective choice.

Join wholesale clubs

Wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club are popular choices for big families, and for good reason – they usually have the best prices for popular ingredients for large, home-cooked meals.

Wholesale clubs usually charge monthly or yearly membership fees, but the savings you’ll get from shopping mostly or exclusively at wholesale clubs will more than make up for those charges. In aggregate, you are likely to save more money shopping at wholesale clubs than not. 

Buy in bulk where you can

Those wholesale clubs are so cost-effective because they offer lots of food items in bulk. Buying groceries in bulk is a good catchall tip for saving money while shopping. If you know your family will chow through a huge box of snacks, cereal, or frozen lunches, buying those things in bulk will help you save a couple of bucks and prevent you from having to run back to the grocery store sooner rather than later: a win-win!

Buy on sale, too

Even if you can't purchase a specific product in bulk, you might be able to find it on sale somewhere in your grocery store, especially if you use the above-mentioned tip about generic or store-brand items. Buying on sale is always a good idea – it's literally free money from the grocery store to you!

Don’t be afraid to clip coupons

Not sure where to find the best sales or deals? Coupons, both paper and digital, can point you in the right direction. Don't feel like you shouldn't clip coupons or that it's "penny-pinching" to do so. Money saved from your grocery bill is money you can spend elsewhere – that's what we call wise.

Stay away from prepackaged items

Prepackaged food items, like pre-shredded cheese or sliced meat, are usually more expensive than getting those food products before they’re sliced or prepared. To save a few extra bucks, buy your meal ingredients fresh or whole, then do the slicing, chopping, or other preparing yourself.

Bring a bag to the store

Lots of grocery stores charge $.10 or similar small fees for every plastic bag you use. Those little fees can add up over time! Bring a reusable bag for your grocery shopping to save a bit of extra cash and to do your part for the environment.

Use a grocery rewards credit card

Many of the most popular credit cards from providers like American Express or Discover offer cash back and other rewards when you use those credit cards at grocery stores. If you have good financial discipline, you can earn free cash or save money on your monthly grocery bill by putting your grocery expenses on your credit card and then paying it off all at once at the end of the month. This financially savvy practice will help you build up credit, too.

Sign up for loyalty programs

Do you shop at the same grocery store all the time? Sign up for its loyalty program to take advantage of special deals and discounts. You exchange your grocery shopping loyalty for lower prices: a fair trade, in our opinion!

Shop in person, not online

Lastly, resist the temptation to use services like Instacart to have your groceries delivered to your door. It’s convenient, sure, but when you add on delivery fees and service charges, you may end up paying up to or over 30% more for your groceries than you would if you did the legwork yourself.

All in all, using even just a few of these tips could help you save a chunk of cash each time you head to the grocery store. Combined with other money-savvy strategies – like using an affordable credit card – you might save hundreds or thousands of dollars over the course of a year. That’s financial planning anyone can get behind. Discover Sharonview’s other tips and solutions today!

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