Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. I would earn a little money with no extra cost to you. The opinions expressed are my own. Read my disclaimer to learn more.
I don’t think I’ve ever cut out a coupon in my life. Even the thought of cutting coupons sounds annoying and time consuming. Don’t get me wrong, I love to save money on groceries, but I have limits and apparently it’s cutting up a newspaper.
Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not a coupon cutter. I know coupons will help me save money, but I can’t bring myself to do it. One obstacle is I don’t get the weekly ad delivered to my house often enough to rely on the savings.
Another reason I don’t cut coupons is the time suck I picture it to be. Flipping through the paper to find deals and trying to create a meal around what’s on sale sounds stressful, time consuming, and restricting. If I have no idea what we’re eating for the week, it doesn’t make sense to cut out coupons for food we might not even buy.
Plus, if I do buy something that has a coupon, the cashier can apply it without me needing to waste time cutting it out at home. (So far this sounds like an article about not cutting out coupons, but I promise I’ll get to the point, lol)
The good news is, you don’t have to cut coupons to save money on groceries. I’ve learned plenty of grocery hacks to save my family money and survive on $60 a week. Buying food is the easiest way for your budget to get out of control and I’d wager it’s one of the highest flexible spending areas in most family budgets.
If you can save a little money at the grocery store, you can use that to make an extra student loan payment, or pay extra on your credit card.
Plan Your Meals Around What You Already Have
Your best friend to save money on groceries is your own pantry. To be honest, I’m terrible at remembering what food and ingredients we have. Thankfully my wife has a steal trap memory for food, spices, and random ingredients that are tucked away in the freezer or a rarely used cabinet.
Before we commit to a meal, we figure out how many of the ingredients we need to buy. We’re much more likely to try a new recipe when we already have most of the ingredients. We save money when we can use what we already have.
Stock Up on Staple Supplies Once in a While
When we got married and moved in together, we made a choice to stock up our pantry. We basically started from scratch with only very basic food we brought from our separate apartments. We didn’t have anything. I felt a little like Old Mother Hubbard with nothing in the cupboard.
In our first month of marriage, we took a couple hundred dollars from wedding gifts and made a trip to SAMs Club to stock our cupboard with the basics. We bought a ton of spices, olive oil, butter, pasta noodles, bags of frozen veggies we could cook as a side, giant bags of oatmeal, pancake mix, flour, sugar, and a few other things I can’t remember. 🙂
It’s helped us save money on groceries on a weekly basis. If there’s even one or two ingredients you don’t have to buy, that’s a few dollars you can put toward your next student loan payment. Every dollar counts.
Buy Generic. It’s Cheaper than the Name Brand
Name brands are great at building brand loyalty. We think we need to buy the brand we see on tv, but the truth is, it’s crazy expensive compared to the store brand. I’d guess we save $5-15 a week just by buying the generic store brand. That’s $260-780 a year. It all adds up. That’s at least one extra debt payment, maybe two.
Another trick I read about last week is that the more expensive products, like brand names, are strategically placed at eye level. If you want the cheaper stuff, look up or down to find the store brands. Do a quick stretch and get in a few squats when you bend down to snag a can of tomato paste off the bottom shelf. Grocery shopping and a workout all in one. 🙂
Shop Once a Week – Ditch the Mid Week Grocery Store Dash
The less you shop, the less you buy. At least that’s the idea behind this one. I like to do all of our grocery shopping on Sunday to prepare for the entire week. Our Sunday routine goes something like this.
- 6:30 – Tweetsie Time: Our daughter (Tweetsie) gets up and we snuggle in bed with her for a few minutes because let’s face it, baby snuggles are the best.
- 7:00 – Dog Duty: Let the dogs out to go potty, feed them, and take them out to play with their tennis ball. They even know the routine. Gregg waits by the basement door to get food and Sadie waits by the front door to go out and play.
- 7:30 – Mom and Dad Get Ready/Play with Our Daughter: Last up is getting ourselves ready for the day. Then we spend whatever time we have left playing with our baby girl and puppies.
- 8:30 – Off to Church We Go: Out the door by 8:30, get Addy checked into Sunday School and grab a free coffee in the lobby before heading into the auditorium.
- 10:30 – Hit Up Aldi for a Week’s Worth of Groceries: Aldi is our one stop shop for food. We waltz in, quarter in hand, and are usually in and out in 15-20 minutes with everything we need for the entire week. No mid week stops to stock up for us. Boom! Now let’s go home and watch the Vikings.
When you buy a week’s worth of food in one shot, a couple amazing things happen.
First, you save money because you planned ahead to make sure you stay under budget. Second, you save time during the week. You don’t need to make any stops at the store on the way home from work. You get to spend time doing what you want.
Plus, extra stops for one or two ingredients add up quickly when you do it multiple times a week.
Start Meal Planning Every Week
Before we got married, Jenna and I started cooking all of our meals together. In the early years, it was almost like a date night. We put on music and cook a crap ton of food on Sunday night so we don’t need to cook again all week.
We love hanging out together, and that extends to the kitchen. Jenna has always been the brains behind our meal planning, and I just cut up a lot of veggies and try not to screw up too bad. 😉
It’s seriously amazing to only cook once a week. You can eat the meal hot and fresh the first night, then package it into leftovers for the week. It saves time cooking every night when you only need to pop it into the microwave for a few minutes. And you have less clean up because you didn’t actually cook.
Meal planning is the best choice we made with our food budget. This one choice led to most of the money saving tips on this list. It was also the catalyst for so many other changes in our budget and learning to save money.
Make Food Last Longer
The longer your food lasts, the less you have to buy. Last week we made chili, and in case you’re wondering yes, it is delicious and perfect for cold November temperatures. We wanted to stretch the chili into this week so we don’t need to cook again before Thanksgiving.
Our magic trick? Add rice to the bowl so we use less chili with every serving. It still tastes delicious, and now we save money on groceries this week! The little things really add up and can help you through a tight stretch.
Stay Home When You’re Hungry
Last week I broke the number one grocery shopping rule: don’t buy food when you’re hungry. Right before heading into the store, I sent out a tweet that went crazy.“Breaking all the rules. Grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Wish us luck.” Click To Tweet
Within a day, it had over 100 likes. That tells me one thing, we all know the golden rule of grocery shopping. Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. When you’re hungry, everything looks delicious and you end up with all kinds of random things in your cart, and your food bill skyrockets.
Luckily we walked out with only five frozen pizzas, which is actually what we went into get. Not exactly the picture of perfect health food, but let’s focus on the positives, we saved a ton of money in what could’ve been a budget breaking situation. 🙂
Save Money on Groceries When You Make a List
I don’t like to go grocery shopping. I like to go grocery buying. When you bring a list of the exact food items you plan on buying, you save time and money. I walk into the store and go directly to the aisles I need and buy only what’s on my list. I’m in and out in minutes and save a bunch of money in the process.
When I think of grocery shopping, I picture myself wandering through each aisle, seeing what catches my eye, and trying to plan a week of meals while I’m in the store.
This has bad news written all over it. The longer you spend in the store, the more money you’re going to spend. Plus, when you don’t have a clear idea of which groceries you need, you throw all kinds of extra food into the cart and go over budget.
Stop shopping and start buying and you’ll save money on groceries.
Leave Your Kids at Home – They’re Money Suckers and Want Everything
Our daughter is only 8 months old, so she isn’t in the wanting stage. However, yesterday she tried to grab anything she could get her hands on and proceeded to cry when we took things away from her. I’m not sure if it’s because she’s already a wanter or because we were out shopping during nap time. I’m hoping it was the nap thing. 😉
But if you have kids, I’m sure you’re nodding your head to this one. Kids want EVERYTHING! My nieces and nephews usually ask for a treat every time I take them with to the store. Sometimes the treat is a candy bar, other times its a $50 toy.
Heck, I remember when I was a kid. I tried sneaking my favorite cereal Frosted Flakes and other candy into the cart when my Mom wasn’t looking. Yep, I was that kid. I still don’t know if my Mom pretended not to notice or if she legit didn’t know I did this.
Either way, I cost my parents extra money grocery shopping, and I’m willing to bet your kids do too. I know it’s not easy just to leave your kids at home, but if you have the option take it. Or one parent stay home with the kiddos while the other buys food.
If you can make it work, I guarantee you’ll save money on groceries without your kids pleading for treats.
Find a Recipe and Work Backward
This tip combines a few I’ve already mentioned. I don’t have any sort of natural chef touch in the kitchen so I need to rely on recipes to make food that tastes good. On Friday or Saturday my wife and I start thinking about meals for the next week.
When we find a meal we agree on, we set to work finding a recipe for it. Sometimes it takes a bit, but we like to find a recipe that incorporates ingredients we already have. Then we scan through the ingredient list to estimate how expensive everything else will be. If the recipe passes the ingredient and cost estimate tests, we start writing a list of what we need to buy vs what we already have.
We start with a recipe, analyze ingredients, and make a list. It’s a simple process that keeps us under budget every month and avoid impulse shopping. It’s also terrible to be at the store and realize that a meal will be way more expensive than you expected. Using recipes and making lists eliminates that stress and overspending.
Shop at a Discount Store like Aldi or Trader Joe’s
The most expensive place to buy food is your local grocery store. For us, that’s Super One. Our $60 food budget buys so much less food when we shop there. Luckily we have more options that are much cheaper.
For years and years, we dreamed of a Duluth building a Trader Joe’s. They have an amazing variety of food from around the globe and it’s crazy cheap, especially the wine. 🙂 Sadly the closest one is in Minneapolis, 2.5 hours away. If you have one near you, you probably already take advantage of their savings. If you haven’t, give Trader Joe’s a chance.
Luckily for us, an Aldi was built in Duluth. It’s designed as a discount supermarket full of generic brands that are delicious and cheap. Our grocery bill is almost cut in half just from shopping there. Unfortunately almost every Aldi store is east of the Mississippi River for some weird reason, so you’ll need to find your own local discount store.
You might not have a Trader Joe’s or Aldi near you, but there are other chains and branches of discount grocery stores all around the country. Find one close to you and see if you can use it to your advantage and save money on groceries.
Buy Food That is Filling – You’ll Eat Less and Save Money
My favorite breakfast food of all time is cereal. I love a good bowl of Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms. As a kid, I ate a couple bowls of cereal every morning to get ready for the day.
The problem with food like cereal is it’s not super healthy and doesn’t fill you up. I was hungry again two hours later and wandered to the fridge to find something to snack on. That’s more money down the drain with next week’s grocery budget replenishing all the extra food I had to eat to stay full.
Now as an adult, I understand the value of buying healthy snacks that fill me up, at least most of the time. I still like to snag a box of cereal when we come in under budget. 😉 We always have fruit and almonds on hand if we need an extra snack. It doesn’t taste as good as Frosted Flakes, but it sure helps our health and our food budget.
Buy in Bulk – Who Doesn’t Love a Bag of 200 Pizza Rolls?
If you buy food for an entire week, it just makes sense to buy in bulk. You’re going to eat the extra food anyway, so you might as well save a few bucks to buy a crap ton of food. Our economy sized grocery store of choice is SAMs Club, but if it was up to my wife, we’d go to Costco. Sadly the closest one is 160 miles away.
There are definitely times that buying in bulk makes sense and saves you money. But there are plenty of times when it’s throwing money away. Sometimes you don’t need a 10lb log of hamburger meat or 18 hot dog buns. Sure, maybe you’ll use it before it goes bad, but if you throw your food out, you’re not really saving much money.
Don’t Pay More for Convenience
The best trick grocery stores ever played on us is when they started selling pre-cut and pre-sliced food. I mean, who doesn’t love convenience. When you’re heading over to a friends house and you forgot to make a dish, that precut veggie tray is pretty appealing. No work required, just buy, open, and serve.
But those fruit and veggie trays are stupidly expensive compared to buying whole fruit and veggies and cutting it yourself. You can buy a bag of carrots, cauliflower, and brocolli for less than $5 and a jar of dip for $2. That’s probably half the cost of the pre-cut veggie tray.
Saving money on groceries is as easy as cutting your own fruit and veggies. And to be honest, it doesn’t take that long. Throw on some music or a podcast and jam out. Just be careful you don’t cut yourself. 🙂
Track Your Spending on Groceries
It’s hard to know if you’re saving money if you don’t keep track of how much you spend. Keeping a budget every month to track your spending, and your saving, is the best way to crush your debt. It’s the tool we used to pay off $73,000 of student loan debt in less than four years on two teacher salaries.When you invest the time to create your budget you’ll save so much money in the long run because you predetermined your monthly spending. The best part of budgeting is you get to choose how much to spend on groceries.Click To Tweet
Start tracking your spending this week so you know how much you’re actually saving. It’s actually pretty fun to save money.
Find Staple Cheap Recipes You Love and Press Repeat
Once you find a good recipe, don’t let it get away. Write it down, save it to Pinterest, or take screen shots on your phone. We always have a few crazy cheap meals up our sleeves if we need to make our money stretch further. Even better when you find meals that are cheap and have easy meal prep, like this amazing list.
A few that we love are chili over rice (hard to get cheaper than rice and beans), honey and sweet potato vegetarian tacos, breakfast for dinner (not the healthiest, but it’s cheap), enchiladas, chicken caesar wraps, and stir fry.
We come back to these recipes every few months because they’re cheap and taste fantastic!
It’s Easy to Save Money on Groceries When You Plan Ahead
Most of these tips require planning before you walk through the doors of the grocery store. But the good news, the planning isn’t hard. You just need to remember to do it. Give a few of these grocery store hacks a try and track your savings with your budget.
Save money this week and pay off debt faster. It’s a win/win.
Let Me Know in the Comments
What’s your favorite way to save money on groceries? What did I miss?
Our budget and goals changed our lives and it can change yours too.
As an Educator and Personal Finance Blogger, Jamie has helped hundreds of families learn how to budget, save money, and pay off debt (go here to subscribe and start your debt free journey). Read our debt free story, “How We Paid Off $73,000 of Debt in Less Than Four Years”.