Here are my BEST tips for saving money on groceries from someone who feeds her family for under $500 per month!
Groceries are the second largest expense for most households after their mortgage or rent.
Finding ways to reduce your grocery budget while still eating healthy, nourishing food is key to saving lots of money every month!
If you can cook at home even one more day a week instead of eating out you will save hundreds of dollars each year.
Here are some approaches that have worked for us along with my tips for saving money on groceries.
Set A Grocery Budget
If you are serious about saving money on groceries, you first need to find out how much you are currently spending.
The first month I diligently kept track of much much we were spending on groceries, toiletries, diapers, etc. I was totally shocked.
No longer was I wondering… “Where does all of our money go?”
I’ve tried apps and such for tracking expenses, but for me low-tech is the way to go. I use a single white envelope clipped to the fridge to keep track of our grocery etc. receipts for the month.
I describe how I set this up in detail in this post on my simple budgeting method.
I recommend you first find out how much you are spending and then set a weekly spending goal.
Setting weekly rather than monthly goals works best for me. My goal was to stay under $125 per week for groceries.
I found I was able to meet my spending goal without sacrificing quality when I used the next eight tips!
Buy Loss Leaders & Whatever Is On Sale
One of the main strategies I use to save money on groceries is buying what is on sale that week and taking advantage of what are called “loss leaders”.
Loss leaders are items that are priced so low that the store may take a loss on those items, but the prices are meant to lead people into the store.
I almost always buy the fruit or vegetable loss leader for the week and work it into our meals. I also stock up on snacks and pantry basics when they are loss leaders.
Above are examples of some loss leaders from my local Food Lion grocery store. I bought them all!
By shopping weekly sales I saved $742 on groceries last year at Food Lion. That’s a significant chunk of change!
Buying what is on sale that week means that you can’t be brand loyal. it may be hard to get your family used to a different brand of bread or cereal every week.
But I find that as long as you prepare them for this by telling them your strategy (and that it will free up money for things they value) it will go just fine.
Use Zero-Effort Cash Back Apps
What makes these apps different is that once you are set up with them and have loyalty cards and payment methods linked you do absolutely nothing.
Just watch your savings roll in and be sure to withdraw it once it’s reached a payment threshold.
I have my Food Lion MVP card linked to my Ibotta account (set yours up here) and I automatically earn cash back when I buy anything with an offer associated with it.
I could make plans to buy items with offers but I’m not organized enough.
With DOSH you link whatever credit or debit card you use for payment and then you earn cash back when you pay with that card.
I’ve saved over $1500 with these apps (and that includes referring others to the app which you can do, too!) with very little effort.
Buy Essentials at a Wholesale Store
Shopping for essentials at Costco (or another warehouse club) has the potential to save you a ridiculous amount of money!
In this post on how to save money at Costco, I calculated that we save almost $300 each year just from buying FIVE basic items at Costco.
Since we buy many more items on a regular basis, I’m sure our savings is well over $1,000.
Here are items I buy regularly at Costco at significant savings:
- Salad mix
- Fresh green beans
- Fresh fruit (raspberries, blueberries, bananas, etc.)
- Pork Loin (I cut it into pork chops myself)
- Vegetable Oil
- Olive Oil
- Frozen Fruit
- Rotisserie Chicken
- Shredded Cheese
- Half and Half
- Contact Solution
However, I do have two warnings for shopping at Costco:
- You MUST stick to your shopping list and resist impulse buys or your savings will go right out the window!
- You’ll have to be able to use everything before it spoils (I store a lot of excess in our full-size freezer)
Pay With A Cash Back Credit Card
I try to pay for most of our grocery expenses with a credit card that earns significant cashback.
My favorite card for this purpose is the no-annual-fee “Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.
I earn $200-300 cash back each year on my everyday purchases just by paying with this card and then paying off the bill at the end of the month.
As long as you have a solid history with credit cards and can pay your bill on time each month it makes sense to pay for groceries with a cashback card.
Saving Money on Groceries: Keep Your Pantry Stocked
Here is a picture of my messy pantry. There are certain supplies I try to always have on hand so I can make something at home in a pinch.
Being able to make a quick simple dinner at home keeps me from ordering takeout and keeps my food budget low!
My pantry essentials include canned beans (chili beans and black beans are most often used here), pasta, diced tomatoes, rice, tortillas, and instant mashed potatoes.
These are easy to combine with some meat and frozen veggies to make a meal.
I can always whip up something to eat with these basic ingredients as long as I have some on hand. As soon as I notice I am running low, I add it to my shopping list.
Improve Your Skills in the Kitchen
When I turn 30 and realized I was completely useless in the kitchen, I took a bunch of cooking classes.
I learned some basic cooking techniques and how to do important things efficiently, such as how to chop an onion (really).
These classes gave me the confidence I needed to start cooking for myself more.
Now I love to cook and am very adventurous, but I needed the confidence from those basic classes to get to this point.
If you need more confidence in the kitchen, I recommend taking a low-cost cooking class on Udemy from home.
Now I can make something delicious from what we have hanging around without needing to run out to the store. I also don’t need to buy a lot of recipe-ready food which tends to be more expensive.
Have A Repertoire of Go-To Recipes
When I am feeling uninspired about dinner, I have a few go-to recipes that are easy to prepare and are always winners.
For me, they include quesadillas, chili, and one-pot pasta dishes. Find what works for you and your family and then keep those recipes handy!
Have At Least A Loose Meal Plan
This one is the hardest for me. Something in me rejects the idea of menu planning. It takes me back to 8th grade Home Economics and seems so lame and un-spontaneous.
But I have been trying to have at least a loose plan for what I plan to cook for the week when I go grocery shopping.
I can make multiple recipes with ingredients before they go bad and end up being less stressed out about what I am going to cook.
I hope these tips will help you start saving money on groceries! Any questions or suggestions? Please leave a comment below or send me a message on The Frugal South’s Facebook page.