24 Ways to Chop Your Grocery Bill
Need a foolproof way to cut your monthly food and grocery expenses? You could stop eating for one week out of every month. That would do it right there—25% percent off the top.
What?! Don’t think you can pull that off? Me either, but not to worry. What follows are two dozen much less painful—and I hope slightly more realistic—ways to chop the high cost of food to beat inflation at the supermarket.
Create a shopping list
Do this at home using the store’s weekly sales flyer as your guide.
Don’t shop hungry
You will be compelled to buy everything in sight regardless of what’s on your list if you arrive at the store hungry. Tip: If you can’t avoid it, head to the bakery a pick up a cookie or grab a protein bar on your way in. That will be enough to silence your hunger and clear your mind.
Leave the kids at home
You will stick to your shopping list with much less frustration and stress if you fly solo.
Avoid convenience or specialty stores
You won’t find many bargains there, but oh so many temptations to overspend.
Online grocery shopping is the latest and greatest for many (me!). It keeps me out of the supermarket where, even with a list, I’m an impulsive disaster just waiting to happen. I shop at KingSoopers (part of the Kroger Family of stores) and pay a flat fee of $4.95 per order for its Pick Up service, or free for orders of $35 or more. Walmart offers its groceries online program with free same-day pickup available at hundreds of Walmart stores nationwide (store locator). Walmart does not charge a pickup fee but has a minimum order requirement of $35.
Pinch of salt
Sounds weird, I know but this really works: Add a pinch of salt to a new container of milk when you first open it. Shake well to make it last longer. Salt retards the growth of bacteria that makes milk turn sour. Such a small amount will not alter the taste or be detectable in any way.
Your good intentions to make enough for lunch tomorrow too, will more than likely ensure you growing biology specimens in the back of the fridge. Prepare just what you will consume at one meal. Exception: If you prepare an entire extra casserole to freeze for some later date, I don’t consider that to be leftovers; that’s called a great idea.
Stretch fruit juice
Mix 50/50 with generic brand club soda or seltzer.
Stretch concentrated fruit juice
Always add one can of water more than the instructions state. You will be pleasantly surprised when you detect little difference if any.
Your doctor will love you and so will your food bill. Keep a pitcher of chilled water in the fridge. Rave about its wonderful qualities to your young children. They’ll think it’s a treat if you are convincing enough.
Eliminate choices at meals
Stick to your plan and let your family know that from now on there will be only two choices: take it or leave it.
Come up with creative menu titles for what otherwise might be considered plain and boring: Baked Potato Bar; Chef Salad Night; Bits and Pieces (my kids favorite meal when they were little), which is any combination of things in the fridge cut up to bite-size, cleverly arranged on a plate then ceremoniously sprinkled with a bit of seasoned salt and eaten with a toothpick. Smorgasbord Night (a glorious array of this and that; you know … leftovers that you wouldn’t even think of throwing away); Hors-d’oeuvres and Mocktails. You get the idea.
Popcorn is easy to make and is usually inexpensive when you buy the kernels and pop it yourself from scratch.
Buy in bulk
This will cut down your trips to the grocery and will often save as much as 50 percent of the unit cost. Reorganize your kitchen and pantry. Find places outside of kitchen to store dry and canned goods. Repackage large amounts into small units.
Consider generic and store brands
Some generic items are awful and others are exactly the same product as the name brand. Do some experimenting, especially if your store offers “satisfaction guaranteed!” If you don’t like it get a refund or an exchange.
Shop the perimeter of the store
This is where you will typically find the produce, meat, and dairy. The center aisles are the prepackaged and preprocessed high-priced items, a.k.a. the danger zone.
Keep a price book
Start keeping a notebook which, lists the prices of regularly purchased items at various stores. Keep it with you so that as you see specials or ads you’ll be able to determine whether it is really a bargain or not.
According to studies, on Wednesdays, most supermarkets reduce prices on food that is about to expire. This is also the day that the majority of stores start their new sales.
Shop the sales
Check grocery ads for specials, then base your week’s meals on what is on sale. The closer you can stick to buying only what’s on sale, the more you’ll cut your costs.
Odd hours are good
Shop late in the day, then ask the butcher, bakery.\, and produce person if there is anything they will be marking down. You’ll be surprised how helpful these folks can be and you’ll get the best of the sale and priced-for-quick-clearance items.
Don’t shop when you are exhausted. You will not be as disciplined or effective.
Even if you think you must get to the supermarket because there’s nothing to eat in the house, wait. Hold up. Pretend you’re stranded on an island with truly nothing to eat but what you have in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Chances are pretty good you’ll come up with something, using up what you have already, thereby putting more time between shopping trips
Purchase foods when they are in season, especially produce. But buy off-season meats; typically, roasts are on sale items during summer months as steaks tend to be popular while roasts are not. Buy the sale meats and freeze. If you buy a large piece of meat, cut it into portions for quick thawing later.
Even if it is priced per item, weigh it. You won’t believe the difference in weight of the pre-bagged carrots, for instance. Even with a weight printed on the bag, the real weight may be quite different (and it can be, provided it is not less than printed). Heads of lettuce priced individually can differ in weight by as much as half a pound.
Question: What are your favorite tricks and tips to keep the cost of groceries under control? Please share in the comments below
I love your ideas of how to save on food, and I already do most of them. The one exception is leftovers. When I prepare dinner for the two of us, I cook much more than we will eat. I store the leftovers in clear glass containers so I can see them, and I keep them all on one shelf of the fridge so that they don’t get lost. We eat them all – I never have to throw any away. It saves $ because I can buy large amounts of foods for less, it saves energy from only cooking it once, and it saves preparation time – I just put them on a plate and warm in the microwave. I love leftovers!
I keep a white board on the side of my fridge so I can list for the week each day’s main meal, as well as leftovers & produce. With this overview & knowledge of pantry staples, I find it easier to make those “creative meals.” Recently I reorganized my pantry so that I can see at a glance what staples i have. Before I shop, I circle sale items on the stores’ ads & then check my pantry & fridge to see what I need; only needed things go on my shopping list & I almost never buy items not on my list. I take advantage of BOGO offers, sometimes sharing with my daughter or donating to our local food shelf. I routinely save 25-40% on my grocery bill.
I plan my meals for the month since I am a family of one now. I cook for the month and put a single serving in a baggie and freeze. That way I am eating better than grabbing something when I am hungry. I do online ordering with free pickup and avoid going in the store. I review the sales and shop them first and adjust my menu to fit. I buy organic milk because it lasts much longer making it cheaper than buying and throwing away. I review my menus and supplies on Wednesday and make a list for necessary purchases at that time. Often I don’t need anything but fresh produce and I will get that at Sprouts. Sometimes a bit more per pound but avoid the temptation at the full supply store.
Sounds like a great plan, and Sprouts in my area actually has better produce prices than the other stores!
Buy a reusable K-cup and fill it with canned coffee
I agree with the person saying to make it from scratch. There are some very simple recipes for everything online, and I find it enjoyable. And just skip the juice. Eat the fruit!! I haven’t missed juice or soda since I gave it up. Most of us need to drink more water. I also like to buy fruit in season and make jam this time of year, then I have it ready for those little Christmas gifts you want to give to someone.
Compare the ( per ounce ) price- if not on label, carry a pocket calculator, LARGE ECONOMY SIZE not always the lowest price on shelf- almost all processed foods available in multiple size packaging.
The best way we keep our grocery bill down is to make everything from scratch. You can get lots of loaves of bread out of a 25# bag of flour. We bake our own, make our own vanilla, ice cream, soft butter, maple syrup, cookies, and everything we can. When our garden is full the tomatoes are cooked up and frozen along with apples, peaches, and almost everything else. It is always a joy to be able to make everything we need.
Things are getting more expensive but if you use sales and coupon matchups it is still doable. I still get free products at Kroger matching up sales, coupons and rebates. Follow your store blogs. I follow KrogerKrazy and she lists the deals every Friday with the coupon matchups. I love seeing my bill go from 80 down to 20 or 30. I do buy organic when it is on sale and I do cook from scratch a lot since we started working from home for safety. I use the catalina’s to buy food without coupons or give them to my neighbor on food stamps so she can buy toilet paper etc that isn’t covered. I also give food to my neighbors that need it since most of them are elderly and on budgets.
I found my favorite bread for $1.99 a loaf at Dollar General. It is $3.99 a loaf at my grocery store! I’m sure there are other good buys there that I have not discovered.
I started buying lactose free milk several years ago because it lasts forever~ I tried it because I found regular milk soured before I could get through a half gallon. Now I buy several lactose free milks, freeze them, and use them up one by one.