Young astonished couple checking a long grocery receipt at supermarket.

23 Ways to Chop Your Grocery Bill

Need a foolproof way to cut your food/grocery expenses by 25% this month? Announce to your family that there will be a complete ban on the consumption of food during the first week of every month. There. That should do it!  Twenty-five percent right off the top.

What?! Don’t think you can pull that off? Me either, but not to worry. Here are some much less painful—and I hope a bit more realistic—ways to chop the high cost of food.

 

You couple aghast at the cost of their groceries while looking at the receipt

Create a shopping list

Do this at home when you are hungry. You will be more creative and thorough.

Not hungry

You will be compelled to buy everything in sight regardless of what’s on your list. 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.

Groceries online

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 ClickList service. (Read more about that here.) Walmart offers its groceries online program with free same-day pickup is now available at hundreds of Walmart stores nationwide (store locator). Walmart does not charge a pickup fee but has a minimum order requirement of $30.

Add a pinch of salt

Sounds weird, I know but this really works: Add a pinch of sal 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.

Avoid leftovers

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 instructions state. You will be pleasantly surprised when you detect little difference if any.

Drink water

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.

Creative menus

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 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.

Homemade snacks

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.

Shop midweek

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 items.

Shop rested

Don’t shop when you are exhausted. You will not be as disciplined or effective.

Creative procrastination

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

In season

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.

Weigh produce

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 clever grocery shopping tricks do you have up your sleeve? Please share with us in the comments below!


You may also enjoy:

How To Make Family-Friendly Finger Foods Your Kids Will Love

Peaches—Tips, Tricks, and My Grandmother’s Peach Cobbler

When it Comes to Food Products—What’s in a Date?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Caught yourself reading all the way 'til the end? Why not share with a friend.

19 replies
  1. Lindi
    Lindi says:

    I shop on Wednesdays as it is the last day of the weekly sale in my favorite store. I can view the sale that starts on Thursday either online or the insert in Wednesday’s newspaper. This way I don’t buy something at full price that will be on sale starting the next day, even if I need it. Also, sometimes they are out of things so I get a raincheck. This is helpful if I don’t really need the item right now but want to take advantage of the sale price within the next 30 days.

    Reply
  2. Judy
    Judy says:

    Please, please, please know your prices when buying and then check your receipt carefully when you get home. I cannot tell you the number of times I have found a sale item charged at wrong or full price, marked down labels that did not cover the original UPC code, charged for three items when only two were purchased, ta-da ta-da ta-da! If wrong just trot back to store with item and receipt and they are more than happy at the customer service desk to refund their error. Just yesterday I returned an item and received a $3.00 refund because it was sticker marked at 99 cents. Notice you no longer see signs at check out that say, “If we ring your item up incorrectly, item is free!”. That tells me they must make lots of errors these days.

    Also, if you ever forget to use your paper coupons…go back with your receipt and they will pay you cash for them. I have had as much as $10 returned the next day. And did you know that if an item is on sale, even with a digital coupon and you also have a paper coupon you can still use it? Double rewards!

    Reply
  3. Judy
    Judy says:

    Please, please, please know your prices when buying and then check your receipt carefully when you get home. I cannot tell you the number of times I have found a sale item charged at wrong or full price, marked down labels that did not cover the original UPC code, charged for three items when only two were purchased, ta-da ta-da ta-da! If wrong just trot back to store with item and they are more than happy at the customer service desk to refund their error. Just yesterday I returned an item and received a $3.00 refund because it was sticker marked at 99 cents. Notice you no longer see signs at check out that say, “If we ring your item up incorrectly, item is free!”. That tells me they must make lots of errors these days.

    Also, if you ever forget to use your paper coupons…go back with your receipt and they will pay you cash for them. I have had as much as $10 returned the next day. And did you know that if an item is on sale, even with a digital coupon and you also have a paper coupon you can still use it? Double rewards!

    Reply
    • Cathy down on the farm ...
      Cathy down on the farm ... says:

      Judy,
      This is very good advice that I had forgotten. Many years ago a “church lady” told me that her cousin, a “church guy” told her that a grocery store – chain in the North – trained their check out people/clerks to “overcharge” customers as part of their training program. I could hardly believe this but there was no reason for this lady to tell me this unless it was true. I was appalled. I honestly don’t know how someone/anyone who is “churched” could do this – cheat customers – but then at this time in life, nothing surprises me anymore, sad to say.

      Reply
    • Heather K Shover
      Heather K Shover says:

      Our store won’t let you double dip with coupons. I love my rural community, but sometimes I wish we could get all the good deals you all can. 🙂

      Reply
  4. BET
    BET says:

    We love leftovers at our house. I wish folks would stop bashing them. My family loves a meal that will last for two or three nights. If it is not tasty enough to be worth having again, it is not worth cooking it in the first place. The exception would be preparation of an item that cannot be simply warmed up. Probably you can tell, that we are not “into” steaks, chops, and such.

    Reply
  5. Cathy down on the farm...
    Cathy down on the farm... says:

    My garden has so far been very helpful the past few months. Have put up 20-25 quarts of tomatoes and have about 25-30 squash “hardening” in the sun now that will hopefully last into the winter? Have since changed my dog’s diet from Little Caesars – very expensive – to rice (I have tons in storage), vegetables – from the garden – and bone broth for flavor that my husband has from the chicken we make in the instant pot. With a gallon of whole milk, I dilute it with water, half and half – my husband is the only one who drinks it with his coffee – and he doesn’t know the difference. We eat the same meals each day – we don’t mind, and it’s easier – so we pretty much have the list in our heads. I make my meal one day and eat the other half the next day. I am presently down to about 1 meal a day in the afternoon/eve. and I may have a handful of nuts in the afternoon to tie me over but this has really slashed our bill quite a bit. Love the salt in the milk idea – have never heard that. Will implement this for sure. Agree with not taking kids along. When my kids were small and they went with me to shop you could bet the bill grew by 30%. I left them at home…

    Reply
  6. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    Another great thing about online ordering is that I can keep my shopping list there. As I run low or out of something, I just add it to the list. And I will say that having my order filled by Walmart employees has worked well. They do a better job with picking out produce than I do! I can save favorite products, see the entire choice of what I am looking for at once to bargain shop and I totally avoid impulse buying. Win win

    Reply
  7. Paul
    Paul says:

    Way to save money? Don’t have the wife shopping with me. Truly she is absolutely insane when at the supermarket. I want, gotta have mentality. Then complains that its so expensive. But wait, there’s more… produce, wow, I’d estimate that at least 15%-20% is biffed because its gone off.

    I’ve become vegan for health reasons and buy enough for me for up to 2 weeks. Then “she” goes and buys more, for me, and I don’t even want what she buys. Yet its “my fault” that it gets wasted and chucked in the garbage bin. Plus, she’ll buy things we already have. Ok, admittedly they are, relatively, non-perishables… but puts the overdraft even further out.

    I sometimes wonder whether she is braindead or what?

    Reply
    • cheryl
      cheryl says:

      Paul, as Yoda says, I sense hostility in the air. First, she isn’t braindead, I’m sure, after all look who she married! 🙂 Secondly, I have a question? Do you cook? Do you do all the cooking. Maybe she is hinting that she wants YOU to cook those other items you don’t want, for HER. Also if it is some veggie you don’t normally eat, you could always try to throw it in a veggie casserole, or a SOUP. No waste, and with that many veggies in a pot, you may not notice the offending taste as much. This is how I learned to appreciate Brussel Sprouts, and Asparagus. Still Working on the Avocados. (trying to get the vitamins w/o supplementing with pills.) See it as she loves you is why she is trying to get the groceries for you. Give her a list of all your favorite veggies and some you may be curious about. Also consider the possibility that she may be a food hoarder.
      My mom and grandmother are like that. Mom can’t resist a sale, and consequently I’m the Beneficiary of 21 boxes of assorted cake/brownie mixes. Grandma grew up during the depression, she will hoard the food and then when it is almost past it’s prime , yell at you to eat it, before it goes bad or complains that no one appreciates good food and worse now that she is in her 90’s she will only leave cooked food in fridge for 2 days, then throw it away. ( I think she forgets how long it’s been in there.) Remember that unless you ask her (your wife)why she does it, then you will never know, but I think she loves you and is trying to demonstrate that by “helping” out your new diet. Frustrating yes, but just shake your head and go hug her…..it’s harder to be mad when you have to hug someone. My mom used to make me do this when my brother and I would fight. :0>

      Reply
    • cheryl
      cheryl says:

      Paul, I just reread your comments, and noticed that you mentioned that puts the “overdraft” that much further out. If you guys are overdrafting on checks maybe you need to have a “come to jesus” meeting about your finances. Mary’s book about Debt-Proof your marriage would be a great place to start, because if you are not on same page financially you will both end up resenting each other. I give it as a gift to my newly married friends as one of their wedding gifts, the other gift I try to give (if family cooperates) is a cookbook w/ some of the treasured family recipes, and some of my own that I know they like. ) I hope this helps, and I admire the challenge you have undertaken with becoming Vegan. My niece has recently decided to become Vegan , so it has been an adjustment for me to find dishes to fix that I can spoil her with. So far so good at least according to her. :?>

      Reply
  8. Sarah Morlock
    Sarah Morlock says:

    Also, use coupons on top of the good sales. Less coupons are available these days (especially paper ones) but many are on Just4You.

    Reply
  9. Sarah Morlock
    Sarah Morlock says:

    Using a price book (mine is in my head), know when the price is at its lowest and stock up at that time on things you know you will always eat. I especially do this on cereal and granola bars. NEVER pay full price for cereal. I recently stocked up on my husband’s favorite cereal for $1.25/box. I still have yet to joint a warehouse club because I can get the same or better prices just following the sales.

    Reply
  10. Kim Domingue
    Kim Domingue says:

    I shop at Costco and a couple of locally owned grocery stores. I occasionally go into a Wal-Mart and, although I don’t buy groceries there, I check out their prices on them. I find Costco invariably beats them on per unit price so I buy things such as canned tomatoes that I use on a regular basis in bulk. We do eat leftovers so we cook enough for two or three meals and my husband brings a homemade meal to work for lunch. Not only is a homemade meal healthier and less expensive but he doesn’t have to leave work to go get something… so savings in gas. I only shop once a week. If I don’t have something, a few days isn’t too long to wait. I either substitute an ingredient or make something else. We’ve learned to enjoy and prefer eating simpler foods and dishes. We employ small appliances like the Instant Pot and air fryer that don’t heat up the house, retain more of a foods nutritional profile and don’t require as much time in the kitchen.

    Reply
  11. Joyce K Williams
    Joyce K Williams says:

    Every week i make a menu and a shopping list based on the items on sale at the grocery store or what i have in the freezer. We basically eat what’s on sale, but i leave room for splurges like if we want a special meal. We go out to eat usually every other week so i don’t feel tied to the kitchen.

    Reply
  12. Sue in MN
    Sue in MN says:

    All great advice except leaving the kids home. My kids were part of the shopping and food prep from preschool onward. First, it was matching coupons to products, by middle school they could be sent with part of the list to shop while I did the rest, cutting store time. By high school, they were responsible for the shopping, including from the shopping list and keeping staples on hand, following family policies. This “paid” for use of a car and our payment of their car insurance. Both are still great at finding bargains and keeping their pantries stocked.

    Reply
  13. Richard
    Richard says:

    I have found that with Vons/Albertsons Just4you bargains I can buy what I need and use for much less than other stores including Winco and other discount establishments. Almost everything on my list each week falls into either Just4you or is on sale. Since there is only one person in my home, ME, my grocery bill is minimal.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *