✋ Raise your hand if you feel like your food budget is out of control… like, every. single. month. Yeah, me too. And if you’ve finally had enough, you’re probably all like:
I’ll be the first to say that it’s really, really difficult to slash your grocery bill by 90% unless you’re livin’ on lobster and caviar every week. That said, it’s not impossible.
Here are a few of my favorite tips on how to save money at the grocery store.
1. Shop at discount grocery stores like Aldi or Trader Joes
One of the easiest ways to save on food is to shop at discount shops like Aldi and Trader Joes. These stores tend to be cheaper than your average grocer for a number of reasons:
- They have lower overhead costs.
- They’re less focused on marketing (or “branding”) their products.
For instance, one Clark.com study found that you can save 33% on groceries by shopping at Aldi versus a name-brand store like Kroger — and 20% by shopping at Aldi instead of Walmart.
2. Compare prices between stores — even if it means driving to a few different ones at first
Speaking of grocery stores… even if you already have a go-to place you like to shop, take a day or two to price check other stores in your area. You may find that one item is significantly cheaper at one versus the other.
For instance, say your household goes through two gallons of milk per week. If milk costs $2.49 at Walmart and $1.49 at Aldi, that’s $104 a year you could save on just one item!
Price check other staples like sugar, flour, canned beans, eggs, spices, vinegar, and more for even more savings.
3. Plan your meals for the week based on what’s on sale
Another great way to save on food is to plan your meals based on what’s on sale. It may take some extra effort up front, but the pay-off could help you pay less at the grocery store.
To do this, start by browsing your local grocery store’s weekly circular. Pick out a few items that are on sale. Then, make a list of meals you can make with them.
For instance, say chicken, beans, noodles, and pasta sauce are on sale. You could make white chicken chili with the chicken and beans, and chicken alfredo with the noodles and sauce. Just like that, you’ve got two hearty meals to keep you satisfied for the week.
Brownie points if you use “buy one, get one free” (BOGO) deals to stack your savings even more.
4. Clip coupons and look for discount codes
In addition to planning your meals around what’s on sale, you can also save on food by using coupons.
For example, apps like Ibotta scan your grocery store receipts and give you cashback when it’s found a coupon for something you’ve purchased.
5. Always, always, always eat your leftovers
There are two types of people in this world: those who love leftovers and those who despise them. If you’re in the latter camp, learning to love (or at least tolerate) your leftovers can add significant savings to your wallet.
One study found the average person can save $375 a year simply by eating leftover food. A family of four could save as much as $1,500 a year.
And if you’re thinking, “Yeah, but leftovers are GROSS!”, well, it could be that you haven’t found meals you like or you haven’t learned how to properly reheat your food. Do some experimenting. If it teaches you how to save money on groceries, it’s totally worth it!
6. Stick to your grocery list and don’t buy anything that’s not on it
A huge part of saving money on food is making sure you stick to your shopping list and avoid everything else.
Grocery stores are incredibly clever. They use a whole bunch of mind-bendy magic to get you to spend money you don’t have:
- Putting milk in the back of the store so you have to walk down several aisles to get to it.
- Having a Nutella stand right next to the bananas.
- Displaying sugary cereal at kid-eye level.
- Lining the checkout aisle with candy bars and tasty treats.
All of these tactics are meant to entice you to spend just a little bit more on groceries than intended. And even if it’s just an extra $20 a week in “extras,” it can add up to $1,000 or more over the course of a year.
7. Buy in bulk — the larger the quantity, the cheaper the price per unit
One study found that you can save up to 25% on groceries by buying in bulk at a store like Costco or Sam’s Club. But the key here is to only buy in bulk if:
- It’s already a product you use regularly.
- You know for a fact you can use it all before the expiration date.
Otherwise, it may end up throwing your grocery budget completely off track.
8. Go with the generic store brand
Did you know that store-brand items are typically 20% to 25% cheaper than name brands? That’s why switching over to your store’s private label can be a great way to save on food.
If there are certain name brands you can’t give up — like, say, Oreos or Coca-Cola, that’s okay. Try buying the generic version of pantry staples like flour, sugar, mayonnaise, cooking oil, and trash bags instead. You’ll be less likely to notice a difference in quality — if there is one at all.
9. Make your own sauces and spice mixes at home
Another great way to save on food is by making your own sauces and spice mixes at home. (I know this from personal experience, having spent far too many years buying store-bought versions of my favorite condiments.)
But the truth is, there’s really no need to ever buy taco seasoning, salad dressing, or “special burger sauce” if you have the basic ingredients in your pantry. It’s often cheaper to make it yourself — and it tastes way better.
- Taco seasoning is just chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, and salt.
- Special burger sauce is just mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce, and relish.
- Honey mustard vinaigrette (my favorite salad dressing) is equal parts vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, and honey.
10. Grow your own vegetables or herbs in a garden or container
Tomatoes, green onions, basil, and parsley are all super easy to grow at home — even if you don’t have an outdoor space.
For instance, I bought a living basil plant from my local Whole Foods for $3.99 over a year ago. As I pick off leaves, the plant grows new ones — and I haven’t had to buy basil since.
I also did the same thing with a $0.79 bundle of green onions. Just cut off the white rooty ends, put them in water, and voilà… you’ll have more green onions within two weeks’ time.
11. Apply for food stamps if you qualify
We’ve talked about a lot of great ways to save on food so far, but let’s get real for a second.
Food prices have been on the rise for years while wages have remained relatively stagnant. As a result, more and more people are struggling to make ends meet. If this is you, there’s no shame in applying for food stamps if you think you may qualify — they can be a real lifesaver.
You apply for food stamps online. And if you qualify, you could get as much as $250 per month as a single-family household, $459 as a two-person household, $658 as a three-person household, and so on.
12. Visit a food pantry or soup kitchen if money’s really tight
Another option is to visit a food pantry or soup kitchen. I know a lot of people are hesitant to do this because they feel like they shouldn’t have to rely on charity.
But the truth is that food pantries and soup kitchens are there for anyone who needs them — regardless of your income or financial situation. And when money’s really tight, a little help can make all the difference. So don’t be afraid to seek out these local resources if you need more ways to save on food.
At the end of the day, there are many ways to slash your grocery bill by up to 90% — whether it’s by shopping at discount stores, planning your meals around sales, using coupons, or buying in bulk.