304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Like many guys, I’ve noticed my grocery bills skyrocketing lately. Between having an appetite that just won’t quit and preferring grab-and-go convenience over home cooked meals, my food costs were starting to get out of hand. I realized I needed to cut back on spending but wasn’t sure where to start.
After chatting with some frugal buddies, reading a few money-saving blogs, and doing some research, I came up with a plan to get my grocery budget under control. It takes extra planning and strategic shopping on my part, but I’ve been able to trim over $100 off my monthly food expenses. I’ll be sharing my top tips for grocery shopping on a budget so you can keep your fridge full without going broke.
The first step to saving money on groceries is to plan out your meals in advance. Before you head to the supermarket, take some time on Sunday to sketch out the upcoming week’s meals. Planning your meals ahead of time prevents you from wandering the grocery store aisles aimlessly and impulse purchasing items you don’t need. It also helps you buy only the ingredients you need for planned recipes, minimizing food waste.
After you map out your weekly meals, write out a detailed grocery list organized by department or store layout. When you’re in the store, resist the temptation to pick up items not on your prepared list. Shopping with a list keeps your grocery run focused, stopping you from tossing in extras that can blow your budget.
Most grocery chains now carry their own store brands for nearly every product such as cereal, snacks, canned goods, and more. Choosing the market’s brand over a national name brand can save you up to 30%. Pay attention to quality, but in most cases, generic labels offer similar taste and nutrition at a steep discount.
For non-perishable items and staples you use frequently, buying in bulk can be significantly cheaper per unit than purchasing individual packages. Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club specialize in large bulk sizes, but supermarkets have expanded their bulk sections as well for things like rice, oats, pasta, granola and more. If you have access to wholesale clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club, do some comparison shopping to determine if buying certain items in bulk results in enough savings to justify the membership fee.
Fresh fruits and vegetables cost a lot less when they are purchased in season during peak harvest time. Do some research on what produce is in season in your area each month, then base your meal plans and shopping list around what’s affordable and abundant.
Never head to the grocery store without checking for coupons and promo codes first. Stores publish weekly circulars touting sale items and specials. You can also find coupons online as well as through apps like Flipp and Ibotta. Using coupons along with buying sale-priced goods cuts the overall bill.
Check the reduced sections at your grocery store for meat, bread, produce and prepared meals you can cook or freeze that are marked down because they are approaching the sell-by date. You can get these items at up to 50% off.
Check to see if there are any discount grocery stores like Aldi or Grocery Outlet in your area. These budget-friendly stores carry an assortment of goods at up to 60% less than typical supermarkets. The selection changes week to week, so flexibility is key.
Examine your recipes and determine if you can substitute any high-cost ingredients for more affordable alternatives. For example, opting for ground turkey instead of ground beef can offer big savings. Get creative with substitutions to lower the overall food budget.
Meat is often one of the highest grocery expenses. Try adding in more plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils and tofu which offer savings per serving over meat. Going meatless a few nights a week eases the impact on your wallet.
Convenience is expensive. Resist the urge to order takeout or pick up a pizza on nights when you don’t feel like cooking. Preparing meals at home and using groceries you bought at the store can save you several dollars per meal. Even takeout pizza can be replicated cheaper at home.
During the warmer months, save money by growing your own vegetables and herbs. Even apartment dwellers can usually find space for a small container garden. Growing your own produce means free ingredients for meals.
Plan things out to only need one major grocery trip per week. The more often you shop, the more likely you are to stray from your list and overspend. Get into the habit of weekly meal prep and shopping to curb impulse buys.
Determine how much you can realistically allot to groceries each month, then divide that amount by 4 to set your weekly spending cap. Having a defined budget at the start keeps your total on target when shopping. Stay disciplined and avoid going over budget to control spending.
Grocery stores strategically place staples like produce, meat, dairy around the perimeter, while processed snacks and prepared foods line the inner aisles. Shop the fresh departments first for essentials, then only venture down aisles that have items on your list.
Whole chickens are almost always cheaper per pound than buying chicken pieces individually. You can roast a whole chicken yourself fairly easily, then use the leftovers for dishes like tacos, casseroles, soup and sandwiches.
Grocery shopping when you’re overly hungry leads to poor impulse control. That growling stomach tricks you into tossing more food into your cart than needed. Have a small snack before shopping to avoid hunger-driven decisions.
When you find a stellar sale on fresh produce or meat, buy extra to freeze or can for future use. Preserving food allows you to stock up when prices are lowest. Take advantage of bumper crops by canning or freezing.
Many stores offer price matching guarantees and will match their competitors’ advertised prices. Keep an eye on weekly circulars and show proof of lower prices on specific items to receive the matched savings.
Apps like Ibotta, Dosh, and Fetch Reward help you earn money back by submitting pictures of your grocery receipts. Combine those rewards with coupons for extra savings. Receipt scanning apps are an effortless way to get cash rewards.
Buying produce and foods from local farmers’ markets can provide savings over grocery stores, especially for organic and in-season items. You also help support local agriculture in your community.
For warehouse store items that come in large quantities not practical for a single household, consider splitting bulk purchases with one or two other friends or families. This allows you to save on the bulk pricing.
Review the weekly grocery store flyers and meal plan around what proteins and produce will be on sale. If chicken breast is on special, search recipes and plan to use those ingredients more. Allow sales to inspire meals.
Fill your pantry with shelf-stable items like pasta, rice, spices, canned goods and baking ingredients at steep discounts from dollar stores. Just be sure to check expiration dates and units prices.
It’s proven that people tend to overspend when using credit cards instead of cash. To stick to your budget, use cash when shopping and leave the cards at home. Withdraw your weekly grocery budget amount before entering the store.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw my first grocery total after putting some of these savings strategies to work. Even after stocking up my pantry, my bill was nearly $40 less than usual!
Now I actually look forward to the weekly grocery trip, seeing how much I can save with coupons, sales and generic brands. Cooking at home more often has also helped me try some new recipes. Who knew saving cash on groceries could open me up to new dining experiences?
Give some of these budget-friendly grocery tips a try on your next shopping trip. I bet you’ll be surprised at how much you can fill your cart without emptying your wallet. Let me know which ideas work well for you! Share your best grocery savings secrets in the comments.