When most people think about ways to save money, they think about cutting back on things like entertainment or dining out. But what about groceries? Believe it or not, you can also save a lot of money on your food budget by making a few smart choices. Read on for some tips on how to save money at the grocery store without sacrificing quality or variety.
How to Spend Less on Groceries
Compare prices before you buy – use a price comparison app or website to find the best deals
There are a lot of grocery apps out there that can help you save money. They all work pretty similarly – you type in what you’re looking for, and the app shows you a list of grocery stores nearby and how much they charge for the item. You can also usually set up a grocery list on the app, so you can easily see which store has the best price on everything you need. Most of these apps also have coupons, so you can save even more money. It’s definitely worth taking a few minutes to compare prices before you head to the grocery store.
My Canadian friends suggest the Flash food app (mostly in big cities), To Good to Go, Shop the Sales and Flipp.
Stick to a grocery list so you don’t impulse buy unnecessary items
Make a list and check it twice BEFORE you leave for the store. Whether you use paper and pencil or an app like To Do, a great list is one of the best ways to stay within your budget. Going to the store without a plan often leads to a blown budget and nothing to eat as the week goes on.
Want to take sticking to your grocery list to the next level? Order your groceries for pickup instead of shopping in the store. This allows you to shop the store flyer first and avoid impulse buying of junk food and things you really don’t need.
Buy in bulk when items are on sale, and freeze what you can’t eat right away.
There are plenty of foods you can buy in bulk and freeze, from meat and seafood to fruits and vegetables. Buying in bulk can save you money, and freezing your food can help it last longer.
When it comes to meat and seafood, chicken breasts, ground beef, and fish fillets are all good choices. You can portion them out into individual servings before freezing, or freeze them in larger blocks that you can thaw as needed.
Fruits and vegetables can also be frozen, though you’ll want to blanch most vegetables before freezing them. This will stop the cooking process and help them retain their texture and flavor. Frozen produce is perfect for smoothies, soups, and casseroles. And of course, you can always buy extra when fruits and vegetables are in season and freeze them for later.
Of course, before you start stockpiling your freezer, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, make sure that you have adequate storage space. You’ll also want to invest in some good freezer bags or containers. And finally, be sure to label everything clearly so that you know what you have and when it needs to be used.
Plan your meals ahead of time so you know exactly what you need to buy at the store
Meal planning is a great way to make a great grocery list that you can stick to. Since you know what you will cook for the week, you only have to buy what you need without all the extra “just in case” foods.
Meal planning can be a great way to save money, especially if you are on a tight budget. By taking the time to plan your meals in advance, you can avoid impulse purchases and make the most of the ingredients you already have on hand. When frugal meal planning, it is important to be creative and resourceful. One way to cut costs is to cook in bulk and freeze extras for future meals. Another tip is to rely on inexpensive staples such as rice, beans, and pasta.
Make sure to take advantage of seasonal produce in your meal plan. Not only is seasonal produce typically cheaper, but it also tends to be more flavourful.
Also, don’t be afraid to get creative with leftovers. There are endless possibilities for turning yesterday’s dinner into a new and exciting dish. For example you can make roast chicken today and pulled chicken sandwiches or tacos tomorrow.
With a little creativity, you can stretch your food budget and still enjoy delicious and nutritious meals.
Find out if local stores have a “cheap” or “discount” day
Here in Central Alberta, Sobey’s, Co-Op and Nutters give discounts on the first Tuesday of the month. It’s 10% off at Co-op, 15% at Sobey’s and 20% at Nutters. These discounts may not be the same in different areas, but it is worth the effort to ask your local stores if they have a Customer Appreciation Day. If you are considered a Senior Citizen, many grocery stores have a special discount day for you as well.
Buy generic when you can
I don’t buy everything generic but there are definitely times you can substitute a generic without noticing the difference. Frozen corn is corn is corn. The brand really doesn’t matter in my opinion. There are some discount and generic brands that I know are high quality like Kirkland from Costco and President’s Choice from Superstore (Canada). If you’re not sure about a generic, buy it and try it before you decide to buy a large quantity. It is likely it will be fine but if it is not, you’ll be wasting any money that you may have saved.
Look for markdowns in store
The produce, bakery and meat sections of your grocery store will often have markdowns for quick sale. These can be a great deal if you can use the items quickly, freeze them or use them in a recipe where it won’t matter.
Great examples of this include: overripe or damaged fruit when you are making pies, jam or banana bread, utility turkeys near holidays (they are usually missing a wing and are a great deal versus a regular frozen turkey), day old bread that you can use quickly or freeze.
The key with markdowns is to only buy what you will use and make sure to portion/use/freeze it right away to avoid it spoiling.
Keep an eye on unit pricing
Sale prices or larger packages aren’t always a better deal. Most grocery stores list the price per 100g (or other metric) on their shelf tag. This is a great way to compare prices across different sized packages.
Also, don’t assume that the items on displays in the aisle or on the end caps of the aisle are on sale. Sometimes they are but often they are just on display to sell more….at full price.
A word about toilet paper and paper towels…to find out which package is a better deal, you have to do the toilet paper math. It sometimes feels like you need a university degree in calculus, but it is worth the hassle. You’ll want to take into account the sheets per roll and the number of rolls per package. Then divide the price for the package by the number of sheets in the package. Then buy the one that has the lowest price per sheet. However, I will caveat this tip to say that I won’t go so far as to buy single ply toilet paper. Life is just too short.
Shop your pantry and freezer
The best way to save money on groceries is to use the groceries you already have at home. We often have a stockpile of canned food, frozen food and staples at home but it is easier to just buy another one to “just make sure”. While you are meal planning, shop your pantry and freezer FIRST. You’ll be surprised how many meals you can make without going to the grocery store at all.
Check stores that you might not think of
Often you can find great deals at stores that might not come to mind when you think about groceries. Dollar stores often have great deals on the small selection they sell. Make sure to check expiration dates and unit costs, but you can often find deals on bread, rice and spices. Another great place to check is stores that cater to ethnic foods. They often have options that are similar to what you are looking for at a lower price.
Also, check pricing on Amazon for larger items. A friend told me that the large jars of Kraft peanut butter are much cheaper on Amazon than in local stores (and she was right!). It doesn’t make sense to buy everything there but if it is an item that you use a lot, it’s worth a look.
Learn about & how to cook different cuts of meat
Humans are often ruled by habit. We buy the same thing over and over because it is what we know or what we grew up eating. Many people will ONLY buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts without having ever tried anything else. At our house, we love chicken thighs. They are cheaper and have more flavor than chicken breasts and you can interchange them in any recipe. Plus they are great on the grill like in my Sticky Coconut Chicken recipe.
Make an effort to choose a different (cheaper) cut of meat when you can and learn how to prepare it. With the internet, we have a world of information at our finger tips which makes branching out successfully super easy.
Shop the sales and flyers
Make sure to watch sales and stock up if something has a long shelf life and has a big discount. Make sure that you understand the terms of the discount, too. Often you get a cheaper price on multiples but a higher price if you only buy one.
Also make sure that you actually get the lower price. Watch as your groceries are being rung up and double check your receipt.
Think vintage…recipe and pastimes
Let’s face it, our grannies knew how to stretch a dollar and a pound of meat. Many vintage recipes make the most of little. Scour thrift stores and vintage shops for older cookbooks for ideas of how to cook without expensive ingredients. Think…baking your own bread, making your own baked beans and using parts of vegetables you would usually throw away in things like watermelon rind pickles.
Many also suggest gardening as a way to cut your grocery budget. Personally, I think gardening can either be a godsend or it can be a lot of money and time for two cherry tomatoes and a baby cucumber. If you live in a place with a long growing season and you have the time…definitely give it a try.
When you are trying to find the best deal, remember that it doesn’t make sense to drive across town to save a nickel. With the high price of gasoline, you have to make sure that your car trips make sense.
You can also find great deals at local farmers markets, greenhouses and fruit stands. Make sure that you take into account the price and that it will likely last longer since you are getting it from the source instead of getting it after it has been transported to you from far away.
It can be difficult to save money at the grocery store, but it is not impossible. With a little bit of effort and organisation, you can shave dollars off your total bill each week – without sacrificing the quality of your food. We hope that our tips have given you some ideas on how to start saving money on groceries. What are your favourite tips for saving money at the grocery store? Let us know in the comments below!