food savings

How To Save Money On Food And Grocery Shopping

It would be wonderful if we could just go to the store and throw things in the cart without worrying about the cost. But, that is a fantasy that doesn’t exist in the real world. In the real world, we have budgets and have to be careful about how much money we spend. When it comes to stocking our kitchen, it’s easy to save money on food by using a combination of strategies to buy a better quality of food and spend less money.

Do Your Homework First

In this case, your homework is laying your foundation for a money-saving plan. It includes spending money at the grocery store but also focuses on the things you can do at home prior to shopping, which can enable you to spend less money and use more of what you already have. Two things here will benefit you the most: budgeting and meal planning.


You probably have a household budget that includes your food purchases. Many families have a set amount for weekly food purchases. This amount will depend on how many people you are shopping for. A family of 4 (two adults and 2 children) should spend about $130 – $150 per week to save money on food purchases. $150 is on the high-end, you could set this amount lower if you are cutting back on other expenses as well. Some people try to go low, like $50 – $75 per week. This might work if your children are very young and don’t eat a lot of adult food yet. If you have a baby who is breastfed or drinks formula, and a toddler this option might work for you but is often too extreme for families with children who eat more food.

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Meal Planning

This is another important step because it helps you save money on food by calculating how much you need to buy for a set period. Most of the time when we go shopping we’re just zipping through the isles throwing stuff in our cart to get it done. Then after checking out and packing the car, you get home and end up with a pile of random food items thinking, “Ok, what am I going to make out of all of this?”

 It is better to be prepared ahead of time and make a list of your family’s favorite meals or things you like to eat frequently and plan out your meals for two weeks at a time. Once you know what you want to eat each day, make a list of the foods needed to make those meals. This will be the basis of your shopping list  Label each column Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. You won’t be able to calculate costs unless you have a sales ad from your local grocery store and can write down prices.

Use Items from Your Pantry

Another way to save money on groceries is to use what you have on hand before going to the store. Make meals from your pantry instead of running to the store for extra items. Extra trips to the store will cost you more because although you only went there for 3 items, you’ll walk out with 2 – 3 bags of stuff you didn’t intend to buy. These are impulse buys and it’s how stores make more money. These are often items like soda, cookies, candy, and baked goods near the front of the store or checkout lanes.

Meal Prep for a Week or More

Meal prep will save you a lot of time and it saves money too. This is also very convenient if you have extracurricular activities during the week like football practice, dance classes, or after-school tutoring. It’s very easy to do, all you need is to get 56 reusable containers with lids (14 days x 4 people). You cook a large batch of food ( main dish, vegetable, and side) and portion each container as a meal. Portion a container for each family member and fill the extra containers for leftovers. The leftovers can be frozen for later use. That way when you come home in the evening, all you have to do is reheat the containers in the microwave – just like takeout only cheaper and healthier.

Cook Double Batches and Freeze

This goes with the tip from above. Cooking in batches. A tip that large families often use is to take one day, usually a Sunday, and cook all their dinner meals for the week and package them in containers and put them in the refrigerator or freeze them. Large main dishes like baked macaroni and cheese, chicken enchiladas, or vegetarian lasagna can be baked in disposable tin foil pans with lids and placed in the freezer. They’ll stay good for months. This is a real time-saver for busy families while still eating healthy meals.

Bring Your Meals to Work

This is an easy tip to implement in your daily routine. When you start shopping and planning your meals, bringing your lunch to work gets easier. You will have leftovers that can be eaten for lunch or as snacks late in the evening. You won’t have to worry about food waste because cooking and eating this way uses up those leftovers that would have gone into the trash. This works for kids as well as adults. Who wouldn’t be happy with a lunch of leftover spaghetti and meatballs, or vegetable lasagna with garlic toast? The leftovers can also be used to create extra meals or to add to meals to make them stretch farther.

Eat More Protein from Alternate Sources

Eggs, peanut butter, walnuts, soybeans, and chickpeas are great sources of protein.If you don’t necessarily like rice and beans, you can opt for some hummus (chickpeas) and vegetable sticks as an appetizer or have an old-fashioned Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. Peanut butter has 8g of protein per 2 tbsp. If you cut down on meat to save money you can add protein from other sources to make sure you get enough nutrients in your diet.

When making out your menus you can save money on groceries by making your main dish with less meat, or no meat at all. Spaghetti can be made ½ pound of ground beef, as can many other dishes calling for ground meat. You can also substitute ground chicken for pork or beef. Ground chicken with some spices and seasonings make a great substitute for beef in tacos and Buddha Bowls.

Make Meatless Monday a Habit

You can stretch your food budget by opting for one or two meatless meals per week. It’s easy, just make something for those two meals that normally don’t have meat like macaroni and cheese or a cup of hot soup and a sandwich. Save money on groceries by eating more vegetarian meals.

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How to Save Money at the Grocery Store

The preparations you do before shopping will help you save money and get you in and out quickly. Here are some tips for when you get to the store. Make out your grocery list before you go to help you stay on track.

Have a Shopping List

Never shop without a list. It is so easy to overspend when you’re just tossing items in your cart without calculating the costs. Plus, it is easier to give in to impulse buys that are located near the front of the store and just before the checkout lanes. These are all the goodies like candy bars, soda, bakery cookies, muffins, rotisserie chicken, and other items intended to get you to add them as you approach the end of your shopping. You are less likely to resist when you’re almost done and, “It’s just one more item.” So don’t leave without your list in hand.

Note What Foods You Have on Hand

This is the food in your pantry, cupboards, shelves, etc. Before making out your shopping list you should take stock of what you have on hand to avoid buying extras. You might not remember when you get to the store that you have 3 bottles of ketchup and buy another one. It’s good to know what you have already and then plan meals around those items along with ingredients from your list.

Check the Sales Ads

Stores have cycles for their sales ads so it’s good to pick one up when you walk in the store so you can have it while you shop. If you get the newspaper delivered these will be included, so just check your paper for the sales ads. Planning meals around sales is a good way to save money on food.

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Bring Coupons or Add Digital Ones

Most every grocery store will accept coupons or have digital coupons you can add to your shopper’s card to use in the store. Digital coupons make it easy to save a little here and there and are easier to use than paper coupons. You just go through the store website and add the coupons you want to your store loyalty card and they’ll be deducted automatically at checkout.  These stores all use digital coupons:

  • Albertsons
  • Safeway
  • Dollar General
  • Family Dollar
  • Giant
  • Harris Teeter
  • Kroger (and Kroger Affiliates Ralphs, Dillons, Smith’s, and Fry’s)
  • Martin’s
  • Meijer
  • Publix
  • Winn-Dixie
  • Target
  • Shoprite

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Round-Up to the Nearest Dollar

Whenever you go shopping for food always round up to the nearest dollar. If the item is $1.50 calculate $2 instead. Do this with every item you put in your cart. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the checkout because your purchases will be just under your budget and you’ll walk out with a little money left. No embarrassing overages or having to return items.

Choose Generic or Store Brands

Store brands or generic brands are just as good as the big-name products. They tend to be less expensive but taste exactly the same. Most shoppers go for the store brand first, then generic brands if their favorites are not available.

Look for Cheaper Cuts of Meat

Meat prices will vary depending on the time of year and the current sales cycle. One way to save money on food is to buy cheaper cuts of meat. A T-bone steak is an expensive cut, eye of round or sirloin is cheaper and you can usually get a good price on it.

You can also buy bigger pieces of meat like roasts and filets and cut them into smaller portions or into cubes for stew meat for less money. A half loin of pork will make 6 – 8 thick, boneless pork chops if you cut it yourself. Sometimes you can ask the butcher to cut a roast into cubes or steaks for you. Here are some more good ideas:

  • Buy Staples in Bulk – cornmeal, flour, sugar, rice, beans
  • Buy Produce in Season – watermelon, mango, papaya (summer)
  • Buy Frozen or Canned Fruits – available year-round and will keep in freezer long-term

Things Not to Do to Save Money on Food

Don’t Shop When Hungry

It’s bad to go shopping when you’re hungry because you’re tempted to buy foods with little to no nutrition simply because your stomach is growling. People tend to buy more junk food when shopping hungry. Eat a light lunch or snack before you go so you won’t be tempted to buy everything in the store.

Don’t Shop Without a List

Again, always make a list. Without a list, you won’t be able to calculate what is in your cart and may spend more than you intended. You may not remember what you have at home and may buy some unneeded items ( buying ketchup when you have some in the pantry).

Don’t Shop With Children

This is a hard one for moms of young children because we often have to do our grocery shopping after school and have the kids tagging along. If possible, leave the kids with dad or a sitter for an hour or so and grocery shop alone. The reason for this is that children don’t understand budgets and limitations and will ask for candy, snacks, and sweets that you’re trying not to buy. If you can’t get a sitter, try and shop when the kids are in school.

It’s not hard to save money on food if you plan ahead and follow some really easy money-saving tips for spending less at the grocery store.

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Please note that under no circumstances should any information from this blog be used as replacement for professional financial advice.

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