18 Tips for Saving Money on Groceries

CC BY 2.0. Francis Chang

Grocery bills can get out of control very quickly. Here's how to keep a lid on things.

Everyone needs to eat, but not everyone has to spend a fortune on food. If you’re diligent about shopping efficiently and effectively, then you can save a lot of money on groceries. That money can go toward other important things, such as paying down consumer debt or a mortgage, enjoying life, or retiring early. It all adds up in the end. Be shrewd about your grocery shopping and reap the financial rewards in the years to come. (Some ideas come via the Star and The Silver Dollar.)

1. Shop at a discount store. This can reduce food costs by 15 to 30 percent, which could mean saving up to $5,000 a year.

2. Never go without a list. The creation of that list should be ongoing throughout the week, with family members adding items as soon as they realize they need to be replaced, and based on a specific meal plan. Organize the list according to the store’s layout to minimize the amount of time you spend walking around.

3. Never go hungry or tired. You’ll find yourself reaching for items that aren’t on the list. You won’t be able to make good critical choices if your brain is exhausted.

4. Do not take children. This is not an outing. They will either slow you down and pester you with their demands, or they’ll speed you up so much that you’ll miss the fine print on unit prices and best-before dates.

5. Use a smaller cart or basket. By reducing the space to stash groceries, you’ll be less inclined to pick up unnecessary ingredients.

6. Shop the farmer’s market or ethnic grocers. You can get great deals on seasonal produce and other locally produced items. There are options for bulk and package-free items, which save money.

7. Buy in bulk, but always check the unit price. Come up with creative ways to store your bulk food purchases, such as under the bed, in the garage, in a closet.

8. Stock up on non-perishables when on sale. If there’s a deal on something that keeps a long time and that you use a lot, buy plenty, i.e. a dozen boxes of pasta or an entire flat of canned tomatoes.

9. Avoid prepackaged foods and meals like the plague. These are always more expensive than buying the ingredients to make a large batch of the same from scratch.

10. Check the clearance rack. You can often find produce marked down 50 percent because it’s nearing end of life. If it’s something you can eat quickly or freeze, scoop up these deals.

11. Watch for scanner errors. Computers screw up sometimes or prices change and you want to be sure that you’re paying the right price.

12. Avoid the convenience store. Unless a specific ingredient (like milk) is cheaper there, it’s best not even to enter the store.

13. Ride your bike and trailer to the store. By hauling your groceries away in a trailer, you’ll be more aware of how much you’re buying. You’ll save money on gas and possibly parking, too.

14. Use a rewards card or coupons to lower prices. Comparison shop with an app like Flipp.

15. Take a picture of every receipt with your phone. This keeps them all in one place, easy to add up to keep track of your (hopefully shrinking) food budget.

16. Go through your pantry once a month. You may find enough odds and ends there to assemble several meals, and you’re more likely to use forgotten ingredients before they go bad.

17. Listen to up-beat music while shopping. This advice comes from Trent Hamm at The Silver Dollar. He points out that stores often play slow music in order to encourage shoppers to walk slowly. Instead, use your headphones and get out of there as fast as possible!

18. Don’t go shopping! Stay away for a set amount of time, like a week at the least. Pledge to use up what you’ve got at home and make do till shopping day.