Reducing our grocery budget is not something that has come easily in our household. Less than six months ago we were spending over $1,000 per month on groceries for two people. How absurd is that?
To be perfectly honest, we sucked at cooking and buying groceries.
There were so many times we wanted to be better, only to end up stuck in the same vicious cycle. We’d plan our meals, buy groceries, then be too tired to cook the meals. This led to a ton of waste.
Our grocery bill is still a work in progress. However, there are 10 tricks we use to save money on our groceries each week that have already saved us thousands.
1. Plan Meals You’ll Actually Make
It’s not enough to plan your meals, you actually need to make them. Sure, that complicated recipe might look delicious. However, if you constantly pick recipes that are time consuming and difficult you’ll find yourself making more excuses not to cook.
There are hundreds of resources out there to help you plan easy meals. Most recipe websites have a section of quick and easy meals. Use these resources to pick meals that use simple ingredients and take 15-20 minutes to make. I guarantee you’ll find yourself cooking more and spending less.
2. Shop the Sales
Do you receive weekly flyers from your local grocery store? If so, check which items are on sale and plan your meals around those items. You can get some great deals by sticking to the items that are on sale.
If you don’t get a flyer, check your grocery store’s website to see what deals they are currently offering. This trick can lead to huge savings, especially on things like meat and produce.
3. Shop Once a Week
A huge budget killer for us was that we were constantly going to the grocery store. Because we were too tired to cook the overly complicated meals we’d planned, we ended up having to toss out the ingredients and visit the store two or three times a week. Make your meal plan, write a list, and try to only go to the grocery store once a week.
If you cook with a lot of meat or ingredients that spoil quickly and need to go mid-week, that’s fine! Just be sure to get everything else you need during your weekly trip.
4. Make Some Meatless Meals
Admittedly, since I’m a vegetarian this might be a little biased. 🙂 However, meat is super expensive, especially good meat. You can save oodles of cash by planning some meatless meals for your family!
I highly recommend Cookie and Kate’s vegetarian chili. My husband couldn’t even tell that it was vegetarian. It’s hearty, flavorful, and cheap. Cookie and Kate is just one of many blogs with great vegetarian recipes. If you stay away from recipes with complicated ingredients or meat substitutes you’ll definitely notice the savings by cooking vegetarian meals.
5. Use Cash Back Apps
Ibotta is a simple app that allows you to choose from different cash back offers at your local grocery store. Take advantage of the offers while you shop, snap a picture of your receipt, and start saving! Bonus: you get $10 just for signing up if you use my link.
Ebates: Ebates is a cash back website that pays users cash back when they make purchases at participating retailers. After signing up all you need to do is sign in before you make an online purchase at any of over 2,000 retailers. It’s totally free and easy. I use Ebates every time I do my online shopping. Bonus: sign up using my link, spend $25 and you’ll get $10 cash back right off the bat!
6. Substitute, Substitute, Substitute
Does your recipe call for a red bell pepper? STOP RIGHT THERE! Those are expensive and unnecessary! You can purchase cheaper ingredients as substitutes in some cases. Bell pepper are a perfect example. Buy a green pepper instead of the red and you’ll instantly save at least a dollar per pepper.
Many expensive ingredients have cheaper alternatives. Buttermilk is another ingredient that you can swap out for milk and lemon juice. For a more comprehensive list, check out this list over at clark.com.
7. Buy Generic
If you’ve read my About Me page, you know I’ve worked at an ice cream cone factory. I can tell you first hand that the generic brand is nearly identical to the name brand. In some cases, it actually is identical.
Always buy generic unless you absolutely positively can’t deal with the generic version of a product. This adds up to huge savings in most cases, and you aren’t sacrificing quality or taste.5
8. Don’t Shop Hungry
Never do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Those cookies you would normally pass on? Those look great when you are hungry! This isn’t just a theory, it’s science. People are more likely to make high-calorie purchases if they shop while hungry.
Not only are these purchases bad for your waistline, but they’re bad for your budget. Make a list, eat a snack before you go, and avoid cruising the aisles for food you don’t need.
9. Avoid Convenience Foods
I get it, you work full-time and don’t feel like cooking. That’s totally fine and I’ve been there. But just remember, convenience foods have a price. By convenience foods, I mean things like microwavable rice packets, or pre-cut vegetables.
Nixing the convenience foods will cost you some prep or cooking time, but it will save money. To offset the impact, make cooking a family event. Have your spouse, significant other, or kids help you with the prep work involved with giving up convenience foods. You’ll save money and enjoy time together as a family.
10. Know When to Buy Organic
Organic is so hot right now, and while it would be great to buy everything organic, there’s no denying that organic groceries cost more. But you don’t need to give up organic food entirely, just limit it to the foods where it matters most.
Take a look at the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen before you shop for organic produce. Limit your organic food purchases to the items listed on the Dirty Dozen, and skip the organics for the Clean Fifteen. While these lists focus on produce, I’d also recommend buying organic for meat. If organic meat is cost prohibitive, consider swapping out spendy cuts (like chicken breasts) for cheaper alternatives (chicken thighs).
If you use some of these simple suggestions I guarantee you will lower your grocery bill each month. Most of these are easy changes that will take very little effort to implement. Reducing your food costs can make a huge impact on your budget, and I hope that gives you the motivation to keep going month after month.
What are your grocery shopping tips? I’d love to hear in the comments below! 🙂