1. Shop the perimeter
The freshest and cheapest food is found in the outside aisles of the grocery store. Not only are fruits, veggies, meat and dairy typically better for your diet than processed food, but you’ll often get it at a lower cost per serving.
Plus, you’re much more likely to impulse buy stuff in the middle aisles than on the outside. Unless you’re one of those people who can’t control themselves around vegetables. Weirdo.
2. Don’t shop while hungry
This is my greatest weakness, mostly because I’m always hungry. Hunger does weird things to people. It doesn’t take long after you enter the grocery store for your stomach to start telling you all the things it wants — which is all the things. By the time you hit the cash register, you probably have more off-list items in your cart than things you actually planned on buying. Do your wallet a favor and go to the grocery store on a full stomach.
3. Buy in bulk
Costco and Sam’s Club are a Mormon’s best friends. Buying in bulk, especially if you have a large family, may not save you a lot on a single trip. But over time, the savings add up. Be careful, though. Costco is especially good at offering specialty products that are hard to pass up. Also, know that buying in bulk isn’t always the right answer. Some things may actually be cheaper at a regular grocery store. Be mindful of the prices and compare often to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
4. Eliminate food waste
I’ll be honest. I’m terrible at this sometimes. We may have leftovers from a meal we cooked that sit in the fridge for days before I remember they’re there. By that time, I’m too grossed out to eat it and just throw it out.
Produce has the biggest potential to be wasted. Just last week I bought a container of spring mix greens because we had grand plans to eat more salad. A week later, we threw out the entire container because we had eaten zero salad and the greens went bad.
If saving money isn’t enough to get you to eliminate food waste, watch this documentary to see the bigger problems our food waste causes.
5. Savings apps/coupons
There are a lot of things I’d rather do than clip coupons, so I’ve never really gotten into it. But if you enjoy doing it, do it! Another way to save a little every time you go to the grocery store is by using a savings app. I’ve used Ibotta in the past and it’s straightforward. Also, it takes less time than poring over ads to find coupons. The savings opportunities here are usually small but, again, they add up over time.
6. Use the right credit card
If you’re a regular credit card user, make sure you’re using one that will give you bonus rewards for your grocery purchases. Sam’s Club and Costco each offer a credit card that offers extra cash back when you use it at their stores. Then there are other cards that offer bonus cash back at all grocery stores, like this one (6% cash back, but has an annual fee) and this one (3% cash back, no annual fee).
The bummer about these cards is that they don’t give you bonus rewards for groceries you buy at stores like Walmart and Target. Because these stores aren’t primarily grocery stores, the transaction is coded differently.
7. Shop by unit price
Believe it or not, prices can be tricky. Say you see an 8-oz. can of tomato sauce next to a 6 oz.
can of the same stuff. The former is $2.00 and the latter is $1.69. Unless you can do the math in your head, it’s tough to say which is the better deal. (Hint: it’s the 8 oz. can at $0.25 an ounce — the 6 oz. can costs a little more than $0.28 an ounce.)
Some grocery stores are unit-price shopping friendly. They do the math for you and include the unit price on the tag (usually it’s small, though, so you can easily miss it). This can also help you see what the real cost is for buying name-brand stuff.
8. Buy generic stuff
Generic-brand food is almost always cheaper than name-brand stuff, and it’s almost always just as good. There are certain things, however, where the name-brand version is a must. Have you ever tried Walmart’s brand of Doritos? They’ll make you want to cry. Sour cream is the same way, at least for me. It’s got to be Daisy. But there’s a lot of generic stuff out there that doesn’t taste all that different than the more expensive brand.
9. Be wary of BOGO deals
You’ll see these all over the place at the grocery store. Buy one, get one free or 50% off. These are fantastic options if you were planning on buying the item in the first place. But if you weren’t, don’t let the advertising trick you. Retailers aren’t there to help you save money. They’re there to sell you stuff. So if you’re tempted to buy something just because it’s on sale, don’t.
Save at the grocery store
The biggest roadblock to all of these tips is that they take time to set up and get going. It’s a lot easier to just run to the grocery store when you need a few things or to throw a list together and not care whether you’re adding to it throughout the trip. But if you’re looking for ways to get your spending under control, this is a great opportunity.