A few days ago, a friend asked how much I spend monthly on food because they were trying to find ways to save money on groceries for their family.
I wasn’t sure at the time, so I told them that I would get back with them after I combed through my budget to find out.
I went home that day and pulled up my budget in YNAB (the amazing budget software that I swear by) to look at the reports.
The amount of money that I spent on food for the past three months blew me away!
Of course, I know that I have to eat to stay alive, but I had no idea that grocery spending was one of the most expensive categories in my budget. I knew I had to find a way to save money on groceries.
I began trying different tactics each week, and I came up with seven easy ways to save money on groceries that don’t require a lot of effort. Keep reading to learn more.
The first way to save money on groceries is to meal plan. Before heading to the grocery store, plan the meals that you would like to eat at home this week.
The plan should include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Don’t leave out any details, or your whole plan may fall apart.
You can be as specific as you want with your plan.
One option is to plan buffet-style meals where you have a few main ingredients and different sides. Buffet-style meals allow you to create the meals that you want from those ingredients each day.
Another way is to plan specific meals such as spaghetti for one dinner and chicken salad for another.
No matter which method you choose, be sure to plan thoroughly and stick to the plan.
Meal planning is actually my favorite part of grocery shopping. I get busy during the week, so it’s a great feeling to know what I will be eating ahead of time.
If you don’t happen to enjoy meal planning, try a service like $5 Meal Plan to have a meal plan sent to you each week.
I know meal planning may not be everyone’s thing, but it is one of the best ways to save money on groceries.
You know what you will eat for the next few days, so creating your grocery list should be a breeze.
Use A Grocery List
The next way to save money on groceries is to shop with a grocery list.
Anytime you go grocery shopping, take your list. Use the meal plan that you have created to add all of your ingredients to the list.
Don’t forget to add any spices or pantry staples that you may need.
The purpose of the grocery list is to keep you from running back to the store to pick up additional items throughout the week.
When you get to the grocery store, use your list! My rule of thumb is, if it isn’t on the list, it doesn’t go into the cart.
It may take extra time to shop with a list, but the goal is to save money on groceries by getting only the things that you need.
Your grocery list can be paper or electronic, as long as it serves its purpose.
Use A Calculator
Tip number three is to use a calculator while you’re shopping.
Using a calculator is probably the most tedious tip in this post, but it helps.
How many times have you made it to the checkout line and been completely shocked by your total? Sure, you were keeping up with the prices in your head, but somehow it got away from you.
This Shopping without a calculator causes you to spend more money than you intended.
You may also have to put a few items back before paying because you simply can’t afford to spend that much.
How embarrassing is that!?
Using a calculator can prevent overspending.
Most cell phones come with a calculator these days, or I’m sure you have an old calculator just lying around the house.
I prefer to use a small calculator that I can just throw into my purse.
To speed things up in the store, my husband uses the grocery list to find items, and I use the calculator as he is putting food into the cart.
We have no surprises at the register, and the shopping trip goes by pretty quickly.
Calculating each item that you put into your cart can be a hassle, but it will help you save money on groceries.
Pay With Cash
The next tip is to pay for your groceries with cash.
Paying with cash will help you save money on groceries. You will only be able to spend the money that you have on hand.
With this method, you can’t add extra things to the cart just because they look appealing. You have to stay within your budget.
Making an extra trip to the bank to withdraw cash may slow you down a bit, but your bank account will take less of a hit each time you go grocery shopping.
If you don’t like going to the bank each week, you can do what I do. I take all of the grocery money out of the bank at the beginning of the month.
I just put it away at home until it’s time to buy groceries. Only the amount that I plan to spend that week goes with me to the store.
While this takes a bit of discipline, it is still beneficial when trying to save money on groceries.
Avoid Pre-cut Fruits Or Vegetables
The fifth tip is to avoid pre-cut fruits or vegetables. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables are very convenient, but they are always more expensive than whole fruits and vegetables.
It is more expensive because the work is already done for you.
If you want to save money on groceries, buy whole fruits and vegetables, and cut them yourself.
Think of the amount of watermelon that you get in a small container compared to the amount in a whole watermelon.
The same goes for lettuce, carrots, and pineapples. You get more value when you agree to do the work.
I like to take some time right after I put away the groceries to cut the fruit or vegetables that I just purchased.
This way, it is fresh on my mind, and I won’t forget to do it later. It also helps me use the produce before it goes bad since it is already chopped and ready to go.
Use Cashback Grocery Apps
Tip number six is to use cash back grocery apps. Cash back grocery apps give you money back on the things that you purchase from certain stores.
This sounds like an excellent way to save money on groceries, right? It is!
All you have to do is shop for your groceries as usual. When you get home, simply scan your receipt and get cash back for the purchases that you have already made.
Getting cash back is my favorite way to save money on groceries!
If you know me, you know that I LOVE cash back apps. They are so easy to use and save you so much money throughout the year.
My favorite cashback grocery app is Ibotta. This app offers cashback for most grocery items and a few other things as well. Download the app now to get a $5 bonus just for signing up.
The great part about cashback apps like Ibotta is that you can use it in addition to any coupons that you may have used at the store. That means even more savings!
Use Weekly Ad Circulars
The final way to save money on groceries is to shop from your weekly ad circular.
Buying things that are on sale is a given when you want to save money on groceries, but it’s hard to know what is on sale until you get to the store.
That is where the weekly ad circulars come in.
Grab the weekly ad circular from your Sunday newspaper (coupons are also included) and use it while creating your meal plan.
Look at the sales first and think of meals that you can create with the items that are on sale.
Also, look for pantry staples that you may need to replenish. You can stock up while the items are on sale.
I like to take a mental note of my pantry first, then look at the circular while creating my meal plan to be sure I’m getting items that are on sale.
Shopping from the ad circular may take extra time, but it saves you so much money.
The Bottom Line
Groceries can be expensive if you don’t have a plan. If you’re seriously trying to save money on groceries, you will take the extra time to use your list and calculator in the store.
Eventually, it will become second nature to you.
On top of that, you will only need to make one grocery trip. This leaves more time to relax after work and enjoy your family during the week.
Evaluate your grocery budget and try these tips for one month to see if it makes a difference. Let me know how it goes in the comments!