One of the main expenses no one can avoid is buying groceries, and sometimes money is tight. Even if you don't have a special reason for it, you can still use frugal grocery shopping tips to keep more of your money in your pocket!
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If you hope to spend less at the supermarket every month, you can try any or all of the following frugal ideas. You won’t be sacrificing anything important, and you’ll keep more of your income.
Why shopping frugally is always a good idea!
You likely don’t need any reminders here about why you’re hoping to try shopping frugal and start grocery shopping on a budget. There are lots of reasons for anyone to try to save money and maximize your food budget.
Perhaps you’re facing a period of low income, either due to a lack of job training or a recent layoff that has you explaining gaps in employment.
Or you might have higher expenses in other areas right now, and saving on groceries would really make an impact. Maybe rent has gone up, you’ve moved to a new place that has a higher cost of living, or you needed to upgrade your vehicle. Saving on groceries will help.
Maybe you’re trying to save for a major expense, or perhaps you need to save a certain amount, like $5000 in 3 months.
During those times, of course, you’ll need to learn how to drastically cut expenses, including food costs.
Whatever your reasons may be, try these 18 frugal grocery shopping tips and watch your bills go down.
18 Frugal grocery shopping tips to save money
See how many of these great ideas you can use to save money each month!
1. Shop your pantry
This first frugal grocery shopping tip is to shop for free—in your own home! You may have stocked up in the past on non-perishable food items. Now’s a great time to start using up those canned and boxed items.
You can also explore your freezer to save money. Many of us store food for months and forget it’s there. Take the opportunity to shop your kitchen and pantry, and you could find a treasure trove of items that are essentially free.
2. Quit using credit cards at the supermarket
This tip may be controversial because many people like to pay with credit cards to reap the benefits of credit card rewards.
However, researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management have found that paying by credit card can activate reward centers in our brains and could lead to spending more.
Even if you’re skeptical about whether that’s true for you, try using only cash or debit cards for a month or two. This could help you stick to your grocery budget and avoid impulse spending.
3. Plan your meals on a weekly basis
One of the most popular frugal grocery shopping tips is to start budget meal planning. Meal planning one time a week can help you to be more mindful about the groceries you buy. Instead of buying everything you see, you can focus when you shop.
Thinking about the best way to use foods that are on sale, like seasonal produce or discounted items after a holiday, can help your overall food budget.
Shopping frugally is a lot easier if you plan ahead by thinking about the meals you want to prepare and eat. It takes effort, but it's worth it.
4. Eat at home instead of in restaurants
The first few tips for shopping frugally hinge on the assumption that you’ll eat the majority of your meals at home, not at restaurants. While it’s possible to find deals on dining out, it’s almost always cheaper to prepare meals yourself.
The average U.S. household spend $3,030 on food away from home and $5,259 on food at home, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey. It’s likely that the more than $3,000 on dining out made up only a small percentage of meals, though.
Though it depends a bit on what you purchase, you can usually save money on ingredients thanks to larger quantities that yield multiple meals.
5. Frugal grocery shopping includes buying produce in-season
One way to shop in a more frugal way is to buy fruits and vegetables when they’re in season. Since in-season produce is in greater supply, the price drops to keep demand high.
You’ll typically spend less on groceries if you look for produce during its growing season. An added benefit is that fresh fruits and vegetables will have the best flavor during the in-season months, and you’re moving towards living a healthy lifestyle.
6. Check grocery store sales and plan meals based on this
When you’re looking for frugal grocery shopping tips, it’s a no-brainer to watch for supermarket sales. Pay attention to those grocery store mailers that tell you items that are marked down for the coming week, and you can plan meals around those items.
Making monthly meal plans or weekly meal plans based on supermarket deals can help you create some of the cheapest meals. You won’t sacrifice taste or enjoyment by simply timing your meals to save money.
7. Buy groceries based on meals you can prepare in advance
Along with the previous money-saving tip, you can plan some of your meals to prepare well in advance. What I mean is you can save money by meal-prepping a bunch of meals one day and freezing them for future use.
Pick meals that are easy to make ahead of time, and choose a day to do all the prep work. This works well for one-pan meals like lasagna, but you can also do it by prepping ingredients that need to be combined and warmed on the day you’ll eat them.
This can save money because by cooking several meals’ worth of chicken at once, you save yourself a step on a busy day. It makes it more likely that you'll learn how to stop eating out.
8. Buy bulk items only if you can use them
It can be very tempting to stock up on giant packages of paper goods and food if you shop at Costco or a similar warehouse club. And yes, bulk shopping can save you money per unit, but only if you shop wisely.
Buying anything in bulk doesn’t really save you money if you end up wasting half the product. So be sure to avoid buying in bulk unless it’s for food you can reasonably use before it goes bad. Food waste can be one of the money leaks you want to avoid.
Keep in mind, too, that you'll need space to store all those bulk products. Getting carried away with bulk grocery shopping might lead to decluttering down the road (and not saving money, after all).
9. Try frugal grocery shopping at discount grocers
Obviously, one of the best frugal grocery shopping tips for anyone is to simply change where you shop. Buying groceries at upscale markets can be a serious drain on your finances.
If you are truly serious about saving money on groceries, start by shopping at the most affordable grocery stores. Check out stores like Aldi, Walmart, Market Basket, Food 4 Less, and others in your area to save major money on your groceries.
10. Stick to raw or unprepared ingredients to save money
This grocery tip goes along with the general concept of eating at home.
In addition, be sure to buy your ingredients in their simplest, unprepared form whenever possible. You can make food from scratch—it’s easier than you might think.
For example, take a stroll down the produce aisles at your local grocer. Compare the cost of a whole pepper versus already chopped peppers or the cost of a watermelon or pineapple compared to pre-sliced fruit.
It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll pay a premium for anything that’s prepared ahead of time. These items are great when you’re in a hurry or on the go, but don’t make them your default. Shopping frugally can mean buying raw ingredients to cook or prepare yourself.
11. Use couponing apps for supermarket purchases
When you hit the grocery store aisles, don’t forget about your favorite couponing apps. You can save money upfront or get cash rewards back.
Check out the best coupon websites for deals on everything from groceries to home goods. Just pay attention so that you don’t end up buying things solely because of a coupon. If it’s not an item you’d normally buy or it costs more than your typical brand, it’s not saving you any money.
12. Buy less meat whenever possible
We’re all aware that, typically, meat costs more than other food groups. There are exceptions, but you can almost always save money by reducing your meat consumption.
You can do this by switching meat to another protein, such as lentils or chickpeas, several times a week. Or bulking up meals with less expensive rice and beans while using smaller quantities of meat.
By making meat more of a side dish or an occasional treat, your frugal grocery shopping budget will improve.
13. Focus on buying nutritious foods
Here’s another grocery-saving tip that we don’t always want to think about but can save a lot: cut down on the junk food you buy. While ice cream and chips can be a welcome treat sometimes, they’re not great for your health or your finances.
Spending the majority of your grocery budget on nutritious foods will help you to develop a good habits list for your health and prevent overspending. Shop frugal by choosing foods that are filling and nutrient-packed.
Junk food doesn’t have any nutritional value, so it’s not a great use for your money. If you’re serious about saving money, cutting out (or reducing) junk food buys is a good step.
14. Pay attention to credit card and store rewards
While this tip goes against the one about using only cash, it might work better for some of us. If you’re a responsible credit card user, you can really save money on groceries with your credit card.
Some credit cards do a good job of rewarding grocery store purchases, perhaps with a percentage back on what you spend. Just don’t go into debt and then spend time learning how to get out of credit card debt simply for the promise of some rewards.
Plus, plenty of retailers offer their own loyalty programs. These rewards programs aren’t always a credit card. They often only require you to sign up with an email to take advantage of discounted prices.
15. Give generic or store brands a try
In addition to shopping at your local Aldi or another discount grocer, remember that store brands often taste nearly identical to the pricier brands. Do some price comparison to discover which brands of a particular milk or breakfast cereal, or other food costs the least.
You may encounter a little resistance on this one, either from yourself or others in your household. But it’s worth giving generic food and drinks a try for the money you can save.
In many cases, you won’t even notice the difference (except in price).
16. Cut down on the number of grocery shopping trips
Raise your hand if you’ve ever done this: go to the store to stock up one day, but you forget a couple of items. You return to the store multiple times in one week, each time buying more than you planned to buy.
I’ve definitely been known to make three or more grocery trips in a week.
The problem with that is, you almost always buy more than you intended. Stopping by for “just one thing” often doesn’t work out that way in reality. Impulse spending may mean spending more money.
Work on your meal planning so that you can shop mindfully, perhaps once a week. This way, you reduce the chances of overbuying since you won’t be in the store as frequently.
17. Check the price per unit
When doing your frugal grocery shopping, whether online or in the store, you should check the price per unit of things you buy. Don’t merely glance at the price tag because different brands may be packaged in different amounts.
Checking the price per unit ensures that you pick the best deal for your wallet. This is harder to do if you shop online, however you should be able to see quantities and weights of products if you look for them.
18. Stick to your list for frugal grocery shopping
I’ve already hinted at this frugal grocery shopping tip, and it goes along with a lot of the previous tips: stick to your list.
You can make the cheapest grocery list while you do your meal planning to ensure you have all the necessary ingredients. Then, when you go shopping, follow the list like a road map. Avoid putting anything in your cart that isn’t on the list.
Of course, you may need to add something you forgot to put on the list. But in general, trying to skip any impulse buys will leave you with a lower grocery bill.
There are many great ways to save cash with groceries, from making a list to shopping your pantry but food waste is important to consider. Paying attention to this can save you a ton of money and extend your grocery budget.
So plan your meals in advance, eat or freeze leftovers and don't overbuy. You'll find yourself saving even more money!
What is the smallest amount you can spend on groceries each month?
How much you'll spend depends on if you're shopping for just yourself or for a family. But the chances are, you can probably spend less than you're currently spending and still buy everything you need. Plan out your cheapest meals ahead of time and be sure to price shop and coupon hunt online for different stores.
By doing this you can determine where the best place to shop is for the month since different grocery stores run different coupons and offers each month.
Can you spend only $100 on groceries?
It is possible to spend only $100 on groceries for a week. But it may require some sacrifices and be alright with having fewer options to choose from. But don't neglect your health when trying to save!
For example, You can cook a full meal for a family of four with a box of spaghetti, a can of crushed tomatoes, and seasoning (which you likely have at home) for under $5 each time!
Can you still eat healthy while shopping frugally?
Yes, it is very possible to eat healthily and not spend all your money. Simply make sure you have organized finances, look for deals, and be willing to take the time to meal prep rather than buy ready-made. You can find great fresh produce that you can use to make multiple meals that will cost less than pre-made frozen food!
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Save money as a frugal grocery shopper starting today!
These frugal grocery shopping tips aren’t hard to implement, but they may require some getting used to. Save money on your groceries by trying as many of these as make sense for you.
Remember, even saving a small amount of money means your expenses are lower, and that's a win. Also, consider other ways to save, such as how to save money from salary pay and other creative ways to save money.