Tricks for saving money on groceries?
I've had to get creative with this in the past little while, so I'd be curious to hear other strategies! I live in a cold climate, so local produce etc is limited during the winter months, but I try hard to buy local where possible. Often this is more expensive, so I try to work it in in conjunction with buying from bigger stores to keep costs down.
I have found the below to help the past few months.
1) Buy pantry items at more budget-friendly stores (dry pasta, rice, spices, etc.)
2) If I'm buying an item that I've never used in my cooking before or a recipe-specific ingredient, I buy a small amount at the bulk store. It may be more expensive per gram in some cases, but otherwise I overspent on a larger amount and it sits in my cupboard
3) PLAN PLAN PLAN. I can't believe some of the impulse purchases I have made! Now I make a list, and I stick to the list. It also lets me set out to know approximately how much I am going to spend, so I can budget accordingly and know what my cap is.
4) Check my cupboards/fridge before shopping (this probably sounds basic but I can't count the number of times I've gone to the store and bought some ingredient because I couldn't remember if I had it)
5) Plan with sales! I don't eat meat, so I rely heavily on things like beans/soy products. This means that if I know beans will be on sale, I'll buy a little extra and plan for recipes to use them over the next few weeks!
I'm always looking for ways to reduce my grocery costs... My goal is to get under $150 a month (I do not have children, and have a partner who contributes to the food bill, which is not counted in my $150).
I'd love to hear of any other tricks/what has worked for you!!
Have some way of tracking what a "good price" for something is in your area. I've never been able to keep up with a price book, but I do have a general idea of what I spend on some key items.
Since I do eat meat, having an extra freezer to hold it when I buy in bulk or on a good sale (10lbs of chicken at Costco goes a long way for 1-2 people). And I can store leftovers in the freezer so I'm not eating the same thing for lunch for a week & it doesn't go to waste.
Minimize processed foods, and convenience things like pre-chopped raw veggies or frozen meals in a bag.
If organic or local produce is important to you, a farmers market or a CSA is a great way to get better quality produce during the growing season, and often a lot of it can be canned or frozen to preserve it. I don't quite eat enough veggies to make a smaller CSA box worthwhile, & splitting it was a hassle for me. I'm hoping to get to the farmer's market this year instead.
Stretch expensive ingredients by using as a side or garnish rather than making them the main part of the meal
12 Ways to Save Big on Grocery Bill & Shop on a Budget
I'm always clicking on these articles and they are ALWAYS the same list of tips. However, in the linked article I found a new-to-me tip: Skip a Grocery Shop
Save almost twenty five percent on the annual cost of your groceries by stockpiling groceries when they are on sale and then skip a grocery shop once every month. When you skip a grocery shop, you live off of what you stockpiled.
That stopped me in my tracks. I found it very thought provoking. Okay. I'm game. This year's focus is on a food project: eating healthy, losing weight, meal planning, eating down the pantry/freezer, and finding a happy medium ground in my budget between super expensive and super cheap.
I've had three successful Skip-A-Weeks since I've begun implementing them.
My budget for groceries includes a general groceries category and one for stockpiling. I have a family of 5. So I buy beans and rice in bulk. I buy the big package of toilet paper and paper towels since I have the space. I buy the big canister of oatmeal. I buy dried beans and legumes and cook them instead of canned beans. These can be frozen by the cup or whatever makes sense for your family. I buy meat when it's on sale and I too have a chest freezer (it was the only big item I wanted before TechniCub #2 made her debut, I nested by cooking, not cleaning).
Bulk is often the lowest price per unit but do your due diligence. Know what's cheaper at which stores but also don't drive an hour out of your way to save a dollar; gas or petrol might not make the extra distance worth the drive. I don't coupon because we eat store brand or around the periphery of the store. We eat a lot of nuts and dried fruit for snacks, so I get prunes and dried apricots, almonds and peanuts from Trader Joes. I get dried cranberries and raisins from Costco. Cashews come from Wegmans. If fresh is expensive, can you get good quality frozen veggies and fruit? Those can be cheaper by the unit. Or if there's produce in season that's a good price, can you freeze for later? I cook for leftovers. I have 3 kids so bulk doesn't scare me. I have 3 kids, so it doesn't phase me to buy ten pounds of chicken at a time, bagging and freezing two meal portions. I buy the 5 pound vat of yogurt at Costco because my spouse eats it for breakfast every morning with honey or fresh fruit. You could even make your own yogurt, although I don't know if that's less expensive than yogurt cups.
I spend a lot for food, including stockpile and spices, but I like keeping a stocked pantry. If we had to, we could eat for weeks off of what's in the pantry and freezer, shopping for only the perishables or if we had to, going without.
One way to stretch meals or make them less expensive is by making soups and stews and serving over rice. That stretches the soup or stew. Meat-free meals can be cheaper, depends on what kind of protein you use and the cost of any fresh vegetable.
But like Ali H said, if you're not cooking for a bunch, decide if bulk is worth the space and the cost. Yes, you might save a little bit per pound or ounce, but are you really going to eat that gargantuan Costco jar of mayonnaise? My in-laws buy the tiny half pound boxes of butter and that lasts them months and months, they buy 8 oz blocks of cheese and the cheese still goes bad before they can eat it all. My family goes through 1-2 pounds of butter a month. We eat a two pound of block cheese every 8 or 9 days. I buy shredded cheese by the five pound bag and keep it in the freezer. I buy the 48 pack of cheese sticks.
One thing a lot of people swear by is meal planning. It reduces waste and you know exactly what you need to buy to make meals for the week. Some people do meal prep on weekends - chop all the veggies they need for the week so they can just grab and cook. Other people do big batch cooking and freeze portions. If you're by yourself, you can make a big batch of a meal which would make 8-10 servings. Freeze most of it, keep a few meals in the fridge. Do one or two batches every week or two of different dishes and eventually you can eat something different out of the freezer every night night and only have to cook one day a week unless you want to cook something different.
If you find yourself eating out a lot because you're not fond of cooking or it's too much effort, someone in another thread suggested the Mealime app. Allows you to customize for the way you like to eat, to avoid foods you can't or wont it, customize for the amount of time you want to spend, and for the number of people you're feeding. It gives you recipes and shopping lists. I imagine there are other similar apps. Alternately, you can buy convenience products - we eat frozen meat balls or sausage or pre-marinated meats I keep in the freezer for when no one feels like extending much effort because those make for easy meals. Add toast or pasta or rice, cook a veggie, you have a meal ready in half an hour. Maybe it's more expensive to buy pre-marinated meat but it's far cheaper than eating at a restaurant. Might not always be the absolute most nutritious, but you can do portion control better at home.
This might seem counter, but but high quality. There are three stores I will not produce. Two are very cheap and one is avg price. However, the produce goes bad before the week is out. I drive farther to go to another store with really good produce (still about avg price). It's fresher and lasts longer, about twice as long.
Ali H said:
I'm right there too. Have you tried to sprout the brand of beans you are eating? If they sprout, keep buying them. If they don't, then stop buying them. No need to eat dead food.
I love the app Plan To Eat to keep our grocery budget small (or, manageable for a family of 6). Here's what we do:
- At the end of a month, I look at our calendar for the following month and plan out a month of dinners. With Plan to Eat, it takes me maybe 20 minutes, since I'm mostly dragging and dropping. I also under-estimate our meal needs by 1-2 meals because something inevitably comes up and we're eating pasta or leftovers go further than we thought.
- Then, I order the whole month's worth of groceries for order pick up. The only real exception is produce, and milk.
- Then, we go to Costco and stock up on the things we need for lunches for the kids and breakfasts. My husband and I take leftovers for lunch.
- 1-2 times per month we run to Aldi's or Trader Joe's and replenish anything that we need and grab more produce/milk.
Being in a grocery store less than 5 times a month has been a huge time/money saver for us! We also really love Imperfect Produce for lunch time fruits and veggies for the kids, and freeze some of the unplanned veggies. We also try to eat produce that's seasonally right, or freeze a lot when it's in season, like if we go strawberry picking.
Along with all the other suggestions, one simple "trick" that improved upon my "plan the week's meal from the on-sale ads" tactic (which I'd done since day 1 of being married, 37 years ago!) was to START with opening the frig/freezer and seeing what I had in there to use up and getting creative with it and putting in on the new week's menu plan.
For some reason, I had always started with the ads and cookbooks and new recipes to try and worked up a fresh complete menu and grocery list and only gave a thought to using any remaining items from last week's menu when confronted with something that was going to go bad (or actually did).
The only other thing I'd add is frozen veggies and fruit can be a great way to save on produce that isn't in season. Nutritionally there is no difference and we waste less because the produce already is frozen.
I meal plan by the month so my shopping lists are relatively similar week to week/month to month. We also choose to spend a little more on ingredients for some meals, which helps us eat out less often.
You know what? Come to think of it I think I do the 'no buy' thing quite a bit! Having only been as strictly budgeting as I should be for about 6 weeks now, there were a few weeks in there where I was like, "I need to stretch what I have to make it to my next paycheck." While that IS improving, and I'm finding myself feeling less thinly stretched, I am more cognisant of ingredients and eliminating waste. Instead of forgetting about ingredients I buy (and either wasting them or leaving them for far too long in my pantry), I try to make sure to either make the recipe I intended to make, OR make a recipe that intentionally uses up an ingredient. I think maybe I'll try to be more intentional in this though, like maybe very intentionally skipping a shop every 5-6 weeks.
I've been using the app FLIPP for price matching. I can see all the ads for grocery stores to meal plan, or just search. Then for example, lean ground beef, it saves the sale price then I price match at the store. Huge savings on items I was already going to buy but by price matching, I don't have to waste time/gas going there.
Canadians, get the FLASH FOOD app for the Real Canadian Superstore. It's clearance food you buy on the app & then collect from the fridge at customer service. Incredible scores like: 5x 500g Greek Yogurt for $0.44 each, 5x large apple pies for $1 each, packs of sausages for $2 each. Stuff is ready to expire in a couple of days (like Costco meats) so put them in your freezer.
Buy large blocks of cheese, cut them into portions, then freeze. :)
I save $200/mo on groceries by not physically going to the grocery store anymore. I do all of my grocery shopping online. Even when I'd go to the store with a list, I'd still pick up a little this and a little that on impulse. Online shopping totally eliminated that. For my produce I get it delivered weekly in the mail from Misfit Markets. It's "rescued" organic produce that would otherwise have been thrown away because it's ugly or too big or too small, etc. And because they would have been throwaways, they're cheaper than buying from the grocery store.
Hi Ali. One of the things that we do that has really cut down on impulse buys is to use the order online purchase then pick up at the grocery store. We were meal planners before, but it never failed that we would always find little things that we wanted that wound up in the basket. They add up. Our grocery store charges $4.99 to do the shopping for you. It's only a 4 hour lead time. We choose our window when to pick up and they bring the groceries right to the car. We have saved on average about $20/week since switching to the curbside pick up. We have only had a couple of times where we have gotten produce or meat that was not the freshest in the store. In those cases, we take them back and they gladly exchange them. Hope this tip helps!
Attention Canadian Shoppers:
Check out the app FLASHFOOD for clearance foods at The Real Canadian Superstores. I’ve been stocking my freezer to feed my boys using this app. How does it work? You look for stores near you to see what they have on offer. You attach your CC and purchase the food on the app. Then you go to Customer Service and tell them you have Flashfood pickups. They get their device and say your name & the items. Then you get them out of the Flashfood freezer. They are always so courteous since you are taking the items home instead of them being wasted. Food is close to expiry, so you use it immediately or freeze it.
My awesome purchases: packs of sausages for $1.50; club packs of turkey slices for $1.50, 500mL Greek/Skyr yogurt $0.44, blocks of cheese $2, Farmers Markets pies $1. I’m getting choosey. Lol Most foods are 75% or more off. The Skyr yogurt for example, I was price matching to get for $4, and I bought 5 for $0.44 each. Then I freeze, defrost, and spoon them into mason jars with berries & cinnamon for 3 days of snacks.
If you're interested, use my invite code for $5 off your first purchase. Warning, it starts to become addictive and you will never want to pay full price again!!