Do you find yourself needing to do some frugal grocery shopping so you can reduce your grocery bill? If so, I have some great tips for you!
These are the ways to save money on groceries that I’ve found over the last 14 years. In fact, most of them are things my mom did when I was a child as she fed up to 10 people on a budget.
Here’s the bullet list version of these tips on how to save money on groceries, keep reading for the details on how exactly I implement them!
Frugal Grocery Shopping:
- Look at the ads
- Shop more than one store
- Buy in bulk
- Know rock bottom prices
- Have a go to pantry meal
- Use meat as a condiment, not the star
- Have some meatless meals
- Don’t pay for convenience food
- Cook from scratch
Let’s talk numbers for a minute.
$707. That’s what the USDA estimates that my family of 5 (2 adults, 3 year old, 5 year old, and 8 year old) would spend a month on food following the Thrifty Plan.
What if I told you my actual grocery budget a month is between 1/3 and 1/4 of that number? Not only that, I am able to keep it low without using coupons and I feed my family real food! The only boxed foods in my pantry is plain pasta and the only cans contain tomato products, coconut milk, or pumpkin. You too can get your groceries on a budget, a tight budget at that if you follow these frugal grocery shopping tips!
Please, don’t let what I spend on groceries scare you. A grocery budget is a very personal thing. We all live in different parts of the country. I’m fortunate to live where food costs tend to be low. Diet restraints might be different. Eating 100% gluten free will have you spending more than I do. But, wherever you live and whatever your diet you can use these ways to save money on groceries to cut your spending.
When it comes to saving money, sometimes we can struggle with what to cut out of our budget. Especially after we’ve gotten rid of things like paid television and subscription services. What we are talking about today is one of the easiest categories to save money on after you’ve already pared down your budget!
You can reduce your grocery bill while still feeding your family quality food!!!
Let’s get into the nitty gritty of my top 10 tips for ways to save money on groceries.
[For more ideas on frugal grocery shopping, check out this post on the cheapest, healthy groceries to buy]
10 Steps to Frugal Grocery Shopping:
This one is big. If you go to the store without having a plan of what you are going to eat the next week or two, you’ll find yourself adding a lot of extras to your cart “just in case” and making lots of trips to pick up something you forgot. Before you go shopping, sit down and write up a menu for the week. Make a list of everything you will need to buy. Don’t forget to factor in all three meals plus snacks.
My favorite method for menu planning is this template that I’ve used for the past decade. It’s works so well!
Free Menu Plan Guide & Template
2. Look at the ads
Let the ads determine the produce and meat you are going to use on your menu.
Broccoli for $.79 – plan to make Broccoli Pasta one day. Another day serve it steamed or roasted as a side dish.
Buy the fruit that’s cheap to use for snacks and breakfast.
If pasta is on a super sale, grab a box for dinner (mac and cheese, anyone) one night and a couple extra to keep in the pantry.
3. Shop More Than One Store
I know some people say it takes too long to hit up multiple stores. I’ve found that I can do an every or every other week shopping trip and hit up 3-4 stores and still be done in an hour. I get the majority of my list at Aldi and Wal-Mart because I know they will have the lowest base prices. Then I fill in with what’s on sale at other stores.
I live in a small town so our 4 grocery stores are all within a 2 miles of my house. If you are in a big city, look at the stores near your house for your weekly shopping trips. Do once a month trips to the good stores that might be further away or add them on to an appointment or errand you are running anyway.
4. Buy in Bulk
One caveat, this only works if you know you actually like the food and will use it up before they go bad. 😉 Letting food go to waste goes again frugal grocery shopping!
But if you do this appropriately, it is a great way to save! Buy the 5 pound bag of dried beans, stock up on 25 pound bags of flour & rice, and buy 5 pound blocks of cheese if it’s cheaper. Be sure you are comparing prices to the sale prices you can get on the standard sizes, not the regular prices.
5. Know Rock Bottom Prices
Knowing the cheapest a product is going to go helps you make educated decisions on when to stock. up.
If the cheapest price you’ve seen for butter in the last year is $1.99 a pound, when you see it at or below that price, it’s time stock up what you have room in the freezer and budget for.
The same goes for when ground beef, boneless skinless chicken breasts, or pasta go on sale for rock bottom prices.
Buy enough to last you the few months until they’ll go on sale again.
To help you not forgot, start a note on your phone or have a small notebook that you use to keep track of prices, especially on those items that are kitchen staples.
6. Have a Go To Pantry Meal
One of the keys to keeping your food budget low is avoiding convenience food and eating out.
Days are going to come up where you are busier than you thought, someone is sick, or maybe you forgot to thaw out the meat. So what should you do?
Have a go to meal or two you can throw together in under 30 minutes that you always have the ingredients for.
Maybe have a couple of jars of spaghetti sauce in the pantry for one of these nights or make cheese quesadillas. Breakfast for dinner is another great, easy option. I like to keep refried beans in the freezer to make bean tostadas for those hectic days.
7. Use Meat as a Condiment not the Star
There’s no way around it. Meat is expensive.
Limit your meals where meat is the star of the dish (grilled steak, baked chicken breasts, even curries where meat is the only ingredient) to once every week or two.
On a regular basis use recipes where meat is used as a condiment, or just one of many ingredients.
Think of things like: stir-fries, fajitas, salads, soups, burritos, sheet pan dinners etc where you can cut back on the meat and replace it with more veggies or beans. Cheaper and good for you!
8. Have Some Meatless Meals
Continuing with the meat theme here, include a couple of vegetarian options in your menu each week.
Our breakfasts and lunches are typically vegetarian (if we aren’t having leftovers) and then we also have at least one or two meatless suppers a week.
It really does make a difference and no one’s going to complain about Alfredo Sauce or a cheese pizza. Bean burritos or tacos are another favorite of the kids. A vegetable or potato soup are great winter options.
9. Don’t Pay for Convenience Food
You don’t need to pay someone to prepackage food for you!
Your kids won’t starve if they don’t have cold cereal, poptarts, or toaster waffles for breakfast.
Don’t buy personal packages of cookies, pre-sliced cheese, apple slices, or individual packages of pretzels.
Either do it yourself or find an alternative option!
Put together your own oatmeal packages, slice or grate a pound of cheese at the beginning of the week, separate a big bag of pretzels into mini baggies, and take 30 seconds to slice an apple for an afternoon snack.
10. Cook from Scratch
Not only does this save you money but you also know exactly what’s going into your food.
Instead of purchasing granola bars and cheese crackers, try making your own. Whip up a batch of energy bites or homemade cookies.
- Make your own taco seasoning instead of buying a packet (plus you’ll have enough for several other meals).
- Bake corn tortillas into tostada shells.
- Make a large batch of bread and store the extra loaves in the freezer for later.
- Make muffins instead of buying them.
- Homemade yogurt is a standard at our house.
- Cook dried beans.
The ideas here are endless!
To keep from being overwhelmed, select one item a week or month that you are going to transition to making from scratch.
You’ll love the money saved and improved taste!
These are all of the frugal grocery shopping tips I’ve used over the past 14 years of married life to reduce our grocery bill drastically.
We have saved thousands of dollars simply by spending a little time planning, shopping effectively, and spending a little time in the kitchen.
If you are looking for ways to save money on groceries, simply select one or two of the tips and start there.
Give it a few weeks or months and add an a couple more ideas. Soon, these suggestions will be habits and you’ll find your grocery budget decreasing!
For more information on frugal grocery shopping, you need to download my menu planning template. It is what I use each week to make life easier and save a lot of money!
What’s your favorite way to manage frugal grocery shopping? Is it something your family struggles with? I’m curious, how does your spending compare to what the USDA says?
P.S. Be sure to check out the comments for more great ideas!
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Originally published October 2, 2014. Updated July 23, 2020.