Groceries are an ever-present household expense. After all, everyone’s got to eat. Fortunately, when you shop smart, this is one expense that can quite literally be cut in half. Follow this guide and you can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars a year and still keep the table overflowing with food.
Smart tip #1: Make a list
It all starts with a list. Go into the grocery store without a plan and you’re sure to overspend. Instead, plan your meals based on store sales and coupons and write out a grocery list. Don’t stray from that list unless you find a deal impossible to pass up.
Need some help getting started on a meal plan? Check out this no-waste meal plan for one whole week of great eats!
Smart tip #2: Know your stores
Know which stores have the best deals on your staples. It doesn’t mean you have to hit three stores every time you shop, but you’ll want to choose your store based off what’s on your current list. I’ve seen a dozen eggs cost twice as much at a store one block away. If I buy a dozen eggs per week, that’s a $130 annual price difference.
Smart tip #3: Buy in bulk wisely
Yes, “Buy 1, get 1 50% off” or “5 for $25” sales encourage you to buy more than you maybe would. But it can be worth it if the product has a long shelf life or can be frozen. If chicken is 5 for $25 and you have the freezer space, why not stock up?
Warehouse stores are a great place to save on bulk items, and Costco is no exception. Don’t miss out on these great grocery deals at Costco!
Smart tip #4: Use coupons
If you’re going to buy cereal anyways, why wouldn’t you want to save $1 while you’re at it? Before you shop, peruse available coupons for items on your list at Coupons.com. From cereal to salad dressing, bacon to bread, you can find savings on breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Are you new to couponing or Coupons.com? Check out our handy Couponing 101 guide for tips on how to print, load coupons to the Coupons.com app, and more!
Smart tip #5: Utilize the slow cooker
Not only is the slow cooker a time saver, but it makes less expensive, tougher cuts of meat taste great. The slow cooker is your best friend if you want to shop for bargain cuts of meat.
We all love a good slow cooker meal, and these slow cooker freezer meals take the cake. These hearty slow cooker chicken recipes will warm you up for the fall weather, and don’t forget to add a little sweetness with more slow cooker recipes that use honey. Yum!
Smart tip #6: Be flexible with ingredients
There are substitutions for just about everything, so before you run to the store for an ingredient, see what you can use up in your pantry. No breadcrumbs? Use corn meal. Did the buttermilk spoil? Milk and vinegar will do.
Smart tip #7: Check the “clearance” section
There are entire stores dedicated to clearance groceries, including food approaching its sell by date. Most regular grocers also have small clearance sections throughout the store. Some of the best deals are meat markdowns. You’ll often find fish there, too, as it has such a short shelf life. I’ve even scored lobster tails for 50 percent off.
Find more tips on how to save money on steak, ground beef, and more!
Smart tip #8: Read unit prices
On the price tag you will typically see a price per ounce, which makes it easy to compare the price between brands. It’s also how you can find out if the family size package is truly a better deal.
Smart tip #9: Cook the family-sized portion
Even if you’re cooking for two, it’s typically more cost effective to cook more than you need and freeze the extra for a future meal. Whenever you can, double the recipe.
Smart tip #10: Have a revolving grocery list
There are the ingredients you need to make tonight’s dinner, then there are those ingredients you just like to have on hand. Have an ongoing, long-term grocery list with items like taco sauce, peanut butter, and sugar. Stock up whenever you see a can’t miss sale or coupon.
Smart tip #11: Know the sale cycles
There are items that always go on sale and often it happens like clockwork. For example, about every 3 to 4 weeks my store has a 5 for $25 sale on meat. I wait for the sale and stock my freezer to get me through until the next sale.
Smart tip #12: Rotate stock
Stores reduce food waste by constantly rotating their shelves so that the items nearest their expiration are always to the front. You can use this same technique in your pantry. Keep the items nearing expiration to the front and plan next week’s meals based on those ingredients.
Need some help getting your pantry and fridge organized? Check out these great pantry and fridge organizing ideas!
Smart tip #13: Repurpose leftovers
Make it your mission to never throw away leftovers. If dinner was so good you can’t wait to have it again, then simply pack it up for lunch. Or, find creative ways to repurpose leftovers into a new dish. Turn last night’s salmon into fried fish cakes, shred the leftover chicken and make a curry salad, or use leftover quinoa as the binder in a meatloaf.
Try these fun and easy leftover recipes — even your picky eaters will be pleased!
Smart tip #14: Have a leftover night
A leftover meal is basically a free meal. Designate one night a week where you use up whatever’s left for the week. Pizzas, paninis, tacos, and salads are all great leftover meals to use whatever you’ve got on hand.
Don’t have the traditional pizza toppings? No worries! Try these unconventional and delicious homemade pizza ideas instead.
Smart tip #15: Shop out of the box
We all have our primary, and in some cases secondary, stores where we do most of our grocery shopping. But sometimes it pays off to break the routine. You can often find really cheap spices at ethnic markets and affordable produce at small produce or farmers markets.
Farmers markets can serve up some great deals. For the best tips, check out our guide on how to save money when you shop the farmers market stalls.
Smart tip #16: Stock up on dried foods
Dried foods like grains, beans, rice, and lentils fill you up, have a long shelf life, and are typically inexpensive. Plus, they’re a great base ingredient that can be mixed with whatever’s in your fridge and pantry.
Leftover spices can be repurposed into deliciously zesty rubs and sauces. Give these recipes a try with your spice stash!
Smart tip #17: Experiment with brands
We all have brand loyalty to certain products, but if we’re open to trying new things then we can buy based on the best deals. Compare the ingredient list of a new product to your favorite brand — in some cases it may be identical.
Smart tip #18: Track your savings
Nothing’s more rewarding than seeing the amount you saved on the bottom of your receipt. Keep your prized receipt with the highest percentage savings on the fridge and try to outdo yourself with every grocery trip.
Find more great tips and tricks for how to save money on groceries!