With inflation soaring throughout 2022 and 2023, the grocery store is one of the areas where Americans are feeling it the most. The price of groceries increased by 11.4% from 2021 to 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And some of the foods impacted the most include household staples like eggs, fats and oils, and meats.
The good news is that even with grocery prices soaring, there are steps you can take to save money on your next trip to the grocery store.
What Are the Best Ways To Save on Groceries?
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your grocery spending, here are some money-saving tips to help you get started.
1. Shop Your Pantry
Before heading to the grocery store, check what foods you already have in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Not only will this help you avoid buying things you already have, but it will also give you a great starting point for meals for the week. You might even find you have enough for most of your meals, meaning you won’t have to buy much at the grocery store.
2. Make a Meal Plan
Meal planning might seem daunting, but it will save you a lot of money on groceries. When you know exactly what you’ll be eating for the week, you can be sure only to buy those specific items. If you’re someone who feels boxed in by a meal plan, you don’t necessarily have to assign certain meals to certain days. Just make a list of the meals you’ll eat that week, and then you can decide each day which to eat.
3. Shop Less Often
Plenty of us get stuck in the cycle of going to the grocery store every couple of days to get what we need for dinner that night. Maybe it’s that you avoid large grocery trips, or maybe you simply forgot something you needed. Either way, the more often you go to the grocery store, the more likely you are to spend. Not only are you not using your ingredients most efficiently when you shop every few days, but you’re also opening yourself up to more impulse purchases.
4. Shop the Sales
You can save a lot of money on groceries by planning your meal plan around what’s on sale that week. Start subscribing to sale ads for a handful of local grocery stores. Then on the day you normally do your shopping, go through and figure out what’s on sale that you like to eat. You can use those items as a starting point when planning your meals.
5. Stick to the List
One of the biggest reasons people overspend on groceries is those impulse purchases at the store. Maybe you see a new snack you want to try or think of a new spin on one of the meals on your meal plan. Whatever the reasons, impulse purchases add up. And you’re more likely to make those impulse purchases when you’re hungry, so try to go to the grocery store only after a meal.
6. Use Coupons
When you think of coupons, you may have the image of your parents sitting at the kitchen table cutting coupons from the local newspaper. And yes, that’s still an option, but there are much easier ways to use coupons now. First, consider downloading a coupon app, which can be used at just about any store. You can also download the app for the store you’ll be shopping at, and there are likely to be store-specific coupons there.
7. Use Cash-Back Apps
There are plenty of cash-back and rebate apps that offer money back on the purchases you’re already making. Some apps offer cash back just for scanning your receipt, while others offer cash back on certain items. No, you aren’t going to lower your grocery bill significantly with these apps. But a dollar here or there can certainly add up, especially if you’re using multiple different apps.
8. Skip Individually Packaged Foods
It’s often easier to grab individually packaged foods when you need a snack or when you’re on your way out the door. But these foods also tend to be more expensive. Take yogurt, for example. You can either buy the larger container of yogurt or the single-serving cups. While the single-serving cups might be more convenient, they’re also quite a bit more expensive per serving.
9. Avoid Food Waste
According to the USDA, between 30% and 40% of the food supply is wasted in the U.S. And while you may hate to admit it, you can probably think of times when you threw away items from your fridge before going shopping for the new week.
You can avoid food waste in a few ways. First, if you’ve purchased foods that will go bad quickly, use those early in the week. You can also avoid waste by shopping from your own kitchen before going shopping and by not overbuying at the grocery store.
10. Look at Unit Prices
Food packaging can be deceptive, and sometimes you might think you’re getting a good deal when you aren’t. Rather than simply buying the cheapest version of an item, calculate the per-unit cost to see which is actually the cheapest. In fact, many stores will display the per-unit cost (often per ounce) so you can quickly determine which item is actually the best deal.
11. Sign Up for Loyalty Programs
Many stores offer loyalty programs where there are added savings available to members. Some stores might offer certain sales that are only available to program members, while others might send special coupons to program members. In fact, many loyalty programs send coupons specifically tailored to the items you already purchase so they won’t go to waste.
12. Shop In-Season
If you find you’re spending a lot of money on produce, consider limiting your purchases to what’s currently in season. Yes, you might limit your menu some, but you’ll also save a lot of money. If you aren’t sure what’s in season in which part of the year, the USDA has a handy list.
13. Buy Frozen Produce
Another way to save money on produce is to buy frozen instead of fresh. Many families avoid this because they think frozen produce isn’t as healthy, but that’s simply not true. In addition to being just as nutritious as fresh produce, frozen produce also tends to be cheaper. And as an added bonus, you don’t have to worry about it going bad before you’ve had the chance to use it.
14. Switch to Generic Brands
You probably already know you can save money by switching to generic brands, but it bears repeating anyway. And the good news is there’s rarely a quality difference between brand-name and generic. In fact, many generic brands are made by the very same companies and plants that make your brand-name foods — they simply slap a different label on them.
15. Avoid Delivery
Grocery delivery is the height of convenience, and it’s become far more popular since the pandemic. But it can also be more expensive. First, you’re paying a delivery fee as well as a tip for the driver. But what a lot of people don’t know is that items are also often priced more expensive on grocery delivery apps. You might pay a dollar more for items when you order them online versus buying them yourself in the store.
16. Shop at Multiple Stores
Yes, it’s less convenient to stop at multiple grocery stores. But it can also save you a lot of money. You might find that certain items are cheaper at certain grocery stores.
For example, Aldi might have great deals on certain foods you buy, but it may not carry everything you need. Likewise, stores like Costco and Sam’s Club have great bulk prices on certain items, but you probably don’t want to buy everything there. You may even find that one grocery store has better prices on produce while another has better prices on meat. Depending on the price differences, it can be well worth it to stop at more than one store.
17. Take Advantage of Credit Card Points
By using credit cards for your grocery spending, you can earn a lot of money in cash back or points throughout the year. Some credit cards offer cash back on all your spending, while others offer bonus rewards on certain spending categories, including groceries. Just make sure to pay your balance off in full each month to avoid paying interest — this defeats the purpose of earning the rewards in the first place.
The Bottom Line
No, you aren’t imagining things — groceries have gotten a lot more expensive. But by following some of the steps above, you can be a smart shopper and stick to your grocery budget.
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