30+ Hacks to Save When Grocery Shopping

by | Jun 7, 2019

Grocery shopping is a major line item on anyone’s budget. (Charlie spends more than he cares to admit on squid, his favorite seafood!) But he knows that it’s possible to refine your spending in this category.

Let’s look at several strategies you could implement to keep more money in your wallet.

Lay the Foundation

First things first — find out how much you’re actually spending at the grocer every month. Take an average from the last few months by reviewing receipts and bank statements. Next, determine what your grocery budget should be. Consider things like income, financial goals, family size, other expenses, and any special dietary needs. If there’s a big difference between your recent spending and your new budget, don’t worry. That’s why we’re here.

Plan Your Meals, Save Your Wallet

Knowing what you’re going to eat ahead of time allows you to create a shopping list and prevents you from buying things that you don’t need. Here’s how to meal plan like a pro:

  • Focus on your fridge and pantry: Only shop to fill in any ingredient gaps.
  • Track your food inventory: Only add items to your shopping list as they run out. This keeps you well-stocked, but not over-stocked.
  • Embrace leftovers: Cooking extra food saves time later. Eating it stretches your money further.
  • Store food properly: Prolonging the useful life of your food prevents waste due to spoilage.
  • Try to shop weekly (or even less frequently): Shopping more often can lead to overspending.

Decide Where to Shop

Armed with your shopping list, it’s time to decide where to shop. With so many options available, here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Review weekly flyers from local grocers: Scour them for deals on the items you need and become familiar with their sales cycles.
  • Try discount stores: Places like Aldi have become popular due to their low prices on many common grocery items.
  • Consider buying in bulk: Depending on your family size and your storage capabilities, purchasing large quantities of staple items from wholesalers like Costco (Charlie’s founders are big fans but you do you), Sam’s Club, or BJ’s could make financial sense. Just remember to factor in the cost of membership.
  • Hit the dollar store: You could save money on things like spices, condiments, and even cleaning supplies.
  • Comparison shopping is key: Don’t be afraid to hit multiple places if the deals are scattered.
  • Hit up a farmer’s market: You can get super fresh produce at a great price.

At the Grocery Store

Now that you’re at the store, here are some insider tricks to keep the price tag low:

  • Stick to the list: Unless you forgot to write down something truly vital, don’t buy it.
  • Go it alone: If possible, leave your significant other and kiddos at home so that they can’t sneak extra items into the cart.
  • Try store brand goods: They usually taste just as good for less money.
  • Buy what’s in season: Your produce costs will drop. Next time your favorite fruit or vegetable is in season, check to see if it freezes well so you can enjoy it all year long.
  • Mind those middle shelves: Stores usually place more expensive goods there. Don’t forget to look above and below!
  • Shop by unit: You’ll be able to compare the true price of goods.
  • Check the expiration date: If you can’t use the food by then, don’t overbuy just because it’s on sale.
  • Don’t shop hungry: The whole store will look delicious and end up in your cart. Been there done that!

Item Specific Tips

Once you’ve mastered basic frugal grocery store navigation, you can save big on specific types of goods:

  • Coffee: While K-cups are convenient, they are more expensive (and less eco-friendly) than bagged grounds.
  • Baked goods: Day old bread and sweet treats will still be plenty tasty and sold at a steep markdown.
  • Meat: Cheaper cuts like whole chicken, flank steak, and pork shoulder can taste great without breaking the bank. Try to buy pricey proteins like shrimp, salmon, and beef filets when they’re on sale.
  • Produce: Bagged fruits and veggies will cost less than buying individual pieces. However, avoid anything that’s been pre-cut. It will be more expensive and spoil more quickly.

Get Those Discounts

You’ve created a budget, made a meal plan, chosen a store, and stuck to your shopping list. But how can you really win big at checkout? See how many of these savings hacks you can stack:

  • Clip those coupons: You can get them from a newspaper, store circular, store website, manufacturer website, or coupon website.
  • Whip out that rewards card: Your items will ring up at the sale price and you may earn points or coupons for a future shopping trip.
  • Try money saving and rewards apps: IbottaShopkickRetailMeNot, or Ebates can put (or keep) a little more green in your wallet. Want more? Check out this list.
  • Ask for discounts: You may qualify for a price reduction if you’re a veteran or a student.
  • Get a rain check: If a sale item is out of stock, you may be able to get it later at the reduced price.
  • Consider a cash back credit card: Some cards have programs specifically for grocery spending.
  • Buy discounted gift cards: If you’re going to shop at a certain store anyway, you should check Raise and Cardpool for gift card deals.
  • Be social: Follow your favorite grocers online and get on their email lists to get access to more savings.

Track Your Spending

In order to successfully lower your grocery bill, you need to keep an eye on your spending. Here are three critical times to be mindful of:

  1. As you place items in your cart: Make sure unplanned purchases don’t derail all of your other efforts.
  2. As your order is rung up: Sometimes, the store’s system doesn’t have the sale price programmed in correctly.
  3. After each shopping trip: Determine if you’re staying more or less on budget. If you shop weekly, and this trip cost 50% of your monthly allotment, you have some adjustments to make.

Final Thoughts

Buying groceries can be extremely expensive. But, by implementing the tips that work for you, you can make the financial sting much less painful.

Tell Charlie: What are your favorite grocery store hacks?

Please note: We don’t have an affiliation with or personally endorse any of the services linked to in this post. We’re just trying to give you some ideas.

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