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In our family, one of the biggest line items next to our mortgage and taxes is the grocery store bill. This might shock you—and sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit it—but we spend anywhere between $150 and $250 a week on food, which is why I’m always looking for ways to save money at the grocery store.
Lately, my husband has been doing the food shopping at Shop Rite, but I’ll also head to Whole Foods at least once a month to get certain items like salmon, grass-fed beef, liver (yes, my kids love it!) and organic bread.
The amount we spend at the grocery store has even become a bone of contention from time to time between he and I. He doesn’t believe organic is really organic, for example, and so he won’t shell out the extra cash for it.
We’ve also talked about curbing our spending on healthy, but high-priced, foods like nuts and fish. But at the end of the day, we both agree we’d rather spend money on healthy food instead of doctors’ bills down the line.
When it comes to paying more for healthy food, I know I’m not alone. According to a September 2019 survey, 80 percent of millennials say quality is a big factor when they go food shopping and nearly 70 percent will pay more money for it.
Another reason we spend a lot of money at the grocery store is because we’re committed to feeding our kids a mostly whole foods diet. Instead of processed, packaged after-school snacks for example, we encourage them to have a fruit or vegetable instead.
How much you spend when you head to the supermarket depends on a lot of factors including the part of the country you live in, if you live in the city, the suburbs or a rural area, the size of your family and if you buy organic, conventional or both.
Still, there are so many ways to save money at the grocery store. Here are 15.
Make a healthy grocery store list
One of the best ways to save money at the grocery store is to make a list and stick with it.
A new brand catches your eye or you see something your kids might like? Stick to the list!
As you start to make your list, go through your refrigerator, freezer and pantry and see what you need to replenish so you don’t buy something you already have.
Also, think about the week ahead so you can plan accordingly. Perhaps you need to bring the team snack to soccer or maybe you need a fast meal on hand for a night when you know you’ll be getting home late—add it to the list.
You’ll probably find that you purchase many of the same foods every week which is also a great way to keep your family on track with eating healthy.
Most of the foods on your shopping list should be those located in the perimeter of the store like fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and poultry and dairy and eggs.
In the interior sections, you can find healthy foods like beans and legumes, canned salmon, sardines and tuna fish, whole grains like brown rice, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables, but stay away from highly-processed foods and snacks.
Meal plan before heading to the grocery store
Surprisingly, I don’t do any formal meal planning because I tend to make many of the same meals every week and I keep it real simple on weeknights.
But some of my friends swear by it and experts say it can help you save a lot of money and cut down on food waste—a good thing since an average family of four in the U.S. wastes about 25 percent of the food they buy, costing as much as $2,200 a year!
Whether you use a meal planning app or old fashioned pen and paper, make a list of your meals for the week, including breakfasts, school lunches, dinners and snacks.
Also, look through new recipes you’ve saved to make sure you have all of the ingredients you’ll need.
Buy foods in bulk
Whether you’re a member of Costco or shop the bulk bins at Whole Foods, buying foods in bulk can help you save money at the grocery store.
Here are some great foods to buy in bulk:
- Beans and legumes
- Dried fruit
- Herbs and spices
- Olive oil and coconut oil
Stick with budget meals
When you do your meal planning, stick with meal ideas and recipes that have minimal ingredients and use cheap, healthy foods.
Also, think about ways to stretch your food dollars. For example, a large container of spinach can be used for morning smoothies and for a frittata for dinner. Or a package of beans can be transformed into a veggie chili or added to tacos.
Go to the grocery store on these days
Although the weekends can be busy with errands, sports and family obligations, it’s also a great time to head to the supermarket and do some meal prep or batch cooking when you get home.
The best day of the week to save money at the grocery store however, is Wednesday, when many stores come out with new deals. According to a survey by cash back app Ibotta, hump day is also the best day to save money on produce.
Make more plant-based meals
Getting more plant-based foods into your family’s diet is one of the best things you can do for their health.
Plant-based foods are packed with the nutrition kids need for their growth and development. Most plant-based foods also have filling fiber to satisfy their hunger and prevent constipation. Recent studies show plant-based diets are also linked with a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity.
Fortunately, plant-based foods are also more affordable than meat, poultry and fish, especially organic. Foods like black beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, tempeh, rice, quinoa, and farro are versatile, and can be used in several types of meals and help to stretch your food budget.
Don’t go to the grocery store hungry
Sometimes life is so hectic that the only time you have to go food shopping is right before dinner when you’re ravenous.
Yet going to the grocery store on an empty stomach means you’re not only more likely to buy junk food, but there’s a good chance you’ll also overspend.
In fact, a February 2015 study out University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management found people who were hungry spent 64% more money on (surprisingly) non-food items.
Order your groceries online
Ordering your groceries ahead of time can ensure you stick to your list and don’t make any impulse purchases.
Many stores allow you to place your order online and then either pick it up or have your groceries delivered.
Leave your credit card at home
No one carries cash anymore but if you bring it to the grocery store, it can actually help you stick to your food budget.
Unless you have a credit card that gives you cash back rewards (I love Capital One Quicksilver), it’s easy to overspend.
It may take more time, but also consider bringing a calculator to the store to make sure you stay on track.
Think twice about bringing kids to the grocery store
Bringing your kids with you is one of the best ways to encourage them to make healthy choices but if your kids are like most and are lured by clever food marketing and ask you to buy them treats every two minutes, your spending can easily get out of hand.
Fortunately, I’ve found some solutions that work.
Depending on your kids’ ages, you can set the expectation before you head into the supermarket that you’re sticking to the list because you can’t afford to buy anything extra. Or you can decide that they can pick out one treat, among a set of choices that you give them.
For younger kids, you might decide to bring a healthy snack for them to munch on or a toy to play with, or let them help you pick produce and take containers off the shelves.
Although it’s not always doable, try not to go grocery shopping during nap and meal and snack times when your kid is likely to be cranky and have a meltdown because you said “no” to sugary cereal.
Look through supermarket circulars for sales and coupons or load them onto your store app and stock up. You can also use a cash back app like Ibotta, and double your savings.
Also, shopping produce that’s in season means that it’s fresher but it may be also be a better price. Check out this helpful chart to see what’s in season all year-long.
If your supermarket has a clearance section, you may be able to find deep discounts on certain items. The key of course, is to only buy items on your list or those that you’ll use because otherwise, you’re wasting your money.
Use your store loyalty card
Many stores have loyalty reward cards which allow you to take advantage of exclusive sale prices or give you rewards points to use on future store purchases.
Buy generic instead of brand
Unless you’re a brand loyalist or there is a difference in ingredients between brand name and generic, stick with the latter which can save you a ton of money.
Think outside the grocery store
Many big box stores like Target or Walmart also carry produce, including organic, so if you’re heading there anyway, it’s a good way to save money.
Also head to your local farmer’s market where you might get a better deal on organic produce than you would at the grocery store, one report found. Try to arrive around closing time when you might be able to score discounts on produce that the farmers haven’t sold.
Have your groceries delivered
Although the fees vary depending on the service, AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry, Thrive Market, Kroger Ship and Shipt can help you avoid overspending and if you think about the cost of your time, it may be well worth it.
What are some of your favorite ways to save money at the grocery store? Let me know in the comments!