Eating well on a budget is something that many of us aspire to do. Unfortunately, figuring out what’s on sale each week and how to make your meals off of it can be exhausting. If you’ve felt defeated by this task, then you’re not alone. The good news is that there are some tips and tricks that can help you make the most out of your grocery shopping tips while still being easy on your wallet.
Tips to help you save money at the grocery store
There are several approaches that you can take when it comes to grocery shopping. The backbone of saving money when you’re grocery shopping is going into it with a plan in mind. Here are a few approaches that might work for you.
Only shop the perimeter of the store
You may have heard this one before, and there’s a lot of merit to it. Think about the layout of your typical grocery store. If you only walked around the edges of the store, what would you find? Most stores have fresh produce near the entrance of the store, and if you continue to follow that outer perimeter, you’d probably find the butcher counter, dairy, and perhaps some frozen items. In other words, most of the “healthy” items will be found in the outer perimeter of the store.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t go into the aisles throughout the center of the store. Your grains, coffees, teas, and other household essentials will be found somewhere among those aisles. But if you’re hoping to save money, it’s probably a good idea to limit your time in these aisles to avoid impulse purchases on items such as chips, candy, and other snacks that are deemed unhealthy.
Of course, a diet rich in fresh produce is ideal but we all know those items cost more than processed goods. (The curse of eating healthy!) But by shopping when foods are in season
near you means there is an abundance and local grocery stores don't have to ship in items from other states, keeping the costs down.
You can also shop at your local farmers' market, where you can find fresh fruits and vegetables straight from, well, the farm.
As much as you'd prefer fresh, frozen produce maintains much of its nutrients and can last longer. Stock on these items, especially fruits like berries and tropical fruits that can be used in smoothies.
Shop according to your meal plan
For some people, it’s easier to stay on track if they plan their meals first. By planning out your meals for the upcoming week, you’re able to identify exactly what you need from the store. If you write out a shopping list and commit to sticking to it, this can reduce the likelihood of you spending money on things that you don’t need for the week.
When planning out your meals, keep in mind what your typical day looks like. If you prefer to stick to consuming your meals during mealtimes, make sure that each meal is packed with enough protein and healthy fats to keep you satisfied until your next meal. If you like to graze or snack throughout the day, you’ll want to make sure that you plan for healthy snacks. An easy and budget-friendly snack can include fruits and veggies with nut butter, hummus, or greek yogurt dips.
When making your meal plan, you may also want to take the items that you already have into consideration. If you have apples or spinach leftovers from your last shopping trip, be sure to incorporate those ingredients into your meal plan. Doing this can help you save money and also reduce your food waste.
Shop based on sales
It may be slightly more time-consuming, but you can also prioritize the items that are on sale during your shopping trips. If you go this route, you should also make sure that you’re creating a meal plan based on the sale items. Having a refrigerator full of produce that was on sale is great, but if you don’t have a plan to use it, it can easily go bad and result in wasted money.
To start, you should look at the sales flyers for your favorite grocery stores. You can find these in your mailbox, online, or via apps such as Flipp. Most stores run sales from Sunday to Saturday, so it can be a good idea to do your shopping on Sunday for the week ahead. Sales flyers for the following week are usually released a few days in advance, leaving you time to make your meal plan.
When shopping based on sales, it’s important to leave behind the sales that don’t benefit you. As great as the BOGO sale on boxes of cereal seems it can be easy to fall into a pattern of stocking up on items that don’t align with your health goals. Purchasing “non-necessities” just because they’re on sale can eat away at your budget quickly if you’re not careful.
Yet stocking up isn't a bad thing. There are healthy items that are packaged and meant to last on shelves. Whole-grain pasta and rice, for example, can accompany many dishes, as can jar sauces and spices that you can stock up on and have readily available for when a recipe calls for it.
Stocking up on these goods at discount retailers such as Walmart or bulk sellers such as Sam's Club can also trim your grocery bill so you have a bit more cash on hand for fresh produce and items that cost a bit more.
Make a list
It has been shown that people who shop with a list and stick to it are less likely to make impulse buys. Instead of walking the aisles and randomly grabbing items, stick to a list. Go to the store specifically to pick up what you need and only what you need.
Even better? Budgeting
. Set your weekly food budget and make your list accordingly to keep from overspending.
By the way, grocery stores put their more expensive items at eye level to make it easier for you to spend more. Look to the lower shelves to find less expensive grocery items and store brands.
Buy store brand items
Chances are, you can probably find a store-brand version of most items at the grocery store. In many cases, the store brand is the same quality as the name brand items that you’re more familiar with. You can always check the ingredients list to compare store brands with name-brand items to be sure that you’re buying the same product.
Reduce your meat intake
It’s not uncommon for meat and fish purchases to take up a large portion of someone’s grocery budget. Reducing your meat intake can help you save money at the grocery store without sacrificing your health goals. In fact, reducing your meat intake may actually be better for your health goals!
Instead of buying meat, you may consider using eggs, tofu, and legumes such as beans and lentils to add protein to your meals. All of these items are relatively inexpensive and can allow you to mix things up and experiment with new recipes.
Take advantage of coupons and store rewards programs
Coupons are still relevant in today’s shopping world. On top of that, many grocery stores offer rewards programs that can give you access to sales beyond what is in the sales flyer. You can check with your favorite stores to see if it offers a rewards program. Some grocery stores offer an app where you can find and save your exclusive coupons.
There’s also an app or company for just about anything, and that includes saving money on your groceries. Some options to consider are:
The Dinner Daily
The Dinner Daily
is a company that can provide you with a customized meal plan that is based on your favorite grocery store’s weekly sales. Your meal plan is based on your dietary needs and preferences, as well as how many people you’re feeding and what your favorite grocery store is. The DInner Daily will provide you with a weekly meal plan for five dinners as well as your shopping list for the week.
This service is relatively affordable, however, you’ll still need to plan for your breakfasts, lunches, and snacks throughout the day.
is a free meal planning app that can provide you with recipes and a shopping list based on your dietary preferences. You can choose the number of servings that you want in each meal, as well as your menu type, and allergies or restrictions. If you’re just not a fan of certain ingredients or foods, you can add those as well to exclude them from your recipes. Mealime will give you a few recipes for the week, as well as your corresponding grocery list.
If you want more, you can also subscribe to Mealime Pro. A Pro subscription gives you access to all of Mealime’s recipes, as well as comprehensive nutritional information that includes calories and macronutrients. You can also set specific calorie targets for your meal plans by using the calorie filter feature.
Think of Flipp
as your free resource to all of your local sales flyers without a pile of paper sitting in your house. You can set your zip code in Flipp and view ads from most or all of your local stores. Flipp will let you know when sales flyers end and often offers a preview of the flyer for the following week available a few days ahead of time. You can browse the sales flyers in Flipp and click on the items that you’re interested in to add them to your shopping list. This can be especially useful if you’re planning to shop the sales at a few different stores in your area.
You can shop the stores you love using Checkout 51
and receive cashback when you spend. The free app allows you to take a photo of your receipt to earn cashback on groceries and everyday items. Examples include $1.00 cashback on Triscuit Crackers and $0.65 cashback on Green Giant vegetables.
The app is free on Apple and Android and releases new deals every Thursday (just in time for weekend grocery runs). You can browse the list, tap redeem then upload your receipt and Checkout 51 credits your account every time you hit $20 in cashback rewards.
Perhaps the leader in coupons in the site with coupons in its name. From food to healthcare and household items and personal care, Coupons.com
offers both digital and printable coupons. Search hundreds of items before you hit the stores with recent deals like $1.25 off Silk Oatmilk and $1.00 off Sargento cheese helping you save.
Coupons.com also offers store coupons and includes shops near you like Target, Kroger, Giant, and Costco.
The costs of saving
The biggest cost of saving money is probably your time. It might seem daunting at first to plan out your meals and walk into the grocery store with a plan, but it truly is the best way to save money on groceries. As time goes on, you’ll learn what does and doesn’t work for you, and the process will get easier and less time-consuming.
To ensure that you’re getting the most out of your savings, you can:
- Make sure that you’re enrolled in all of the loyalty programs available to you.
- Only buy in bulk if the cost savings are there and you’re sure you need all of it.
- Keep track of what items you tend to eat regularly.
- Try to stick to simple recipes, and only buy items if you know you’re going to be able to use them up. For example, don’t buy bunches of fresh basil and parsley for one meal only to let the rest of it waste in the refrigerator.
The bottom line
It might sound difficult, but it can be easy to get into the habit of saving money at the grocery store without sacrificing your health. By sticking to a few basic principles and methods, you can simplify your grocery store trips and ensure that you’re eating healthy all week long.
When embarking on this mission, it’s important to give yourself patience. It’s okay to feel frustrated about making meal plans and trying to stick to a budget. Remember that this, like most other things, is a learning process. As time goes on, you’ll get to know which methods work best for you and what food you need to feel satisfied throughout the day. If the plan you start with doesn’t work out for you, it’s okay to try something else to help you meet your goals.