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Are you wondering how to save money on groceries? The cost of food is one of the largest hits to our budget. Imagine if you could shave off a couple hundred dollars each month from your grocery bill. You could invest that money for your retirement, add that to a vacation fund, pay off debt quicker, whatever you chose. In a future article we will review how much money and time could be saved by eating at home and planning ahead. That is just the tip of the iceberg though. Knowing how to save money on groceries can have a large impact to your bottom line too.
For a family of 4 we are now spending on average $21.50 a day on food. That works out to about $1.80 per meal per person. We were not always so thrifty when it came to grocery shopping or about not wasting food. Between the food we threw out and the extra money we spent on groceries not on sale, we probably spent at least $5 more per day; $3 on our protein for dinner and $2 for food we tossed. That’s $150 a month or $1,800 a year! It’s amazing how quickly a few dollars a day adds up over a year.
Simple Steps to Save Money on Groceries
- Identify foods that are essential for your family and start researching where you can buy them for the best possible price, then stock up!
- Consider substitutions on grocery items that aren’t on sale
- Look into some of the Grocery Saving apps available
Save Money on Every Day Food Essentials
Consider the items you buy the most for your household. Learning to stock up on these items in bulk or when they are on sale or just by buying them at the “right” grocery store can make a profound impact on your bottom line. For example: chicken thighs are a staple in our home. Chicken thighs sell for $3.49 per pound at the well-known grocery store down the street. Occasionally, they go on sale for $2.49 per pound. That would be the stock up price except if I go to the lesser known grocery store in the opposite direction I can usually buy the same brand of chicken things for only $1.99 per pound (not even on sale).
For our family of 4, we need 3 pounds of chicken thighs each time we cook. This makes dinner for 4 people and lunch leftovers for 2 people. This means we could save $4.50 per lunch/dinner combo by shopping at the cheaper grocery store. We cook a lunch/dinner combo with chicken thighs at least twice a week, so we usually buy 6 pounds of chicken thighs per week. This means in one year we could save $468 ($4.50 per lunch/dinner combo x 2 days x 52 weeks). That is only one item of multiple grocery items my family buys per week. Imagine the savings possibilities if you applied this to all your groceries. While staples across households may vary, the cost savings from shopping wisely is clear.
Save Money on Those Non-Essential Food Items in Your Home
Sure, you could clip coupons from the newspaper or print them out from coupons.com but let’s be real, that is time consuming and I’m trying to save time. I’m not saying there isn’t value in coupons as I do use them from time to time myself but I’m not going to invest too much effort in it. The cost saving to time spent ratio isn’t worth it for me.
Fruits and Veggies
One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries is through buying fresh fruits and veggies when they’re in season or at a lesser known grocery store in the area. For some reason, the larger grocery stores often have higher prices on their produce. Off season, I can usually get a small carton of strawberries for $2.50. When they’re on sale they sell for as little as $1.00. A 5-pound bag of potatoes at the larger grocery store sells for $5 but that same bag only sells for $3 at the lesser known grocery store.
Fruits and veggies can add up quick if you aren’t making smart decisions when you buy them. Try not to buy them unless you’re getting a good deal and plan your meals around them. It’s pretty easy to swap out baked potatoes for sautéed asparagus as a side for dinner one night.
Weekly Ads for Groceries
Similar to the previous point, you can save a fair amount of money by flipping through the weekly sales ad for the stores near you and planning your meals for the week around what is on sale. You could make yourself crazy by going to every grocery store near you each week, but the extra $5 savings you might get by going to all of them isn’t worth the extra gas or time. I try to limit my trips to the grocery store to two per week and go to where the deals are the best that week.
I always start by looking at what proteins and beer are on sale as those items seem to cost us the most. We like to make chili (in the winter) or tacos using ground turkey. 1 pound of ground turkey can cost $5.29, but on sale it’s $3.50. In the winter months, we also like cooking chuck roast in the crock pot. A pound of chuck roast goes for $4.99, but on sale it can be as low as $2.49/pound.
Shopping Warehouse Stores for Groceries
For those with large families, buying in bulk at a warehouse grocery store is a great idea. We save time and money by stocking up on staples there. The ground turkey we use for our chili or tacos can be bought for slightly less than $7 for 2 pounds – we just have to buy 4 pounds at a time instead of 2. This is great as I don’t have to check the sales ad each week at the local grocery store to get a good deal on it.
We can consistently buy milk and eggs at the warehouse grocery store for the sale price our local grocery store sells them at. Once in a blue moon the local grocery store does have a better price than the warehouse grocery store, so it can’t hurt to do the math and figure out what that price is. In general, this saves me time when flipping through the weekly sales ad as I don’t look at those unless they are front and center in the ad and clearly reflect a better price then the warehouse grocery store.
Cash Back Apps on Groceries
There are some cool apps you can put on your phone that help save you money on groceries. There are many to choose from, but the general idea is each app has a list of items you can find at most grocery stores that you can earn cash back on and redeem for gift cards or possibly a check. It’s the modern day version of coupon clipping without the paper! I have tried many of these apps and will go into greater detail on my experience with them in a future article.
The cash back app I have used the longest and works the best for me is Ibotta. They have a large variety of rebate options that expand beyond food and they have some great bonus rewards when you redeem “X” number of rebates in a certain period of time. I’ve saved about $600 on items I’d buy with or without a rebate in the last 2.5 years I’ve been using it.
When we started evaluating how much money we used to spend on groceries, it took some time to figure out where we could save. It didn’t happen over night and is still evolving. The key is to take one day at a time and continue educating yourself. Use the simple steps at the beginning of the article to get started. Don’t delay. Subscribe here to continue learning new ways to save money and time.