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Follow this guide to learn how to save money on groceries to feed your family – and your finances.
You have to eat to live and you have to pay to eat. It’s a vicious, hungry cycle. If you’re wondering how to save money on groceries without losing too much of your free time, this guide can help. Shows about extreme couponing make it seem like a full-time job, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Start by getting organized and setting a realistic budget and the rest of these steps will fall into place.
Step 1: Create a monthly budget.
Your first step is mapping out exactly how much you want to spend on groceries each month.
Don’t forget to factor in things like cleaning supplies and toiletries – groceries aren’t limited to food. Debt.com offers a range of budgeting resources, so you can make a budget that works for you. The 50/30/20 budget helps you split up your income efficiently to cover your needs, wants, and savings. Tiller, a budget spreadsheet system, can also make it easier to plan out your spending.
Find a budgeting tool that minimizes the hassle of managing your money, so it’s easier to stick with planning and saving.
Add some room for indulgences into your budget. If you plan to be as bare-bones as possible, you could get frustrated and give up more easily. Rewarding yourself is a responsible part of budgeting!
Estimated Time: 1-2 hours
Step 2: Plan your shopping trips around grocery store sale schedules.
Grocery stores run on specific shipment and sale schedules that you can track.
This means that you can anticipate sales before they happen and only stock up on something when you know you’ll get the best deals. For example, every time the Super Bowl rolls around, there are great specials on frozen foods and snacks. After Thanksgiving, you can stock up on all the hearty ingredients that go on sale. Love chocolate? Post-Valentine’s Day sales will be perfect for you.
This Six Dollar Family blog explains the best times to shop for different items throughout the year.
Estimated Time: 15 minutes
Step 3: Compare prices and check out grocery store ads.
It may be more convenient to go to only one grocery store, but it can result in better prices if you shop around.
Different stores also have sales at varying times, so check out their weekly ads. Don’t forget about gas prices, though. If a store 15 miles away has slightly lower prices, the cost to get there may mean it isn’t worth it.
BeFrugal has a long list of stores with links to their weekly ads. Look for stores near you and find out what they have on sale.
Estimated time: 1-2 hours
Step 4: Find coupons for the products you want.
Online coupon sites make it especially easy to get the products you need at lower prices.
Search the web for the type of product you want followed by the word “coupon” and thousands of results will come back. Keep your eyes open for products you may need to replace soon or you’ve avoided before because of their prices. You should also take a look at our Coupon Center to find coupons that help save you extra money on things you normally purchase. Or, use a money-saving app like Rakuten.
Finding coupons before you make your list helps you be more efficient about when you buy things you need. For example, you may not be out of your favorite laundry detergent yet, but a $1-off coupon that expires next week means you should buy it now for the best deal.
Estimated time: 2-3 hours
Step 5: Make a list and stick to it.
Creating a list is one of the most important steps.
Only write down what you know you will use, otherwise you could end up losing money on food you never eat. Grocery stores are designed to be tempting. It can be difficult to resist picking out unnecessary foods from those beautiful displays of new products, freshly made sweets, and expensive pre-packaged meals. Put on your grocery shopping blinders when you’re at the store and stay focused on getting only what you need.
A great way to shop and save is to invest in frozen and canned foods. They last much longer and are very versatile ingredients, not to mention they’re usually cheaper. Frozen vegetables also retain more nutrients.
Estimated time: 25 minutes
Step 6: Check the prices again at the store.
Not only should you double check the prices for the brands you have on your list, but you should also keep an eye out for comparable items at lower prices.
In addition, there could be in-store sales that you missed when doing research online and in weekly ads. This is also your chance to take advantage of stores that have price-matching programs. Some stores, including Walmart and Target, will match lower prices on qualifying products. Read more about the programs here.
At most stores, there is a section of the price sticker on the shelves that lists an item’s price per ounce. This price is a better indicator of the value of the product. For example, you may think that a $4 jar of tomato sauce is better for your budget than a $5 jar, but because of differing sizes, the $5 jar may have a better price per ounce.
Estimated Time: 1-2 hours
Step 7: Ensure that everything checks out correctly.
Grocery shopping can be exhausting, but don’t think getting to the checkout line means you can relax.
Keep an eye on every price as it’s being rung up. A sale may not register correctly or there may be price discrepancies that you were unaware of. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you think something is wrong.
Don’t forget to use any of your paper or electronic coupons!
Estimated Time: 5 minutes
Step 8: Store your groceries properly.
Learning how to properly store things is as much a part of how to save money on groceries as tracking sales.
Even if you’re a master at couponing, all that work is worth nothing if your purchases go bad in just a few days. Make your food lasts longer by reading up on how to store it the right way (and when to throw it out).
Estimated Time: 5-10 minutes
Bonus: Consider meal planning and meal prepping.
Planning out your meals and prepping them all at once can save you time and money.
Making a weekly menu plan for all your meals means you will know exactly how you are going to use all of your grocery store purchases. You can’t have waste if you have a plan for everything! Meal planning and prepping also enables you to be prepared for situations where you are in a rush. If you wake up late, you already have some overnight oats stashed in the fridge. If you need a quick dinner, you already have the recipe planned out and the ingredients chopped. Getting started will take some adjusting because of the time it takes to plan, but if you get used to it, it’s worth it.
The Budget Mom has a meal planning freezer challenge that can help you jump right into this money-saving hack.
Published by Debt.com, LLC