50 easy ways to save on grocery shopping

Hanna Horvath Headshot


Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Managing Editor & Certified Financial Planner™

Hanna Horvath, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and former managing editor at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in NBC News, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, CNBC, Best Company, and HerMoney.

Published|7 min read

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There’s a long list of reasons why you should get groceries for your meals instead of eating out or ordering in. While it’s typically less expensive than eating out for every meal, grocery shopping isn’t cheap, especially if you are buying for more than one.

With a little bit of extra planning, you can cut down on your grocery budget. These tips require little effort and, when combined, can maximize your savings each month. Before you head to the grocery store, make sure to check out this list of easy ways to save.

1. Make a plan

Write out the meals you plan to cook that week, and then make a detailed shopping list with each item and how much of it you need. Planning ahead keeps you from forgetting an item and having to make an additional trip.

2. Scan your fridge ...

Give your pantry and fridge a once-over before you head out — you’ll avoid buying items you already have on hand.

3. ... & use up what you already have

So you don’t have lots of leftover food filling up your kitchen.

4. Have a grocery budget

Groceries should be a line item on anyone’s monthly budget. Don't have one? This spreadsheet can help.

5. Go cash only

Now that you have your budget, bring that amount in cash to the store. This can help you stick to your plan.

6. Make food for less

You don’t have to give up your favorite comfort foods to save — try this $3 pasta dish or 25-cent cookie recipe.

7. Use cash back apps

There are several apps that offer rewards for purchasing specific brands or food items. For example, all you have to do with Ibotta is upload a photo of your receipt into the app to receive cash back.

8. Join loyalty rewards programs

Some grocery store chains offer a rewards program for frequent customers, giving special discounts to members. It’s typically free to join.

9. Use a rewards card

In addition to the cash-back apps and loyalty programs, you can earn more points with certain credit cards that offer a certain number of points per dollar spent on groceries.

10. Clip coupons

Check out sites like Livingsocial or Groupon for online coupons before you head to the store. Don't have time? Here are some ways to skip the coupons and still save on healthy food.

11. Bring a calculator

Or use the one on your phone. Figuring out unit prices and sticking to a budget takes math — and adding it up on a calculator is easier than doing it in your head.

12. Watch out for seasonal deals

For example, after Halloween or Easter, you can get great deals on candy.

13. Don’t buy everything at one store

The spot where you buy your meat may not offer the best deals on vegetables. Make sure you're comparing prices to get the best deal.

14. Shop online

While most of your produce will come from a local grocery store, consider shopping for pantry and frozen items online. You can compare pricing between sites and can often get free shipping at retailers like Amazon. Speaking of Amazon...

15. Take advantage of Amazon Prime

Not only do you get next-day shipping, Prime members get discounts at Whole Foods.

16. Know when to buy in bulk

In general, stuff is cheaper on a per-unit basis if you buy more of it — but it's not always cost-effective to buy in bulk. Here's a guide to which items you should buy together and which ones you should buy individually.

17. Shop at discount chains

You can expect to find basics at low prices — but their selection may be limited (and probably not the most healthy). Check out this guide to grocery shopping at a dollar store.

18.Take advantage of organizational discounts

Some organizations, like AARP, offer member discounts on groceries, as well as other expenses, like insurance and travel.

19. Sign up for newsletter exclusives

Snag deals on groceries without ever leaving home — most major chains have their own regular newsletter full of specials and coupons. Want more great things in your inbox? The Policygenius newsletter sends the one money thing you need to do each week. Sign up here.

20. Stop by your local farmers market

You may be able to land a deal on fresh and local produce. Just make sure you do your homework before you go — here are some ways to save at a farmers market.

21. Consider meal kits

These get you exactly what you need and prevent you from picking up other tempting items. Plus, HelloFresh offers Policygenius readers $20 off each of the first three boxes for a total of a $60 savings.

22. Walk to the store

Not only will walking help you cut back on gas and other car-related expenses, it'll help you limit yourself to buying only what you can carry.

23. Bring your own bags

Some stores offer a small savings — like 10 cents per bag at Whole Foods — if you bring your own bag. This may not look like much on an indivdual bill, but it adds up.

24. Eat something before

This is a common tip. Going hungry increases your chances of impulse buying, which will drive up your grocery bill.

25. Use a smaller cart

The smaller the cart, the quicker it will fill up and send you to the checkout line.

26. Make sure that deal is actually a deal

While there are some grocery deals that save you money, there are some designed to get you to buy more than you would have otherwise. So next time you see the three for $20 deal, make sure it's really the best buy.

27. Consider generic over brand-name

While brand-name products may be what you know, opting for generic could ultimately save you some money.

28. Know when to buy organic

The Environmental Working Group has a list that outlines conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables that you don't have to buy organic.

29. Split the cost with your roommates

If you're sharing food with others, share the bill too.

30. Stick to the perimeter

The perimeter is home to fresh veggies, dairy and even time-saving staples like rotisserie chicken. Sure, you may have to go down the pasta or bulk aisles to pick up some essentials, but the perimeter should be where you spend most of your time.

31. Don’t fall for product displays

If you’re drawn to a product display, remind yourself that it’s because the display was designed to draw you in. Resist it.

32. Look down

When you’re shopping for groceries, the brands placed at eye-level are generally the most expensive. Look at the lower shelves for deals.

33. Skip the obscure spices

Some recipes may call for an exotic spice that you will never use again — save a few bucks by substituting pricey ingredients with inexpensive ones, or with items you already have.

34. ... & grated cheese ...

Grated cheese is generally more expensive per pound than a block of cheese.

35. ... & other pre-cut items ...

Pre-cut fruits and veggies may be more convenient, but that convenience comes with a higher price.

36. ... & pricey cuts of meat ...

While it’s tempting to get that prime cut of Kobe beef, it’ll also cost you. Here are some ways to save on meat.

37. ... & seafood ...

Prefer fish to beef? Here are some guidelines on how you can save on seafood.

38. Stick with in-season items

In-season fruits and veggies usually come with a lower cost, as they're more readily accessible.

39. Buy frozen

If something is out of season, a frozen or canned option may be the better way to go to help your wallet. Just make sure you're aware of sodium levels.

40. Don't overspend on eggs

Not everyone has their own chicken coop or neighbors with chickens. Instead, check out these easy ways to save on eggs.

41. Don't overlook less than perfect items

If you don't mind if your item is past its prime or the can of soup is dented, you may be able to get these products for less.

42. Watch the cash register

Cashiers rushing to deal with a huge line can make mistakes, and they’re not always in your favor. Make sure they’re ringing you up for what you’re really buying.

43. Avoid last minute purchases

Resist those impulse items at the register, like candy, tabloids and gum.

44. Skip bottled water

Pick up a reusable bottle and refill it instead of buying bottled water at the store. Here are some other ways to save on drinking water.

45. Get a window plant

Instead of picking up a small bunch of herbs, get a plant that will produce the cilantro or mint you need. Best of all, you'll know it's fresh when you need it.

46. Limit luxury items ...

Skip the beer and wine aisle and you’ll shave more than just a few bucks off your bill. Bonus: No extremely heavy six-pack weighing down your grocery bags on the way home.

47. ... & treats

If you're in the mood for some cake or pastries, get the ingredients to make them yourself. This is usally cheaper than buying treats off the shelf.

48. Let the samples guide you

Before you try an entire box of a new item, ask for a sample. This way, you won't spend on something you don't like.

49. Invest in good storage

The less food you waste, the more you save.

50. Show your kids

If you bring the little ones along, you can teach them about cost-effective shopping habits — and keep yourself on the right track at the same time. Want more ideas about how to teach your kids good money habits? Here are 50 fun ways.

The holidays are coming up and that means holiday grocery shopping. Don't let this ruin your budget — check out these 50 things that can make your holidays more affordable.

Image: Tassii

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