My Tips to Cut Costs On Groceries

posted by Andrea | 04/28/2012

Even though I am most definitely NOT a coupon blog — I still get lots and lots of questions about how I’m able to get such good deals on groceries.

{NOTE — this is an OLD picture from when I was 6 months pregnant… don’t worry, I’m not pregnant now!}

And while I probably will never go into meticulous detail about how and where I get all my coupons (I’m not a coupon blog for a reason!), here are a few things I do every week that help me save a bunch and keep our grocery budget to around $40 or less per week for 3 adults and one baby (and yes, that includes paper products, cleaning supplies, toiletries, baby items, etc.)

I Plan Ahead

Almost every Sunday afternoon, I take about 2 hours to plan. I clip my coupons, look through the sales ads, make a list, and create our weekly meal plans. This is something I actually do enjoy doing; PLUS it saves us a lot of money on our groceries each week — especially since I try to plan our meals around the food that’s on sale that week.

Without a plan (and will power to stick to your list), you will most definitely spend more!

I Make a Minimum Number of Shopping Trips

I rarely go to the store more than once a week, and sometimes I try to only shop every other week. Often, I’ll make one big shopping trip each month (and use 20% off coupons we get with our credit card) and then just get a few perishable items during my weekly shopping trips.

Obviously, I need to have a plan (see above) in order to make monthly shopping work — but I save a lot of money with this method because if I’m always stopping by the store to get something I forgot, I inevitably purchase something else too.

I’m Not Brand Loyal

I just buy whatever brand is the cheapest — sometimes that’s the store brand; other times, it’s a national brand on sale with coupons and a rebate.

I Shop the Outside of the Store

Believe it or not, you can save money just by shopping the outside aisles of the store! If your grocery stores are anything like ours, you’ll notice that all the packaged, processed, and pricier foods are on the inside aisles… while the produce, dairy, meats, and breads are usually in the exterior aisles.

Not only will this “trick” save you money and calories, it should also save you a lot of time in the store :)

I Question Every Purchase

Sometimes I just want to buy something because it’s on sale… but I don’t really need to buy it (can you relate!!) But I can usually talk myself out of it by remembering that spending just an extra $3 or $4 every shopping trip can really add up over time.

However, I do have to be careful with this because sometimes I get too carried away with my money-saving endeavors and will talk myself out of something so ridiculous — like the other week when I really wanted a Snickers bar. I had a coupon the would bring the price down to only $0.35, but even at such a cheap price, I stood there in a mental quandary, trying rationalize the situation! I knew I didn’t NEED the Snickers bar, but I wanted it.

I did end up making the purchase and later realized how ridiculous it was for me to question a one-time $0.35 purchase!

I Check My Receipt

You’d be surprised how often the cashier will mess up, mis-scan something, scan something twice, or forget to scan a coupon. I always try to watch the screen when they’re scanning everything to make sure I’m not being charged more than I should.

Then, after they hand me the receipt, I take another 2 minutes to check my receipt while I’m still in the store. I quickly scan down over the list of prices to make sure I was charged the correct amount. One time I saved $12 in a single shopping trip by checking my receipt before I left the store!

I Cook from Scratch and Can my own Produce

I’m sure many of you already know this, but cooking from scratch is usually a lot cheaper than buying packaged items – especially if you make simple meals like we do!

We rarely eat out, we pack all our own lunches, and we have a freezer and pantry stuffed full with meals, snacks and other baked goods.

I also can all my own jam, peaches, pears, apple sauce, tomatoes, salsa, etc. — which means I don’t have to buy those products all year long.

I Make My Own…

I make almost all of my own cleaning supplies, my own face wash, my own hair wash and rinse; and we use washable rags and napkins most of the time. While I’m most definitely not a huge environmentalist, I do these things because they are so simple and they save us tons of money on our grocery bill!

I’m Patient

Anyone who knows me “in real life” is probably laughing right now because patience is definitely NOT one of my gifts! However, when it comes to grocery shopping and saving money, I have all the patience in the world!

I’ll go without ice-cream or other treats for months until they hit rock-bottom prices and then I’ll stock up. I’ll get creative and cook from our pantry and freezer for an entire week until a certain type of meat goes on sale and then I’ll stock up again.

I’m not an amazing chef, but I’ve come up with some pretty creative (and delicious) combinations of food these past few years :)

So these are a few ways I save even more on our groceries every week; I’d love to know if you have any other tips. 

What are your best money-saving grocery tips?

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27 comments

  1. Thrifty Mom in Boise

    04/28/2012

    I agree with a lot of your tips. I shop the perimeter and only go down a select few aisles for canned goods and baking products. I stay out of the cookie aisle and bakery altogether. Limiting my visits, shopping with a list, having a plan are key.

    I also track my spending on a spreadsheet so I know where I’m at and how much $ is left to work with. This really helps me so I don’t go over. We spend $125 per month or less for a family of three for food. $25 per month or less (usually less) on non-food items.

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  2. ivy miller

    04/28/2012

    I try and buy a meat bundle once a month and just shop for veg and milk weekly. i will also stock up on frozen veggies when they are on sale.
    Does anyone have tips for keeping fresh produce fresh longer… I hate when something goes bad.

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    Lisa @EarlyLitMama Reply:

    I’ve got two tricks for produce. I wash everything I buy with Eat Cleaner spray. (I know there’s conflicting evidence about food washes, but it works for me) and then refrigerate if possible.

    I also suggest going to your local farmer’s market-fruit and veg is freshest there, and only buy what you are going to use within the week.

    I’ve also heard mixed reviews on Debbie Meyer’s greenbags and there’s some sort of plasticware that works on the same premise (I’ve seen it on QVC)

    I hope this helps with your produce problems! :)

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    Mara @ Super Savings Reply:

    Hi Ivy,
    I tried “produce bags” and they really seemed to help! I put half of my bananas in a bag, and left the other half on the counter…..the ones in the bag started turning brown about a week after the counter ones did.

    Mine were free from Menards (after rebate – and often are), but I’ve also seen them at Dollar Tree for $1. Hope that helps! =)

    ~ Mara

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  3. Lisa @EarlyLitMama

    04/28/2012

    The biggest tip I have is to find the grocery store with the best prices in the area–across the board, so if you have to get something that isn’t on sale and you don’t have a coupon for, you’re still getting the best price. For me that’s my local Meijer as well. I also stalk the grocery store (or you can ask your store manager) for when manager’s specials are marked. I shop those days and stock up-particularly on meat (which seems to be astronomically priced these days) that I freeze. And sometimes fruit and veggies as well. A lot of people think that shopping the markdown racks is gross, the food is expired, etc. BUT the store couldn’t sell it if it was bad, so you might as well save yourself some money!

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  4. Lyn

    04/28/2012

    Something that I’m guilty of is letting things like produce, etc. go bad before I get to them. Sometimes it can’t be helped if I’m not feeling well with my health issues. I’m working on this, especially with my husband being unemployed since the last few weeks. It’s really important that we don’t waste.

    So my tip would be to use up what you have – and don’t go shopping just for the sake of it. More times than not, you’ll walk out of the store with more things than you wanted to buy. Also, if your significant other or someone else in the household is really good at shopping and not straying, send them with a list. Saves money…I do this sometimes with my husband because I know he’ll get just what’s on the list (whereas I’m sometimes tempted by good deals). And I’ve taught him the basics of using coupons and looking for the lowest priced brands/items.

    I know you are not a coupon blog, but I would like to say that I really appreciate you sharing your tips. They are helpful! Do you have any ideas for low-cost meals? I’m trying to make sure I stretch everything, including meats (we hardly ever eat whole pieces of meat at a meal). I was always frugal before and I’ll be even more frugal now. :)

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    Ann Reply:

    Soup stretches meat and veggies pretty far!

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  5. Dianne@Baking4Six

    04/28/2012

    What credit card company sends out 20% off coupons??.. that would definitely be a $$ saver for our family of 6 :) thx

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    Shelley Reply:

    Dianne, I believe the card she is referring to is a Meijer credit card. Once you spend a certain amount, a coupon is sent with your bill.

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    Dianne@Baking4Six Reply:

    Thank you Shelley… probably another reason people seem to like shopping at Meijer. – We don’t have Meijer stores in Ca, or at least not in Northern California.

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    Teresa Reply:

    I believe it is a Meijer Credit Card–My Mom in Law does the same thing :)

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  6. Jo

    04/29/2012

    The coupon thing we just don’t have to the extent you do in the US (I’m in the UK). You might find a coupon with ten pence off a product that’s over a £1 to buy, but it would be really hard to find enough to save even as much as £5 off a weekly shop. Like you, I cook from scratch, I freeze a lot of stuff, so if meat is on offer, I buy and freeze it, and I don’t over buy fruit and veg – I only buy what I know we will eat.

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  7. Alyssa

    04/29/2012

    My biggest lesson to learn is to only buy what is on my list. Not always the easiest thing to do. And I only use cash, carry a calculator and always have pen! I am excited to try your cleaners and hair products!!!

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  8. jerilyn

    04/29/2012

    can’t really add anything to the list as lately I’m doing anything but saving money! Currently it’s take all 3 little children to the store and try to get out alive. *sigh*

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  9. Jenny

    04/29/2012

    When you buy meat in bulk, what’s the best way to freeze it to preserve it from freezer burn-I have had problems in the past so avoid freezing meat but would love suggestions.

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  10. Jessica @ Budget For Health

    04/30/2012

    Making a grocery list definitely keeps me from spontaneous purchases. I spend a few extra minutes figuring out which product and size is the cheapest per ounce; it can really add up! I should start checking my receipt- I’ve caught the cashier a few times when they ring up the wrong type of produce that was $1 per lb instead of $0.80 for the kind on sale.

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  11. Mary B

    04/30/2012

    Love this list :) We are 5 of us with ages from 10-16 plus 2 adults. I plan 2 weeks of meals and shop every other week. On the off week its just to get milk, bread, produce etc. and maybe a meat that is on sale that I’ll use for the next meal plan. Currently we spend about 150.00 a week on groceries, paper products etc. We don’t eat out (seriously that is at least 50.00 for the 5 of us) and all lunches are packed.

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  12. Kristen @ Joyfullythriving

    04/30/2012

    I’m a grocery-geek, too, in that it is fun for me to cut coupons, plan meals, and go shopping – to save money! My biggest type is to know which stores double and triple coupons, and how to best stack coupons. Also, while I don’t necessarily like doing separate transactions, I will do so on the occasion that there are great promotions ongoing. Great tips, Andrea, as always!

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  13. Katie

    05/01/2012

    I love your simple, cheap recipes! Please post more!

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  14. Sheri

    05/05/2012

    I agree with your tip of canning. I tried canning for the first time last year and fell in love. I started, on purpose, with jam and salsa as that tends to be the items that are more expensive (vs. fruit and pickles). This year I am going to try the fruit and pickles along with the salsa and jam. I am also flirting with canning pie filling.

    Love the tips. It gets me thinking again about how I spend my food allowance. Not sure if I will get to $40, but I get better with each tip.

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  15. Andrea

    05/08/2012

    Found your blog via pinterest, but sad that I can’t pin other blog posts you’ve written. You have lots of ideas I’d like to remember, but they’ll be lost to me without pinterest. Bummed.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Hmmm… why wouldn’t you be able to pin anything else on my site? All of my posts are “pinned” quite often, and I’ve even made it easy by putting a “pin” button at the bottom of every post. Does that button not work for you?

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  16. Heather

    05/14/2012

    Time saver – you don’t need to spend your time doing the store-sale-coupon-matchups. There are lots of websites that do this for you and won’t cost you anything. My local store is Publix and my favorite site is iheartpublix.com. The sale list with matchups is posted every Monday for the sale that starts on the following Thursday. The site also lists non-insert coupons and the applicable competitor coupons that matchup to each sale item. Check the web for a site like this for your favorite stores! Huge time saver which is a must if you have little ones AND a full-time job.

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  17. Kristen

    05/16/2012

    I am just thinking of getting into couponing, but don’t have a lot of time to commit to it. I am honestly a bit overwhelmed by the process.
    Are there one or two tips, resources or websites that would be the best use of my time to help me?
    Also, would Meijer really be cheaper than Aldi with or without coupons?
    I appreciate any input as a coupon “newbie” :)

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  18. Angie Potts

    05/22/2012

    Just found your site and love it! I am really confused though, how to get things for free or so cheap at the store. Have always used coupons and am baffled. I am in Michigan too and found most stores don’t let you use more than one type of coupon per product. Could you please explain a bit if you get the chance how this can be done. I would love to save even more as groceries take up a huge chunk of the budget. Thanks! Love your home and Nora is adorable!
    Angie

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  19. grace genta

    07/07/2012

    Ms. Andrea, I’ve just found your site, and start to love it… I wish I could participate in some promos… LOL…

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  20. Olga

    09/20/2013

    Wow! I can’t even imagine spending so little on groceries!
    I spend about $20 at the farmer’s market every week, that’s only for fruit and vegetables, not including dairy, meat or dry goods. That’s how much I spent for just my husband and I, not we have my brother staying with us and my sister visiting, so it’s somewhat more. I make all our food from scratch, do freezer cooking, some canning too and try to plan my meals based on what’s on sale, but I can’t even fathom how it would be possible to cut the grocery bill that much. Good for you!

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