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How to Save on Groceries

With some planning, you can lower your grocery bill without sacrificing the things you and your family love.

Written by Linda Childers / June 2, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Inflation has hit just about every aspect of our lives, including our food bills.
  • The good news is, there are so many more ways to save than clipping coupons.
  • Being strategic about where you shop is one route to take.
  • Adjusting your meals here and there and making some substitutions can help, too.

If you’ve been getting sticker shock at the grocery store, you’re not alone. The Consumer Price Index, a measure of prices for goods and services, hit its highest rate in March, increasing 8.5% over the past year, the highest rate in over 40 years.[1] And that includes food.

While all food items tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics were more expensive this year than last year, meat, eggs, and soup prices saw the widest gap.[2]

Looking for ways to lower your food budget without sacrificing quality?

Annie Hanson, a money expert and financial coach with Mindfully Money, recommends making at least one big change to your shopping habits.

“Pick something that’s easy to implement and has a big impact, such as shopping at a less expensive grocery store, switching to store brands, or even looking at weekly store ads to determine what’s on sale,” Hanson says.

Read on to learn more strategies to help you save on groceries and never pay full price again.

Plan your meals around sales

“Many people make their meal plans before they go grocery shopping which often means they purchase items at full price,” Hanson says. “Instead, I recommend looking at what’s on sale and then making your meal plan using those items.”

Hanson also recommends looking at how you can use items on sale to make multiple meals.

“A bag of lettuce might make salad for several dinners and the leftover rotisserie chicken could be used in soup, quesadillas or sandwiches,” she says. “You can make a huge batch of soup or spaghetti sauce and have leftovers or freeze it for another meal. The more people in your family, the more economical it is to make your own meals.”

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Make small changes

“One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to save on groceries is thinking they have to make a lot of major changes all at once or go from eating whatever they want to eating rice and beans,” Hanson says. “Making a lot of drastic changes all at once usually isn’t sustainable, because it can seem overwhelming.”

Instead, Hanson recommends starting with small incremental changes.

“Rather than having meat at every meal, go to having one or two meals a week without meat, or instead of eating out three times a week, reduce it to one or two nights,” she says. “If you're used to grabbing takeout from a restaurant, consider getting premade food at a grocery store instead. These small changes can add up over time to big savings.”

You can also try substitutions. Hanson says she uses to save on meat is to substitute mushrooms for all or some of the ground beef in recipes.

Download coupons

The days of clipping coupons are long gone. You can access digital coupons on free apps including Rakuten, Coupons.com, Ibotta, Fetch Rewards and Swagbucks. These savings apps offer shopping discounts as well as cash back when you purchase groceries at your favorite stores.

Shop big-box stores

When you think of grocery shopping, Target and Walmart might not be the first places that come to mind, yet both offer discounted prices on many items. In addition, Target offers a free rewards program, Target Circle, where you receive 1% back on most purchases, and its app alerts customers to deals on thousands of items.

Purchasing Target Owned Brand Items instead of name brand items can also save you money. For example, a 12-count of Target’s own Favorite Day vanilla ice-cream sandwiches costs $2.69, while a 6-count of Klondike vanilla ice cream sandwiches costs $3.99.

If you’re not happy with a Target Owned Brand item, you can return it within one year, with a receipt, for an exchange or refund.

Hit warehouse stores, too

Buying bulk at stores like Sam’s Club and Costco can be a great way to save money as long as you don’t buy more than you’ll actually use.

If you live alone or have a small family, consider splitting your bulk purchases and related costs with a family member or neighbor.

For example, a 16-count pack of Costco’s own Kirkland Signature Cheese, Fruit and Nut Snacks retails for $13.99. That breaks down to 88 cents each and could be divided to provide two weeks of school or work snacks.

While shopping at a warehouse store, Hanson recommends also stocking up on items you use frequently, such as dry pasta, canned goods or other pantry staples. These stores often sell items at prices that are less than what you’d find at grocery stores.

Try low-key markets

If you’re looking for more affordable groceries, consider shopping at Aldi, Winco, Market Basket, Trader Joe’s, Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Whole Foods 365, and Food 4 Less. Because these stores don’t spend as much money on advertising and promotions, and buy directly from farmers and manufacturers, they can pass the savings to customers. Many of these stores also have agreements with vendors to purchase items that are surplus inventory or have undergone packaging changes.

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Embrace imperfect produce

Misfits Market is an online grocery store that works directly with farmers and food producers to source organic produce, and high-quality meats and seafood, and sells them to consumers at a 40 percent discount.

While Misfits fruits and vegetables might be too big, or funny-looking, they’re still fresh. Meats and seafoods are 20-40% less than grocery stores and are sourced directly from suppliers. While it’s free to sign-up for Misfits, there’s a $30 order minimum.

For fresh fruits and vegetables, consider shopping at your local farmers market or joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) where you buy food directly from local farmers. Consumers purchase a “share” and become a “farm member,” receiving a weekly box of seasonal goods. At LocalHarvest.org, you can locate farmers, farmers markets, and CSAs in your area.

Article Sources
  1. Consumer Price Index, May 11, 2022, BLS, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cpi.pdf?utm_source=117th+Members%2C+Chiefs%2C+And+Comms+Directors&utm_campaign=df5c6a928b-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_02_04_09_01_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3985f74780-df5c6a928b-147614274
  2. Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, BLS, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.t02.htm

About the Author

Photo of Linda Childers

Linda Childers

Linda’s articles on healthcare costs and Medicare have appeared in Forbes and MedicareGuide. She has also written on healthcare topics for Arthritis Today, California Health Report, Allure, Health Monitor, US News and World Report, O, The Washington Post and many corporate blogs.

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