Written by Anna Pashkova, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-EP / Reviewed by Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD, FAND
It may seem like a challenge to save money on groceries while still buying the foods you enjoy, but with the help of some useful tips and strategies, it can be done! Enjoy a compilation of simple ways to save money on groceries both at the store and at home.
How to Save Money at the Grocery Store
#1: When possible, purchase foods in bulk
You may have guessed this one would land somewhere on the list. Choosing options in the bulk section over pre-packaged items can go a long way in saving you money over time. Many stores even have the option to purchase their pre-bagged bulk items if you prefer to not bag it yourself.
The bulk section also makes a perfect opportunity to reduce waste since you can purchase the exact amount you need for a recipe, and you can bring your own reusable bags if you’d like!
Here are some examples of foods to buy in bulk:
- Nuts + seeds (and even nut/seed butter!)
- Grains like oats, rice, and quinoa
- Dried beans + lentils
- Dried fruit
- Spices (refill empty or reusable containers)
This can also include stocking up on a larger quantity of items like a big bag of rice, or a large olive oil container at bulk stores. Think about things that you truly use often and where it would make the most sense to buy more at once.
#2: Choose dry beans over canned
This fits right in with buying beans in bulk, which come dry. Of course, it’s also nice to have some canned beans in your pantry for when you need something easy and quick. However, if you normally buy canned beans, try doing a mix of both and see how it goes.
With a little planning ahead, purchasing dried beans over canned will absolutely save you money.
If you have an Instant Pot, cooking dry beans becomes is easy and quick as well!
#3: Stick to the basics
You may be wondering if this means giving up some of the foods you enjoy buying. The good news is that it doesn’t! Sticking to the basics means trying to buy only the products you truly love, need, and enjoy eating.
It can be tempting to purchase superfoods and trendy items, yet this is where grocery shopping can get a little out of hand financially.
If trying new items keeps things more fun and interesting for you, and it’s in your budget, see if you can choose just one or two “special” items each time. Then, be mindful when you try them.
Ask yourself if it’s something you think is worth adding to your cart in the future, or not.
#4: Buy generic brands
Many times, opting for the generic brand of food items can save you quite a bit of money. Most stores now have their own brand of foods and some are super similar, if not the same, as the brand names.
You can do a quick check of the ingredient list and nutrition facts to compare.
If you always buy certain brands, experiment a little and give the generic version a chance — you can always go back to the brand name if you choose, but you may just find a few generic options that will save you money in the long run without sacrificing quality.
#5: Take advantage of frozen veggies + fruit
While fresh veggies are preferable for some recipes and a must for things like fresh salads, you can save money buying certain frozen veggies. They’re frozen at peak ripeness, so there’s no need to worry about nutritional differences.
The biggest tip here is to make sure the vegetable is the only thing listed on the ingredient list and there’s no added sauces, salt, and sugar.
Broccoli, spinach and cauliflower make great frozen options. You can also opt for frozen fruits as another cost-saving measure. Since frozen produce stays good in your freezer for awhile, look for deals and sales to stock up!
#6: Buy fresh greens and produce in bulk
Trust me, I know how tempting and easy it is to buy pre-packaged, pre-washed leafy greens. The problem is that you’re paying for the price of convenience. If you’re currently buying all of your greens this way and switching everything seems overwhelming, try doing it one at a time.
For example, you can start purchasing full heads of lettuce and washing them yourself, while continuing to purchasing pre-packaged spinach for now to make things easier.
If saving time is a priority for you, you can also wash the greens when you get home so that they’re ready to eat during the week.
#7: Opt for seasonal produce to save money
Simply put, in-season produce is usually more inexpensive compared to out-of-season produce. This is because of supply and demand – in-season produce is more readily available in larger amounts locally.
In the off-season, cost increases as it has to travel from other regions to make it to your store.
This doesn’t mean you have to buy only in-season produce, but it does help quite a bit financially and often tastes better too.
#8: Don’t shop hungry
We’ve all heard this before, but that doesn’t mean we always follow it. Unless you’re someone who has a detailed grocery list and very good at sticking to it, it’s a good idea to avoid being hungry before you hit the store aisles.
If possible, plan your grocery trips after a meal. If it’s not possible, aim to at least get a snack in prior to going if you’re hungry. Since dehydration can mask as hunger, make sure you’re hydrated before heading to the store, too.
#9: Limit prepared items
Increased work and time for someone else to prepare food items means paying a higher cost (convenience = money). This includes things like pre-chopped onion and garlic, veggies, fruit, as well as shredded and sliced cheese and meats.
Again, these aren’t hard and fast rules since these can be super helpful at times, but if you’re focusing on saving money at the grocery store, this WILL help! Other examples include marinated, breaded or pre-cooked meat, salads, and meal kits.
Simple Ways to Save Money on Groceries at Home
#10: Grow your own herbs (or garden!)
If you’re not a gardener, or have limited space, you may think this tip is not for you. However, it can be really easy to grow one or two of the herbs you use most often.
Not only will this save you money, but it’ll also make it super convenient to only use the amount that you need and possibly prevent food waste!
The best part? It’ll keep growing and giving you more herbs for free! If you’re into gardening or interested in starting, growing other produce items at home can be a rewarding money-saver, too.
Also, finding fun ways to use up leftover herbs means you’re wasting less and getting your money’s worth.
#11: Meal plan to save money
Careful meal planning and making specific grocery lists goes a long way to help save money on groceries. This allows you to only buy the food you actually plan on making, avoiding spoiled leftovers or forgotten about foods.
By thinking about what you need ahead of time, you can also get ideas about what strategies you’ll use once you get to the store (generic brands, bulk items, etc.).
#12: Take inventory of what you already have
Take inventory of what you have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. If you’re like me, you may be guilty of totally forgetting about items in the back that are perfectly usable. Some people find it helpful to keep a running list of things they have in stock – either via paper or digitally.
This also helps when building your grocery list. If you find old (but still fresh) goodies, see if you can plan your upcoming meals and grocery list around them. For example, if you find a bag of rice, think about what can you purchase at the store this week to go with it.
#13: Make your own dressing + condiments
Lastly, one of the best ways to save money on groceries is to make your own homemade salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and any other condiments. If it sounds daunting at first, start slowly with a few basic recipes for your favorites.
With time and practice, it will become natural and quick to whip them up on your own and make bigger batches. Your wallet will thank you for it too!
Which tips do you plan on trying to help save money on groceries? Anything you would add to the list?