Food is, by all accounts, a necessary expense for everyone in the world, including those who are always on the lookout for the latest diet fads and fat-free recipes. For some people, though, it’s also a huge obstacle and the reason they’re eager to learn how to effectively lower a grocery bill once and for all.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save on food every month without depriving oneself of anything tasty. It will require some restraint, that’s for sure, and a bit of creativity and organization. However, in the end, the results will be evident, whether someone is looking to fulfill their financial goals or simply use that extra money for something that’d last longer than a full stomach.
Pick a Sustainable Budgeting Strategy
Without a proper goal and a budgeting strategy that supports it in full, figuring out how to lower a grocery bill will be fairly difficult. When there aren’t any tools that ensure one stays on track, ordering takeout at the last minute or getting some McDonald’s after a night out will be the easiest thing ever!
Thus, before doing anything else, everyone should opt for one of the many popular budgeting strategies that exist today. It doesn’t really matter if they’re trying to save money overall or just looking to lower a grocery bill; structuring expenses and getting an overview of all the costs they have on a monthly basis should be enough to determine how much they spend on food overall.
If there are some receipts around, one can also use them to determine how much their groceries cost in general. Better yet, they can check if there are any hidden “expenses” there — a pack of gum here, an energy drink there. These are all things they can safely live without and won’t truly miss when they replace them with some healthier, more sustainable options.
Once there’s a budgeting plan in place, it would be good to determine a weekly food allowance as well. The monthly amount should be divided by the number of weeks — that’s how much an individual can spend on groceries each week. On top of that, one should try to use cash when buying groceries; it will be easier to keep track of the expenses and feel each purchase, not to mention that it would help them avoid spending more than they should.
Research Deals at Different Stores
There isn’t a rule that says everyone should shop for all their groceries at the same store. Of course, most do it because it’s easier; why would anyone want to visit three different shops when there’s one five minutes away from their home, right?
Well, savings is the answer here! All of the stores have some kinds of deals every week, which could turn into huge savings on someone’s weekly or monthly grocery bill. The circulars should help them find the best discounts and promotions. What’s more, there are now various apps they could check out to compare prices and plan their shopping route!
Opt for Clearance Items
Clearance items are often drastically discounted, so one could easily save about 30% to 50% on them every week. Most of the time, perishable things, such as meat, are where the real savings are. Still, savvy shoppers may be able to find great deals on deli products, dairy, and sometimes produce as well.
Of course, no one’s saying that people should be buying expired meat. It’s imperative to check the date on soon-to-expire products and, if possible, use them right away or freeze for later.
Become a Couponing King or Queen
Couponing is sometimes unfairly linked to extreme cheapskates, but if one thinks about it, it’s a rather smart way of getting the best value at the lowest price. Luckily, in all of the US, it’s possible to not only use various coupons, but also stack them, doubling or tripling their value and getting items for mere cents!
What’s more, coupons are rather easy to find. Sites such as Coupons.com offer both printable and digital coupons. Customers can also sometimes get them from manufacturers directly if they’re ready to call them up and ask. Additionally, the Sunday paper often has a few gems that should drastically lower a grocery bill and let someone put that money toward savings, a college fund, or even a luxe vacation.
Incorporate More Vegetarian Meals
Even if someone isn’t a vegetarian, there’s no real reason their whole diet should be based on meat. Although it’s a valuable source of nutrients, meat is also rather expensive and could drive a weekly grocery bill up, to the point when the diet is no longer sustainable, and takeout is cheaper!
Because of that, many people nowadays are trying to lower costs by incorporating more vegetarian meals. There are plenty of budget-friendly recipes online they can use for inspiration; if someone is just willing to put in some effort in the kitchen, these can taste delicious!
At the very least, everyone can start saving by picking just one day of the week when they won’t eat any meat at all. After a month, they’ll realize how much they’ve saved and perhaps delve further into vegetarian cooking.
Use Up All the Food
Strangely enough, while food is scarce in some parts of the globe, an average US household wastes about 30% of it on a yearly basis. That’s a crazy amount of food that could have been eaten if one had just thought about it in time!
So why not change that this year? Using up all the food in the fridge would help a household lower a grocery bill by hundreds of dollars, if not more, annually. Besides, if there is some leftover produce or meat, there are plenty of easy recipes for soups and stews they could try. With just a smidge of creativity, there’s no reason for it to feel like a meal made of leftovers.
Save Money With Batch Cooking
If there’s a big freezer, it’s a good enough reason to start batch cooking right away. And the idea of always having something cooked isn’t the only benefit here.
For one, batch cooking allows for shopping in bulk. That would lower a grocery bill based on just the fact that one can stock up when there’s a sale going on.
Second, when there is already prepared food in the freezer, people don’t have a real reason to go to the grocery store again to buy something to eat. Thus, they may not even get tempted to go over their food budget.
Besides that, having a tasty dish ready to be microwaved might eliminate takeout from the equation. In the long run, that won’t just affect the grocery bill, but the whole budget!
Avoid Pre-Chopped Food
Strangely enough, grocery stores offer pre-chopped vegetables and fruit, which some people do actually find useful. However, it has been shown that buying pre-chopped food is a recipe for disaster. They’re not only paying for sliced and peeled food, but the packaging as well, which could drive a grocery bill through the roof, not to mention that it would destroy the planet further (all that plastic isn’t going to disappear so easily, after all). Even worse, pre-chopped food could be less nutritious and may even be contaminated.
According to Spruce Eats, homemade bread would cost about $1.58 in total (not counting all that kneading!), which is a solid difference when one takes into account that some loaves may cost anywhere from $2.50 to $5, depending on where someone is shopping.
And baking bread at home has other benefits too. With a large enough oven, it’s possible to make two loaves at a time, which would cut the overall cost by half. Best of all, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that anyone making bread would know exactly what’s in it. In the long run, it’s a healthier option that could slightly lower a grocery bill and let one hone their baking skills every week!
Switch to Water Entirely
Everyone knows that sodas are full of sugar and other additives. But the addiction they cause isn’t just going to harm one’s health; it’s also going to drain their food budget on a weekly basis.
Is it really worth it, though? If someone is looking to reduce their grocery bill, now is the time to stop with the sugary drinks. Water is almost free, and it’s a much healthier option anyway. Plus, there’s the bonus of getting clearer skin and flushing out waste — Coca Cola cannot do that!
Only Buy What You Really Need, i.e., Stick to the List
In order to lower a grocery bill, one has to think in advance. After all, going out for groceries without a clear idea of what they should buy means all bets are off when they step into a supermarket. There will be plenty of temptation there, and they might not be able to fight it without a proper checklist.
On the other hand, a to-buy list would be somewhat useless if one doesn’t plan out the meals in advance. Before writing it all down, an individual should raid their pantry and see what they already have so as not to buy more than they need. Of course, if they accidentally buy something non-perishable, they might be able to use it later on — but the same cannot be said for fruit and vegetables.
Overall, by planning meals in advance, one can create a detailed grocery list and ensure they have everything they need to batch-cook a few dishes each week. That way, they won’t be too tempted to order takeout or to let some food go to waste; when there’s a plan, it’s easy to motivate oneself to actually go through with it, after all.
Look Up and Down the Shelves — Avoid Items at Eye-Level
Weirdly enough, the most expensive items are almost always at eye-level in grocery stores. But is that truly a strange coincidence or something supermarkets do intentionally?
The latter is, of course, the right answer. It’s in human nature to notice things that are at eye-level first, and stores are using that to their advantage. Therefore, to lower a grocery bill, one will have to examine the shelves carefully; it’s likely that more affordable brands are hiding in plain sight — just look up and down a bit!
Don’t Go Shopping When Hungry, Sick, Angry, Etc.
As the famous Snickers ad says, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” So why even try to go grocery shopping in that case? It’s likely that the hunger will become even worse once someone finds themselves in the middle of a junk food aisle (processed foods are often found in the inner aisles!). Thus, they’re likely to splurge on stuff they’re craving at that moment.
In fact, any sort of a stronger emotion could trigger hunger pangs or make people crave some comfort food. Therefore, it’s best to go grocery shopping when one is totally relaxed and focused. Better still, people should aim to shop alone; even if their emotions are in check, their partner or their kids might have a hard time controlling themselves in the store.
The 21st century is all about convenience and doing as little as possible to get what one wants. Thus, most chains offer their customers an opportunity to order all their groceries online and pick them up at their chosen store.
While paying for the pick-up fee may not be the right way to instantly lower a grocery bill, it could pay off in the long run. It’s much easier to refrain from impulse buying (and resist any cravings) if the stuff people want (but don’t need) isn’t right in front of them. When junk food isn’t tangible and it cannot be eaten right away, it’s not so desirable anymore.
So shopping for groceries online could actually translate into huge annual savings and even let people control their eating habits. Plus, it saves a lot of time — it requires only one trip to the store!
Opt for Generic Store Brands
Of course, some generic store brands might not offer the same quality products as some big brands. However, when it comes to taste, Consumer Reports’ testers claim that most of them are just as good (and sometimes even better) — with the added bonus of being 15% to 30% cheaper!
In the end, only the most enthusiastic foodies might notice a difference, even when the same company makes both the name brand and the generic product. What matters is that savings are pretty high when one opts to buy only store brands.
The only thing they ought to keep in mind is that most coupons are for big brand names. It’s crucial to compare prices either way to ensure maximum value for money.
Similarly to making bread at home, it’s possible to lower a grocery bill by making preserves for later use. Of course, that may mean a small investment now, since one would have to get jars and all the produce. But in the long run, they will always have something to eat at home.
Even homemade tomato sauce can make any generic brand pasta taste delicious. Additionally, there’s the satisfaction of knowing one is eating from their pantry and not wasting food. It should make anyone feel good about themselves, especially if the preserves turn out to be rather tasty!
Opt for Smaller Portions
Portion control doesn’t only prevent people from endangering their health by overeating on a daily basis. It also helps lower a grocery bill, as it allows for each dish to stretch a bit further and be eaten for more meals.
Now, that doesn’t mean someone should starve themselves. All it takes to portion control groceries is to opt for the recommended serving sizes of various food groups. Luckily, even that isn’t a guessing game now.
Take Your Time and Shop Light
Buying in bulk is one of the best ways to lower a grocery bill overall. However, if someone isn’t able to plan in advance and is likely to buy groceries every other day, they can use another approach: just opt for a smaller cart. The more room there is in the cart, the easier it is to fill it up with unnecessary stuff. Think of it as portion control — people cannot buy more than they can carry!
On another note, it’s best not to rush when shopping for groceries. When people are in a hurry, they definitely don’t have time to compare prices. Even worse, they’re unlikely to bend down to check out more affordable brands on the lower shelves.
Compare Unit Prices
Money isn’t the only factor when it comes to spending less on groceries. To get the best value for their dollar, people do have to pay attention to unit prices as well.
Sometimes, it may seem like a certain item is an excellent deal one shouldn’t miss out on. However, it’s possible there’s a larger pack that offers more bang for the buck.
Before going to the register, shoppers ought to divide the cost by the number of units and compare the value of similar products. There might be some hidden savings there that may be put to better use somewhere else, such as higher-quality hygiene products and similar.
Keep an Eye on the Register
Finally, shoppers shouldn’t underestimate the (convenient) power of human error. Stores have a variety of items on display and are often understaffed. Thus, there’s a good chance some of the prices listed are not those the register will show.
To use this to one’s advantage, it’s best to keep an eye on the register while the cashier is ringing up the purchases. In some cases, if there’s an error, they might give the customer a discount. Some stores may also let them have the item for free!
Freeing Up Money In Your Budget
With 20 ideas on how to lower a grocery bill, it’s clear that there’s no reason to overspend in supermarkets anymore. Food is indispensable, that’s for sure, but buying everything at full price or wasting groceries is a matter of choice.
Therefore, it’s time to pay more attention and put some effort into weekly and monthly grocery shopping! At the very least, the savings will allow for more money to be spent on entertainment or seasonal necessities, such as new coats, boots, etc. At best, they just might help people fulfill some crucial financial goals, such as forming a solid emergency fund and putting more money toward retirement.