14 of The Best Ways to Save Money on Groceries

Jul 15, 2022 | Personal Finance, Saving Money | 2 comments

14 of The Best Ways to Save Money on Groceries

Title image - The Best Ways to Save Money on Groceries. Image of produce in the background.

Trying to save money on groceries while fighting record inflation? We’ve got you covered!

It’s not exactly news that inflation is hitting all of us, especially at the gas pump and grocery store. Inflation and skyrocketing and food prices continue to be on everyone’s mind. That’s forcing a lot of people to reassess their habits at the grocery store and in the kitchen. Here’s how you can save money on groceries that can add up to hundreds of dollars each month.

Over the past few months Dylan and I have looked closely at our eating and grocery store habits so that we can share with you what we’ve done to keep our grocery bill the same over the past 4 to 5 years. All while living in different states and eating a variety of different foods and diets. NO we aren’t couponers or extreme bargain shopping hoarders. We eat mostly fresh food and are primarily plant based so the food we eat hardly ever has a coupon.

So what’s the trick? How do you save money on groceries without all the “hacks”? How have we been able to keep our monthly grocery bill at $400 a month? 

Well for starters, we work hard to battle the #1 most expensive problem in the kitchen that no one is talking about… While inflation has climbed more than 10% on some grocery staples, most Americans have a bigger, sneakier expense when it comes to our groceries – Food Waste.

How to Save Money by Reducing Food Waste

Studies show that 30% of food in the average American household gets wasted. That’s 3 times the reported inflation on groceries and equal to an estimated $337 – $569 per person. That’s $161 Billion nationally every year. With prices on the rise, these estimates will climb significantly higher!

If you know us you know that our philosophy is always to start improving your situation by controlling what you can control. Food waste is 100% something you can control and take steps to minimize! So when we stop to think how can I save money on groceries every month it’s crucial to think of saving money not only at the register. But how you can adjust habits at home to keep your expenses in check.

Not quite sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. Keep reading for tips to reduce food waste and save money on your next trip to the grocery store.

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Start with your Mindset

Absolutely everything starts with the lens through which we view the world. In every aspect of life our mindset is the most powerful thing and is what’s responsible for how we view our experiences. This too applies to inflation and the simple task of grocery shopping.

From our point of view, there are two ways you can look at the prices of your favorite foods going up and subsequently having to make shifts to your habits, so you can afford to eat – much less reach your financial goals.

The first way to view the rise in prices is the most dangerous and leads to a lot of misery. But unfortunately it is the most common – a scarcity mindset. 

When experiencing rising prices and feeling like things are getting further out of reach, avoid falling into a negative mindset of scarcity and lack that disempowers you. This can sound like telling yourself stories like “I can’t have that, it’s too expensive.” While it may seem harmless enough, it can have a negative impact on your outlook and incite feelings of scarcity, anxiety and even fear of food insecurity.

Instead, try looking at the rise in prices in a way that puts you in control of the situation and is far more empowering. 

Instead of getting bummed that the foods we love, like avocados, are getting expensive we say “I’m not willing to pay that.” This flips the script. Instead of viewing things as being too expensive which makes us feel restricted and limited, we are putting ourselves in control of our decisions as consumers. For example, we are not willing to pay more than $1.25 for an avocado, so we only eat them when they cost less. Simple as that!

This mindset trick makes your shopping decisions less about things being off limits, and more about setting boundaries and taking intentional action.

Mindset shifts like this are effective because they keep you from focusing on what you “can’t have” and instead focus positively on what you choose.

Eat Locally and Seasonally

Want to know why groceries are getting hit so hard by inflation? Simple. Foods that are out of season in your area have to travel hundreds (if not thousands) of miles to land on your plate. That means the rising cost of fuel and increasing wages for that avocado to reach your grocery store in New York is being passed on to you! 

Instead, eat locally and seasonally. Learn to cook with items that can be grown in your region to save money on groceries, support local farmers, and lower your carbon footprint. Not to mention, foods that are picked at peak freshness and do not have to travel hundreds of miles to get on your plate – have more flavor and higher nutritional value.

Frozen Produce for the win!

Speaking of excellent flavor and higher nutritional value…Frozen produce is picked and frozen at its peak! That means it has excellent flavor and a high nutritional value – while also making a lot of seasonal produce available year round. 

Frozen produce is far less expensive and lasts longer than buying fresh meaning you’ll save at the register and decrease food waste. Frozen produce is also far healthier and more versatile than canned. Some of our favorite things to buy frozen that save us a ton of money are berries, tropical fruits, peas, diced peppers and spinach.

But never buy the frozen smoothie mixes with bananas in it – the markup is ridiculous. We just buy a bunch and just freeze our own for use in smoothies, banana breads, etc.

Eat Fewer Processed Foods

Similar to buying produce out of season, manufactured/processed foods require additional resources to be distributed across the country and the world. All of which adds to the expense.

We are far from perfect ourselves but we are eating less and less processed foods every year and we know that helps us keep our costs way down. Even plant based “meat alternatives” are expensive and extremely processed! So when possible we try to go with basic ingredients and cook simple foods from scratch to not only save money but allow us to benefit from better nutrition!

Buy Bulk

Everyone knows Costco and similar club stores are a great option for getting a discount on large quantities of household goods and pantry staples. But buying bulk doesn’t always mean buying large quantities – it can also mean buying exactly what you need, when you need it. 

More grocery stores around the country have added bulk sections to the isles making it easy to buy the exact amount you need for your recipes in a given week. You can even bring your own bottles and refill things like honey, peanut butter, soy sauce and staples like shampoo and laundry detergent at a great price.

Buying bulk will not only save you money, it also reduces food waste. 

Meal Plan

Before you hit the grocery store go through your pantry, fridge and freezer. See what is close to going bad and needs to be eaten. Think of it as a “First In – First Out” program. Prioritize eating the food that you’ve had the longest to avoid spoilage. 

From there, make your weekly meal plan using what you already have on hand and filling in the necessary gaps with additional ingredients from the grocery store. 

Have perishables that are about to go bad? Make these!

  • Smoothies
    • Dice up and freeze fresh fruit that’s past its prime for use in smoothies!
  • Vegetable Broth
    • Grab the straggler carrots, celery, peppers, mushrooms, onions…you name it, cover with water and simmer on the stove. In an hour you’ll have homemade, nutritious vegetable broth ready to use or store!
  • Pickle 
    • Pickling doesn’t have to be a big production, it can be easily done with no canning involved. There are plenty of quick pickling recipes you can find – one of our favorites are pickled onions for tacos! 
  • Dog Treats
    • Dogs love fresh foods just like we do so we make frozen and baked treats with bananas, apples, peas, carrots and more for Clyde. He loves it and at least the food is getting used for nourishment! This is especially good for food that’s a little too far gone for you, but not for fido. 
  • Stock your Freezer
    • When it doubt – just freeze it. You don’t need a plan for it, just buy yourself some time. Instead of throwing things in the trash just put them in a freezer bag and toss in the freezer. Easy as can be! 

Minimalist Meal Prep

Life is super busy for everyone and quite honestly meal prep can be the last thing you want to do….

But what we call minimalist meal prep can help you reduce food waste and make eating at home a lot easier. This is as simple and easy as pre-dicing favorite fruits and veggies and throwing them in the freezer so they are ready to go when it’s time to cook. We especially like doing this when fresh items are on sale and stock up on staples!

Shop with a list

You simply cannot save money on groceries if you don’t use a list. So the next time you go to the grocery store, make a list based on your meal plan and grocery shop for exactly what you need. Simple as that! When you shop with a list you not only leave with everything you need, but you’re also less likely to shop impulsively and leave with fewer items you didn’t plan on buying or eating that week.

Have a Snack

We’ve all made the grave mistake of grocery shopping while hungry…it gets expensive fast! To avoid this eat something before you go, or when you arrive pick something up from the deli. Whether it’s a sandwich, salad or just some fruit before you shop make sure you aren’t hungry while you walk the isles. 

Not only will this help you from overbuying and from making those less than budget friendly impulse buys. It will also make sure everyone is in a good mood and isn’t shopping while hangry!

Shop the Store Backward

Incredibly simple – and incredibly effective. We’re kind of marketing nerds over here and cannot help but notice all of the marketing strategies used throughout every single grocery store we walk into. One of the most impressive being the layout of the grocery store itself. Trust me once you see this – you can’t unsee it!

Almost every grocery store you walk into has you enter at the produce section where healthy, low-cost fresh foods are strategically placed. This is not a coincidence, but by design. By putting the healthier budget-friendly options up front, the shopping experience is front loaded with healthy, cost effective choices. As you proceed to the back of the store where crucial staples are also strategically placed – marketers know that shoppers start to experience a decrease in willpower. After making healthy choices at the front of the store, you are forced to walk past the aisles filled with convenience foods and snacks! This tricks our brains and we start to “reward” our healthy choices by putting items in our carts we would not otherwise buy. Inflating our bill, and possibly our waistline! 

But the solution to this is simple. Next time you visit the grocery store, start in the back. Head straight for the staples in the back of the store and work your way forward. This way you will walk by impulse buys when your willpower is at it’s strongest. Making you less likely to fill your cart with items you didn’t plan on buying.

Review your Grocery Budget

A lot of us already stick to a list when we shop. But most don’t take the extra step to make sure that list stays within a budget. Before you leave the house, know how much you have left in your budget for the month. If necessary you can adjust your meal plan accordingly. Once at the grocery store track how much you’re spending while adding things to your cart. For the first year while we were getting the hang of grocery shopping on a budget, we used calculators on our phone. We tallied up our total while we shopped to keep spending in check and make adjustments as needed. This puts you in control of your grocery bill. You have the ability to make changes, adjusting your plan and habits on the spot. Being proactive instead of reactive.

To make sure we stick to our grocery budget at the end of the month we make a plan to cook some of our favorite meals that are less expensive per serving. 

Be flexible

Any good plan to save money on groceries has the ability to be flexible. Be open to adjusting your plan based on what we find at the grocery store. Whether it be a weekly special or a discount on foods for quick sale. Being flexible allows for more opportunities to save. It is also important to remember that nothing is set in stone, including your budget! 

While our monthly average in a year is $400/mo that can look different month to month. This year in August we will have a garden full of produce which will help us save money. But in September we might need to do a big pantry restock. That is to say some months will be a little higher than others. Sometimes it’s $500 and others it’s $300. But you have the power to rebalance your budget and make it work for you.

Speaking of Growing Your Own Food

You don’t have to be a homesteader to grow enough food to save some money on groceries. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to grow your own food! 

Growing your own food can save you a lot of money. Even if you just start as small as a few favorite herbs in the window or a mini tomato plant on your balcony. Add a few veggies to your flower bed, or join your community garden. These are all small ways you can start learning to grow your own food and save money. Without investing too much or over committing.

This year we were blessed with the opportunity to join a community garden. We reserved a 5’ x 20’ raised bed for $80 with compost, water and tools to use included in the price! While that might still seem high. With proper planning we know our garden will produce enough to pay for itself. Even with the cost of our seeds and supplies. We also planted items that we use frequently and tend to be more expensive like herbs and peppers to increase the return on our investment. 

Not only can this hobby help you eat well and save money it can even be therapeutic. So whatever resources are available to you, start small and have fun! 

BONUS TIPS: 

Experiment with a Plant Based Diet

This can save you a ton of money on groceries! With the insane rise in the cost of meat, swapping to plant based proteins can add up to significant savings. When we switched to a plant-based diet we noticed an immediate (and significant) drop in our grocery bill. It’s easy to see why—the average cost of a pound of tofu is about $2.50 versus Beef at $3.95/lb or Chicken at $3.29/lb. It’s easy to see how substituting a plant based option 1-2 times a week can save money and help maintain a healthy diet.

Skip organic… at least on these items.

We are huge advocates of investing in your health! But if you want to save money on groceries you know how expensive it is to buy organic. Have you heard of the clean 15? This annual list ranks the 15 least pesticide contaminated produce. Making buying organic less important and an opportunity to save! The fruits and vegetables that land on the clean 15 tend to be those with thicker skin. The think barrier makes it harder for pesticides to penetrate into the parts that are edible, or require less or “safer” pesticides.

In contrast, it’s also helpful to know about the Dirty Dozen. The 12 fruits and vegetables that are highest in pesticide use and worth the extra investment in your health.

So there you have it – 14 of the Best Ways to Save on Groceries and reduce food waste! 

We hope you learned something and plan to try out a few of these tips that actually work!  Not only do we do each and every one of these things ourselves. We coach our clients through changing their habits, lowering their grocery bills by over 50% in some cases! 

When you adjust your habits and behaviors, the changes that you make are sustainable and long lasting! Over time you won’t have to use your calculator at the grocery store. You will instinctually have a sense of what you buy and how much you spend. You will continue to fine tune how you budget for groceries as you discover what really works for you and your family. 

Did you find this blog helpful?

Read more tips on How to Improve your Finances – even in hard economic times.

Do you have a favorite way to save money at the grover store? We’d love to hear from you! Comment your favorite money saving habit below and help us help others save more money!

2 Comments

  1. Mary Lou Demura

    I check the sale papers and apps from the grocery stores for each week for the best deals and discounts before I shop.
    Then make meals from the stuff on sale!

    Reply
    • Dylan

      That’s a wonderful way to do it! I bet it helps you eat more seasonally as well since things that are in season are usually what get promoted.

      Reply

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