14 of The Best Ways to Save Money on Groceries

Jul 15, 2022 | Financial Coaching, Money Saving Habits, Wellness | 0 comments

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

Trying to save money at the grocery store 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 food prices continue to be on everyone’s mind, forcing a lot of people to reassess their habits in the kitchen.

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 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 or $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 adjusting habits at home to help 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 it is unfortunately the most common – a scarcity mindset. 

When experiencing rising prices and feeling like things are getting further out of reach, try not to fall 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, say avocados are getting expensive, we simply say “I’m not willing to pay that.” This flips the script and 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! 

But if you eat locally and seasonally, learning to cook with items that can be grown closer to you, you’ll keep costs down 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 meaning it has excellent flavor and a high nutritional value – and makes 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 a lot of additional resources and travel miles and miles 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.

Again this not only saves you money but also reduces food waste. 

Meal Plan

Before you hit the grocery store go through your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what is close to going bad and needs to be eaten. Think of it as a “First In – First Out” program where you 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

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! So we usually either make sure we eat something before we go or right when we arrive we 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 roam 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. But 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 delicious 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 and you will be 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, make sure you know how much you have left in your budget to spend on groceries 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. This puts you in control of your grocery bill and gives you the ability to make changes, adjusting your plan and habits on the spot. 

To make sure we stick to our grocery budget at the end of the month we make an extra effort to plan on eating some of our favorite meals that are less expensive per serving. For the first year or so while we were getting the hang of grocery shopping using our budget we would have the calculator on our phones while we shopped to keep spending in check and make adjustments as needed.

Be flexible

Any good plan has the ability to be flexible. So while we actually do or have done all of the above, we also adjust based on what we find at the grocery store. Whether it be a weekly special on foods we like or a discount on foods for quick sale, we adjust our plan for opportunities to save. It is 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, 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, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to grow your own food! 

Start as small as a few favorite herbs in the window to elevate home cooked meals. Pot a mini tomato plant or fresh greens 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 over committing.

This year we were blessed with the opportunity to join a community garden and 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 for some even with the cost of our seeds and fertilizer, we know that our garden will produce enough to pay for itself. 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. 

But whatever resources are available to you, start small and have fun with a hobby that can help you eat well, save money and even be therapeutic! 

BONUS TIPS: 

Experiment with a Plant Based Diet

While not food waste related – this can save you a ton of money! With the insane rise in the cost of meat, making the swap to plant based proteins can add up to significant savings. When we switched to a plant-based diet in 2016 we noticed an immediate (and significant) drop in our monthly grocery bill and 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. So it’s easy to see how substituting a plant based option once or twice a week can save you money while maintaining a healthy diet.

Skip organic… at least on these items.

Have you heard of the clean 15? This annual list ranks the 15 least pesticide contaminated produce, making buying organic less important and potentially saving you money! The fruits and vegetables that land on the clean 15 tend to be those with thicker skins that make 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!  We do each and every one of these things ourselves and we have coached our clients in how to change their grocery shopping habits to lower their grocery bills by over 50% in some cases! 

The best thing about these tips is that when you make these habit changes and start to alter your 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’ll have a sense of what you buy and how much you spend. You will continue to improve and fine tune how you budget for your groceries as you discover what really works for you and your family. 

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Did you find this blog helpful? What tips will you try? Let us know in the comments below!

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 and live their lives financially free!

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