30 Ways To Save on Your Grocery Shopping and Food Bill

by RC on April 25, 2008

Gas prices are have gone through the roof over the last few weeks, and food prices are rising as well. Sam’s Club and even Costco are talking about rationing rice. There are quite a few ways to save money on gas while driving; here are 30 ways to cut your food bill and associated grocery shopping costs as well.

Your Eating Habits and at Home

Grow Your Own- No, that’s not what I mean ;) . Grow your own vegetables and herbs (which are quite expensive if you go by weight), and fruit if you live in a place you are able to. Don’t have a big yard? Try building a square foot garden.

Drink less milk, soft drinks, and alcohol- You don’t have to stop drinking any of these, but try cutting back a little. Your waistline will thank you as well as your wallet.

Go Fishing!-If you live near water, try to catch your dinner. This can be a great activity to do with kids as well.

Try meatless meals- Cut meat out of your dinner lunch or dinner menu several times a week.

Eat breakfast for dinner- Make omelettes for the family one night during the week and serve everyone for a few dollars.

Skip a meal on the weekends- Have a large breakfast on the weekends, then have an early dinner, and skip lunch. It won’t hurt most of us.

Plan your meals carefully- Plan out your dinner menu ahead of time, and include the leftovers, if any, in your planning.

Plan your meals based on what’s on sale- Check out the ads for your local grocery stores before you plan your menu to incorporate the sale items.

Eat less junk food- Cut back on salty and sugary snacks, switch to fruits, vegetables, and other healthy alternatives, which are usually cheaper.

Don’t waste food- Keep an eye on your perishables, and if you find yourself throwing out food, cut back on how much you buy or freeze things before they go bad.

Experiment with simple or exotic cooking- Buy a cookbook or two, and look for easy, simple meals which don’t cost much or have a lot of ingredients. Experiment with foods from other cultures, which frequently don’t use as much meat as we do here in the U.S. either.

Don’t use the vending machines- The cost of items in vending machines is usually 2 to 3x as much as you can get it yourself.

Bring your lunch to work- Brown bag it to work or bring leftovers. This can cut down on wasting food as well. Bring your own drinks from home, or drink water.

Split entrees with your spouse or significant other- When eating out, try splitting an entree. Many restaurant’s portions are so big, you end up with leftovers.

Buy a freezer- Investing in a freezer can allow you to freeze things before they spoil, batch cook for future meals, and stock up on perishables such as meat and chicken when there is a good sale.

Before Shopping and At the Store

Make a list- Make a list based on what you need, and stick to it. You will spend less money by doing this.

Buy in bulk- Anything that won’t spoil before you use, buy in bulk. Be sure to check the unit pricing, but 9 times out of 10 it will be cheaper to buy in bulk. If you can’t use it all when buying in bulk, try to split it with a family member or friend.

Buy what’s in season & local- This applies especially to fruits and vegetables, but can apply to seafood and other items as well, depending on where you live.

Shop the sales- Check out the weekly flyers for the best deals, and shop around if you don’t have to drive too far out of the way.

Buy whole cuts of meat- Buying a whole chicken or larger cuts of beef or pork are normally cheaper than individual cuts and smaller packages.

Don’t buy non-grocery items at the grocery store- Save your non-grocery purchases for trips to Walmart or the pharmacy, or other discount store. The markup on these items is usually high at grocery stores.

If you don’t clip coupons start- If you don’t clip coupons, start. By combining them with items on sale, you can get the most bang for your buck. Don’t use them for items you wouldn’t normally buy, however.

Search the net for coupons too-Search the Internet for online coupons at places like smartsource.com, as well as the myriad of grocery coupon sites.

Try generic or store brands- These are frequently quite a bit cheaper than name brands, and often taste just as good. Experiment with them to make sure you like them.

Stock up on sales- When you see a really good sale, stock up on that item for future use. Be sure you are going to use it all, of course.

Look for mark-downs- Check out the meat department for markdowns, where they lower the price on meat (and sometimes other items like dairy) when it is getting close to its “sell by” date.

Don’t go shopping hungry- We have all heard this one before, but it is true. You are more likely to buy more if you go food shopping hungry.

Don’t bring the kids-Kids are always going to want something, whether it is a toy, candy, or spider-man popsicles. This will keep you from buying things that aren’t on the list. (Spider-man popsicles are usually on my list though)

Watch the register- Keep an eye on the register while your groceries are being rung up to make sure you are getting the right price on the things you buy.

Check your receipt-Take a quick look at your receipt to make sure you didn’t get overcharge or double charged, or the store didn’t forget to put something in your basket.

What are your best tips for saving money on food and grocery shopping?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim April 25, 2008 at 7:07 am

Making breakfast for dinner is a great idea. Breakfast is one of the cheapest meals to prepare, but also one of my favorites! I love some eggs or a nice bowl of oatmeal for dinner!

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Frugal Dad April 25, 2008 at 7:37 am

Excellent ideas! I especially like the catch your own dinner idea. We typically have breakfast for dinner at least once a week. Eggs are still one of the cheapest high protein foods you can eat. Thanks for mentioning my square foot garden post – it has been a very “fruitful” project.

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Grey April 25, 2008 at 10:03 am

You have almost everything covered, but here’s a few more I can think of:

1. Day old breads – either at a local bakery, or if you check a local dollar store in town, you can often find a good quality loaf for $1. At Wal-mart and grocery stores around town, I can never seem to find good bread for less than $1. Even Wal-mart’s Great Value brand basic white-bread has risen to over a dollar.

2. They also keep day-old breads from the bakery at the back of the store. As a family we used to go and buy a loaf of french bread for $0.80 to go feed the ducks. Sometimes just for us to eat, too. If you have a local bakery in town, it’s worth it to stop by there and check-in; the loaves are often available at a considerable discount.

3. Make your own breads, rolls, buns, muffins. I’ve not written out a strict cost comparison (and perhaps I should), but I can pretty much bet you that making your own loaf of bread is pennies compared to what you’ll pay in the store. Especially for wheat breads and whole grain loafs.

Hmm, perhaps I’ll go carry on in my own space…this could get long. :P

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RC April 26, 2008 at 7:25 am

@Tim: I used eat breakfast foods at night, but have recently just thought about it again. It is a nice change of pace!

@Frugal Dad: Thanks, I just wish I could find the time to go fishing these days! I am planning on doing some w/ my 4 y.o. son in the near future though. Great post on the square foot garden by the way, you inspired me to do some container gardening this weekend if the weather holds out, I may try out your square foot plan out soon as well- I have a dog too that like to tear up things I put in the ground!

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RC April 26, 2008 at 7:28 am

Grey:

Great ideas about the day old bread! I can’t believe I forgot about that, I used to have a day old store about 6 blocks from my house that I went to all the time, but they closed a few years ago.
PS- You can take as much space as you need here! Thanks!

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guinness416 April 26, 2008 at 11:02 am

Breakfast for dinner is a great one – I call that the “student diet”! Another tip is to try ethnic groceries. I’m married to a south asian guy and we know exactly where to get the cheapest spices, cookies, fruit, etc among our local Bangladeshi groceries. We love to visit Thai, Chinese, etc groceries too; apart from being fun, they always have amazing deals on certain items.

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RC April 26, 2008 at 10:51 pm

@guinness416:

Ethnic groceries is a great idea! I love trying new ethnic eateries, but I have only visited ethnic groceries a few times. Will have to try it out.

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dawn March 19, 2009 at 12:23 pm

You’ve got some novel ideas…i, too,, liked your ideas about going fishing for dinner and eating breakfast for dinner.

Here are 20 of my own: http://www.creditfyi.com/Creditpedia/Manage-Your-Money/tips-to-help-you-save-money-on-groceries.htm

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RC March 20, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Thanks Dawn, and thanks for the list.

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Jackie June 2, 2010 at 9:00 am

It is not healthy to skip meals. Just cut back on the protions your are eating.

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