On a perfect grocery shopping trip, you have the entire store to yourself, your favorite organic and healthy foods are on sale and the music playing overhead is forgettable enough that it won’t be stuck in your head for the next 24 hours. Of course, this perfect grocery trip rarely happens. But with just a few simple actions, scoring savings on almost every food shopping trip can become a guarantee. Try these tips to see a difference in your grocery bill—all while eating healthy and getting your favorite foods, too.
1. Go into the grocery store with a plan
Two words: meal prep. Plan your meals for the week ahead so that you’re not buying food you won't use or scrambling by Wednesday and running back to the store. You’ll be less likely to dine out in a pinch—eating at a restaurant or getting takeout is much more expensive than cooking at home.
Creating an overall vision for your week goes beyond prepping meals. It requires intuitive eating and thinking about the week as a whole—right down to even buying the creme-filled chocolate cookies you know you want. After all, eating healthy is all about balance.
To make a meal prep plan, ask yourself the following:
- What sounds good?
- What can I reasonably make (time, cookware, skill level, etc.)?
- Is my meal plan healthy with a good balance of protein, fruits and veggies?
- Can my meal plan help me stick with my budget?
- Can I substitute any ingredients to save money?
That last question is almost a bonus way to save on groceries. Often recipes will call for ingredients that you truly don’t need. For example, if a recipe calls for a teaspoon of white pepper, use the black pepper that’s on your counter instead. Substituting meat with a different source of protein (think tofu or chickpeas) is also a great money saver.
2. Always round grocery prices up
When looking at prices, don’t let the “99 cents” fool you. It sounds so simple, but it’s a marketing trick that has gotten all of us at some point or another. If the pack of strawberries is $4.99, count it as $5.00 when keeping a mental tab of what your bill might look like.
On top of rounding, it’s also good to understand unit pricing when reading labels. Those crisp-looking green grapes might seem on sale for $3.99, but a closer look might show that they actually cost $3.99 per pound. Always check if prices are per pound or per each item before putting something in your cart.
3. Shop the sales (and get the extras)
Grocery stores are really good at labeling what’s on sale. It’s easy to do a quick scan and see what’s cheap (and what’s not). You might be drawn to that $4.99 pack of strawberries, but getting another type of fruit that’s on sale (or even just cheaper) is a solid and affordable alternative.
Similarly, if you see something on sale that you’re running low on or that you know you’ll use in the future, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the deals. But doing this every time there’s a sale is more bucks than bang, so practice this within reason. Also, even if it's on sale, make sure you're not stocking up on food you won't use or will expire.
4. When it comes to pre-prepped food, DIY when you can
Chopping up broccoli or cauliflower and watching the tiny granules get stuck in weird places is as much a pain as it is bizarre. But if you can stand discovering a small floret in your shoe two days later, it’s worth it. Doing your own prep work (like peeling carrots or cutting up fruit) usually costs less than buying it already prepped. But, of course, time is also important. If doing more prep work leaves you feeling stressed, it might be worth it to spend the extra money.
5. Shop at warehouse stores when it makes sense
Sometimes, you just need to go to a store where the bulk toilet paper is found right next to 30-lb bags of dog food and a bunch of computers for sale. Taking a separate trip every now and then to stores that sell in bulk can save you money on essentials like TP, paper towels, canned goods, vitamins and more. Remember, only get what you'll use and stick to what's on your list.
6. Don't Waste—only get the food you know you’ll eat
We’ve all done the thing where we’ve guiltily tossed a bag of carrot sticks in our cart because it had been days since our bodies last came into contact with a vegetable. No shame. But if you’re not actually going to eat the carrots, they’re going to go to waste, and you’ll end up losing money.
American households lose countless dollars each year to wasted food. While eating a well-balanced diet is important, wasting food is like throwing money down the drain. When you plan ahead and meal prep, you can incorporate healthy foods into your diet that you know will actually go to use—not to mention, you’ll save on daily expenses in the process.
7. Use a couponing app
No need to bust out the scissors and the Sunday paper—there’s a couponing app for that. Many chain grocery stores have apps where you can track rewards points and access extra savings. Otherwise, run a quick online search for coupons and find tons of sites and resources at your disposal.
It doesn’t take a ton of work to save money on groceries. You can get healthy foods, your favorite foods and even organic foods without breaking the bank. Going to the grocery store might still be stressful at times, but with these money saving tips, at least you’ll get to walk away triumphant. Best of all, you won’t even have to rely on $0.99 cups of petrified noodles to do so.