Grocery shopping doesn’t have to bust your wallet. You can still eat healthy and save money on groceries. Some will tell you that you’ll need to use coupons to save cash (not true!) Or the hype that tells you organic and healthy foods are so much more expensive. That’s certainly not true either! With 6 to feed in my family and only one full-time income, these are tried and tested money-saving tips. Here are my 10 practical ways we save money on our groceries.
Save Money on Groceries (and Still Eat Healthy!)
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Don’t Use Coupons (with One Exception)
I used to spend hours each week clipping coupons from the newspaper mailers and driving around to several different stores to redeem. So much work! Sure there were some times where I’d get a great deal (25 cent tube of toothpaste! 75 cent box of cereal!) however those really great deals weren’t the norm. Most of the time I was purchasing things I didn’t need just because I had a coupon.
I remember looking in my storage cabinet and bemoaning that I didn’t have any more space because it was already stuffed full of about 5 years worth of deodorant, mouthwash, hair conditioner and macaroni and cheese! And my kids didn’t need to be eating all that sugary cereal, whether I got it on sale or paid full price.
Here’s my one exception to using coupons: If you flip through the mailer and see something there that you already use and plan on purchasing in the near future, then by all means clip and use the coupon.
If you can save 50 cents off your favorite brand of pasta then yes, you should definitely use the coupon. But if you find that you’re making purchasing just because you have the coupon, it’s time to step away from the mailers.
Make a Price List
It can be hard to remember which store has the best prices on the top 20 things you purchase each visit so I recommend creating a price list. Jot down the price on your list next time you’re at the store so you’ll know which store has the best price on bananas, peanut butter and milk, etc.
Our local Sprouts has the best prices on fruits, veggies and dry bulk bin items but prices for dairy and cereal are considerably higher. Keep track so you’ll know where to shop for certain items and aren’t spending more than you have to.
Recipe for Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread
Don’t Shop at the Grocery Store
Grocery stores notoriously mark up the price of certain “convenience” items that you might pick up when you’re there grabbing fruit and veggies. Items in the health and beauty department are usually at a higher price than somewhere like Target or Walmart.
But I’ve found that other items can have a higher cost at the grocery as well. Things like canned tomatoes, pasta and cereal are often found cheaper at Target. You might find that your options are limited at the “big box” stores but that might not matter if you always purchase the same brand.
Certain grocery stores have special shopping apps that you can pull up on your smart phone before checkout to save you a few bucks. I personally use Cartwheel when at Target, Shopkick at many locations in my area (just open the app at the front door), and Ebates when I’m shopping online. I’ve received gift cards and cash just by using these apps and it doesn’t take me more than a minute or two.
And of course, if I’m shopping at Target I use my Target Red Card (debit) to save me 5% off my total purchases!
Buy in Bulk
Yep, we’re Costco shoppers and buying in bulk is definitely one way we save money on groceries for our big family. But don’t load up that enormous shopping cart just yet. You’ll need to make sure you can get through that 5 lb bag of mixed greens before it goes bad! And do you really need a giant tub of coconut oil? Knowing how much your family can eat and balancing that with the product’s expiration date is a must-do before bulk buying.
Dry goods in bulk bins that you scoop and weigh yourself can give you a great deal. Just be sure to compare the weight per pound of the bulk bin versus purchasing the item prepackaged. A 1 lb bag of beans may run me about $1.25 but only 75 cents a pound if I scoop it from the dry goods bin. Consider purchasing your own oats, flour, sugars, beans, lentils and nuts from the bulk bins and storing them in your own containers at home.
Price Per Ounce
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the price per ounce listed on the shelf label and noticed that it’s actually more cost effective to buy the product in a small size. See, groceries often “trick” you into thinking the bulk size is more economical! So be sure to check out the price per ounce (or pound, or whatever) to make sure it’s really the best bargain.
Hidden Tip: Foods like pizza are cheap and easier than you think to make at home. Skip the frozen box pizza and make a quick dough, smear with pasta sauce and top with a few slices of mozzarella. For just over $1.00, I made this pizza for lunch in about 15 minutes! What other foods are you buying that you could be making yourself for pennies on the dollar?
Go Shopping More Often
What was the last item you had in the fridge that went bad before you had the chance to eat it? You might be purchasing too much upfront and then it spoils before you can cook it. Certain foods move quickly through my house, like onions, bananas, garlic and apples so I can purchase them in large quantities. But we can never seem to eat enough of the giant bag of spinach before it starts to smell funny.
Rather than bulk buying some items, we purchase smaller amounts and shop more frequently. We might spend a bit more on our greens upfront but if we aren’t tossing out half the package when they’re slimy, then we’re probably making out better on the cost in the end.
Pricing Organic VS Non-Organic
If you usually avoid organic foods as a rule because you believe they are more costly, take a look again because that’s not necessarily so. Yes, for sure there are some products that are more costly than others because they are organic but not always. At our local Sprouts, many of the organic fresh veggies are cheaper in cost than their non-organic versions! Some canned goods (like beans and tomatoes) are similarly priced organic versus non-organic.
Isn’t that a gorgeous loaf? Bake your own artisan bread with the book, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. The beauty of making it yourself is that you know what ingredients you’re adding!
Shop the Outside Aisles
Visualize your grocery store. Generally stores are designed with produce, meats, grains and dairy on the outside aisles and canned and processed foods in the middle. Gone are the days when I purchased pre-seasoned rice and pasta mixes. Commercials will have you think that you’re saving time and money buying these types of products but it’s really not that much more time-consuming and definitely not more expensive to cook your own rice and add your own seasonings.
By avoiding processed foods, you’ll not only save yourself money but save your health from excessive preservatives, sodium and unpronounceable ingredients. Think about the foods you’ve been purchasing in the middle aisles of the grocery and how you could prepare them yourself instead.
Avoid Boxes & Bags
I’m working towards feeding my family more “real food”. By following Lisa Leakes’ book 100 Days of Real Food. I’m aiming to choose foods that have 5 or less of the “approved” ingredients. That means a lot of items that come in boxes and bags are off-limits. Avoiding foods that come packaged in boxes and bags (unless they follow the 5 approved ingredients or less) will save you money and help your health as well.
What are the ways YOU save money on groceries? I’d love to hear your tips…share them in the comments!