Have you been to the grocery store lately and mindlessly filled your cart with the usual items on your grocery list, only to check out and feel like you're having to pay more than you used to for the exact same items?
You're not imagining it – the price of just about everything has increased in the past year, groceries included. In fact, this year grocery prices have gone up 2.8 percent as compared to this time in 2020, and it's only predicted to rise, unfortunately.
This hike in food expense can be blamed on inflation, supply chain issues, and consumer demand since the pandemic started. While there's not a ton you can do about inflation and the cost of goods and services, you can learn to shop more wisely and save money on groceries to help keep that final total more manageable.
Try these 10 money-saving grocery tips the next time you head out to the store to help stick to your budget and save a little dough.
10 Helpful Tricks to Save Money on Groceries
1. Make a list. How many of us have been guilty of going into the grocery store knowing you only need a few things, but then getting there and getting distracted and buying more than you originally planned? Stop this common occurrence in its tracks by making a list before you head to the store and make sure to stick to it.
2. Buy in bulk. When you purchase items in larger quantities, you're paying less per unit (think, per can of green beans) than you would if you only purchased one. Thus, you're saving money on each use of that product (each time you open a can of green beans). Even if you're only saving 10 cents every day, that adds up to $36.50 saved on that one product every year.
The key to buying in bulk, though, is to only buy the items you will actually eat or use. You might think you'll eat 12 microwaveable packets of Indian curry, but odds are, after the first two you'll grow tired of the novelty and the rest will sit on the pantry shelf till it expires.
Also keep in mind how much you'll use a product. For example, buying paper towels in bulk is a great idea but not if you end up using more than normal just because you know you have a great stock of them.
Make a list, only purchase what you'll actually use, and only use a normal amount to make buying in bulk worth it.
3. Embrace grocery apps. Gone are the days when you need to look at every grocery store paper ad to compare prices and find the best deals (though it's great to still do that, too). These days, almost every grocery store/retail chain has their own app. If you don't want to have to look at a bunch of different apps, then try a price comparison one like Basket, Flipp, and Grocery King. Plus, a lot of grocery apps also have lists, coupons, and reward card connectivity to simplify your shopping.
4. Meal plan. Now this doesn't have to apply to every meal. Planning out your meals can simply mean one meal a day or only a couple days a week or however it works best for you. Take stock of your fridge and pantry to see what ingredients you already have that you can work with, then write down the ingredients you'll need to make meals for the rest of the week and only buy those items at the grocery store. Again, lists are key here!
5. Set a grocery budget. If your budget only allows for $100 a week at the grocery, then do your best to stick to it. If you find the idea of keeping track of what you're spending too dauting, then use a calculator to add it up as you go. If you start to go over, look at what's in your cart to see if you can swap an item for a cheaper one or to decide if it's something you really need to purchase. The more you use this method, the easier it will become to know how to shop within your budget.
6. Invest in a vacuum sealer. If you're buying in bulk and/or meal planning (or prepping) then you might want to separate what you've purchased and vacuum seal it to store it in the freezer for later use. For example, if you find pork chops on sale at your local warehouse store, you can take them home and separate them into packs of two or four, seal, and put in the freezer for easy portioning.
7. Consider buying more frozen foods. Sure, fresh veggies and meat are great, but have you considered buying frozen? Experts have found no real difference in the nutrients in frozen produce versus fresh, so why not go frozen? Plus, frozen fruits and veggies are often much less expensive than fresh.
8. Prep your own food. That bagged, washed, chopped lettuce is so much more convenient than purchasing a head of romaine, but it's also more expensive. The same goes for other pre-cut veggies and fruits, pre-cut and -cooked packages of chicken breasts, and any other pre-made foods. Brush up on your knife skills and save money by prepping and washing your own foods.
9. Use a pickup or delivery shopping service. Although it sounds counterintuitive, having someone else shop for you can actually be less expensive. Why? Well, because for starters, you're more likely to only order what's on your list and you'll be less likely to make any impulse buys. Oftentimes, grocery chains will waive pickup or delivery fees for new or frequent customers.
10. Use the loyalty programs. Every major grocery chain now offers some kind of reward or loyalty program. Even though it may seem like a pain to sign up for one more program or carry one more card, it's worth it to reap the rewards, discounts, and other benefits the grocery stores offer. Many coupons are only available digitally and can only be loaded to your card. In addition, some loyalty programs offer members-only benefits for using their rewards programs, like discounts on fuel (another money-saving bonus).
Creating and sticking to a grocery budget can be tough to master. But you'll soon discover that with a little ingenuity and planning, the money-saving results will make it worth the effort.
For other money-saving tips, head on over to our Finance Academy and read up on our latest blogs.