How much money do you regularly spend on groceries? Is it a big chunk of your monthly family budget?
If you feel like food is costing your family an arm and a leg, I have some great tips for you to try. As soon as you start implementing any of these strategies, you’re GUARANTEED to start seeing clear results in your grocery bill, week after week, year after year.
Who doesn’t love wads of extra cash?
Cheap vs. Healthy
While I’ve made changes to how I shop over the years which enabled me to bring in consistent savings, I never compromised on the quality of foods I feed my family with.
We’ve been eating a real food, mostly organic and minimally-processed diet for years now with lots of variety and plenty of fruits and vegetables on our plates. We don’t always eat perfectly healthy, but we do our best because filling our bodies with nutrition is very important to us.
Even though this comes at a premium which means I can never get super frugal at the grocery store, I have found plenty of ways to save on groceries.
Here are 21 tips that I personally use to keep our food costs down without sacrificing nutrition.
The best part is, these money-saving tips are incredibly simple, and you can put them into action right away!
21 Smart Ways To Save On Groceries While Eating Healthy
#1 MEAL PLANNING
The single biggest difference to our grocery budget was made when I started to plan meals ahead of time.
At first I did this as a convenience for me. I wanted to have an idea of what I’d be making in the days ahead so I wouldn’t be inconvenienced by having to run back to the store for a missing key ingredient of my dish. Peaceful shopping with kids is a pretty elusive thing, isn’t it? The less shopping with the kids, the better, I thought.
Meal planning turned out to be practical.
Saving money by meal planning was a much welcomed bonus. Cha-ching!
For me that means putting together about 14 meals for every 14 days, give or take. (Breakfast isn’t planned, we eat what we feel like.)
I shop for groceries based on my meal plan once every two weeks (with one fresh produce run in between) and cook for 4 people (2 adults, 2 kids). I don’t cook every single day, but most days I do. Some days I cook more than once a day. If there are leftovers (there usually are), the kids and I eat them for lunch the following day, and my hubs brings lunch to work. We occasionally eat out, but it’s been pretty rare lately. So, for us, 14 meals is a good base plan for two weeks’ worth of food.
Do you want to try meal planning?
- Make a list of the meals your family likes to eat (and try something new once in a while, too).
- You can start by planning meals for an entire week, or just for a few days at the very beginning. It’ll get easier as you go.
#2 COOK FROM SCRATCH
If you hate to cook, you’re dry heaving just reading this. Not everybody enjoys cooking.
But the truth of the matter is – if you want to save a great deal of money on groceries, you gotta cook…
Purchasing ready-made meals is convenient, but it’s also the best way to blow your hard-earned money.
Buying components of a meal and cooking the meal yourself is almost always substantially cheaper than buying an already cooked meal.
How much to cook?
It’s much more practical to cook with leftovers in mind which will feed your family later on. You can save leftovers for the next day’s meal, pack them up for work or school, or freeze them if possible and use another time.
If you or your kids are utilizing a Thermos for a hot lunch, fill it up with boiling water ahead of time and let it sit for a few minutes to prevent food from cooling down too fast later on. Heat food thoroughly before packing.
If you’re not in favor of eating/serving leftovers, only cook what your family will eat to avoid unnecessary food waste.
#3 SHOP WITH A GROCERY LIST
When you pop into the grocery store unprepared, it can cost you big time!
To avoid overbuying (which leads to greater food waste), shop with a list (ideally based on your meal plan). Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to save thousands of dollars on food each year by simply staying organized.
When you come to the store with a specific list to shop off, you’re much less likely to waste money on things you don’t need.
That doesn’t mean you can’t put extra things into the cart here and there. Allow yourself to do that, but try to stick to the list for the most part and always ask yourself if you really need the extras. Penny to penny, dollar to dollar, it quickly adds up.
- Before putting the list together, check your pantry and fridge/freezer for any items you may already have. Use up what you have before buying more.
- Also, clean out and organize your fridge/freezer and pantry or cupboards regularly to keep things clean and to avoid buying more of what you already have.
- Have a pen/paper ready somewhere in the kitchen to jot down items you need to buy that might otherwise slip your mind around list-making time. I usually have another list going where I put things I’m running low on or those I ran out of. Things I don’t buy regularly like spices, mayonnaise, ketchup, vinegar, or flour tend to slip my mind when I’m making my list.
- If you suddenly think of a great dish to make, write that down, too. Ideas come and go, and it’s easy to forget something genius in the busy world of parenting.
- Divide foods on your shopping list into sections to help you stay organized at the store. I usually go by fresh produce, dairy and chilled stuff, bulk offerings, staples, frozen foods, baked goods, breakfast aisle, etc. and sort all groups according to the store’s layout. It saves me a ton of time at the store. (Until the store reorganizes their aisles. Aargh.)
- If you’re cooking from scratch, write down ALL ingredients required to make the meals that you can think of. (Maybe skip really basic things like salt – but make sure you have salt!)
#4 SKIP CONVENIENCE ITEMS
Convenience sells. Besides ready-made meals, these days you can buy pre-made, pre-cut, pre-sliced, pre-anything foods, and tiny individual snack packages.
But convenience costs money. Your money.
As tempting as it may be to reach for the package of pre-cut pre-washed stir-fry vegetables or a bagged salad, opt for fresh whole vegetables and salads by the head instead and wash and chop them up yourself if you’re all about trimming your grocery budget.
SPOILER ALERT: Cut-up fruits and veggies spoil faster, so you’ll need to use pre-cut produce in a fairly short amount of time.
Single-serving bags of chips, crackers, cookies, cheese, yogurt, dried fruit, etc. can be quite expensive, but they sell well regardless. (Mostly because they’ve become the holy grail of packing a modern school lunch.)
To eliminate this popular budget buster, buy large bags of snack foods instead and portion the servings out yourself using reusable containers or zip-lock bags (which can, too, be reused).
If you tend to be short on time in your days, splurging on some items for the sake of convenience may still be worth it for you. In that case, try to be selective with the kind of convenience you buy and work on reducing the amount of pre-prepared ingredients on your own terms. Even if you cut out one at a time, you’ll still see difference in your food bill over time.
#5 KEEP FOODS VISIBLE
If a yogurt container or a carton of berries slide to the back of the fridge unnoticed, they will spoil and you’ll have to throw them out. Don’t you hate when that happens?
Throwing spoiled food away is like tossing money in the garbage.
To avoid missing and ultimately wasting foods, check the content of your fridge regularly, and always keep foods that spoil quickly in the front of the refrigerator where you can see them.
#6 DON’T SHOP HUNGRY
ALWAYS eat something before you shop for groceries. Even if it’s a quick snack you throw down on the way to the store.
When you shop on a hungry stomach, temptation is going to hit hard. Thanks to hunger pains, you’ll end up putting a lot more things in your cart because OMG THEY LOOK SO GOOOOD…
#7 PAY ATTENTION TO SALES
Shop the sales, but be smart about sales.
Make sure you’ll find actual use for the things on sale that are about to land in your cart, and beware of their shelf life as well.
If something you regularly buy is deeply discounted and keeps for a long time, it’s a good idea to stock up as long as you have space for all these extras.
It is not entirely uncommon for some stores to raise prices just before putting products on sale though, so it pays off to be at least somewhat familiar with regular prices so that you know you’re really getting a good deal.
If you don’t mind flipping through the pages of circulars of the stores you shop at, use the upcoming sales to your advantage when planning meals.
#8 LOOK AROUND AND UP/DOWN THE SHELVES
Oftentimes, the most expensive well marketed brands are placed at the eye level because the stores know that this is where shoppers are most likely to grab an item from, especially if they’re in a rush.
For a better chance at scoring a good deal, pay attention to the products that are out of immediate reach as well – high up on the shelves and low to the ground.
I wouldn’t suggest reaching for the cheapest product automatically. I know this post is all about saving money, but it’s also about eating healthy, right?
Products can vary in the amount of additives, fillers, sugar, salt, and unhealthy oils, so I recommend keeping tabs on ingredients as well and not making decisions based SOLELY on price.
#9 BUY WHAT’S IN SEASON
These days we are so used to being able to buy virtually any fruits or veggies at any time of the year. How lucky are we?!
But buying produce in the wrong season can be a costly mistake. Produce is much cheaper when it’s in season (and ideally local and freshly picked). It also tastes much better.
Berries and peaches just don’t taste the same in the dead of winter…
Making a meal plan/shopping list around seasonal fruits and vegetables can further reduce your monthly grocery bill. (Check out what’s in season at different times of the year.)
#10 VISIT YOUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKET
If you’re looking for in-season produce, your best bet is to explore your local farmers market scene.
Oftentimes, the produce is local and really fresh – picked the day before or even the morning of – and superior in quality to the grocery store produce. But don’t assume that everything sold at every farmers market comes from local soil.
It’s not unheard of for vendors to re-sell produce and other goods they bought wholesale or even at the local grocery store, and to charge EXTRA for local food that was, in reality, trucked in. This is where it pays off to get familiar with the booths. Real farmers, growers, and crafters usually love to talk about their merchandise.
Depending on where you live, you can support your community AND save a bundle by shopping at your local farmers market. Prices and availability vary greatly across the country though, so you’ll need to figure out whether shopping at a farmers market is worth it for YOU.
#11 BAN SODA AND JUICE DRINKS
Take a pass on soda and juice drinks when you’re trying to cut back on spending.
Not only are you going to save money by leaving these products on the shelves, your family will be healthier for that, too.
#12 SKIP BOTTLED WATER
There are a TON of benefits to drinking water as opposed to sugary drinks.
But buying BOTTLED water regularly can be a real budget killer. (It’s also a huge burden on the environment and everything that’s alive on Earth.)
So you basically have two options here – drink tap water, or invest in a water filter. You’ll also need a reusable water bottle.
Either one of these options is better for your wallet (and better for the environment) than buying bottled water. If your tap water doesn’t taste good or you’re concerned about chemicals lingering in your municipal tap water, I’d suggest researching the topic of water filters and getting one that fits your needs and a budget.
#13 USE COUPONS
You don’t need to become an extreme couponer to save money on food. In fact, I wouldn’t even suggest you put TOO MUCH focus on coupons if your goal is spending less money on groceries AND eating healthy.
While any amount of store or manufacturer coupons you use will obviously increase your savings (especially when you use them on sale items), the problem is that most coupons in circulation are for unhealthy, processed stuff. It’s much harder to come across coupons for healthy foods.
But it is possible. You’ll just need to be a little more creative.
While you probably won’t have much luck with the mainstream coupon sites or the Sunday circulars, coupons can be sometimes found attached to products’ packaging, or you can score some during in-store brand promotions. People have also reported success with following brands on social media and subscribing to the brands’ newsletters as well.
#14 WATCH THE PRICE PER UNIT
Before you put a product in your cart, check out similar products, and compare the per unit price.
Usually it is less expensive to buy a larger item. But sometimes it’s not.
#15 EAT LESS MEAT
Depending on what kind of meat you buy, how often and where it comes from, meat could be taking up a significant chunk in your budget.
Organic, free range, grass fed or natural diet-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat can be a much better alternative to factory-farmed meat, but it’s usually super expensive.
If you’re committed to reducing your grocery bill, consider cutting back on meat.
Many dishes can be made with no meat without affecting the taste. How do you feel about experimenting with one or two (or more) meatless days a week?
When cooking with meat, make it so the meat is not the main ingredient of the dish, and incorporate more vegetables and grains. Beans are another great meat substitute (always soak beans before cooking to reduce the levels of antinutrients they naturally contain).
#16 DON’T GO TO THE STORE TOO OFTEN
How many times have you said “I’ll just stop by to grab a few things…” and left the store with 12 bags of groceries?
The more you shop, the more you spend.
When I shopped for food multiple times a week (to grab a few things), I ended up spending a lot of money AND, ultimately, wasting a lot food, too. Reducing shopping to only once a week yielded great results, so if you can do that, definitely give it a try.
I eventually went a bit further and cut down shopping for staples to only twice a month.
By hitting the grocery store aisles less often, I spend less money each month, waste less food, use less gas, and it gives me the flexibility to do other things instead of browsing the store’s aisles. I love it!
#17 BUY IN BULK
One of the easiest ways of getting groceries and household items at a discount is by buying in bulk at warehouse shopping clubs.
But it’s not for everyone. There are pros and cons to shopping at warehouse clubs.
You’re only saving money if you’re using up what you’re buying and if actual savings offset the cost of the membership and the commute. This is a personal choice, and you’ll need to crunch some numbers here.
I’m a Costco member myself and have a love-hate relationship with the warehouse shopping model. It actually took me a while before I stepped over to the dark side of Costco membership because I’m philosophically opposed to having to pay to spend. Like, really opposed. “They would never see my money,” I maintained.
Until they got me.
On the plus side…
I DO save money (I shop selectively because not everything is cheaper at Costco), I love Costco customer service, I appreciate that Costco is getting consistently better at supplying natural, healthy, and organic foods, and I often find things there that I wouldn’t otherwise run into elsewhere (both food- and non-food-wise) which is cool.
What’s not so cool is aiming for a few regulars and leaving with a trunkful of things you wouldn’t otherwise run into elsewhere. Darn it, Costco!
Like the refrigerated PERFECT BARS Costco sells?
I’ve been gleefully ignoring these everywhere I set my foot until I bought a case at Costco on a whim. Are they delicious? OMG, SO GOOD!
But they’re also pricey, averaging at slightly over $2 a bar. And now that I’ve tasted this delicious goodness, the checkered peanuts stand out everywhere I go, and I want more. They’re at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and I’ve even seen them at Target. (In case you wonder, Costco has the best deal on these.)
Could I live without them if I didn’t know they existed? Absolutely. But, thanks to Costco, they exist.
So, I’ll say that if you can keep your spending under control at a warehouse club and ideally get there KNOWING what you want to buy and stick to it, you can really, truly get a great deal on things and make the membership pay for itself and some while staying within your budget.
You can also save 10% at Whole Foods Market when you buy almost any item by the case. I accidentally saved a ton of money a few years back while stocking up for an upcoming trip. Other stores may run similar deals, so if you’re not sure, just ask!
#18 GROW YOUR OWN
Growing your own produce is an excellent tool for saving money on groceries. (Plus homegrown food tastes much better than store-bought!)
You don’t need to be a seasoned gardener to grow at least some food, and you don’t even need a ton of space to start. If you’re working with small space, I recommend you look into square foot gardening. For apartment dwellers with a small patio, herbs might be a good choice. Herbs are low maintenance, and they can be pricey at the store. (Win-win!)
(We wouldn’t have found a rich potato harvest one fall had I have not thrown small withered potatoes in our berry patch in the spring for the animals to eat when my compost bin suddenly broke. Talk about a delicious surprise!)
#19 SIGN UP FOR A LOYALTY/REWARDS PROGRAM
If you shop at one of the many grocery chains that offer some sort of FREE loyalty or rewards programs, you can stretch your grocery budget further by signing up. This concept has been around for a long time though the perks have evolved over the years.
There are also several popular grocery shopping apps (like Ibotta and Checkout 51) that are FREE and allow you to earn cash back on your purchases. I’m not a huge fan of mobile phone apps or relying on my phone too much, so I have no experience with them. But maybe you’ll want to check them out.
If you shop at Whole Foods Market and have Prime Membership, you’ve probably already linked your phone number with your account and have started seeing savings. I did because I shop at WFM regularly and we’ve already had Prime Membership, and the whole process didn’t require much on my end. On average, I save around $10-15 each time I shop there which is nice. You can either show your phone with the app or give your phone number to the cashier.
#20 REVIEW YOUR RECEIPT FOR ACCURACY
Mistakes happen. And they happen a lot, for a variety of reasons.
You’ll either need to pay close attention at checkout (virtually impossible with kids in tow) or go over your receipts at a later time to make sure everything rang up at the right price/volume.
If you do find a mistake later on, don’t be afraid to call the store, or stop by and ask for a correction.
#21 USE CREDIT CARDS
In the event of credit card debt, do your best at paying it off ASAP and don’t add any more charges if at all possible. If you’re trying to pay off credit card (or other) debt, be extra frugal with your spending. Every penny you save counts.
If you don’t carry a balance and are able to pay the credit card off at the end of the billing cycle, use credit cards to your advantage. Credit card companies offer all kinds of incentives from airline miles and hotel points to store-brand rewards or even straight cash back, and many credit cards have no annual fee.
I use several credit cards for different reasons and on different occasions, but my absolute favorite so far has been the Gap/Old Navy credit card. With the rewards I regularly earn, it allows me to spend little to nothing on my kids’ everyday clothes. Free clothes for years on end for quickly growing kids? Yes, please!
Phewww… I think that’s it…
There you have it – these are my tips for saving money on groceries that work for us and allow us to continue to eat healthy.
I hope they can help you save money, too!
If you have any ideas that you want to share or discuss, leave a comment below. Thanks!