How to Save Money on Groceries: Hacks, Tips & Tricks
Next to housing and transportation, food is most likely one of the biggest line items in your budget. After all, you have a growing family (or you just really love to eat) and grocery stores can be expensive. Most of us can probably recount a time when we meant to go in for one item and left with a handful.
The good news is that even though we can’t cut this expense out altogether (after all, we need to eat), you can save money on groceries.
Let’s explore some ways you can save money on food.
Set a Budget (and Stick to It)
Yes, this sounds really obvious but knowing how much you should spend on groceries can be a surefire way to stop yourself from overspending. A budget can be boring and sometimes takes getting used to when getting started (there are apps can make it super convenient) but the rewards will be worth it.
If you’ve tried to stick to a budget, you may have found that it was too restrictive or was too focused on the short-term. In other words, you may not know until after it’s too late.
What’s more helpful is tracking your expenses and working your budget that way. Or figure out a way to predict how much you’ll spend–this might be able to help curb your spending. These apps –called PocketSmith and CountAbout–may give traditional budgeting apps a run for their money. They help you forecast your expenses and make recommendations for your budget based on your spending behavior instead of just telling you how much you spent.
Shop Generic Items
If you hate clipping coupons, there’s an easier way to save money–buy generic items.
You might be loyal to a brand–cereal or other non-perishable items, for instance–but generic brands typically use these big name brands for their items then slap their own labels on it. At the very least, they’re very similar in terms of ingredients. When starting out, check the labels carefully to ensure you’re going to get the same product.
Use Cheap Protein
Certain cuts of meat (like beef, lamb and seafood) can get pretty expensive and eat into your budget. To save money, look to cheaper protein sources like chicken breast, eggs, tofu and dried beans. These items are very versatile and there are numerous recipes online if you need some inspiration.
If you do use more expensive cuts of meat, buy a bigger pack (it tends to be cheaper in bulk) and stretch it out over as many meals as you can. If you don’t think you’ll be able to use it all up, freeze the rest so you can save it for another time.
Take Advantage of Meal Prep Services
Meal delivery services aren’t exactly the cheapest option, but it can help you save money by helping you use up all the ingredients. Plus, it tends to be cheaper than going out to a restaurant–we’ve all been guilty of getting takeout or eating out when we’re tired after work.
The good news is that there are plenty of meal delivery services to choose from — Everyplate, Hello Fresh, Homechef and Sun Basket to name a few — and many of them offer discounted or free trials to test them out. You can typically choose from different dishes that are suited to your dietary needs. If you’re on vacation or don’t feel like getting them delivered, you may be able to skip a week or two.
Avoid Prepared Foods
Premade foods are tempting but they can be much more expensive than individual ingredients. That markup for these kinds of ingredients means you’re paying someone to cut your produce. It doesn’t take that much time to prep your ingredients for the week by slicing and dicing carrots and other types of vegetables. Even bagged lettuce can cost more than you think and it can be significantly cheaper if you purchased all the ingredients yourself.
Sign Up for Loyalty Programs
Your favorite grocery store might have a loyalty program where you can clip digital coupons and get member exclusive discounts saving you some cash. For example, the Publix app allows you to clip digital coupons when you checkout.
Even if your favorite grocery store doesn’t have a loyalty program, you can still save by downloading a couponing app. Apps like Ibotta, Fetch Rewards and Drop give you cashback via digital coupons when you scan your grocery receipt–most of these will look like traditional coupons you find in the Sunday paper or online, while others are for certain types of ingredients like bananas. Once you reach a certain threshold, you can claim your monetary reward, though you should check each app first to understand their terms and conditions.
Use a Cash Back Credit Card
Not just any cashback rewards credit card–you want one that will reward you handsomely for shopping for groceries. Depending on the credit card, you’ll get the cashback in the form of statement credits, actual cash back, gift cards, merchandise or travel rewards. The best part is that many of them offer other perks like no foreign transaction fees (handy when you’re traveling), purchase protection and more.
While some won’t charge you an annual fee, some will. However, you tend to get better cashback rewards–if you spend enough you can offset the annual fee. So far, the two best credits card out there are the:
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express ($95 annual fee and offers 6% cash back on up to $6,000 per year at U.S. supermarkets, then 1%), find out more information here.
- Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express ($0 annual fee but you only get 3% cash back on your first $6,000 in purchases at U.S. supermarkets, then 1%), find out more information here.
Saving money on groceries doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. As long as you plan carefully, are intentional about your purchases and try some of the above tricks, you can still be a foodie on a budget.