The Best Ways to Save on Groceries

After spending years helping families develop budgets and get out of debt, there is no question that finding ways to save on groceries is a challenge many families face.

Regardless if you’re a family of 2 or 5, there is no rule on how much you should be spending on groceries each month. Every family’s food preferences differ and your grocery budget will vary accordingly. I’ve seen a family of 5 budget $400 a month for groceries, while I’ve also seen other families of 5 struggle to make it on $800.

How to Save on Groceries

ways to save on groceries

No matter your eating preferences, there are a few simple steps that every family (or person) can take to save on groceries. If you’re already following these guidelines, then kudos to your diligence, but if you’re not, here are the best ways to go about slashing that grocery budget:

1. Create a weekly or bi-weekly menu

Creating a game plan for what you’re going to be eating for the week is an important step to save money at the grocery store. If you go shopping on a weekly basis (as we do here at the WSL house), then plan your menu the day before (or the morning of) your shopping trip. If you only visit the grocery store every two weeks, then this will be a little more challenging, but it’s still a practice you should implement.

Tips:

  • Put at least two meals on the menu that can be pushed off if need-be. We all realize that life is hectic and plans can change at a moments notice. With that in mind, having some meals that don’t include fresh food will allow you to keep flexibility and you won’t have to throw out a bunch of food that you didn’t eat because the menu didn’t go according to plan.
  • Your menu should include the main dish and sides.
  • Keep the meals balanced and always include a vegetable. If you struggle making meals (or have lots of evening events) then buying frozen (steamed) vegetables is a great way to get some nutritional value without the worry of having the broccoli go bad.

The first step to save on groceries starts with the menu. If you fail at planning ahead, then you’ll be stuck in the position most families find themselves: they’re not sure what to eat for the night, so they opt for the healthy option of fast food.

2. Create a grocery list according to the menu

While the menu allows you to have meals planned each night (so you’re not rushing around trying to figure out what to make for dinner), the most important part is that it allows you to create a grocery list for precisely what you need to make each of that week’s meals.

While I hate to admit this, I’ve developed a habit of watching others while I’m shopping for groceries. It’s AMAZING to see how many people randomly roam down isles and pick up whatever looks good to them. In addition, when you shop without a grocery list, it’s nearly impossible to save money as you’re more liable to buy things that you don’t NEED.

When you’re planning a grocery list, make sure to include snacks and food for breakfast, lunches, and dinner. While it takes practice to ensure that you remember everything you need to buy at the store each week, having a grocery list – and sticking to it! – is far-and-away the best way to save on groceries.

Shameless plug: if you want to start creating meal plans (and grocery lists) so you can save on groceries, then hop on over to my cheap healthy recipes page to get some ideas!

3. Cut back on the meat for goodness sake!

According to NPR, the only country that consumes more pounds of meat per person is Luxembourg. While they may have gotten the best of us, we still can be proud knowing that we consume an average of 270 pounds of meat per person per year!

Statistics further suggest that the average American consumes 62 pounds of beef, 50 pounds of pork, 60 pounds of chicken, and 14 pounds of turkey per year! While I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, and I could personally care less what you choose to feed yourself, the reality is that meat is expensive!

So, if you want to save on groceries then a logical step would be to cut back on your meat consumption. At the WSL house we typically have 1 or 2 meals each week that include meat. We never buy steak to cook at home and any meat we do buy is either (1) chicken breasts or (2) ground turkey or beef. Okay, and maybe some bacon.

If you’re a family of meat-eaters, then try thinking outside the box and buy a half (or quarter) of a cow or pig for the year. You can also negotiate deals with local farmers and buy chickens directly from them. My dad recently purchased an entire hog and it came out to about $.80 per pound! That included bacon, pork chops, ham, ribs, etc.

Finding ways to save on groceries is a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It simply takes a little planning and execution. If you’re looking for more ways to save on groceries then check out my post about 6 Ways to Save Money on Groceries.

Picture by FreeDigitalPhotos.

About the Author

By , on Jun 18, 2013
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of WorkSaveLive.com.

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{49 Comments}

  1. Kari says:

    Meal planning is important for cutting costs when cooking for the family. Mom bloggers like Catherine Slezinger make 48+ meatballs and a couple of bags of pasta at a time to make a 1-2 day 4-5+ person huge batch of food.

  2. We do create a menu every week and sometimes, we do it bi-weekly too. It helps us create a grocery list and avoid going back to the supermarket to buy things, which also means avoiding buying things we really need.

  3. A lot of shoppers use coupons. However, you have to understand the mechanics carefully. Creating a menu and grocery list can also help. You are correct. This is a challenge that we need to cope with especially during dire times.

  4. Mary Slagel says:

    I love grocery shopping to the point I rather pick out a dinner menu in the morning and run over to the store on my way home from work. It doesn’t help that I live across the street from the store. It is almost like a guilty habit for me. But to offset this habit while fulfilling my need to shop, I like to go through circulars and pick out deals on the foods I need. Because we have several stores in the area, I can go to different stores and save a decent amount of money. The only downside to this is using up gas in my car, but considering the stores are all in close proximity and I can walk if I don’t need to buy that much, I think it is well worth it.

  5. Angela Cash says:

    I buy locally grown produce at the farmer’s market to save money.

  6. Nikki O says:

    Mostly using coupons. Or at least buy groceries from places I can collect points using the store card so I can change it for vouchers.

  7. Tia Mayasari says:

    I use to-buy-list to control my shopping appetite and use grupon or discount.

  8. Laura says:

    To save money on groceries we use coupons and shop with a meal plan for the week.

  9. sue brandes says:

    I look for the sales and use coupons to save money grocery shopping.

  10. Deirdre says:

    I save money by couponing as often as possible. I especially love when I can stack up coupons!

  11. Rusu Alexandru says:

    Yes,saving money with many coupons!

  12. Thanks for participating in the giveaway :-)

    I have a “homing beacon” for the 50% off stickers at my grocery store and make meals around them.

  13. Erica says:

    While I love the advice, I have a hard time following it ^_^

    I live in a very small town in the North, where we get grocery delivery once a week (at the hardware store), and you never know what’s coming in on the truck or what will be left by the time you get there. I make the 8-hour round trip into the Big City ever two months or so, and try to do the massive grocery shop for staples and fresh things, but fresh things really only last a couple of weeks once you get them home.

    On the plus side, a hunting license is $10 and a moose will feed a family all year. As a single gal, one moose would feed me for a long time, even if I was eating meat at every meal.

  14. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    We buy mostly generic, we do most (if not all) of our grocery shopping at Walmart and we use coupons. Also try to meal plan and catch the markdowns on items that can be frozen and saved for the next weeks meals.

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