5 Tips to Lower Your Grocery Costs

tips to lower your grocery costs

Food is something everyone needs to survive and thus, we often feel less guilty when we exceed our grocery budget. This has long been a trouble spot for me, and I suspect for many others. My excuses ranged from it's expensive to eat healthy to it was on sale so I had to buy it. Sound familiar? None of these excuses really hold-up to close scrutiny, so I finally decided to get my grocery budget under control, and it only took a few smart changes to lower my food costs.

Reduce Your Grocery Bill in 5 Easy Steps

It took some changes on my part but I eventually figured out that it doesn't need to cost a small fortune to eat well or make delicious meals. Even better, now that I stay within my grocery budget, I have more money to do other things, which is a win-win to me.

#1: Get Organized and Plan Your Meals

I basically used to do everything wrong. I would go to the grocery without a list or a game plan, wandering down the aisles and picking up whatever caught my fancy. By the time I got home and emptied my bags, I had a weird assortment of groceries that really didn't make any meals. Often times, this led to spoiled food, and my wastefulness embarrasses me today.

The answer to this problem was very simple: meal planning. Now I plan my meals in advance and go to the grocery store armed with my list. This keeps me focused, so miscellaneous items don't end up in my cart.

Success Tip: Have a Few Cheap Recipes in Your Regular Meal Rotation

I'm not perfect, and sometimes my grocery budget at the end of the month is pretty bare bones. This is when I turn to my favorite cheap, but delicious meals to help me stay on budget. Vegetarian meals, soups and pasta dishes are generally low-cost and can easily be stretched into multiple meals.

#2: Take Advantage of Sales Flyers, Coupons and Clearance Items

This works hand-in-hand with meal planning. I generally shop on the weekends and my store flyers run Tuesday to Tuesday, so this gives me a few days to go through them and plan my meals based on what's on sale. It's amazing how much of a difference it makes in my final bill. And don't forget to look for coupons that can be used with the store sale price to further increase your savings. This can make a huge difference.

While we tend to think of retail stores when it comes to clearance items, grocery stores have them too. Sometimes they are a bit hidden, and items may go quickly, so you need to know when and where your favorite grocery stores put their clearance items.

Every morning, one of my favorite stores puts heavily discounted prices on their perishables with imminent expiration dates. A couple times a week, I walk to the store to see what's on clearance, specifically looking for things that I can freeze such as bagels and meat. I generally avoid fresh produce as it needs to be eaten immediately and has an extremely short shelf-life by the time it reaches the clearance bin.

Success Tip: Keep a Checklist of Items You Need to Replenish

This checklist helps you know what staples you are running low on, such as cheese, eggs, flour, etc. Now you can quickly scan the store flyers to see if any of the items are on sale now or to clip coupons to save for when you do buy the item.

#3: Eat Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables

While it's perfectly normal to crave an out-of-season fruit or vegetable, don't waste your money tracking them down. You'll pay a premium price for something pretty tasteless and bland. Whatever fruits and vegetables are in season taste the best and are the best value. If you have the equipment, consider canning and/or freezing fruits and vegetables at their peak, so you can enjoy them during their off-season.

#4: Plant a Garden, Join a Co-op, or Shop at a Farmer's Market

More and more people want to eat organic food, but it does cost more, which can be hard when you are on a tight budget. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is one way to eat organic at a much lower cost. If you don't have a yard or the space, at least consider if there are few vegetables or herbs you can grow in planters on your patio or windowsill.

If a garden is out due to space, lighting or your thumb is more black than green (like mine), you may want to look into joining a co-op or shopping at your local farmer's market. Both can be another economical solution with the added bonus of getting amazing produce picked when they are ripe, not three weeks before.

If you shop at a local farmer's market, go towards the end of day, when the merchants are more willing to negotiate and offer deals to get rid of their remaining produce. They want to sell it, not repack it.

#5: Turn Your Grocery Budget into a Challenge or Game

I love to do this and it really keeps me motivated to look for ways to lower costs. It feels so good when I come under budget. It just gives me a little boost. And I don't sacrifice quality either. This game is what actually helped me embrace meal planning and stick with it.

And see the value of adding some cheap meals to offset the cost of more indulgent meals. When you make things you sometimes dread or avoid into a game, it can really make a difference and help turn it into a habit.

Your Turn

What tips do you have to lower food costs? Share them in the comments below!


    • The Wallet Doctor

      The Wallet Doctor 06/12/2014 10:30 a.m. #

      I am a big believer in meal planning. It is really helpful to know what you need, and about what it will cost prior to heading over to the store. I combine that with a bit of coupons and I can save a lot.

      • Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr

        Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr 06/13/2014 9:39 a.m. #

        I am now a big believer in meal planning too. I wish I would have started much sooner and it's makes life so much easier when you know what's for dinner! I always love seeing how much save at the grocery store - it makes me feel good!

    • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 06/12/2014 10:52 a.m. #

      Great tips, Tanya! Meals plans make my life easier too. You know my schedule by the time I race in the door at night, Chris and the girls are hungry. I don't have time to stare in the fridge or cabinets looking for things to make. I need to know! One thing I love about California is we have access to great produce and pretty reasonably priced considering everything is more expensive here. :)

      • Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr

        Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr 06/13/2014 9:41 a.m. #

        You do have a very, very busy schedule! :) I definitely love shopping the farmer's markets here too, so much good stuff. And I really, really love that you can get great strawberries as early as February!

    • Stephanie

      Stephanie 06/12/2014 11:24 a.m. #

      All fabulous tips, Tanya! I find that meat is always my most expensive item on my shopping list so when it's on sale I stock up and freeze so I have enough until the next sale rolls around. I LOVE saving money while shopping for groceries and I agree, that feeling of coming in under budget is the BEST!

      • Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr

        Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr 06/13/2014 9:42 a.m. #

        Thanks, Stephanie! Meat is super expensive these days and it just seems to be getting more expensive. I look for sales too and do some modest stock-up. I used to throw out a lot of food due to spoiling or freezer burn so I stay a bit conservative based on my past history. But I am getting much better! It feels great, doesn't it, when we come under our grocery budget!

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 06/12/2014 11:55 a.m. #

      Hey Tanya!

      I totally agree with you here. I take time to put my menu and grocery list together and of course my coupons ;).

      One thing I do is check the pantry and fridge to see if I can make a meal out of what I already have...that's helped me save money too.

      I do look at it like a game. It's so exciting looking at the prices and see the total drop. You should see my husband's face before coupons and discounts. I swear sometimes he looks pale LOL!

      Great post girlfriend! Happy Thursday ladies :).

      • Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr

        Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr 06/13/2014 9:45 a.m. #

        Great tip, Corina! We can often make multiple meals with the things we have in our pantry and fridge if we get a bit creative! LOL! I can imagine feeding a family makes for some pretty big grocery bills. I'd probably look a little faint too, but I know Corina is too smart to pay full price! Happy Friday!

    • Uplifting Families

      Uplifting Families 06/12/2014 7:31 p.m. #

      Great tips and suggestions. Don't forget to add coupons too.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 06/13/2014 9:59 a.m. #

        Hey Christy, Tanya did talk about coupons in point #2, as they are very important when people are trying to save money while grocery shopping.

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