Grocery shopping can be expensive! I cook and eat practically every meal at home, so all of my money goes to groceries. Making my own food helps me save money and eat a little healthier. Plus, it makes me feel like I kind of have my life together (emphasis on “kind of”). I’ve had lots of practice at saving money at the grocery store so here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned.
Don’t be brand loyal
Grocery stores have their own brand of practically every item and, more often than not, it’s cheaper. It may only be a small difference, but it can add up over time. Let’s take peanut butter for example. I love peanut butter and I’m buying a jar every other week (mainly because I will eat it by the spoonful, but let’s not talk about that right now).
My grocery store’s peanut butter cost $2.37. Jif is $2.50, Reese’s is $2.97, and Justin’s is a whopping $11.75. I follow a lot of healthy food bloggers and they all swear by Justin’s peanut butter, but one jar is ¼ of my average grocery budget so that’s not happening for me. Just because a brand is popular, that does not mean you need to buy it. Next time you head to the grocery store, check the price difference between the brand you buy and the store brand.
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Check the price per ounce
Okay, this is a little tedious, but when you’re desperate this is the go-to tip. When you check the prices of the item you are buying, don’t just look at the price for the whole item. In tiny writing in the corner of the price tag, it will say how much the item costs per ounce (or a similar unit). Sometimes an item may look cheaper, but that’s only because you are buying less.
Let’s go back to my peanut butter example. My grocery store’s peanut butter costs $2.37 and Peter Pan peanut butter costs $2.32. So the Peter Pan brand is cheaper right? Not quite. The H-E-B peanut butter jar is 18 oz making it around $0.13 per ounce. The Peter Pan jar is 16.3 oz making it around $0.14 per ounce. When you look at the two jars side by side, they look like they are the same size. Yes, this is a tiny difference, but if you are buying the slightly more expensive brand for everything it will add up real fast!
Get emails from your grocery store
If you have one grocery store you always shop at, sign up for their newsletter. In it, you will find coupons and sales. It’s a great way to help you plan what you’ll eat that week. If you don’t want to get emails, check the website before heading to the store. The coupons and sales will often be posted there.
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Get coupons from brands
If there is one brand you simply can not give up, sign up for emails from them. You will get coupons and rebates that the grocery store doesn’t offer. If a brand doesn’t have an email list, follow them on social media. They will sometimes post their coupons and deals there.
Buy in season produce
I have this nifty app called Seasonal and Simple. It will tell you what is in season where you live. Once you click on the produce, it will tell you how to pick the best one, how to store it, and even a few recipes with it. Buying produce in season helps you save a lot of money because it comes from local farmers rather than halfway across the world. Plus, in-season produce is often fresher than out of season produce because it didn’t have to travel as far to get to the grocery store.
Buy frozen produce
If you’re like me and you want blueberries year round, buy them frozen. Frozen fruits and veggies can sometimes be even fresher than other produce because it’s frozen at its peak. I love putting blueberries in my oatmeal, so I buy the biggest bag of frozen blueberries and I have blueberries year round.
The only drawback of frozen produce is that you can’t eat it raw. Defrosted fruit and veggies just aren’t the same as the real thing. However, they are great for cooking or making smoothies. Plus, it’s super convenient!
Buy in Bulk
H-E-B has an awesome bulk section with grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, spices, and more. Nine times out of ten, it will be cheaper to buy these things in bulk. Before you go to the grocery store, check the prices of packaged food and bulk food.
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Plan your menu
This will help you save so much money! By planning your meals and snacks, you won’t be wasting food and you will always have food at home. The worst thing is getting home after a long day and having nothing in the fridge or pantry. That’s when the expensive dining out happens.
Loosely plan what you will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you are going to be bringing any of it to school or work, make sure you plan for that as well. Don’t forget to plan out what your snacks will be for the week. Once you have decided on your weekly menu, make a grocery list.
When I plan my weekly menu, I try to guess how many meals I will be eating out with organizations and friends so I can plan around that. I also usually go grocery shopping on Sunday. Since I’m shopping and prepping all my food on Sunday, I like to already have my meals taken care of. Sunday is the day I eat all of the leftovers from the week before. Monday ends up being the first day of my weekly menu. I find this works well for me, but if Sunday’s are busy for you, maybe make Saturday or Monday your grocery shopping day!
Make a grocery list
I keep my grocery list on my phone and I mark off each item once I get it. When I’m running low on money, I will also put the price next to each item so that I know how much I will be spending that day. With produce, it’s a little hard to estimate the cost, but just do your best! Having a grocery list will keep you from making impulse purchases so make sure you stick to it!
Look on the bottom of the shelf
Oh marketing, you sneaky little thing. Grocery stores will put the more expensive food on the shelves that are eye level. You see it, so you buy it. Next time you go shopping, try looking down at the bottom shelf to find the cheapest food.
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Eat less meat
So back in July 2017, I decided to become a vegetarian. I had read a lot about all the benefits, but I did not anticipate that I would save so much money on groceries. I would usually eat chicken, which is one of the cheapest meats. But, grains, beans, and legumes are even cheaper and are still a great source of protein! I’m not saying you have to totally give up meat, but try to have a meatless Monday or make one of your meals vegetarian.
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I hope these tips help you save on your groceries! What other tips do you have? Have you used any of these tips? Let me know in the comments below!