The ultimate guide on how to save money on groceries

After rent, food is usually the second-biggest expense that people have, and it’s a reoccurring expense. If you can learn how to save money on groceries then it can be life changing. Follow the tips below to stop your money from getting eaten away.

Use grocery rewards credit cards

Rather than get a measly 1% back in rewards from a typical credit card, get one of the heavy hitting cards below where you can save anywhere from 5-6% back.

The Blue Cash Preferred Card gives 6% back on groceries. The downside is that they cap the amount of money you can spend on groceries and have an annual fee, so it is closer to 4% back when everything considered. If you have a spouse, it’s not a bad idea to have them get one of these too, as a workaround to their rewards cap.

The Amazon Prime Rewards Signature Card will give you 5% back at Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh.

The Walmart Credit Card will give you 5% back on Walmart grocery store pickup.

Freeze your food to avoid leftovers

Freezing your food can be advantageous in multiple areas. Freezing prevents spoilage. It allows you to use the ingredients you need, but save the rest for a future meal. It allows you to start buying food in bulk. Can’t eat those 5 pounds of meat before they go bad? Just freeze and defrost and necessary.

You can freeze premade meals and thaw them out when you need them. This is a big problem solver to the dilemma of not having anything to eat at home. Being hungry with nothing to eat will almost always lead to poor life choices, like ordering a pizza from Dominos. You can also freeze your leftovers, so you don’t have to eat the same thing day after day.

As you start freezing more items, consider buying extra freezer space, like a basement freezer. It will pay for itself in a short amount of time.

Almost anything can be frozen. Check out this list of the best and worst items to freeze in order to get yourself started.

Shop at wholesale stores

Costco, Sam’s and BJs are examples of stores that allow you to buy in bulk at a big discount. How are you going to eat all the food before it goes bad? By freezing it of course! Just be careful with this type of store, it can be easy to get distracted. You may go into Costco for groceries and come out with a TV.

Costco’s is a really great store to shop at if you are looking to save money on organic foods.

Shop at discount stores

Discount stores, like Aldi, offer deals to rival the big box stores. They accomplish this by only carrying their own name brand labels and buying food from suppliers that have gone out of business.

Another store that has discount level prices is Walmart. They own Sam’s and often times match their prices without the need to have a Sam’s membership. If you can find a Walmart Superstore near you, they will have an even better grocery selection than the average Walmart.

Trader Joe’s is a great discount store for organic items.

Compare prices across stores

Price comparisons, across multiple grocery stores, may sound overwhelming, but you can use an app, like Basket, to do this fairly easily. You just scan the item as you pick it up and see which store it is the cheapest in. Here is a list of some additional price comparison apps.

The prices in grocery stores are somewhat static and over time you will actually start to know which store to go to for the cheapest prices without the help of the apps.

Compare prices by units

Don’t fall into the trap of comparing the price of one item to another. Often times manufactures will try and trick you into thinking you are getting a deal, when you are actually getting half the product. Always divide price by units. This is especially important now that you will be using techniques like freezing bulk items, which will really allow for you to get much bigger savings for buying in bulk.

Meal plan

Meal planning allows you to know all the things you are buying and really helps you increase time between grocery trips. Meal planning can help prevent food waste, because you can plan meals around shared ingredients. Lastly, you will not find yourself out of food at a critical time and going out to eat, because you have all of every meal lined up for the week.

You can use a meal planning app to streamline this process. You create your meals, pick the meals for the week then the app turns the meals into a grocery list for you. Here is a list of meal planning apps to choose from. My personal favorite is Paprika.

Plan meals around leftovers and pantry items

Eventually your storage space and freezer space will fill up. One way to prevent this is to plan meals around the foods you have in the refrigerator and panty. These items will count as freebies on your next grocery list.

Stick to the plan

Once you have your grocery list, stick to it. If you spontaneously go off the list you are more likely to pay more money or create food waste.

Shop for in season produce

When fresh fruits and vegetables are not in season they are significantly more expensive than in season produce. Learn what items are in season and this will greatly reduce your grocery bill. Here is a list of peak seasons for fruits and vegetables to help guide you.

Save money on groceries by freezing fruit

Another great thing you can do to save money on in season fruits and vegetables is to buy them and then freeze them. This way you can eat them out of season for less.

Buy local

Buy the foods that are grown near you. For example, a dragon fruit is going to cost a lot more than an orange if you live in Florida.

Shop less frequently

Shopping less frequently will allow you to meal plan better and prevent waste. It will also save you time as well.

If you can’t figure out how to do this right away, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. Start with a simple goal of increasing the amount of time between shopping trips by 1 day and slowly work your way up to weekly shopping trips.

Use a rebate app

Rebate apps, like Ibotta, will pay you money for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts and they will also offer discounts for items you buy then transfer cash into your bank account.

Check out this rebate app guide to get started. There is nothing stopping you from using all of them at the same time to save even more money.

Cut coupons

Anyone who has seen the show Extreme Couponing knows the power of coupons. If you are ok with the amount of time it takes, you can actually save up to 80% of your money on groceries using this method. Don’t worry if you don’t want to go extreme, you can save a lot of money with regular couponing as well.

A local newspaper can be a good source of coupons. Coupons.com, SmartSource and RetailMeNot also have online coupons that can be printed out.

Be sure to watch out for double coupon days and many stores will also honor competitor coupons as well.

Buy store brands

Store brands are typically 25% cheaper and just as good as regular brands. Consumer Reports actually did a study that showed that 50% of the time the user could not even tell the difference between the store brand and the name brand in terms of taste. In fact, Costco’s Kirkland brand is often times a regular brand that has agreed to sell unbranded.

Buy bagged produce

Bagged produce, such as bags of apples, potatoes or avocados, typically cost less than loose produce.

save on groceries with grocery delivery

Get grocery delivery and order pickup

This is somewhat controversial, but I recommend shopping online. It typically costs more, but there are some really great benefits too. The first benefit is that it is very easy to compare prices between stores, and you can often times get savings there. The second is that you will save hours of your time grocery shopping. You can redirect your time to other money saving activities, such as cutting coupons or even get a side hustle where you are making 15-20 dollars an hour with your newfound time.

Walmart is one of the better stores to use this technique for, because they don’t charge you extra money per grocery item for pickup and delivery. Pickup is also free.

Don’t shop while you are hungry

It’s a whole different world when you are shopping when you are not hungry. You will not feel the same pull to buy an overpriced slice of cake or prepared food item, and it’s going to make it a lost easier to stick to the plan. They overprice everything at the checkout counter, hoping the hungry shopper bites on a candy bar or other price gouged item.

Buy powdered instead of liquid

Items like powdered milk and broth cost less, because you are paying for the shipping volume on the water and the extra packaging costs.

Buy a bread maker

If you eat bread, this can be a great way to save money. You can make bread, pizza and other items at a fraction of the cost of what you would pay at the grocery store. A bread maker is very automated, and you can actually make bread with only minutes of prep time. You can buy a bread maker cheaply, and it can pay itself off quickly. The bread you make will also be a lot healthier than store bought bread, which needs preservatives to stay on the shelf longer.

Prep your own food

For any food that is sliced for prepared, you are going to be paying a premium to have someone do that work. By doing your own prep work you can often save 50% of the cost.

Even shredded cheese costs more. You can shred your own cheese blocks using a food processor that has a cheese shredding attachment very quickly, and you will not have to eat the anti-caking ingredients that get added to shredded cheese.

Shop on the best days

Wednesdays are typically the best days to shop. This is the day that the grocery store fully restocks. They also switch their specials on this day, so you can be sure to get in on loss-leader items before the sell out.

Discount Meat can typically be found on Tuesdays, buy a bunch and freeze.

Go to the butcher

Meat from a butcher is typically cheaper than the grocery store and a lot of the time the cuts of meat are better. If you have a big freezer you can really play this game well with sales.

Shop farmer’s markets

You can typically find deals on fruits and vegetables by going to farmers markets. This is especially true for organic fruits and vegetables.

You can also save money by shopping at the end of the day when many sellers are heavily discounting items.

Use the grocery store’s reward card

You can get a lot of great deals using the grocery store’s reward card. The card is free, and you are basically throwing away your money if you don’t use them. You can also store these in your phone, so you don’t need to worry about wallet space either.

Buy frozen fruits and vegetables

Freezing suspends the rotting process and, as a result, frozen fruits and vegetables are fresher than unfrozen vegetables. They are also cheaper, and you don’t have to worry about losing money due to spoilage.

Buy frozen baked goods

Buying bread and pastries from the frozen food section? Sounds crazy, but in most cases it’s actually a lot cheaper, and they thaw really well.

Shop sales

Most stores have loss-leader items. These are items to bring in the customers that they make little to no money on. The stores count on the customer to buy higher profit items to make their money. As long as you stick to your list, you can buy these loss-leaders and get food at below cost. You can also freeze sales items and stock up on multiple weeks of supply. If the sale item is out of stock, get a rain check.

Shop the low and high ground

Supermarkets put the lower cost items, on the bottom and top of the shelves, and they keep the most expensive items at eye level.

Do not shop with the kids

Your kids are not going to be on board with giving up their favorite treats, just because you want to save money. Anyone who has a kid know that a kid can put a skilled hostage negotiator to shame when it comes to getting what they want.

Return items

Dented cans, moldy strawberries and other faulty goods, I used to just take the hit on these as part of the hazards of grocery shopping. The funny thing is that nearly all food sellers have liberal return policies. Amazon Fresh doesn’t even make you return the item, it’s scouts honor. Now I return all the bad products I receive.

Watch the cashier

The grocery store clerk is not a robot and often times can make mistakes. Keep an eye on them to make sure that you are not getting overcharged.

Some store have self-checkout options where you can scan as you go. This is a great way to shop because you can see how much everything costs as you scan the items. This also allows you to skip the line and the cashier at the end.

Know when to buy organic

Some organic foods are more beneficial than others. Focus your organic food buying on the dirty dozen high pesticide foods and buy conventional for the rest.

Follow your favorite brands on social media

You can follow your favorite brands on social media. They will reward you by posting discounts that you can use to save on their money.

Start buying food based on cost per calorie

The ultimate money savings tip is to change what you eat. When you look at dollar per calorie then you have entered into a whole new realm of savings. Check out this list of foods broken down by cost per calorie to get some ideas of low-cost foods. Start adding rice, flour, oats and pasta as staples to your diet and see the money start to pour in.

Dump juice and soda

Juice and soda are killing you, but more importantly they are killing your wallet. Just drink water and watch the savings come in.

Dump bottled water

Somewhere out there, there is a rich marketing genius who convinced people to pay more for bottled water than gasoline. Consider drinking water from the tap instead. If you are worried about your water quality, buy a filtration system. It should pay itself off quickly with all the money you are saving on bottle water.

Stop eating meat or at least cut back

Meat is one of the most expensive foods that you can eat. The reason for this is that it takes a small amount of energy to make a plant, but then many plants must be eaten to make an animal and there is a lot of lost energy used as part of that process.

If the monetary savings are not enough to motivate you to do this, keep in mind that vegetarians are shown to live longer in studies. They also have greatly reduced rates of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Abstaining from meat will not only save money, but you will also be more healthy as well. That’s not a bad deal!

If you can’t part with meat, then consider cutting back. Try meatless Mondays or smaller meat portions, you will still get some monetary savings from doing that.

Track your expenses

Track your food spending both monthly and weekly to make sure that you are actually making progress on your savings. You can do this by hand, but it’s much easier to do with a budgeting program.

Budgeting applications

Mint – Free software to automatically track all of your expenses. If you don’t want to spend any extra money, Mint should be more than enough to get you going.

YNAB – You Need a Budget (YNAB) is more focused on budgeting then tracking net worth. It costs 84 dollars a year. There is a steep learning curve, but if you can get past it then people typically find it to be better software then Mint. This is the software I currently use.

EveryDollar – This is budgeting software, by Dave Ramsey. If you manually enter in everything it is free, but to have automatic data entry it will cost you $99 a year.

Final thoughts

Ask a billionaire if they would give up all of their money to be young again, almost 100% of them would say yes. The big takeaway here is that health is more important than money. So do me a favor and don’t do something crazy, like live off Ramon noodles for a year. When you are saving with groceries, try to make choices that will lead to better health and save you money at the same time.