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Unless you are Ghandi, planning a food strike for protest, food is not a line item you can eliminate from your budget to save.
It is a necessity but one that can quickly bulk up your budget and stretch your wallet more than you want.
When it comes to grocery shopping or eating out, it’s important to follow a few frugal food tips so your food spending doesn’t get out of control.
Adopt frugal grocery shopping habits and save money on food to help your finances.
Eat healthy and eat well, but don’t let food add unnecessary weight to your budget (or your wasteline.)
14 Frugal Grocery Shopping Tips
Try these frugal grocery shopping tips to help your budget go farther. Food shopping on a budget is possible! It just takes a little thought and work to achieve frugal eating.
1. Set a Food Budget
Maybe, the hardest part.
Setting a budget for food alone is usually a process of trial and error.
Start by looking at your overall monthly income. Subtract out all your standard items like rent, utilities, your car payments, etc.
Then, take a look at what is left over. Your grocery budget could be as small as $50 a week or as large as $200 a week. Obviously if your income is higher then your budget can be as well.
It really will vary, but come up with a price that works for you and your eating habits. Test it out for a month.
After a month or two, you’ll be able to come up with a more realistic number that lets you plan ahead for the future months and even find more ways to save money on food.
Knowing what you can spend, will help your grocery shop on a budget. You can also use only cash when you shop, to make sure you don’t overspend with a credit card.
According to 2020 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual cost of groceries for U.S. households is $4,942.
That means the average monthly grocery bill is about $411 a month, which may or may not work for you and your family.
One way to save money on groceries is to use a cash-back and couponing app like ibotta. ibotta allows you to earn cash back on your groceries and redeem special offers.
Have trouble with overspending your budget once you have one? Learn how to prevent yourself from overspending your budget in this post.
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2. Plan ahead to save money on food
This might sound too “big picture,” but planning ahead can save you both money and time.
Keep an ongoing notepad on your phone, computer, or desk and every time you think of an item you need, add it to your grocery list. Plan your meals in advance in order to save.
Try to pick one day or night a week that you’re going to get the planning and grocery shopping done. On that day, look at your list. Plan out your meals in detail (including all ingredients needed) and add them to your list.
Then, go through your pantry and fridge and make sure you don’t already have some of the ingredients. You can save money on your groceries by first taking this simple double-check.
Planning your meals for each day will prevent you from that quick run out for pizza, and spending an unnecessary extra $25, when you realize you don’t have the ingredients on hand or you’re feeling uninspired.
Just a little advance planning and thought can help you save money and maintain a frugal eating lifestyle.
3. Meal Planning
Meal planning and meal prep is actually a whole thing in and of itself that is a popular money saving tip on food. Plus, it can help you to eat more healthily.
It just means that you prep your meals for a whole week ahead of time, on one day, like Sunday for instance.
Prepping the week (or month’s) food ahead of time will help you save a lot of money on food. Here are a few items you might need to help you plan meals:
- Snapware Plastic Meal Prep Food Storage 5-piece set for $12.99 that you can use to store food.
- Snapware Glass Food Storage Container If you prefer a more heavy-duty meal storage container you can opt for this glass version
- Ziploc Freezer Bags If you are planning out your meal prep for longer than a week these freezer bags will help
4. Only Buy What you Need
Here’s where that grocery list comes back into play. That list was made with items for your meal plans or things you needed around the house. It doesn’t include that candy bar by the front of the cashier, as tempting as it looks!
One important tip for grocery shopping on a budget is to stick to the list which will help you to stick to your frugal food budget! And, stay away from the junk food. Not only is junk food expensive, but it is also bad for your health.
This isn’t to say that you can’t spoil yourself every once in a while, but when you have a list it will help you stay on track. And keep you from wandering the aisles adding items to your grocery buggy that you don’t need.
This is also a great way to eliminate food waste that happens when you buy more than you need at the grocery store and it goes bad.
*Bonus money saving tip on food: DO NOT SHOP WHEN HUNGRY! Your stomach will take over and you will definitely buy unnecessary items.
5. Limit Eating Out
Once you’ve spent any amount of time waiting tables for income as I have, you become an automatic foodie.
There is nothing I love more than to go out to eat. And when you are busy, it is much easier to go out than to cook at home.
But it is very expensive, and will basically blow your frugal living goals and your budget.
One of the best ways to save money on food is to limit the number of times you’re eating out. Save it for special occasions.
If eating out is a social affair for you, invite all your friends over for a potluck instead and make use of your slow cooker for something cheap.
If your go-to date is heading to your favorite restaurant, cook a meal at home together instead. Check out this list of the Top 13 Romantic Food Scenes in Movies!
If going out to eat is your favorite alone time, crank up the music and dance around your kitchen at home while trying out a fun new recipe! No one said frugal eating couldn’t be fun!
If you absolutely must eat out, or maybe friends invite you out to eat, try these tips for saving money at restaurants to help your food budget not get blown.
6. Keep Your Freezer and Snack Drawer Well-Stocked
Especially when you’ve got some extra money in the budget, stock up on frozen meals and sides to keep in your freezer.
These are great for those nights where you’re exhausted after a long day at work and are tempted to order take-out. Plus, you can save money on groceries by buying in bulk when items are on sale and freezing them.
And, if you are using the meal plan tip, you can make dinners in bulk and freeze those.
Keeping a snack drawer stocked with filling snacks like nuts, granola bars, and dry fruits is a great way to avoid overspending.
Make sure to take snacks with you when you are on-the-go. When you are running from one meeting to another, or one kid’s soccer match to another, having snacks on hand will keep you from buying that overpriced smoothie down the street!
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7. Use Coupons
It may be one of the most obvious frugal grocery shopping tips but you completely forget it! But, coupons an go a long way towards helping you stick to your grocery budget and spend less at the grocery store.
Download digital coupons onto your grocery store card if that is an option. Cut coupons out of local mailers. Search online for grocery coupons you can use.
Basically, search for every possible coupon to help you save money at the grocery store. Want to when the last date you can use a coupon is?
8. Use Grocery Store Rewards Programs
Many grocery stores now offer rewards programs. They want to encourage you to spend your money on food at their store.
So, they offer some attractive ways to save money on groceries. Leverage these rewards and discount programs to your advantage.
Kroger offers ongoing great deals on food, like buy 5 save $5 and digital coupons you can download.
They also will send you coupons in the mail once you sign up for their rewards card. Sign up for any programs like this with your local grocery stores so you can save as much money on food as possible.
Also, as we already mentioned make sure you are using programs like ibotta that will also give you ash back on your grocery shopping receipts.
More Reading: 9 Cash Envelope Categories and How to Use Them
9. Grow your Own Food to Save Money
This is a thrifty living tip from the Great Depression! You can save money on food by simply growing your own.
Plus, this brings the added benefit of limiting chemicals and pesticides you ingest.
10. Stock up on Food Sales
Another way to save money on food is to stock up whenever you see a good sale. It is so easy to freeze items for later.
I frequently buy meat at Target. For some reason, they routinely place coupons on the meat packages for money off.
And, it is a lot! $1, $3 and even as much as $5 off a package. Whenever I see this I stock up and freeze it for later.
If you buy several packages of meat on sale, you can end up saving a lot of money on food for a couple of months!
This also works for pantry items that will last a long time.
You can also go to multiple grocery stores in one day in order to take advantage of sales. You can buy your meat at Target if they have coupons, stop at Aldi next for cheap produce and end your shopping trip at Kroger for any deals they have.
While visiting more than one grocery store may sound like a pain, if you end up saving $30 on food it is well worth it.
11. Buy Cheap Grocery items
You can also save at the grocery store and stick to your frugal eating budget by buying cheaper food items. Make frugal meals with cheap food items from the store.
Beans, pasta and grains like rice are examples of food items you can save a lot of money using. Beans have a lot of protein like meat, but cost a fraction of the price. Reducing your meat consumption alone can help you save big. Or at the minimum, buy cheaper cuts of meat.
These types of items will also last a long time in your pantry, so you don’t have the risk of them going bad before you use them.
12. Buy Bulk Items
Another way to save a lot of money on food is to buy in bulk. Stores like Sam’s Club and Costco will let you buy food in bulk for less.
You can save a lot buying a large amount of one item. Just make sure it is something you can store or freeze for a long time.
You can make several frugal meals from one bulk item purchased.
13. Shop Around
Another way to save money at the grocery store is to shop around. Compare prices between grocery stores and also make sure you hit up the discount grocery stores to find the biggest savings.
Sometimes Aldi has certain items really cheap, but they don’t have as many items on the shelves so you may need to go elsewhere for some of your list.
Or, if Kroger is have a save $5 for 5 deal, you may want to load up there. There are many discount grocery stores out there like Aldi where you can save big. When you compare prices, you can find the biggest food savings.
14. Buy Store Brands
Another way of saving money at the grocery store is to buy store brands. So instead of opting for a big name brand like Kellog’s, buy the grocery store brand cereal labeled by Kroger.
Did you know that in some cases the store brands may be the exactly same product?
Sometimes big name brands will sell some of their product to the grocery store who then “private labels” it with their name. And you can save a couple of bucks for the same exact product!
Why Should You Save Money on Food?
I know, this list looks like a lot of work. So why should you try so hard to spend less on food and groceries?
Well you know the saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
And, it is true! The more money you save the better your financial health and future. Saving money will actually give you more money to spend. on the things you really want like a vacation, or new shoes.
If you can save enough money, you can find ways to turn that money into more money. With investments, purchasing a home, or starting your own business.
Not to mention, that more money saved means less stress in your life!
Final Thoughts on Money Saving Tips for Food
Eating economically isn’t always easy, but it is always possible! Adopt these tips to save money on groceries and food.
So, you have more money to spend on other things!
We hope you enjoyed these tips and would love to hear any you would add to this list in the comments below.
Next Money Saving and BUdgeting Tips
Here are a few of my favorite Food budgeting and saving apps!
Acorns which takes your spare change from purchases and invests it for you to help you make even more money.
Personal Capital for money management. Get a money dashboard, free analysis and personalized wealth advice.