Over my many years of environmental and personal finance writing, one of the most common things I get asked for is tips on how to save money on groceries. Grocery shopping is usually one of a family’s largest expenses after their mortgage, so everyone wants to know how they can cut that bill down to a reasonable amount without sacrificing the quality of food they eat. While TV reality shows usually concentrate on one tip – using coupons – there are plenty of ways to save money on groceries that involve things other than cutting coupons out of the Sunday paper. Let’s take a look at some of the tips I use here at my house.
Grow Your Own Food
You don’t need a farm to grow some of your own food, you just need a small raised bed, a window box, or even just some old soda bottles hung from the fire escape. Even if all you grow are ingredients for a nightly salad, you could save big over the course of a month by not having to buy those simple veggies. Herbs are also easy to grow, which can eliminate the need to buy the dried-out bottled stuff.
Stick to Mostly Veggies
The average American eats over 200 pounds of meat per year, and all that meat gets expensive. The best thing you can do to save money on groceries is to cut back your meat consumption and increase the amount of vegetables you eat. In addition to saving money, your health will benefit as well.
Shop at Farmers Markets
Whenever possible, shop at your local farmers market. You can buy fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, and even meat from local vendors for much less than the grocery store charges while also keeping your money in your own community. Buying direct saves a lot of money while making it easier to buy much better ingredients.
Buy in Bulk
Items like rice, nuts, granola (I make my own), and beans should be bought in bulk at the grocery store. Doing so can save you a ton of money while also ensuring you only buy the amount you can use before it goes bad. Bring your own reusable containers to eliminate the need for more plastic bags, too!
Drink More Water
Tap water in the U.S. is among the safest in the world along with being incredibly cheap; so why not drink more of it and less soda and juice? Water out of the tap and by the glass is basically free for you and much better for you, so cut out the purchased drinks and save yourself some money.
Skip Packaged, Frozen Meals
Our society is steeped in the convenience of frozen and prepared foods, but usually those foods are A. expensive and B. not very healthy. Skip the frozen food aisle altogether and buy real food ingredients to cook yourself. They are cheaper and better for you anyway!
Purchase Staple Items Through Amazon
I buy many grocery items through Amazon now via Subscribe & Save. It saves me money and saves me the hassle of running out of staple items in my home. See what they have available that you are already purchasing at the store.
Let’s be honest; we could all probably use a little less food in our diet. Most of us eat too much and exercise too little, so by cutting a small amount of food out of our daily consumption we could save a little on our grocery bill. There’s no need to go hungry, but dropping a little bit could go a long way here.
Too often the easy stuff is forgotten when trying to save money on groceries. We make eating way too complicated in this country sometimes, and by bringing the family dinner back to basics we can easily save a bunch of money each month. You don’t need to just eat rice and beans to spend less on groceries, you just need to be smart about how you spend your money. So use these tips wisely and you will find yourself saving a substantial amount each month!
So, how do you save money on groceries?
Great tips! I try to do all of these. Eating less if the hardest part =)
I think many would say that.
Very good tips. My weakness is packaged food..sigh.
Really, I wouldn’t have guessed that. Do you have some favourties?
These are all very good tips! Meal planning helps me a lot.
We are big meal planners too. Not only does it save time and money but I like getting excited about the recipes for the week.
I concur. Eating less is the hardest part…but you just gave me another incentive to stick with dieting 🙂
Don’t diet. Just eat healthy and in moderation. I like to use the wait 20 minutes to see if your full rule. It helps a lot.
Since the overwhelming majority of Americans (and now other 1st world-like countries) are overweight, I think the suggestion for just plain, old eating less is a good one. It’ll save money on groceries, and later it will save money on health-related stuff, and you’ll feel good!
Ditto to that. The benefits are multiple. The hard part is knowing how much to eat. People have stretched their stomachs so much it will take some time to adjust.
I haven’t looked too closely, but for items I have checked, the price on Amazon isn’t appreciably cheaper than the grocery store. Of course, getting 10% off store brand helps me a lot there.
I think it all depends on what you buy. Different stores, whether online or not sell different things at different rates. We don’t have Amazon groceries in Canada so I can’t compare the prices.
These are great tips! Besides people being overweight, they waste so much food! Think of how much food the average household wastes a year, and there are so many people going hungry in our country. When I come home from the store I want to feel like I have saved myself some money, and I definitely only buy what I need and what I will use.
Well said Anita. We went to Africa this past year and saw first hand what real hunger and poverty was like. It is a disgrace what gets wasted in North America.
We are big at not wasting food or water either. Every ounce is precious.
It’s no joke that buying that freezer pack stuff will rack up your bill. I’ve heard that shopping the perimeter of the store is the best way to go; it’s healthier and if you give it time…it can be more cost effective.
It is healthier. That is where all the fresh whole foods are stored. That is where we shop.
I’ll 2nd all of these, but especially Subscribe and Save. Nothing beats having most of my durable goods show at my front door. I’m not lazy, but that is an awesome time saver AND less expensive in many cases.
I wish we had this service in Canada. It sounds really cool.
I’ve kind of found the opposite at farmer’s markets, usually that stuff is way more expensive. But I do like to buy meat on sale and freeze it. Tastes exactly the same and you can save some decent money there.
I guess it depends on your farmers. I think if you are trying to get high quality stuff it will seem more pricey but in reality it isn’t because you can’t compare apples with oranges. The stuff in the store might be cheaper but not nearly the same quality or freshness.
I’m with you on this. I love the freshness of produce from farmer’s market. At least I know my apples are not a year old when I buy them there, unlike most supermarkets.
I agree. Fresh stuff is just that much more superior.
Yes processed food really has no value. To call it food at all is questionable.
I find meal planning really helps with the groceries especially if they involve ingredients that are constant like produce. Often sales are on the stuff that isn’t that good for you like boxed stuff.
The farmer’s market in my city has been going on for years and it was only last week I decided to check it out. My reason for checking it out was not necessarily for cheaper, local produce, but because I felt like I needed a change from my usual grocery shopping environment. I am so glad I went. It was a great experience. I got a lot of produce and some homemade cornbread that tasted delicious. It has now become my new Sunday morning activity.
I am so glad to hear that. I applaud you for making the effort to trying something new. That is the first step to positive change. We get a delivery once a week of fresh organic produce from a local farmer. We love it.
These are great ideas, and some I”m hoping to put to good use. However, as for the tap water bit… Wisconsin was once mostly farmland and now duplezes and such are being built on top of all those fertalizers and pesticides and the water is not healthy. The cities have outbrakes of cryptosporidium from cow pie runoff, not to mention all the chemicals used to “clean” city water, and most of it is held in water towers that get moldy. Plain tap water, unfortunately, is not as safe as it should be; this the age and fad of “water filters.”
I love all these tips! We recently expanded our garden in the hopes of growing even more veggies this year, and we’re even considering installing a honey bee hive. I agree that frozen and processed foods are a budget and diet killer, and getting back to the basics would help solve a lot of health-related problems in our country (even health care costs!). What items do you typically purchase on Amazon? I never considered doing this but it sounds like a good idea!