According to one of the most recent consumer price index reports from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), food prices rose 4.9% over the last 12 months. The price spikes in 2023 are due to a perfect storm of inflation, engorged transportation costs, and unexpected hits to the agricultural industry.
But no matter what’s happening in the world, you still need to stock up your fridge and feed yourself and your family. We can’t do anything about the rising prices, but what we can do is learn how to grocery shop strategically.
Below, you will find effective tips on how to spend less on your food items while still being able to maintain a balanced diet.
If you’re willing to spend some time implementing the following tips into your life, you might be able to save anywhere between a few hundred and a couple of thousand dollars on your groceries in 2024.
And the best part is that you would most likely also start eating a lot more healthy!
Below are some great options to not only save money but to also make grocery shopping less stressful!
One of the best places to start is finding what grocery stores you have in your neighborhood. Some of the lower-priced stores include Aldi, Lidl, Walmart, and Trader Joe’s.
To get the most value out of your money, you might want to consider dividing your shopping up between a few stores to get the best deals and a great selection (Aldi, for example, might not have the widest range of items available in the store, so you may have to get some of your favorite foods from other places).
With the help of apps like Flipp, you can keep getting access to deals and promotions from over 2,000 merchants and find the one that offers the best price on your favorite chips or any other product. This particular application also allows you to track items and get notified when the price drops.
The unit price is often different from the overall price of the item. The former tells you the cost per pound, quart, or other unit of volume or weight of a food package.
A lot of brands prefer not to raise the price of their products. Instead, they choose to reduce the amount of product in the packaging which can trick the customers into thinking that they are still paying the same price for the same volume.
So, if you want to save quite a few bucks on every trip to the grocery store, try to compare the unit prices of the products (you’ll usually find it on the shelf tag, next to the item price).
Before going shopping, you would have to calculate how much you want to spend. The average cost of food per person per month can range from $150 to around $420.
The exact amount should be based on the cost of groceries in your city and your needs. But you should try to spend not more than 15% of your earnings on food.
If you tend to go grocery shopping on a weekly basis, take about a fourth of your monthly food budget out in cash. This will help ensure you do not spend more than what you already have on you.
Meal prepping has plenty of benefits:
The only downside of meal prepping is that it does initially require some time and effort (and a shopping list), but it will all be worth it in the end.
Just because you’re used to going to your local Whole Foods does not mean that’s the only grocery store that deserves your attention.
The chances are high that you have a few items that you get at the store every time you go there. As an experiment, you can try assembling the same food basket in a few stores that are located close to you and then comparing the prices.
You might be able to save quite a lot, if you get your basics at an Aldi or Walmart, for example, and then purchase a few favorites that can’t be found elsewhere at Whole Foods.
Impulse shopping accounts for over 60% of supermarket sales and an average American can easily spend over $300 on impulse purchases each month.
To avoid temptation, consider shopping online. Such a way of buying groceries eliminates the instant gratification of instant buys. Furthermore, it’s a great way to save your valuable time.
A shopping list can help you avoid impulse purchases, not forget anything, and get into meal planning. In fact, you can reduce your grocery expenses by up to 30% just by bringing a list with you to the store.
But to achieve all these benefits, you would have to figure out how to create the perfect grocery list for your specific case.
You can choose to organize the list according to your store’s layout or your meal plan, go digital or opt for the good old paper and pen, and so on.
Your go-to proteins can easily become the priciest item on your grocery shopping list. The good news is that there are quite a few ways to spend less money on meat.
If you have enough space in your pantry and freezer, buy in bulk.
The rules are pretty simple – buy what your family uses the most and keep a close eye on coupons and various promotions. In a nutshell, if you see an amazing deal on everyday non-food items (toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.) or your favorite foods that don’t spoil easily and freeze well, go for it.
But remember that you will be able to save money only if all of these products don’t get thrown away.
Buying store brands can help you save up to 25% on your purchases. Furthermore, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the same manufacturers often produce brand-name and store-brand products, so you might not even be able to tell the difference.
When it comes to Costco, the company has managed to create a single overarching brand for all its private-label products. In fact, the Kirkland brand has become so popular, that a lot of loyal customers actually started preferring it over brand-name items.
Survivalists often recommend having a 3-month food supply prepared in your house, just in case. And though for a lot of people that might be a bit too much, having a few weeks’ worth of food stocked up can help bring you peace of mind. Especially, if you’re often living from paycheck to paycheck.
However, before you decide to stock up, you would first have to make sure that you have enough storage space. You might want to invest in a chest freezer and food storage buckets and install shelving in your basement or garage.
When it comes to buying the actual food items, opt for a gradual approach. Instead of purchasing everything in one go, use the "buy one for now, two for later" principle. If you’re buying chicken for the week, and it happens to be marked down, take another two packages and freeze them.
Purchase only what you will eat, keep an inventory, and plan your meals – and you might manage to save a small fortune over the year.
Purchasing bananas or carrots is typically a lot cheaper than buying processed snack foods. So, instead of nibbling on some chips while watching your favorite TV show, cut your fruits and veggies into snack-size portions.
You will be able to save some extra money while implementing a healthy eating habit, so buying fresh is definitely something you should try out.
There’s nothing worse than buying a pack of milk just to find out the next morning that it has already gone bad.
Always check the expiration dates and go for the items that are located closer to the back of the refrigerated case. That’s where the employees usually place fresher products. Furthermore, the temperature in that part of the fridge does not fluctuate as much.
Getting individually packaged foods can be convenient, but in the absolute majority of cases, scooping and bagging yourself would make the same item cheaper. Moreover, such a trick would help reduce waste.
If you need to split your foods into smaller portions, take advantage of reusable containers at home.
Plant-based proteins are often a lot less expensive than meat, so you might want to go meatless for a few days every week.
Add beans into soups, salads, and burritos instead of meat, and opt for tofu if you’re going for a stir-fry dish.
Those who follow a fully vegan diet might be able to reduce their grocery bills by as much as 34%. But the truth is that even a few meatless meals per week can make a difference as well.
There are plenty of apps that can help you plan your meals for the week or come up with a shopping list.
But if you want to go the extra mile, download a money-saving rebate application. With Ibotta, for example, you can immediately start earning cash back on groceries and other everyday purchases.
A physical Walmart store can only match the product’s price to Walmart’s price online. However, there are grocery stores that might be willing to price match even their competitor’s sales prices.
This trick might not work, but it can be worth asking. Just make sure to have the competitor’s sales flyer ready before you ask to talk to the store manager.
Farmers markets are full of fresh produce that you can purchase for relatively cheap. Just make sure to stay away from the extra popular places in your city and opt for small, neighborhood markets – that’s where you’ll get the best deal.
Not a lot of people know that you can actually buy a lot of food items at Dollar Tree. Canned goods, spices, condiments, baking supplies – these are just a few examples of some of the pantry staples that you can purchase for cheap.
Bear in mind that the majority of the products can be bought only in cases (which basically makes Dollar Tree the perfect store for stocking up).
The majority of grocery stores have their own apps and physical discount cards that you can take advantage of.
For example, Food Lion’s free MVP loyalty program gives you access to sale prices, personalized coupons, and reward dollars and Whole Foods offers plenty of perks for Amazon Prime members (like an extra 10% off the sale items and special, prime-only deals throughout the year).
It will cost you $98 per year to become a Walmart+ member, but it might be worth it if Walmart is the grocery store where you tend to do most of your shopping.
The company claims that the membership can help you save $1,300 each year as you will be getting up to 5% Walmart Cash, $0 delivery fees, early access to special prices and deals, a discounted price for gas at over 14,000 locations, and more.
The grocery chain practically always offers hard-to-beat prices, but there are a few tricks that will help you save even more at your local Aldi:
Use your grocery frugality as an excuse to be a better cook. Do you really enjoy a pasta dish at a local bistro? Well, why not try your hand and make it at home? There is joy in making food at home (just ask Julia Childs).
Skipping convenience foods, such as pre-cut or pre-marinated items, can significantly impact your grocery bill. While these items offer the allure of saving time and effort in the kitchen, they come with a hefty price tag.
Pre-cut fruits and vegetables, for example, can cost several times more than their whole counterparts. By opting for whole produce and taking a little extra time to chop or prepare them yourself, you'll see a noticeable reduction in your grocery expenses. Moreover, whole foods often have a longer shelf life, which means less food waste and more savings in the long run.
Similarly, pre-marinated meats or pre-seasoned items like rice or pasta dishes are marked up in price. You can save money by purchasing plain, unseasoned items and adding your own flavors at home. Not only does this save you money, but it also gives you greater control over the ingredients and flavors you want to incorporate into your meals. By embracing whole, unprocessed foods and preparing them at home, you'll not only cut costs but also enjoy healthier, more customizable meals.
When aiming to purchase a month's worth of groceries efficiently, several key steps can help you save both time and money.
These steps can make the process of buying a month's worth of groceries both practical and economical.
When readers check out information about saving money at the grocery store, they also read up on the following:
Creating a budget-friendly grocery list for a family of four requires careful planning. Here is a list based of the Food and Drug Administration's recommended diet:
As stated above, customize this list to your family's preferences. Adjust it according to local prices and sales to fit your budget.
On average, many experts suggest that groceries should consume around 10-15% of your monthly income. For a family of four, this might translate to a budget ranging from $600 to $900 per month. However, it's crucial to customize your grocery budget to fit your unique circumstances.
Start by tracking your current grocery spending for a few months. This will give you a clear picture of your expenses and help you establish a reasonable budget. Evaluate your family's dietary needs and prioritize essential items over non-essential ones. Also, take advantage of sales, discounts, and coupons to maximize your purchasing power.