A year ago, a simple trip to the grocery store felt like the most stressful event of the week. That’s because food prices usually go up about 2% each year, but we saw an 11% increase from 2021 to 2022.1 And our budgets felt that change. Big-time.
Thankfully, the increase has slowed down. But it is still rising. Right now, groceries are up around 2.4% over last year, and since things were already so high, you’re probably still feeling the pinch in the checkout line.2
But this isn’t all doom and gloom here. Yes, those inflation rates are out of our control, but you’ve got way more control over your spending than you might think.
With these tips on how to save money on groceries, you can start shopping with way less stress, even when you get the cart with that squeaky wheel. (You know, sometimes I think they all have squeaky wheels.)
How Much Do People Spend on Groceries Each Month?
First let’s talk about how much people tend to spend on this budget line. The average cost of monthly groceries for one adult on the thrifty plan ranges from $242 to $303. And when it comes to a family of four, the average cost for their monthly grocery bill is about $975.3
Those averages might seem low to you, spot on or crazy high. So many factors come into play here: like where you live or how many special dietary needs you have. But in any case, you can still be more intentional and save more money on groceries. So, let’s get to those tips!
How to Save Money on Groceries
Sure, grocery prices are high, but here are 30 ways to help you fill your carts, fridges, pantries and stomachs—while still respecting your budget.
1. Redefine dinner.
If the word dinner makes you picture a big homemade meal with a pot roast fresh out of the oven, two carefully-prepped sides of fresh veggies from the farmers market, a warm loaf of French bread, and a huge, freshly baked chocolate cake from scratch—it’s time to give yourself a break. This isn’t 1952, and supper doesn’t have to be a huge, complicated feast.
Serve. Simple. Meals. Have pancakes, scrambled eggs and fruit for dinner—your kids will love that. Enjoy a soup and grilled cheese night. Pick some simple, cheaper meals to shrink your stress and your grocery budget.
2. Crunch some numbers while you shop.
Pull up the calculator on your phone and keep track of everything you put in the cart. If you keep a running total of groceries as you go, you’ll save yourself from any bad surprises when you get up to the checkout counter. Just don’t forget sales tax, or your numbers will be way off in the end.
3. Round up your grocery cost estimates.
Next time you’re wondering how to save money on groceries, try this trick: While you’re walking around with your calculator, round up each item’s price. The $1.49 avocado becomes $2, that $7.75 bag of coffee beans becomes $8—you get the idea.
If you do this for everything in your cart, you’ll still know roughly what you’re spending, but you’ve set yourself up for a fun surprise when the actual total is less!
4. Raid your pantry.
Challenge yourself to look through your pantry (or fridge) and see what kinds of meals you can throw together with the ingredients you already have. Who says you have to stock up on more groceries when there are perfectly good chicken thighs shoved in the back of your freezer and a couple unopened cans of black beans and salsa on your shelves?
Try our free Meal Planner to save money on groceries!
You might still need to buy a few items to make full meals, but you’ll save a lot by using food you already have.
Pro tip: Here are some recipes for cheap and easy pantry meals for inspiration!
5. Think before you buy in bulk.
Buying in bulk is amazing . . . when it actually saves you money. But don’t assume the big bulk buys at the discount stores are automatically the cheaper option. When you’re grocery shopping on a budget, you need to compare the price per unit or ounce. The bigger bottle of shampoo isn’t always the best deal!
Also, as tempting as it is to stock up, don’t buy more than you really need—especially when it comes to things that go bad. Throwing half of your giant bag of oranges away because they rotted in your fruit basket doesn’t save you a dime.
6. Know when to shop.
When it comes to getting a good deal, timing is key. Find out if your go-to grocery store has a day of the week when they offer special deals. Also, make sure you know the sales cycles. Some grocery stores put out their new weekly deals on Sunday, but others do on a random day of the week!
7. Start freezing and storing meals now.
Need to figure out how to save money on food fast? Say hello to freezer meals. I love these because you can set aside time to prep ahead and end up having great meals in the week with less stress.
Look online for great recipes, do prep work for most of the week in a couple hours, and then you’re just pulling things out of the freezer every night and never worrying ingredients will go bad before you get to them!
You’ll save time. You’ll save money. You’ll lower your stress. And you can confidently say no to those drive thru temptations because you know an easy dinner is waiting at home! This tip is a lifesaver for busy budgeters.
8. Pay with cash.
I say it all the time, people: Cash is king! If you want to set and stick to your grocery budget—pay with cash.
Get yourself a cash envelope system going for this budget line (and any others that are hard to keep in line). When you go to the store with cash in hand, you know exactly how much you can spend—because once the cash runs out, that’s it.
9. Make a meal plan.
This is one of my absolute favorite tips for how to save money on groceries. Are you ready for this? Make a meal plan and a grocery list before you ever leave the house. Look to see what you already have in the fridge, pantry and freezer while you plan. Use the sales ad and any coupons you have when you make your plan—so you know you’re getting the best deals all around.
Pro tip: Get my free Meal Planner & Grocery Savings Guide to learn even more!
10. Stick to the grocery list.
Okay, making the grocery list from your meal plan is just the first part here. When you get to the store, stick to the list. I mean it! That’s how you’ll say goodbye to impulse buys that rack up your bill and avoid purchases that seem like a good idea but end up in the trash. You’ll save so much when you stick to that grocery list.
11. Order curbside pickup.
If you get a little sidetracked when you’re shopping in person, order your groceries for curbside pickup. Let’s face it, the food images on your screen are way less tempting than that freshly baked coffee cake that catches your eye when you’re innocently reaching for the pizza dough that’s actually on your list.
Shopping online is also an easy way to compare brand prices, see what’s on sale, and watch the total add up in real time without the calculator! Plus, you’ll save time by avoiding all that walking around the store.
Just remember: Lots of stores offer this service at no charge. But even if there’s a small fee, you might save overall with this method—so do some math and see for yourself.
12. Shop in season.
When you’re grocery shopping on a budget, it’s super important to shop produce that’s in season. Buying fresh mangos in January will cost you way more than average—and they might not even taste good! So, make those mango salsa recipes in the summer and only buy fruits and veggies when they’re in season.
13. Ignore eye-level items.
Have you ever noticed that the most expensive items on the grocery shelves are right at your eye level? That’s no accident. Grocery stores are smart. They want you to see those items and splurge.
Instead of falling for those marketing tricks, look up and down as you shop. The more affordable brands tend to be higher or lower on the shelves. Now that you know what those clever stores are up to, you can literally keep your eye out for grocery savings.
14. Try different grocery stores.
You guys, it may be time to break up with your go-to grocery store. It’s not you—it’s their overpriced produce.
Find the cheapest grocery store in your area. I’m talking about Aldi, Market Basket, WinCo Foods, Food 4 Less, Costco, Walmart and Trader Joe’s. But don’t get too comfy at just one of those. Check the weekly ads to see what’s on sale at competing grocery stores. Go where the sales are! That’s how you really save on groceries.
15. Save certain purchases for when they’re on sale.
I’ve got a few name-brand items I simply will not skimp on. But here’s the way I make it work with my budget: I only buy those pricier items when they’re on sale or I have a coupon or—better yet—both!
If you watch sale trends and stock up on your favorite things only when you’ve got a deal, you’ll save so much on groceries!
16. Limit your shopping trips.
The more times you pop into the store, the more opportunities you have to overspend. By the way, remember how I said to meal plan and stick to your grocery list? Well, following that tip is how you’ll get this tip to work.
17. Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
Listen, when I’m hungry, I can’t say I’m my best self. And when I’m hungry in a store with nearly endless food options? Everything looks good and my grocery list just won’t cut it.
Walk into the grocery store with a full stomach, and you’ll probably be shocked by how much lower your grocery bill is.
18. Don’t buy more than you need.
I love a deal. And if you’re reading these tips on how to save on groceries, I bet you do too. But don’t buy something just because it’s on sale or because you have a coupon. If it wasn’t part of your planned grocery list, then you still just spent more money than you were planning to—deal or no deal.
19. Test out your green thumb.
Okay, I know this won’t work for everyone, but it’s a great way to eat healthy on a budget. Plant your own garden! If you grow your own tomatoes, bell peppers and cauliflower, you won’t have to buy any at the store.
You can start small by planting herbs like parsley, cilantro and rosemary right on your kitchen windowsill. If you can’t use your harvest right away, puree it and pour it into ice cube trays to freeze for later.
20. Use apps on your smartphone.
When you’re searching for ways to save money on groceries, don’t forget about all the coupon apps out there! Ibotta, Receipt Hog, Checkout 51 and Target Circle are just a few of the great apps that can help you save.
21. Try going meatless for a meal.
Don’t be afraid to branch out and have a meatless meal once or twice a week. I’m not saying you have to become a vegetarian, but buying lots of meat is expensive. So instead, find some meatless recipes to whip up on Meatless Monday—or whenever!
22. Buy meat only when it’s on sale.
When you do buy meat, get what’s on sale and build your meal plans around that! Be on the lookout for great bulk deals on meat and freeze what you won’t use that week.
Also, look for cuts of meat that are cheaper alternatives to what you usually buy. Skip the sirloin and grab ground chuck. Pass on the pork chops and pick the pork loin. That way you can have your meat and save money too!
23. Eat leftovers for lunch.
Technically this is a way to save on your overall food budget because restaurants are not groceries. I repeat: Restaurants are not groceries.
But listen, if you’re dropping $10 twice a week for lunches, that’s $80 a month being spent on going out to eat (and that’s not even including date nights or Fridays out with friends).
Take leftovers from those wonderful meals you’re prepping in the week to lunch and put that extra $80 each month in a different budget line that got hit by inflation or on your current money goal!
Pro tip: Check out these cheap lunch ideas for even more ways to save on your midday meal.
24. Buy generic.
Are generic brands really as good as the name brands?
Consumer Reports says most store brands measure up to the name brands in taste and quality—and they’re usually 20–25% lower in price too!4 So, try it for yourself.
Buy some generic groceries, even if you just start small. Get this: When it comes to staples like salt, sugar and baking soda, a lot of chefs buy generic too. And they’re the food experts! So, listen to the pros when it comes to how to save money on groceries.
25. If you buy it—use it!
Every rotten cucumber and moldy peach is like a little stack of cash going right into the trash. It’s the worst! And I feel like even with my meal plan and grocery list, this still happens if I’m not careful—especially with those bananas I really plan on the kids having for snacks all week.
Remember: If you buy the bananas, have the kids eat the bananas. Waste less and save more every month by being super intentional here.
26. Shop the farmers market at the end of the day.
Okay, heads up—most things at the farmers market aren’t cheaper. But if you like supporting local farmers and buying fresh foods, shop at the end of the day. Most vendors don’t want to take their food home with them, so get there just before closing time to see what kind of deals you can score.
27. Preserve and store away.
When ingredients are overflowing at the farmers market (or in your garden), buy in bulk and preserve them for the winter. You might spend more during the summer with the extra produce and canning jars. But think of it as an investment for a meal a few months ahead.
In the winter, you can buy a box of pasta for a couple of bucks and pull a container of your homemade tomato sauce off the shelf. Mix it all up and you have a super cheap, homemade dinner on your hands.
28. Shop the outside aisles of the store.
The inside aisles of the grocery store are mostly made up of processed food that can derail your budget (and, let’s be honest, aren’t always the healthiest picks). Shop the outer edges of the store to find fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and beans. Your food budget will thank you later.
29. Skip the packaging.
A prepackaged bag of lettuce with a dressing packet and fixings will cost double what a head of lettuce with some simple homemade dressing would. Go for the unpackaged fruits and veggies whenever you can. They’re cheaper and usually healthier too.
Yes, you’ll have to spend a little extra time chopping and prepping, but it’s more money back in your wallet. And that’s worth it.
30. Leave the overspenders at home.
A word to the wise—if you find that your kids are the culprits of adding all those not-on-the-list items to your cart, you might want to leave them at home. Or maybe it’s your spouse who needs to stay far away from the grocery store. Or you! Let the person who’s best at sticking to the list do the actual shopping. Everyone else—Stay. Home.
Grocery Shopping on a Budget Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
A few new habits can help you lower your monthly grocery bill, stick to your budget, and meet your money goals faster. That means you’ll have more cash to pay down debt, invest for the future, or save for something fun—like a babysitter and a nice meal out where someone else cooks and cleans up!
By the way, I keep talking about having a budget. You should really check out EveryDollar. This is the budgeting app my family uses to plan our spending for groceries and everything else in life. And you can download EveryDollar today for free!
Okay, now you know how to save money on groceries. Making a few changes can add up to big savings, so start going through this list. Like, now!