10 Ways to Slash Your Grocery Bill

December 10, 2022

The combination of advanced marketing, high inflation, and the inability to maintain shelf discipline (pun intended) has made it extremely hard to save money on groceries in a meaningful way.

In the United States, the average monthly grocery bill for a family of three is $890 according to the USDA. And that doesn’t even include buying food at restaurants! This increase is a massive 10.4% difference year over year. And it’s cramping budgets by the millions.

Luckily for all of us, the increased difficulty of low-cost grocery shopping only poses an inconvenient challenge, and at HTM we’d argue it’s one we should all be willing to face head-on! 

This is a problem that you can tackle in a meaningful way. If you’re able to follow these ten tips, you can expect your monthly grocery bill to be reduced by a significant amount.

1. Stretch your current pantry

It is extremely easy to become content with the meals we eat consistently. Once the ingredients are gone it’s usually time to run to the store and stock up on next week’s version of the same exact meals, right? But, not only are we likely to get bored of food this way, we’re unknowingly missing out on what could be if we rummaged through our cupboards and gathered together all of the foods we’ve set aside for a rainy day! 

Try this: Consider making a meal from scratch using what you already have in your pantry. Get creative! If you’re not feeling creative, a website like Supercook can help you formulate a recipe with the ingredients you currently have on hand.

Not only will this provide you with a variety of meals for you to try that you’ve potentially never had, but it’s an inevitable way of cutting back on your grocery budget! (Not to mention you’re finally able to clean out your cabinets in a satisfying way 😉)

2. Respect the grocery list!

Once you’re able to determine what can be made from existing ingredients, then it’s time to fill in the gaps and make your grocery list. Making a list is essential to avoid splurging when you saunter past the dessert charcuterie board in your local supermarket.

Having a list is a massive help. But it won’t help you cut back your grocery expenses in a significant way unless you’re able to stick to that list. So make an active choice to avoid delicious temptations. If it’s not on the list, say to yourself, “walk away, not today.”

If you’re able to ransack your cupboards and then create your list, you might be pleasantly surprised with how much cash is left in your pocket after leaving the supermarket.

Pro tip: Don’t go grocery shopping while you are hungry! You’re more likely to splurge and buy convenience foods. Those typically cost more and are less nutritionally valuable.

3. Track and Review Your Current Expenses

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. The easiest step to slash your grocery budget is to know what your current typical grocery bills are! Tracking your spending gives you a foundation to challenge yourself, allowing you to gamify your shopping experience.

There’s no better way to stay motivated than when you realize “I spent $200 less than I typically do on groceries this month!”

We recommend apps like Mint.com and Personal Capital to track your expenses. They are both free apps, and give you great insight into how much you are spending on groceries – and actually EVERY area in life.

4. Pick the Best Value Grocery Stores

Wouldn’t it be nice if you found a single grocery store that has the lowest prices, a vast selection, fresh produce, bulk options and is in an area near you? Sadly, shops like this rarely exist. Instead, thrifty shoppers usually better seek out multiple stores that can collectively create the cheapest (and highest value) solution.

It might take a little effort, but testing new grocery stores to find which ones are the best for certain items is a great way to save money on groceries. Consumer Reports just updated their grocery store comparisons list which shows the best rates chains based on specific criteria.

Best value grocery stores

Some of our favorite options include Aldi, Lidl, local farmers markets, discount grocery outlets, and Costco. Aldi and Costco aren’t always in a city near you though. And don’t forget that some big box stores charge an annual membership fee, even though that fee is often well worth the savings you’ll garner.

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5. Take Advantage of Rewards & Digital Coupons

Most major supermarkets have solid reward programs which can lead to a large chunk of savings. Mobile apps and digital coupons are available for most grocery store chains. Membership is usually free, and coupons are sometimes automatically applied at checkout when you “clip” them in your grocery app.

Here’s a digital coupon I use almost every week at Vons. It gives me a 10% discount on my entire shipping cart, provided I spend enough…

save money on groceries with coupons like this!
An easy coupon in the Vons mobile app!

Sign up for mailing lists and you’ll also be emailed special offers and promo codes. Magazines and coupon booklets are most often located at the entry of the store or randomly found in your mailbox. 

When crazy deals present themselves don’t be afraid to grab a few extra of the discounted item, even if it means you’ll go over your budget slightly. As long as you can store that item away for future use, the long-term savings are likely worth it to minimize grocery expenses in the long run.

6. Use Cash Back & Rewards Credit Cards

Coupling reward programs with using a credit card amplifies savings. There are loads of credit cards that have a cash-back option, and here are some of our favs:

  • The AMEX Blue Cash Preferred card is hands down the best for grocery purchases. It offers an incredible 6% cashback when you use it at major grocery chains (up to $6,000 annually). That’s a pretty quick and easy way to cut your grocery bill down!
  • Capital One SAVOR ONE card offers unlimited 3% bash back on groceries stores and dining (and entertainment/streaming services too!) with $0 annual fee.
  • The Instacart Mastercard offers 5% cash back on all orders **but it’s only when you order via the Instacart app.
  • The Costco Anywhere VISA is great for shopping at Costco. If you’re a major fan of the warehouse club, this card is a great get too.

Personally, we use the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred for all our grocery trips. And if you’re interested, here are all the other cards in our wallet.

***PLEASE only use credit cards if you can handle credit responsibly and are able to pay the balance off *in full* at the end of each month***

7. Avoid Buying Convenience

A solid rule of thumb to follow during your frugal grocery run is to avoid trading money for time. In other words, if you’re able to create an item from scratch by purchasing a few ingredients, you’re likely to save money vs. buying pre-made items.

Some of our favorite homemade items include bread, soups, dressings, sauces, and most definitely desserts! Slow cookers and pressure cookers are game changers! You can throw in your ingredients in the morning, and when you get home from work there’s a delicious meal waiting for you.

Learning how to cook (from scratch) and minimizing highly processed foods absolutely helps to save money on groceries. Plus, cooking is actually fun!

8. Buy Store Brand vs. Name Brands

Do you buy the same name brand goods all the time? Maybe it’s time to give the cheaper alternative a try!

Blind taste tests from Consumer Reports have proven that most folks can’t tell the difference in taste. But your wallet definitely notices the difference. Buying generic brand items can cut the cost you pay for some items in HALF, sometimes even more.

Pro tip: Aldi groceries come with a ‘twice as nice’ guarantee, which means you’ll get the money refunded and the item replaced if you’re not satisfied. Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand is also highly rated for almost everything they make.

9. Avoid Meats & Imported Foods

Meats are likely one of your budget’s worst enemies. If you insist on keeping meat on your grocery list, opt for bone-in as this one change alone can make a noticeable difference.

If you’re worried about protein consumption, some great alternatives include eggs, almonds, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, quinoa, and so many others. Finding other sources of protein is a very feasible option if you want to make an immediate impact on your grocery bill.

Another option is to bulk-buy and stock up on meats when they are on sale. You can freeze most things and just defrost them later a day before you’re ready to cook them.

10. Don’t Get Bullied into Paying More

You know where you’re shopping, what’s on your list, what to avoid, and how you plan to pay for your goods. But even when you create a solid plan to cut your expenses, you might run into some obstacles. Similar to sports, don’t be afraid to call an audible or change your game plan.

Sometimes the supermarket might hike their prices on a particular brand or item. In those scenarios try not to be so committed to your list that you feel like you have no choice except to pay extra for that specific item. Instead, try and find alternative ingredients or head to another nearby shop that you suspect will be cheaper!

Being price conscious means adapting on the fly and always shopping with a thrifty mindset.

Pro tip: Check out Flipp.com to see all of the digital ads from each and every store before you go shopping each week.

The Bottom Line:

Groceries are always a major line item in our budgets. But with extremely high inflation right now, it’s even more important to pay close attention to your grocery spending. Being intentional with your grocery shopping allows you to keep your budget in check. 

And it doesn’t have to involve clipping coupons and endless drudgery. Gamify your shopping experience, and have fun being thrifty!

All of your money saved on groceries can be better purposed, whether it be padding your emergency fund or contributing more to retirement accounts. Spending less on food each month will allow you to make more rapid progress on your other financial goals.

**Feature pic by Maria Lin Kim on Unsplash

* Advertiser Disclosure: How to Money has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. How to Money and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
* User Generated Content Disclosure: Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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