When trying to find ways to save money, I honestly didn’t think we’d be able to cut much from the grocery budget. I mean, we have to eat, right?
The first month we started tracking our expenses, we didn’t actually change any of our habits and just kept better track of what we spent.
I was absolutely shocked by the amount we spent on food.
It seemed completely ridiculous for 2 adults and a baby to spend so much. It’s not like we were eating lobster and steak every night.
We were looking for places to shrink our monthly budget to pay down my student loans and hopefully figure out how to live on one income (read about my journey to become a stay-at-home mom!).
It was clear that I had to cut back on groceries.
I was working full time and had little extra time to devote to anything like extreme couponing. I was totally overwhelmed already so I needed to lower my costs as quickly and easily as possible.
By the next month, I cut our grocery bill in half with pretty minimal effort.
I was both surprised and thrilled with how much I was able to save.
So how did I do it?
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1 | Meal Plan
I know I said it was easy… if you’re anything like me you’re groaning at the idea of meal planning. I get it. It sounds daunting and boring and like it will take a lot of extra time and effort.
At least that’s what I thought and why I was reluctant to even try. Turns out I was wrong. Meal planning takes me about 10 minutes and saves me hours and tons of money each week.
I don’t waste food, I don’t buy odd ingredients that I won’t use again, and I don’t miss the uncertainty of what’s for dinner every night.
If you’re not sure how to get started check out Jo’s advice for Meal Planning for Busy Moms.
I didn’t even do a particularly good job of meal planning at first, but I still saved lots of money. It also made some of the next things I did easier.
2 | Shop Less Often
I used to stop by the grocery store every few days.
Inevitably, we never had everything we needed to make dinner so I was always running in on the way home for 1 or 2 items. The problem was I never left with just 1 or 2 items.
More trips to the store is just more opportunities to spend.
Every time I’d enter a grocery store, I’d leave with no less than 5 extra things. Usually these were things I didn’t need, but I was hungry and impulsive.
It didn’t seem like a big deal since I wasn’t spending that much on any one shopping trip, but over the course of the month they really added up. By simply cutting down to 1 trip per week I saved so much.
Honestly, I’d like to shop even less often, but to keep up with weekly sales and fresh produce I’m still sticking to once a week for now.
3 | Live by the List
There’s really 2 parts to this: 1) I actually had to write a real list and 2) I had to stick to it.
I must admit that sometimes, I’d skip the list and just wing it. This is probably why I had to keep running back to the store so often.
When I did write lists, they were vague and more like suggestions really. This made it easy to forget things and impossible to stick to. Things like cookies and chips were never on the list, but they always made it into the cart.
Meal planning really helped my make better lists, with all of the specific items I need. Curbing my impulse buys was harder.
I found that giving myself 1 splurge item (that I specifically write on the list) helps keep me from going off-list.
4 | Get Cash from Ibotta
A few friends had told me about Ibotta, but I was skeptical. Cash rewards on groceries???
But I gave it a try and it is awesome!
The FREE app gives you cash back for tons of grocery products that you probably already buy all the time. You just do your regular shopping then scan your receipt. Easy Peasy.
You can even use it on Amazon purchases and loads of other online shopping websites as well!
Last year I used my cash back to buy Christmas gifts.
5 | Compare Price Per Unit
We had gotten into the habit of sticking with certain brands and in our hurry didn’t always check for better deals. So I shed all brand loyalty and started paying more attention to prices.
Though I hadn’t paid much attention to it before, most stores show the price per unit for products right on the tag.
Sometimes the units for similar products are not the same though, so be prepared to do your own math.
Using the price per unit, we sometimes spend a little more upfront to get a better deal. That said, buying bulk is not always the way to go so be sure to check that unit price.
This also means that we have to be flexible sometimes. We don’t worry about buying specific brands or organic products. If you’ve read our post debating the value of organic products, you know that Jo and I have differing opinions on the subject.
Usually we can’t tell any difference with the bargain and store brands.
6 | Shop Around
I used to just go to the closest store.
To save, I started to check those mailed circulars for which stores had the best deals.
While potentially I could save the most by buying every item on my list at whichever store had the best deal, I have no desire to run around town to multiple stores each week. That violates my “shop less often” rule and seriously takes way too much time.
Instead, I use the sales to decide which 1 store to shop at that week. So I pick whichever store has the most/best deals.
Often the deciding factor is the sales on bigger tickets items like meats.
7 | Digital Coupons in Store Apps
I have a love/hate relationship with traditional coupons because I am terrible at using them. I lose them, forget them, wait until they expire, and overall find them to be a huge hassle.
BUT digital coupons are my jam.
Many grocery stores have their own apps with digital coupons. Usually you add the coupons in the app and they are all applied when your loyalty card is scanned at checkout.
No more clipping, organizing, digging through my purse, handing over a wad of ripped coupons, and waiting while the check scans them then hands me back several that didn’t apply.
Check the app store for your favorite supermarket. I’ve used Kroger, Safeway, Lidl, and Target.
As a side note, if you shop at Walmart, they don’t have digital coupons, but they do have Savings Catcher, which is also pretty awesome. If you scan your receipt, it checks your items against local advertisements and if other places had better deals it credits your account.
**Update: Walmart must have realized that the Savings Catcher was too good to be true because they have ended the service as of May 2019, bummer.
I continue to look for new ways to save, but I’m still trying to balance additional money savings with the amount of time and effort required.
These methods were the most effective and easiest to implement. And they still work for me as I’ve managed to keep my grocery budget the same despite a growing toddler and new baby.
Do you have some other easy ways you save money on groceries? Share them with us in the comments below!