How much do you spend on groceries? Most consider this expense as essential for living healthy. You are what you eat, and the better the quality of your meals, the better you will feel and go through your day.
Up to a certain point, diet quality can affect your results indirectly. But once you cover the essentials, everything else becomes an expense. Should you even think of saving a couple hundred a month of groceries?
Groceries don’t give you any positive returns (ROI): the money you spend on products is gone forever. It makes sense to save when having better ways to invest your money.
At best, you might lower expenses by 20-30%, which is not that much if you’re spending $150-$300 per person. Is it worth it?
If you tried every other saving tricks and that wasn’t enough, you could try with groceries. If you didn’t, you would find much better ways to save.
- Can You Save Money On Groceries?
- Preparing for Shopping
- Buying the Right Way
- Alternative Options
- The Bottom Line
Can You Save Money On Groceries?
People tend to think of this topic as eating less or worse. According to them, you should stop eating outside, and your health may compromise.
Although it sounds too good to be true, you can get the same high quality for a lower price. Here are some examples:
- Buy in season
- Get cashback
- Visit the farmer’s market
- Buy not-processed products
When it comes to some products, quality won’t change much regardless of the brand. Other products may not be expensive because of the quality, but the packaging, for example.
Despite the connotation, grocery saving tips don’t affect quality. It’s not about being frugal but being essentialist. Do you really need to buy that?
Let’s look at some tricks:
Preparing for Shopping
Have you been in this situation? You’re at home stuck with some products you didn’t want or that aren’t the best for your health. Now you need to either throw them away or resist eating them.
Most people say this battle starts at the grocery store, not at home. Then, why do we buy things we don’t need? You have to come to the store prepared, knowing what you want.
And because these stores want to sell you as much as possible, you need to be aware of their marketing tactics, so you don’t fall for them.
The first saving advice is to prevent the wrong items from getting into your shopping cart.
#1 Make a budget for your shopping list
Your shopping list is (or should) be your only reason to go to the supermarket. Without one, there’s no right or wrong way to save on groceries.
Shopping lists are common knowledge, yet people will likely add more products than necessary. Your list not only tells you what to buy but also the only items that should be there. If you’re “expanding” your shopping budget because you found some deals, the list is useless.
As for discounts and promotions, the major grocery brands already have magazines, ads, and web pages showing the latest deals. Make the decision when creating the list, not when you’re already at the place.
#2 Base your list off of your meal plan
It’s almost second nature to choose what meals to prepare based on what you already have. You don’t want anything to waste, so your available products dictate what to eat (until you run out of the essentials).
Instead, choose first, and buy it later. Here’s an indirect saving strategy:
Financial success depends on the choices you make with your money. No matter how small they are, any decisions made throughout the day will drain mental energy.
If you’re all about saving, it doesn’t make much sense unless you care about earning more as well. Whether you want to increase your income or manage money better, decision quality is critical. Why spend energy on the thing that is useless?
It gets worse. If you buy products that you shouldn’t be eating, you’ll spend more energy when deciding not to eat that food.
Imagine looking at the fridge every four hours, thinking about what you’re going to prepare today. Just make a weekly plan. If it sounds too monotonous, make a few exceptions every month.
Don’t you know what to buy in groceries? Prepare the list before you go.
Are those promotions too tempting? Check them online before you visit the store.
#3 Don’t shop when you’re hungry
You can’t go shopping when hungry and not overspend. You might have got everything on the list, but because you haven’t eaten in a while, it doesn’t feel enough. Especially if you haven’t prepared any meals at home, you’re likely to buy some processed food.
Because of the presentation, you may still see those products appetizing even if you’re full, let alone a hungry buyer without a list.
The next time you find yourself in this situation, think of all the times you bought too much food and had to throw it away later. Maybe it’s still in the fridge.
#4 Choose better stores
Rather than going to the most convenient grocery, you can walk a bit further and find another one with better prices. If that’s your nearest shop, it’s perfect. But if it doesn’t, it’s just as convenient:
Sometimes, living near the best groceries can be a distraction. Buying groceries from a farther location (by car, for example) means you’ll likely make big purchases and go there less often.
Because it’s far and you don’t want to forget about anything, it forces you to think in advance what you buy. After you come back from the store, you’re no longer thinking about it until next week.
If your shop is too “accessible,” you may find yourself going every day, which increases the chance of spending.
#5 Avoid Pre-conditioned Temptations
The products you don’t need are the easiest ones to see everywhere. Have you wondered why?
Part of product marketing is to place the most promoted items on the shelves at your eye level (if you shop with kids, the most attractive brands may be lower as well).
For example, you will find the products you need faster if you go to the perimeter of the store or the end of the room. The products they want you to sell will appear in the center and main corridors.
We neither need to remind you about those snacks they sell right at checkout.
The good news is, you don’t need to fall for it once you’re aware of what they’re doing.
#6 Round prices up
How do you know you can afford it?. Most recommend tracking your expenses as you look for products, right before the checkout. With your phone calculator, find out how much you have left.
Although you won’t go over your budget, you will neither save money. If you have spare cash to spend, you’re more likely to spend it on products you don’t need. Instead of adding the exact price, round it up.
$1.39 becomes $2, $5.50 is $6, and $9.15 makes $10. This way of calculating will make you bring enough money to afford what you need while barely using your budget.
We invite you to see those products with this new price and ask yourself if they are still worth it. If you can’t justify paying $2 (for the $1.39 product), it may not be that essential.
#7 Leave big spenders at home
If going with your spouse, husband, or kids makes you overspend, why not go shopping alone? These people can be expensive to bring to groceries.
If you’re the big spender, find someone who can buy for you. The major grocery stores allow you to prepare your cart online and pick it up later. Or you can pay a small fee to have it delivered to your house.
When shopping online, you no longer worry about promotions and outdated offers. You always see the total value of your shopping cart, and the store only shows updated prices.
#8 Minimalistic Shopping
Minimalism is about only having what you need, which is the right approach for saving money without living frugally. The next time you visit the store, make it simple.
- If possible, choose meat in sealer bags, not in trays.
- Buy the meat without condiments.
- For vegetables and processed food, avoid anything with too much packaging.
- If you find a 2×1 promotion or similar, ask yourself if you need the item in the first place.
- Buy natural rather than sliced (processed) fruits and veggies.
None of these features affect the quality of your product, yet we’re paying for them. If you have a choice, pick another product or go to other shops. It may save 20-50 cents per product.
#9 Buy generic brands for generic products
Everybody loves a good meal: the best products will make the best dish. But not all ingredients affect the same way. Did you know some world-class chefs still choose generic brands for their meals?
High-quality meat may be worth it, but buying a better brand of pepper may affect less than 1%. Choose your preferred brand for the main ingredient of your meal, not all of them. We promise the food will be just as delicious.
This group includes staple foods, condiments, and some non-perishable products. If these took the most of your budget, switching brands could save 20-25%. Some will barely make a price difference, while other products have brands 40% cheaper.
Buying the Right Way
By not buying the wrong products, you’re saving the most money possible. After you’ve prepared for shopping, you might want to try these other saving tricks to get more for the same price:
#10 Buy in bulk
Depending on your store, bulk orders may save you money. For essential non-perishable products, you can get a better deal from food wholesalers.
If you don’t want to buy that many quantities, you can wait until the store throws some discounts and get dozens of them. Bulking makes sense for families consuming lots of food per day. Make sure you have enough space for storage.
Bulking perishable items may lead to either spoiled food or you eating more to prevent that. None of them will save you money unless you can freeze that food and preserve it.
#11 Shop in season
Seasonal shopping gets you the best prices and quality. Skip this rule, and you’ll be overpaying for foods that don’t even taste well.
Fruits and vegetables generally don’t cost much unless you skip this rule. Since many of you already do it, it’s not as much about saving money but buying at the right time.
At the end of a season, many sellers will need to sell out the remaining stock. Better prices for consumers!
#12 Types Of Food
If you have a practical approach, you may not care that much about the taste of food. You may instead wonder if a product is healthy for you. If you’re on a diet or want to gain muscle, you check for the carbs and calories.
Your eating habits have a lot to do with how you spend on groceries. The easiest way to eat well without overeating is to choose natural, high-density products: oatmeal, spinach, eggs, chicken, barley, or quinoa. Most of them are cheap, available everywhere, non-perishable, and easy to add to your meal plan.
#13 Alternative markets
The largest grocery brands focus on profit. That means to sell products for more than they cost, or process food so you can keep larger inventories for longer.
But you don’t need to buy from them to guarantee the best quality. Smaller shops may sell for just enough to break even, especially when having too much left at the end of a season.
Farmers sell most of their products to bigger brands. But if they have too many left by the end of the month, they may sell them in a local market for even cheaper. Learn the pros and cons of farmers markets.
Ethnic shops do well for add-on products and some staple foods. These are mostly family-owned businesses with the goal of selling as many goods as possible. They tend to work long hours to keep the store open every day, and prices range between $1 to $5.
Groceries are well aware some customers want to get as much as possible for low prices. But saving money doesn’t stop at the store. After you do the shopping, you can try some of the following to spend less:
#14 Cashback applications
If possible, pay all your groceries with a credit card, whether it’s in the shop or buying online. Some platforms do discounts for doing this, and it saves you the problem of carrying cash or getting the wrong change.
The easiest way is to buy goods online through their website or through different cashback applications. When you make an order, they may refund 1-10% of your order. This way, they incentivize consumers to use their platform.
Others may require you to link them to your bank account (a virtual card number, for example). So whenever you buy something, the program tracks the expense and gives cashback.
The biggest platforms and exchanges have their own cashback cards. Beware that not all stores will be able to recognize them. If a payment cancels and you “lost” your money, it will return to your balance after a few days.
#15 Supermarket loyalty programs
Low prices attract more customers to the store, but sellers want to make a profit too. Although promotions lower those margins, it’s easier to run a business that has a constant flow of customers. That’s why they value loyalty more than customer acquisition.
Since they will likely come back, you don’t lose much by offering better discounts to these clients. The subscription may cost, say, $5 per month. But big buyers may use it to save 10% after hundreds of dollars spent.
Retailers can make these offers because customers are giving them their data as well. By knowing basic information and shopping habits, grocery stores will become more effective at advertising to new customers.
#16 Do it yourself
If you have enough space, your garden could become an investment. It doesn’t cost much to plant some seeds, and over time, it may save you hundreds of dollars.
We don’t know if you like cooking, but few things feel more fulfilling than eating vegetables grown by you.
The Bottom Line
You can save money on groceries without living frugally. In fact, removing the wrong products from your shopping list will make you healthier, and your wallet will thank you later.
With the goal of saving money, you can only go so far. Before you think of groceries, try to improve your financial habits, increase your income, and invest your money.