To save money on your groceries, your shopping routine needs to be solid. How you shop for your weekly groceries will make a big impact on how much money you can save that week.
Sure, you need a shopping list, you need to know what you have on hand, and you need to check your sales ads to know what deals you can count on this week.
But how you shop in the store can affect your budget and your bottom line.
With hidden costs that usually come in the form of convenience, it can be challenging to figure out what to buy and what to skip in order to save money. So here are some of my favorite tried-and-true strategies to save money while you’re at the grocery store.
Prepping Your Own Food
When we started living a healthier lifestyle, we would get several bagged salads to eat throughout the week.
They were convenient and it helped me easily whip up a salad without having to gather a bunch of ingredients and measure things out. Everything was ready and portioned out in the bag.
But after doing the math (both with time and money), I realized that this convenience costs much more than it’s worth most of the time. I found that buying the individual ingredients was much more budget-friendly and each ingredient can make several salads throughout the week.
So, now I’m able to make 5x more salad for a fraction of the cost.
As for the time constraint, I realized that making a salad myself didn’t take as long as I expected. I prepped the ingredients ahead of time, so they were ready to toss together in a couple of minutes. Now, I get to choose exactly what I want to add and how much.
Shredded cheese is also something I love to do myself instead of buying it pre-shredded at the store. I buy most of my cheese in blocks from Costco to get the best price.
Then, I just use my food processor to shred it and store in freezer bags in my freezer. It makes a ton of shredded cheese for a fraction of the cost.
The added benefit is that it doesn’t contain potato starch, which is the additive in the store bought shredded cheese.
When you save money on groceries, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend a ton of time in the kitchen to make up for it.
Actually, the extra few minutes you spend can save you hundreds of dollars per month on your grocery budget, which makes it worthwhile.
Learning to process your groceries yourself and getting back to basics means that you get to save money and enjoy good quality food.
Marinating Your Own Meat
I’ve found that buying marinated meat is more expensive, and to be honest, I’m always a bit uneasy with the shelf life of the marinated meat.
By marinating the meat myself, I can save money on groceries and make sure that the food I serve my family is up to my standards.
With pre-marinated meat, you can really taste that amazing flavor throughout the meat, and I wanted the same effect. So, I started marinating the meat overnight or even a couple of days and it made a huge difference in flavor.
Preparing your own marinade takes less than 5 minutes and helps you save more on groceries. Remember, every penny saved adds up.
Buying Whole Foods and Produce
I’ve always purchased whole ingredients to save on groceries. The closer the food is to its natural state, the more affordable it can be. Next time you visit the grocery store, test it out for yourself. Compare shredded carrots to whole carrots. Check the unit price of each and you’ll likely find that the shredded carrots cost more than the whole carrots.
Most of the time, the unit price is shown on the label, usually in small print. But if it’s not there, you can figure it out by taking the total price of the item and dividing it by the number of units. For example, if you have a pound of carrots (or 16 ounces) and it costs two dollars for the pound, then it would be $2.00/16 ounces, which comes out to about 12 cents per ounce.
Cutting your own fruits and vegetables taking take that long and actually preserves your groceries until you’re ready to eat them.
If you want to have pre-cut vegetables on hand for busy nights, a tip is to chop or dice them up when you bring them home and just store them in the fridge or freezer. They’ll be ready for you when you need them without having to spend more money for the convenience.
By just chopping my fruits and vegetables myself, I save a lot of money on groceries, about 30 dollars per week, or $120 dollars per month.
I told you, savings add up quickly when you’re strategic about how you shop for your groceries.
Avoiding the Meal Helpers
When I was a new cook, buying groceries was a challenge. I never knew what ingredients I needed to make a meal. So, buying meal packs like Rice-A-Roni and Hamburger Helper really saved the day.
For just one box of hamburger helper, usually $2.99 per box, I could get a 1-pound bag of rice or 1-2 lbs of pasta. This amount of rice or pasta can easily make 3-4 meals that would feed my family of 4, since I have to add my own ground beef anyway.
So, I could feed my family 4x more for the same price of buying just one Hamburger Helper.
I’ve also become a huge fan of batch cooking. It’s simple, saves me time during the week, and I save a lot of money on groceries.
Meal helpers do offer some convenience with pre-portioned ingredients, but it’s really no more convenient than making a meal from scratch. So, it’s not worth the added cost.
And I get it, there are times when life gets so busy that this option comes in handy. But double batching your meals to freeze for another night can help you build your dinner options so that on busy weeknights, you only have to pull out the meal and pop it in the oven.
This can also be done for lunches. When I used to commute to work, I’d always pack my lunch and many days, it included things like Lean Cuisines or salad bowls. While it does still save some money from getting takeout at work, I knew that I could save even more if I brought food I made instead.
So, I’d pack leftovers from last night’s dinner, make a cold cut sandwich, or use leftover chicken to make a quick wrap. I’d have a great lunch, use up what I have so nothing goes to waste, and I saved a ton of money each week. Eating leftovers cut my weekly lunch spending by about 50%.
Buy Family-Sized Everything
Even if you live alone or are a 2-person household, you can still take advantage of family-sized portions to save money. Just simply come home from the store and divide the item into meal-sized portions for your household and freeze the portions so you can use them for later.
A family-sized bag of chips costs about $5-$6, which can fill least 20 sandwich bag portions. The individual packs cost about $12 for the same quantity, so save 50% just by bagging it yourself.
Cooking the Easy Way
Even for the newbie cook, there are easy meals you can make to help you save money and buy less groceries throughout the week. The trick is to use versatile ingredients that can be used in several ways and throughout several dishes.
Batch cooking is also one my favorite ways to cook several meals at once, so we have dinners ready to go for the week without eating the same thing every night. I batch cook dinners, batch prep breakfasts and lunches that I can pop in the freezer to have on hand when I need them. When I have breakfast sandwiches (and even homemade hot pockets) on hand, I spend less money at the grocery store and save money by avoiding takeout.
Storing them is easy, just use a freezer bag and put them in the freezer.
Making our own meals in bulk saves time, allows us to choose ingredients we love, creates convenience when we need it most, and helps us eat more of the things we enjoy while staying on budget.
Skip the Sweets Section
Cakes at the grocery store may seem like an affordable alternative to baking at home. Cake mixes often go on sale and that can make it really appealing.
But making a cake at home will always cost less than the boxed mixes. And they’re just as easy to make, even for beginner bakers.
My younger daughter loves to bake, so this is a great place to use her creativity, and the results are almost always delicious, and it makes the house smell amazing.
Here’s my favorite super easy brownie recipe that uses basic ingredients and costs pennies to make at home.
Homemade Broth is Best
Broth is SO easy to make. You don’t need any additional groceries to make it either. It literally uses leftover meat, chicken bones and vegetable scraps you were going to throw away anyways.
You just throw them all in a pot and fill it with water, add some seasoning and let it simmer for an hour or two. And magically, you have broth!
I store mine in freezer bags in my freezer for whenever I need it. But, you can also store in a recycled pasta jar in the fridge. It lasts forever.
Super easy and incredibly inexpensive.
What tip(s) in this post were surprising and which ones are you going to use on your next grocery shopping trip?