14 simple ways to save money on groceries

September 3, 2021

Your monthly grocery budget is probably one of your biggest monthly expenses. It’s also one of the easiest categories to cut back on in your budget. This makes it a great way to save extra money when you need or want to.

Below, we share 14 simple ways to save money on groceries. You can then put the money you’ve saved towards making progress on big financial goals or spending guilt-free on a fun treat for yourself. Depending on how much you want to save, you can try just one of these tips or a combination!

1. Couponing in the digital age

It’s easy to be envious of the commitment of extreme couponers who save hundreds of dollars every month at the grocery store. Sadly, we can’t all find the time to clip those coupons or find the space to store nonperishable items we’ve purchased at bargain prices. Luckily, the digital age makes it easier for those of us who love to shop sales but can’t commit the time to clip enough coupons to enjoy real savings.

Digital coupon apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 are free to use and offer cash back on products and brands at tons of stores like Walmart, Target, and Kroger chains. These cashback apps can help you discover items on sale that are already on your grocery list, so you don’t have to sacrifice the foods you love and enjoy.

2. Price compare with grocery store apps

Another time and money saving trick you can use is to download a price comparison grocery store app. Different grocery stores have sales at different times, but it’s hard to find the time to drive from store to store to find the best deals for the items on your list. (Not to mention the gas money this would cost, which could eat into the savings you do manage to find.)

To compare sales right from the comfort of your home, you can use a price comparison app like Basket. Or you can simply use the store-specific apps from the grocery stores you frequent to quickly look up prices for the items on your list.

3. Learn the sales cycles

This method may take a few weeks to get the hang of, but it’s an insider’s tip that can save you lots of money for years to come. Certain items in the grocery store follow sales cycles every six to eight weeks or so. If you can learn the general sales cycles, you can start to anticipate when your favorite items will go on sale.

If this tip seems like it might be too much work, we recommend starting with one of your go-to items, like chicken, bread or milk. Make a note in a journal or on your smartphone every time the item is on sale and see if you can detect a pattern. Once you’ve got this down, you’ll be able to anticipate the sales before they even happen!

4. Meal plan before you shop

Meal planning is a foolproof way to cut down your grocery budget. If you buy ingredients for one or two meals then try to prepare those meals as soon as possible. This will ensure you actually use the groceries you’ve bought (no one likes to throw money in the trash). And you’ll be less tempted to eat out when you have meals ready to eat.

If you really hate eating the same meal multiple days in a row, search online for meal plan recipes that are freezable. Having frozen meals available that last for months and can easily be reheated, ensures you won’t hit the drive-through if you just can’t stomach another night of burrito bowls (although we have a hard time imagining anyone getting tired of burrito bowls).

5. Plan themed cuisine weeks

This tip takes meal planning to another level. Almost all cuisines – Mexican and Italian come to mind – use many of the same ingredients across different dishes. Common ingredients are repurposed to make different dishes (think tacos, burritos, tostadas and enchiladas).

If you plan your meals for each week to fit a single cuisine theme, you can add variety into your meal planning by using the same ingredients. But without eating the same thing over and over again.

6. Go meat-free at least one day a week

Even when it’s on sale, meat, poultry and fish can often be some of the largest expenses on your grocery bill. So going meat-free once a week isn’t just for vegetarians – it’s also a good idea for those trying to save money on groceries. You can find a bounty of hearty vegetarian recipes online that are so tasty, you may not even miss your meat!

7. Buy unpackaged fruits and veggies

Pre-washed and pre-cut fruits and veggies in plastic packages may save you time, but they certainly don’t save you dollars. It’s worth the few extra minutes to wash, chop and dice your fresh produce when you’re trying to save a few bucks.

8. Make a list and stick to it

We recommend never stepping into a grocery store without a complete list of items. It’s especially important to plan your meals when making this list so you ensure you get everything you need for the week. Stick to the list and don’t allow yourself to veer away from it, even if you notice items on sale.

If you have kiddos, allow them to help you create the meal plan and grocery list. To make this process fun, you can send them on a grocery store scavenger hunt to find everything on the list (and only the things on the list). It’s much easier to stick to the list when everyone is involved and working together.

9. Buy generic

In our experience, generic products really don’t taste much different from their name brand counterparts. And according to Consumer Reports, private label food and beverage products are at least 20% to 25% less expensive than the same name brand products. Most likely, they’ll still result in the delicious meals you’re used to.

10. Pay attention to products on the lower shelves

Grocery stores exist to make money, so of course, they try to sell their more expensive items first. To accomplish this, they often place more expensive products or brands at eye level, positioning less costly items on the top and bottom shelves.

But you don’t have to fall prey to these marketing tactics. Scan the higher and lower items first. You’ll likely find the products you’re looking for – from less expensive brands – nearer the floor or ceiling, which helps you save significantly on your grocery bill.

11. Calculate items as you go

Keep your phone calculator out with you as you shop. Add items as they make it into your cart (you can always round up to the nearest dollar just to be safe). Keeping track of that day’s grocery bill as you go can provide the motivation to put back those items you don’t really need – and prevent unpleasant surprises at the checkout!

12. Shop in a square

Avoid the temptation to go up and down every aisle in the grocery store. You’ll find that the inner aisles are packed full of expensive, unhealthy processed items, while the outer perimeters are filled with fresh produce, fresh meat and fresh dairy items.

Of course, you’ll have to go down a few of these aisles to get everything you need. But you’re bound to add unneeded items to your cart when you go down every aisle. Not only can this trick help you save money on groceries, but it can also help you save valuable time (and calories!) as well.

13. Don’t shop hungry

Hunger causes us to act in strange and emotional ways. Best to eat a hearty lunch before you hit the grocery store. When you shop hungry, you’ll find it very difficult to resist the chips, crackers and cookies on sale.

14. Use pickup services to avoid impulse buys

Our last money saving grocery tip is to take advantage of curbside pickup services. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we learned that taking advantage of curbside pickup not only saves us time, it also prevents us from encountering the temptation to add unnecessary groceries to the cart.

Many grocery stores offer curbside pickup for free, but others charge small fees. However, if you’re a temptation shopper, this small fee could end up saving you dozens (or hundreds) of dollars!

On a savings kick? Save even more money with Loqbox

If you’re on a savings kick, you might be interested in Loqbox as well. Loqbox is a free tool that allows you to save money while building better credit.

Here’s how it works:

  • Decide how much you want to save every month for a year.
  • Loqbox then finances the full amount with a 0% APR loan.
  • Each month as you make your payments, we report them to the credit bureaus.
  • As long as you make your payment on time and in full, this helps build your credit.
  • When you hit your savings goal, you receive every dollar you’ve saved back for free when you open a new account with one of our partner banks. (This helps us to keep Loqbox free.)
  • Or you can transfer your savings into an existing savings account for a small fee.

If you want to save more money this year and improve your credit score, learn more about how we work today.

Loqbox is no longer available in your state. If you're an existing member you can still access Loqbox here.