This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products that I trust and love.
PSA: Food shopping is freaking expensive!
Ok, maybe you’ve known this fact for a very long time already. Which is great – that means you’re a functioning, responsible adult!
But if you’re anything like me, the weight of that statement didn’t hit you in your face until after you had your first kid and you realized that you actually needed to make food shopping trips on the regular. Oh, AND buy REAL food on said food shopping trips instead of just condiments and snacks.
And if that is the case, then you were blissfully ignorant to how much food actually costs. That shit. adds. up.
Over the next few shopping trips, you probably tried to control your impulse buys, add a little less produce to your cart, and skip the junk food aisle. But still, your food shopping bill hovered around the $300 mark.
Not to mention the mid-week trips you made for items you forgot.
You accepted that in addition to your newly acquired daycare bill, you now also had a hefty expense in food shopping.
What can you do? You gotta eat. You gotta feed your family. It is what it is, right?
Wrong! I’m pleased to tell you that you don’t need to spend $1200+ a month on food shopping.
That’s exactly what I was spending for 2 adults and 1 baby/toddler. We’re now a family of 4 and I’m spending half that!
How to Save on Food Shopping
Here’s how to save a pretty penny on food shopping.
1. Meal plan
If you’re not meal planning, then you’re not truly living. Just kidding! If you’re not meal planning, then you don’t really know exactly what you need to buy.
You may have a general idea and have written out a list of what’s running low in your pantry. But outside of that? You’re totally winging it. And that leaves you vulnerable!
Put aside some time during the week to plan out your meals for the following week. Plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Also, think about snacks you want to have on hand.
Tip: It doesn’t have to be fancy. When I first started meal planning, I was overly ambitious! I think I had a different, complicated dish planned for every dinner. It was impossible to sustain. It’s totally ok to have oatmeal for breakfast everyday of the week. For dinners, make enough for leftovers either for the next night or for lunch the next day.
Does the thought of meal planning overwhelm you like it used to me? Click here for my easy guide to meal planning.
Another thing that can make meal planning easy is this really cool, inexpensive service called PlateJoy. Platejoy sends you a custom weekly meal plan based upon your preferences and health goals. What’s great about this is that they plan meals that have similar ingredients which helps cut down on your food shopping bill. It also expands you’re recipe arsenal! #winning
2. Write a list.
Heading to the store without a list is a BIG mistake. Not only will you forget to buy the things that you need, but you’ll also buy a whole lotta stuff you don’t need.
Once you have your meal plan, writing your list is easy peasy. Just run through your meals and write down the needed ingredients. Make your list more organized with this shopping list. It’ll get you through the store more quickly!
When you go to the store, stay focused on your list and only buy what’s on it.
3. Take stock of your pantry.
This is two-fold.
First, throughout the week, make note of the items that you run out of. This way you’ll remember to add them to your shopping list. You won’t have to make mid-week stops at the store which means less opportunity for you to impulse buy. Use this cute notepad to keep track of what you run out of!
Second, before you decide on your meals for the week, look through your cabinets and fridge to see if you have anything that’s close to expiring or a lot of one thing. Then you can plan one or two meals around these items. It’s less you’ll need to buy at the store and you’ll avoid wasting food.
Tip: Once you have some ingredients that you know you’re ready to use up, head over to www.supercook.com to get recipes that are made with those specific ingredients.
4. Use Rebate Apps.
Rebate apps are a no brainer. It’s practically getting paid for food shopping! The two apps I use are Ibotta and Checkout51.
It’s so simple. Download the app, choose your favorite store, and browse through and select the offers you’re interested in. When you’re done shopping, snap a picture of your receipt and upload. Bam! Cash back. It’s a beautiful thing.
5. Buy store brand.
When I was younger, I was a total brand snob with everything from clothes to my food. I have no idea why because I certainly couldn’t afford (and still can’t) the more expensive name brands!
I had a friend who was a manager at a grocery store. He would always tell me to buy the store brand because it wasn’t all that different from the name brand. I have to admit I didn’t believe him.
Years later, I’ve learned that he was right! In a survey conducted by Consumer Reports, 74% of respondents said they were highly satisfied with store brands and 78% of respondents said store brands were the same quality as name brands.
Tip: While I find that this is the case for most foods, there are some that this doesn’t apply to for my store. For instance, store brand pasta tastes the same to me as name brand pasta. Frozen pancakes? Not so much. It’s a bit of trial and error, but totally worth it.
6. Don’t shop hungry.
I’m sure you’ve heard this time and time again. But trust me, I’ve put it to the test and it’s true. Shopping on an empty stomach will undoubtedly leave you with a bunch of snacks and junk food that you didn’t need!
7. Shop once a week.
If you’re meal planning and writing a shopping list, then you’ll only need to food shop once a week. This will keep you from making extra mid-week trips to the store. It’s really tough to head into the food store with the intention of only buying the one or two items that you forgot and actually sticking with the intention!
Less time in the grocery store = less impulse buying.
8. Shop online
If you’ve read any of my other posts (like this one!) or if you follow me on Facebook, then you know how much I absolutely support food shopping online! Sure, there’s an added service charge for this, but I still spend less money when I food shop online than when I food shop in the physical store.
Why? First, it’s easier to price compare. Second, I don’t get sucked into those yummy snack displays at the end of every aisle (ahem, the special deals that they always seem to have on entenmanns?). Third, I see a running a total of my bill as I add items to my card. Fourth, at the end of my “trip” I can review the cart and get rid of anything that I really don’t need.
9. Leave your husband at home.
Maybe this only applies to me? But my husband is the ULTIMATE snack monster.
When I first realized that I had to put on my big girl pants and start doing actual, real life food shopping, I incessantly complained to my husband about how much I haaaaaated it and how unfair it was that I was the one who had to do it.
So, as a very sweet show of support, he tagged along with me on my next couple of shopping trips.
Oh. My. God. What a mistake. Our food shopping bill increased by about $100 each time he came with me!
How is that possible? Well, he loves snacks. So every single aisle we went down, if something caught his eye, in the cart it went. Popcorn, brownie mix, soda… you name it, we probably bought it.
Now, when he offers to do the food shopping for me I’m like, “Awww thanks, babe. But hell to the no”.
You may not have snack monsters living in your house. But if you do, I highly advise against involving them in your food shopping festivities.
10. Check price per unit.
This one is taking value over price. It might not always cut your current food shopping bill down. It will, however, cut down on your next one.
For instance, today I was looking at juice boxes. There was a set of 6 for, let’s say, $3 ($.50 per box). Then there was a set of 12 for around $5 ($.42 per box). If I’m looking to keep my shopping bill as low as possible, I’d go with the 6 pack. But if I’m thinking longer term and want to get the most bang for my buck, I’m going with the 12 pack.
11. Look up and down.
Here’s a fun marketing secret for you: Stores put the priciest items on eye-level shelves. If you’re shopping in the store, make sure to look up and down so you get the best deal!
12. Eat according to the season.
If it’s out of season, it’s more expensive (and doesn’t taste that great either). It’s that simple. Here’s a list of which produce is in season when.
13. Start an herb garden.
For those of you out there who are rolling your eyes and thinking “Seriously? Who has time to garden?!”, stay with me here. This does not mean you have to start an entire vegetable garden in your backyard. Select a few of the herbs you use the most, and you can grow them in small pots right in your kitchen! Search Pinterest to get creative with where to put them (like the pic below).
14. Use coupons.
I’m not saying you need to be an extreme couponer by any stretch. I rarely go on the hunt for coupons. I’m more of a gatherer. Meaning I save the coupons that come with my store receipts or that come on the actual products I buy. That’s it. It might only knock a buck off my bill, or it might knock $10 off my bill. Depends on the week. Either way, it takes zero effort so why not?
15. Sign up for the loyalty program.
Sign up for a loyalty card at your store. It’s free and it gets you better sale prices and rewards.
16. Know the layout of the store.
The less wandering you do the better. If you have your list, and know where everything is, you can skip aisles you don’t need to go down. It’ll help you avoid throwing something in your cart that you weren’t planning on buying and don’t need.
17. Limit your organic purchases.
I’m all for eating organically. But do I really need organic gummies for my kiddos? Probably not. Save on food shopping by limiting your organic purchases to dairy, meats, and produce. If you need to cut back even more, but still want to err on the side of caution, then only buy organic for the dirty dozen.
Saving Money Doesn’t Have to be Hard!
Some of these tips are easier to implement than others. However, if you were only going to apply one or two tips from this post, then give meal planning and shopping online a try. They will make the biggest impact and save you significant money on your food shopping.
How do you save money food shopping? Share in the comments!
Did this post help you save money on your food shopping bill?
If so, please share it on Pinterest!