Grocery Shopping on a Budget: How to Save Some Serious Cash

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Food can easily account for a big portion of your budget, if you let it.

But if you are trying to keep that number down, grocery shopping on a budget is essential!

How do you do that? How do you cut down your food budget, especially if you’re shopping for your family?

Let’s talk about some hacks to save you money, some cheap household grocery staples, and great couponing websites to save the most money!

Grocery store hacks that will save you money

Take pictures of your fridge, freezer, and pantry before you head to the store

This is especially helpful when you forget to bring a complete grocery list with you.

Having a good picture of the contents of your fridge, freezer, and pantry will ensure you don’t accidentally buy something you already have stocked up.

Or, it could help you find good meal ideas on the fly! You could see that you already have some salsa and chicken at home, then pick up the rest of the ingredients to make a mean King Ranch Chicken casserole.

Buy your bread at the Dollar Store

You can actually purchase name brand bread for a dollar at the Dollar Store!

The expiration date might be a little sooner than a loaf you could buy at a big grocery store, but you can freeze up whatever you’re not using.

Great way to save some cash on a household staple!

Use money-back apps

The great thing about money-back apps is that you get cash back for purchases you were already going to make!

My personal favorites are Fetch, Rakuten, and Ibotta. Although, I’ve been shying away from Ibotta recently because the other two are much easier to use, in my opinion.

Use curbside or delivery, if available

We would easily spend extra money in the store when we used to go in for our groceries.

Walking down the aisles in the grocery store can be tempting. There are so many goodies that look good in the moment, and before you know it, you’ve exceeded your grocery budget and you haven’t even bought your essentials.

Photo by David Veksler on Unsplash

Curbside has saved our family so much money.

We put together our meal plan for the week and create our grocery list. When it’s time to do our grocery shopping, we search for the things we need and only buy those things.

Curbside is free at our local grocery store, but delivery does come with a small charge. Even if there’s a charge for curbside at your store, it could be worthwhile. A small fee of $5 versus overspending by $40 is worth it.

Cut up your own fruit and vegetables

I know it’s a hassle to cut up your fruits and vegetables, especially when you buy a lot. But the savings are worth it.

At my local grocery store, I can buy a container of peeled and cut cucumber for $3.53. The container probably comes close to 1.5 or 2 cucumbers. If I buy two whole cucumbers and peel and cut them myself, I only pay $1.03. That’s $2.50 to do a couple of minutes’ worth of work!

Keep track of the price of items

You don’t have to necessarily keep track of everything you buy each time you go shopping, but if you tend to buy the same 20 things each time you go grocery shopping, a price journal may be a good idea.

Why?

It’s good not only to keep track of the regular price so you can stock up when it goes on sale but also super helpful if you’re able to go to multiple stores to find the best deal!

Different stores could be running sales at different times. But even then, if the store that is running a sale typically marks up the item, it’s good to have your price journal so you can see if it’s actually a good deal.

Shop at your local farmer’s market late in the day

Many farmers who bring their produce to the market don’t want to bring it home with them. So, once it gets closer to closing time, they typically mark down their items to make sure they get rid of them before going home.

It’s worth a shot!

10 for $5 doesn’t mean you have to buy 10!

Are you a sucker for this rule like I used to be?

I used to take the deal literally, that I can only snag that price if I buy how many it advertises. Not the case!

Unless the deal specifically mentions that you have to buy the amount advertised, you can buy as many as you need and take the discount.

So, only need 5 of that item? Then you’ll be paying $2.50 instead of the $5.

Check out the unit price

The unit price is something else you should keep track of in your price journal. Otherwise, you might be comparing a box of granola bars at a bulk food store to a small box at a local grocery store.

The unit price looks a little different, depending on the item you’re looking at.

Say you’re looking at that box of granola bars. The unit price at the store might read $0.30/bar. But if you’re buying a bag of coffee, it might say $0.10/oz.

But keep track of those numbers! The unit price is a great way to know if you’re getting a good deal.

Budget grocery shopping list items

These items are not only great to always have on hand, but they help save money on your grocery bill too!

Oatmeal

Image by iha31 from Pixabay

Oatmeal can be dressed up in so many ways, making it an awesome budget shopping list item.

You can make a yummy banana, cinnamon, and brown sugar combo (add some walnuts if you have them for an omega-3 and protein punch). Or make a delicious strawberries and cream oatmeal.

There are so many delicious recipes out there, making oatmeal a great, cheap grocery item.

Eggs

Here’s another versatile item that’s cheap and good for you.

Depending on what you like, you could make omelets one morning, poached eggs, scrambled, hard-boiled eggs, the list goes on!

For non-breakfast, you could even pair it with some frozen vegetables and rice to make some delicious fried rice. Or make some deviled eggs as a side dish.

Bread

Bread is a staple in most households. And if you pair it with my tip above to buy your bread at the Dollar Store, you’re in for some serious savings.

I likely don’t have to tell you what you can do with bread. But some of our family’s favorites outside of sandwiches are toast with jam, garlic bread (the cheap way: slather some butter on there with garlic salt), or make some cinnamon butter toast in the oven for dessert.

Beans and lentils

Not only are these cheap, but they can be a substitute for meat to add protein to your meal.

You could even throw beans and lentils on a salad for a protein punch.

Bananas

Bananas are on the list because they are always in season, so the price is always pretty good.

Plus, they are great as a snack or an additive to your oatmeal. And nutritious!

Apples

Even when they’re not technically in season, apples are a healthy and cheap food to always have on your grocery list.

They’re easy to clean up and snack on, and most importantly, don’t break the grocery budget. You could even grab organic apples (preferred, if you eat the skin) for not much more than non-organic.

Pasta

Image by Craig Melville from Pixabay

Pasta is a great cheap grocery item, and you can even grab the healthier option of whole grain for cheap as well!

Some of our favorite ways to mix in pasta is a pasta, veggie, and ground turkey meal, or just a big batch of spaghetti. Pair that with your homemade garlic bread, and you’ve got a cheap dinner option.

Carrots

I’d recommend grabbing a big bag of large, whole carrots, as they are the most cost-effective. Baby carrots are definitely more convenient, but it doesn’t take much effort to peel and cut up a bag of carrots for a quick, healthy snack.

Frozen vegetables

While it can be slightly more cost-effective to get the vegetables and cut them up yourself, you should also factor in any potential for waste.

For us, we end up buying a few more vegetables than we can eat in a week, and they might start to spoil while being hidden away in the back of the produce drawer of our fridge.

In those cases, it makes a lot more sense for us to buy a bag of frozen vegetables that will keep for a longer time in the freezer.

Canned tuna

Canned tuna has a good amount of protein in it, and can be eaten in a variety of ways. Our favorite is to make tuna fish salad sandwiches with it! My husband loves canned tuna and black beans for a protein-heavy lunch.

It’s a good food to stock up on and have available in the pantry since it lasts quite a while.

Yogurt

Grab the generic, large tub of your favorite flavor of yogurt for the biggest cost savings.

Flour

We always have flour on hand at our house. It’s good for making pancakes at home, baking your own bread or delicious pastries, and even using it for dinner to bread chicken for frying.

It’s a versatile, cheap grocery staple to have on hand.

Whole chicken

While it’s less convenient and not always ideal, buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself is much cheaper than buying the pre-cut chicken in the store.

If your store offers it, buy a couple of whole chickens. Cut them up into what you need (breasts, thighs, etc.), and freeze the individual pieces.

Couponing and money-back apps

Coupons.com

I love how easy-to-use coupons.com is. They offer printable coupons, digital coupons, and promo codes for online purchases.

There is a way to filter the coupons to match what you’re specifically looking for, or a way to browse through everything if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Either way, they’ve got you covered!

Grocery Coupon Network

Very similar to coupons.com, this website has tons of available coupons for you to print and bring to the grocery store to save money.

One downside is this website doesn’t have digital coupons or promo codes like coupons.com. But it’s still worth checking out.

Krazy Coupon Lady

These ladies have one heck of a website.

Not only can you search for coupons (digital, printable, AND newspaper coupons!), but you can check out deals by stores (even online retailers like Amazon), tips, and real-time deals.

There is so much information available on their website to save a ton of money on your grocery budget, and beyond!

Coupon Mom

Coupon Mom’s website isn’t quite as easy to use as some of the others in this list, but it has some good value!

You can search by store, by brand, by category, or check out her long list of printable coupons.

Money-back apps

I go into a little more detail here, but there are a few cash-back apps that I use all the time!

My favorite go-to apps are Rakuten, Ibotta, and Fetch.

Rakuten is great because it has a Chrome extension, and automatically pops up their cash-back offer when you go shopping online. It’s great because you don’t even have to think about it; it does all the work for you!

Ibotta and Fetch are very similar, as they are both apps to scan your receipt and get cash back.

Ibotta gives you cash back based on certain things you purchase. We’ve made so much money from scanning our receipts on Ibotta. It’s been great!

Fetch gives you rewards in exchange for scanning your receipt, and you can exchange those rewards for gift cards to your favorite retailers.

My favorite part of Fetch is, if you give access to your email, it can scan your e-receipts. If you do a lot of online shopping, that’s important!

That’s it about grocery shopping on a budget!

Do you have any favorite grocery store hacks to save money? Or household staples that are inexpensive, and you can’t live without?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Black Couture

    Okay you had me sold at take a picture of your Fridge!!! literally what on earth… what made you think of that one bc it’s genius! Always went to the grocery store and somehow ended with things I never wanted. Im for cutting my veges and fruit bc of the sugar. I want to avoid the sugar in those foods. Love it. Question tho; what is the health factor to frozen veges?

    1. Melissa

      SUCH a great question! I had to do a little research of my own, but as it turns out, frozen is comparable to fresh in a lot of ways. A few vitamins are lost during the blanching process of frozen, but this mostly occurs in veggies and not fruits. Also, frozen veggies/fruits are picked at the height of ripeness, but fresh is picked before they’re totally ripe to account for transportation. I really liked this article for a full comparison: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables.

  2. Mariel

    Great content! I have been also trying a lot of stuffs to cut off my grocery budget. Will try your tips as well. Thanks for sharing! 😊

  3. Christina Balles

    Amazing!!!! Great read with some helpful tips on going grocery shopping!

    1. Melissa

      Thanks Christina! I’m glad you stopped by.

  4. Kari

    I love your tip about shopping at Farmers Markets late in the day! They absolutely don’t want to take all those vegetables home and would rather sell it for basically at cost than have it spoil. Spring is here so perfect timing for this tip!

    1. Melissa

      Thanks Kari!

  5. Colette

    Great post! I love your idea about taking pictures of the inside of your fridge. I usually make a list of what I need, I but sometimes I don’t have time so taking a picture is good idea. I also love the idea of going to the farmers market towards the end of the day, I’ve never tried it but that sounds like a good idea.
    I am huge fan of grocery shopping hacks on a budget, we have 7 people in our family so we have to budget our food a lot. I like to buy price reduced meat (meat that are about to expire), that’s how I stock up on meat. I also buy price reduced vegetables, fruits and bread. And I love ordering my groceries online too, it saves me time and money.
    Thank you so much for sharing your tips!

    1. Melissa

      Great tips about buying price-reduced meat and produce!

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