12 Simple Ways to Stop Overspending at the Grocery Store

save money on groceries
Photo Credit: Jamie Grill Atlas

April 9, 2021

By Lisa Freedman

You go to the grocery store, list in hand, only to walk out with a bag full of snacks you didn’t need — and you forgot the chicken for dinner tonight. Or maybe you budgeted $100 for your weekly shop and somehow it ends up setting you back twice as much. We’ve all been there, especially these days when a trip to the supermarket can still feel so stressful. The good news? There are tons of ways to save money on groceries. Here are 12 smart ideas to get you started. Try one or try them all. 

1. Make a list — and stick to it.

We know you know, but it’s worth repeating: Make a list and get only the things on the list. Don’t count on your memory and don’t throw random stuff into your cart on impulse. 

2. Related: Don’t fall for unnecessary sales.

Sure, a buy-one-get-one-free sale is nice. But not if you weren’t planning on “buying one” in the first place! This is true when it comes to coupons, too. Don’t buy something just because you found a coupon for it. And those end-of-aisle promos? They’re often highlighted as deals but aren’t always real bargains. Skip these products or, at the very least, do your due diligence to check the prices.

3. Sign up for your store’s loyalty program.

This is a no-brainer that everyone should do. They’re almost always free and the easiest way to automatically save money right at the register. 

4. Download your store’s app.

If your go-to store has an app, download it and take a scroll through it before each shopping trip. You might find some good sales on things you were already thinking about buying.

5. Consider store brands.

Generic brands have gotten really good these last few years. We love Trader Joe’s, naturally, but also Costco’s Kirkland Signature line and 365 by Whole Foods Market. 

6.  Skip or replace specialty ingredients.

If you’re trying a new recipe that calls for, say, a teaspoon of black sesame seeds, consider skipping it or replacing it with something you already have on hand. 

7. Eat less meat.

According to the USDA, meat prices rose the most sharply (compared to other grocery categories) in 2020: Beef and veal prices increased 9.6 percent, pork prices increased 6.3 percent, and poultry prices increased 5.6 percent. See if you can take your favorite recipe and swap in beans or mushrooms instead of meat. Or, just plan more vegetarian meals each week.

8. Shop your fridge, freezer, and pantry.

A helpful step when meal planning? Shop the ingredients you already have on hand and build meals based on what you find. Take note of stuff  that’s about to expire, like wilting lettuce or a tub of yogurt that’s about to turn. Put these things in the front of your fridge (you can even set up an “Eat First” bin) so that you’re reminded to use them. 

9. Store your produce correctly.

If you’re putting tomatoes in the fridge, they’re not going to last that long or be all that great when you go to eat them. This handy guide will tell you everything you need to know.

10. Invest in some proper food storage containers.

Speaking of storage, your leftovers and meal prepped food need to be stored properly.  We’re huge fans of these glass containers because they stack neatly, are leakproof, and easy to load up. 

11. Buy produce from the freezer section.

Frozen fruits and veggies cost 20 to 30 percent less than their fresh versions. And studies find that they’re just as nutritious, too. Don’t be so quick to skip this aisle.

12. Rethink your go-to credit card.

Lots of credit card companies offer decent rewards when you use their cards on groceries. Check to see what your card offers — there might be something better out there.