10 Nifty Tricks to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half, Say Experts
With grocery prices on the rise (thanks, inflation), shoppers are having to become a little savvier in order to stay within their budgets. In fact, according to a 2022 survey, 76% of Americans say their family has changed how they buy food, 66% are more mindful of their spending on groceries, and 43% seek out sales to be able to afford their favorite brands. So, if you’re feeling the squeeze, you’re not alone. The good news? There are so many ingenious ways to slash your grocery bill — and even small amounts can seriously add up over time.
So, if your jaw has ever dropped at the checkout line ($2 for one avocado?) you’ll definitely want this nifty list of tricks. Below, shopping experts share their top tips for slashing your grocery bill in half.
1. Compare prices between stores.
After creating your grocery list, Josh Tyler, CEO of Tell Me Best, highly recommends comparing prices on all the items you need to ensure you get the best deal. Don’t have time to drive from Whole Foods to Wegmans to Aldi? Don’t stress. There’s a far more convenient way to do your price comparisons: just download the respective apps for each supermarket and look up the items right from the comfort of your own couch.
“You can also use grocery apps like Flipp or Reebee to snag the best deals,” Tyler adds. “These apps are a one-stop shop for grocery flyers, shopping lists, and weekly ads on the latest store deals. They will alert you for any grocery specials and offer coupons you can clip digitally.”
It’s also worth noting that there are pros and cons to every store.
“Costco is my go-to for bulk purchases like rice and flour, while Aldi is my daily store since it has the best prices on my most used pantry items, fruits, veggies, and meats,” says Ashley Schuering, owner of Confessions of a Grocery Addict. “Publix has awesome buy-one-get-one-free deals all the time, and Kroger sends out good coupons.”
2. Start meal planning.
We’ve all been there: you impulsively tossed a bunch of scallions, a block of tofu, and some plantains in your cart — and now you have no clue what to do with any of them. When you go to the grocery store without a plan, it’s easy to get sidetracked and buy items you don’t actually need, which then end up going to waste.
That’s why Marie Clark, owner of the blog CostContessa, recommends devising a menu before you do your food shopping. Meal planning not only takes the stress out of dinnertime, but it also ensures that you only buy exactly what you need for the week.
“Think ahead about items where you’ll have leftovers so you can plan a second meal using the remainder,” she says. “For example, you might use half a bag of sugar snap peas in a stir fry, and serve the remainder with hummus for your kid’s after-school play date a day or two later. Or if you bake a whole chicken for dinner, you might plan to use leftovers in enchiladas the next night.”
Always be sure to stick to your list. If you do feel tempted to buy an item just because it’s on clearance, Melanie Musson, shopping expert from Clearsurance.com, advises first asking yourself whether or not you can incorporate it into any of your meals for the week. If not, skip it — even if the price is good.
3. Check your pantry and fridge before you shop.
Another smart way to reduce wasted food and money is to do a quick stock check at home before you head to the grocery store.
“When you buy a bunch of pasta, rice, pickles, canned soup, dressings, and sauces you don’t even need, it adds up on your grocery bill,” explains Clark. “It’s easy to forget what you have in your cabinets, fridge, and freezer, so just check before you shop. This eliminates duplication, and ensures you use what you already have before it expires.”
As an added bonus, this strategy ensures you don’t forget anything you need — thus preventing that dreaded second trip back to the store and saving you gas in the process.
4. Do your shopping mid-week.
A mid-week shop may not be convenient or realistic for everyone, but Schuering says there are lots of perks to this strategy. For one, going on an off-peak day like Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday means the store is less crowded — especially in the morning and afternoon.
“That means you don’t feel rushed to get out of the way, and price comparison is a lot easier when you have space and time,” she explains.
Not only that, but she notes that a lot of supermarkets restock products on Wednesdays, which means they often mark older items down to get rid of them on Tuesdays.
Pro tip: Make sure to eat a meal or grab a quick snack before hitting the store. Studies show that shoppers spend up to 60% more while shopping when hungry.
5. Check the clearance shelf.
Most supermarkets don’t make them easy to find, but Laura Daily, owner of Mile High on the Cheap, says these treasure troves should be your first stop.
While combing the shelves, you might find:
- Slightly damaged goods, like, a torn box nicked when the case was opened
- Seasonal items that didn’t sell, like Christmas cookies or pumpkin spice air freshener
- “Manager’s Specials” items marked down up to 50%
Pro tip: If you find a great deal in clearance, check the aisle where it is regularly stocked. According to Daily, you just may find more of the same item at the sale price.
6. Buy what’s in season.
Produce that’s in-season doesn’t just taste better — it also tends to be more affordable, according to Stephanie Yates, nutrition expert from Bulk.com. For instance, berries tend to be cheaper in the summer than in the winter, because that’s when they’re more widely available. As an added bonus, Yates says fruits and veggies tend to be higher in nutrients when they’re in season.
“Even nonperishable products are seasonal,” adds Teresa Mears, publisher of South Florida on the Cheap. “For example, summer products include condiments, hot dog and hamburger buns, and sunscreen, while winter seasonal products might include baking ingredients and tools.”
Not sure what’s in season right now? Check the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s database before drawing up your grocery list.
7. Buy in bulk and store wisely.
If there are certain items that you tend to eat a lot of in your house, Clark suggests buying those items in bulk to save money. There is a caveat to this, though: you’ll need to be mindful of how you store the excess to ensure it stays fresh — otherwise, it may spoil and go to waste.
For example, if your family eats a lot of bananas, consider picking up a couple of extra bunches when they go on sale — then you can store them in Ziploc bags inside the freezer for smoothies and pancakes. You can also store extra loaves of bread in the freezer, and then defrost them in the fridge when you run out.
8. Don’t overlook the frozen aisle.
From riced cauliflower and edamame to ravioli and sliced strawberries, you can find just about anything you need in the frozen section of the supermarket.
“Frozen fruits, veggies, meats, and seafood are often cheaper than their fresh counterparts,” says Schuering. “And as an added bonus, frozen fruits and veggies are already prepped for you, so they’ll make your cooking experience easier. Remember that most seafood has been previously frozen anyway, so buying from the fish counter just means they’ve already defrosted it.”
9. Sign up for loyalty programs.
“By doing this, you’ll receive any exclusive discounts given by that program and, depending on the program, you can earn rewards on your purchase, which you can then use to lessen the cost of the staples you need down the line,” she explains.
For instance, Target Circle members earn 1% back on qualifying purchases every time they shop at Target, and those percent-back rewards can then be used toward a future Target purchase. With the Albertsons Just for U rewards program, you’ll earn one point for every dollar spent at the store, and when you reach 100 points, you can redeem those points to get free grocery items or discounts on your cart. Once you sign up for the Stop & Shop’s GO Rewards program, you can earn points for qualifying purchases and then redeem those points for dollars off at checkout.
Pro tip: If you have a credit card, Schuering suggests looking into whether or not using it to buy groceries can earn you additional cashback offers. You might even find that your bank or credit card company has partnered with particular stores for even greater savings.
10. Buy generic when you can.
While you may have your go-to brands for particular items, like salad dressing, ice cream, or cereal, you can save a lot by switching to generic or store brands for the products you aren’t particular about.
“Canned goods, baking ingredients, frozen fruits and vegetables, dairy products, cleaning products, and paper goods are all great for trying out generic brands,” says Olivia Sokolowska, RD and owner of Salted Butter Kitchen.
For example, one analysis found that switching from name-brand products to generic could save you about $44 a month, or $528 a year.
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