9 Ways I Save on Groceries

I like to consider myself a grocery shopping pro. When Terry and I got married, I made it my mission to turn his kitchen upside down. He was really struggling to keep his grocery bill low while still feeding himself. Some of the things he did are common- buying frozen pizzas, not having a meal plan, not looking for sales. He would often end up eating a lot of fast food and cereal for dinner. Now when I joke that we are going to have cereal for dinner he does not find it funny.

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As a graduate student married to a youth pastor, funds aren’t exactly rolling in. Don’t get me wrong, we are well taken care of, but right now a lot of our funds are going towards tuition and saving for next year when I’m in an unpaid internship for nine months. As a way to save money, I’ve become well-versed in budget grocery shopping while keeping us well-nourished. Our grocery budget is roughly $40-45 dollars a week. We will sometimes eat out once or twice, but for the most part all our meals are at home.

Today I am going to share my top tips for grocery shopping on a budget. As a note, I grocery once per week, because that’s when I find we start running out of our basics like bananas, eggs, milk, and bread.

Here is my grocery haul from last week. My total was roughly $42.50. (Lucky me eggs were on sale for $0.79!!)

9 Ways I Save on Groceries

(in order)

1. Check your local grocery store ads. I say do this FIRST because this is what I base my meal planning off of. If you are someone who shops at multiple stores, be sure to compare!

2. Write down 5 dinner ideas. When I meal plan, I don’t bother writing down which meal I will have on what day because I usually switch it up anyways. I think sometimes simple is best and I also like to allow for some flexibility. The meals don’t have to be specific, they can be general like “tacos” or “pizza”. Be sure to think about breakfasts and lunches too. For breakfast, I usually will have a baked oatmeal made for the week and Terry usually goes for cereal. For lunch, we both will either have leftovers or he will have leftovers over and I will make a salad for the week.

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writing down”waffles” for dinner is perfectly acceptable too!
3. Check your pantry. Make sure you have the basics in your pantry, i.e. flour, salt, butter, baking soda, rice, sugar, oil, cocoa powder, spices, coffee, etc. Everyone has their staples, so this is to be individualized, but keep an eye on them to make sure you don’t forget them. These basics ensure that I am able to make things like tortillas, a roux, or a pizza crust. I keep a running list on my refrigerator to help with this.

4. Make a grocery list. Base this list off your meal idea list and pantry check. This is your guide.

5. Go to the grocery store when you’re neither hungry or in a hurry. Mistakes happen.

6. Get to know your grocery store. Know where your staples are and be familiar with their price. Standing in Aldi’s checkout line I heard a man say that he was “safe here.” I gave him a mental high five, because that’s exactly how I feel. I know that if I go shopping at Publix I will be overwhelmed and want to buy everything, but at Aldi I am acclimated and can make a trip in 20 minutes.

7. Bring your calculator with you. This is my number one tip for keeping your grocery budget low. Calculate as you go, so that if you do want to throw in something extra you’re aware of how will raise your bill. No surprises at the checkout line!

8. Go for whole ingredients. Packaged and prepared items are usually what will cost you. There are a few convince items I buy like marinara sauce, cereal, and bread, but for the most part I stick with things in their whole form, like block cheese, ground meat or bone-in chicken, and rolled oats. Buy the ingredients for the soup, not the boxed soup. In general, if making it from scratch is possible and not terribly inconvenient (I’m looking at you bread!), try to do that.

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For busy weeks, sometimes exceptions must be made!
9. Embrace your budget. This may sound cheesy, but I’ve learned to enjoy the challenge of making a limited budget stretch. Sometimes this means trying new foods that are on sale and sometimes it means cooking things from scratch I never thought I would. When I first homemade tortillas and crackers, I seriously felt like the Pioneer Woman. I know that one day I will be able to enjoy storemade ricotta stuffed ravioli with pesto or make a recipe requiring a whole cup of almond butter, but for now I will embrace what it’s front of me. I truly believe it’s made me a better cook!

tortilla

Now it’s your turn- 

Tell me how you save on your grocery budget.

 

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35 thoughts on “9 Ways I Save on Groceries

  1. I’m SOOOO bad at saving money when shopping but I think your advice of making home made granola bars will help (I buy so many). I’m not even lying–last week my grocery bill was 130$. Normally it’s around 80 but I bought a lot of things I should have gone to target for (much cheaper there). I’m really good at clipping coupons though. Not so good at choosing non-convenience foods.

    1. Granola bars really do cost so much! So yummy, but not wallet friendly. There are a ton of coupons for convenience foods more so than others. Maybe only buy the ones you have coupons for? That could help cut down!

  2. I am SERIOUSLY impressed by your grocery budget!! I thought I was good, I don’t think I ever got our that low!!
    My grocery tips are very similar to yours, but my down fall is always OVER buying staples. It’s like I’m always freaking out that we’re going to run out of something.

    1. During our first summer married I didn’t have a job so I had to learn how to manage with little. Luckily it carried over!
      That’s funny about the staples- maybe you subconsciously fear the zombie apocalypse? πŸ˜‰

  3. This was a great post! I could use some of these tips. Although my parents take care of the groceries at home, I usually do the groceries with James and pay a part of it since he lives on his own and I tend to have his food during the week. We are not very good at keeping it in a budget, the calculator idea is such a great tip!

  4. I just couldn’t help but laugh when I saw your title – just because this is so perfect (and so necessary). #3 and #5 are by biggest down falls I think. I always forget to check my basic pantry staples so then I go and buy something I already had – especially with those things I don’t use often. Then I have doubles and spent money I didn’t need to. And going to the store hungry is just plain danger. You’ll never win.
    I love how making basic things from scratch is always way simpler than we tend to believe – and buying those simple, whole food ingredients are so inexpensive! Plus you get the satisfaction of having made it yourself. Its a three way win. Convenience will always have its place, but I love knowing when I’ve tuned in to my inner pioneer woman.
    I am seriously impressed by your budget and weekly bill. Thanks for your tips!!

    1. Isn’t scratch baking so empowering?
      I am on the other end of the spectrum- I tend to under buy staples, which causes me to have to go buy them a closest grocery store where they are more expensive D:

  5. Great post, Kate. That Aldi cart looks familiar πŸ™‚ It seriously is the best place to grocery shop ever! I love all your tips – especially the calculator one. I never thought about doing that because when I mentally add things in my head, I’m always off, even when I factor in tax. Your weekly budget and all the food you get is very impressive!

  6. I ask for the ugly, throw away produce and buy seconds on apples and bananas. The brown ones are so cheap! I also eat food that’s past the sell by date πŸ™‚

  7. I am in total agreement with all your tips. I am a long-time penny-puncher at the grocery store so 3 things to add. 1.coupons especially digital but match them to the list you already made in tip #4. Do not buy the item just because there is a coupon. 2. Embrace markdowns, most grocery chains not markdowns close dated items especially meat and produce. If you had planned tacos remember the taco filling can be many things. The freezer is your friend here. Your can freeze both raw and cooked food. 3. Go to the store knowing that the grocery store is set up to make you want to buy impulsively. Stay focused on the plan you made.

    1. These are great! I love that you said to be prepared to face a grocery set up to play on your impulses!
      I definitely agree that be flexible about meal planning is the way to go. Saying pizza rather than “mushroom and feta pizza” allows more freedom to pick a topping that is on sale.

  8. These are actually so brilliant! I will keep your tips in mind as I scour the grocery store. One of my biggest problems is picking up things that are on discount – simply because they are cheaper, not because I actually need them. Raw nuts are 50 cents off? I’ll take them. Chocolate chips are buy two get one free? GET ‘EM. Even if I don’t need any of it! πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks! I’m a sucker when it comes to sales too. I am especially bad when I see clothes on super sale, I’m pretty much set for life when it comes to clothes… But the deals are so enticing!

  9. Love this post!! I’m definitely on team save and team prep ahead! haha! For me, the biggest challenge has been my dietary restrictions. Gluten free products and dairy free products AND the fact that I buy organic produce can really add up. Such a challenge but I agree, I kind of like the challenge!

    1. Having restrictions really does make it harder! When I tried gluten free I ate a lot of rice, rice cakes, and potatoes! That’s great you buy organic- hopefully one day I will be able to!

  10. Great tips! I really need to get better about comparing grocery ads – we usually shop at one local store unless we’re looking for a particular thing or will be out and about town.
    I’ve said over and over that we need to budget for groceries, but we just keep doing the same thing every week. Thankfully I will pay attention to BOGO deals or other discounts. And we do plan our menu in advance usually.

  11. I think being realistic about what you can do not just with budget, but with space is key. In a tiny NYC apartment it’s hard to stockpile a pantry, and you don’t want to buy too much fresh produce or meat because what if you end up working late enough that you’re not home for dinner (common in my industry, which is also my boyfriend’s). Then again, there are some things you can do no matter where you are like comparison shopping. Lots of my friends just go to Whole Foods when they can go to a Morton Williams or Key Food nearby (which means spending 2x-3x what you do versus 5x, but it’s Manhattan!)

  12. I am terrible at shopping on a budget, but the thing is I don’t seem to notice any of the non-food grocery items that we ALL have to buy each week. I mean from week to week our grocery budget can influx by $20-30 based on whether we have run out of laundry detergent, softener, cleaning supplies, and paper towels. That doesn’t even include the weeks we need toiletries so I would guesstimate we (2 people) are spending approximately 150-180$ a week on groceries including the extras. I wish I could pair it down as much as you though.

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