This post may contain affiliate links. FinanceSuperhero only recommends products we know and trust ourselves.
We’ve all been there: you’re checking out at the grocery store, and when the last item crosses the conveyor belt, the total cost sends you into shock. It happens to even the most frugal savers, and it hurts. But the truth is that it’s fairly simple to save money on food — you just need to implement a few of the best money saving tips, stick to a plan, and watch the food savings add up.
My wife and I have tried just about everything when it comes to saving money on food: coupons, phone apps, the cash wallet system, a weekly food budget, online ordering, and more. We realized that what works for one person may not work for everyone.
That’s why we put together this lengthy list of over 50 ways to save money on food. We’re confident that the suggestions below will help you cut your grocery spending without sacrificing your family’s health and quality of diet. Whether your grocery budget is $50 per week or $2,000 per month, these tips will help you lower your food costs whenever you can.
Saving Money on Food Starts Before You Shop
You know what they say – fail to plan, plan to fail. Check out a few of our favorite ways to save on food before you even leave the house.
1. Make a grocery list – and check it twice!
This one’s pretty simple, but it earned the top spot on our list for one big reason: saving money on food is virtually impossible if you shop without a list.
An organized grocery list doesn’t take long to make, but the benefits are enormous:
- A grocery list empowers you to avoid impulse buys
- It also helps you prevent duplicate purchases from one week to the next
- An organized list will help you get in and out of the store faster
2. Create a weekly menu plan
In the past, my wife and I used to look at each other every night around 5:00 and say, “What’s for dinner?” As new parents, we realized we needed to get organized and create a weekly menu plan.
Now, before we shop or order our groceries (more on that below), we create a detailed meal plan for the week. This new practice has virtually eliminated dinner time stress and helped us save money on food – a double win!
Over the past few months, we’ve gotten really efficient with our meal planning and can get it done in about 10 minutes per week. But for some people, planning out 7 days of meals each week can be just about as hard as drafting blueprints for a new house.
If you struggle with meal planning or just don’t have the time to do it, check out $5 Meal Plan. To date, over 35,000 families have cut their average meal plan time from just over 2 hours down to practically no time at all thanks to $5 Meal Plan.
When you grab your free 14 day trial, $5 Meal Plan will send you a highly-frugal meal plan (we’re taking $2 per person, per meal) for each meal. It’s one of the easiest ways to reclaim time with your family, eliminate meal time stress, and get back to living your life.
3. Take an inventory of the food you have
One major reason why many people overspend on groceries is because they take too many trips to the store. When they run out of milk or flour, a quick Target run turns into an unnecessary full-blown grocery trip.
The best way to avoid this? Keep a simple inventory of the basic pantry staples you have and immediately add them to your list when you notice that they are running low.
4. Plan to Cook From Scratch When Time Allows
In today’s fast-paced world, convenience and lack of time are two big factors that drive up a family’s food spending. But if you plan ahead and allow time to cook from scratch, you can easily save money on food.
Just by ditching the drive-thru and cooking at home, you can save upwards of $2,000 per year. And if you cook from scratch and ditch boxed or bagged meals, you can save even more.
5. Don’t Shop on An Empty Stomach
When it comes to grocery shopping, never forget: hunger is your enemy. Hunger will find a way to convince you to toss that rotisserie chicken, box of Snickers bars, and tub of ice cream in your shopping cart.
Eat a sensible meal before you shop. It’s that simple.
6. Shop on Sales Days
If you still receive weekly grocery store circulars in the mail, you probably know when your local stores run their weekly sales. You can save money on food by studying these sales and shopping on the right days.
7. Don’t Take the Kids to the Grocery Store
When I was a kid, my family went for our weekly grocery shopping trip on Saturday night after dinner. My parents were savvy in making sure we didn’t shop while hungry, which drastically reduced their grocery costs each month. But taking me and my sister on those weekly trips was a costly mistake.
The simple truth is that each person who accompanies you on your grocery trip is likely to try convince you to stray from your list. So shop alone and save yourself the trouble!
8. Take Advantage of Bulk Cooking
According to Business Insider, the average American family wastes enough food to feed another person for 228 days. The core of this problem is poor planning and wasteful habits.
One of the easiest ways to avoid throwing away spoiled food is to cook in bulk and use ingredients for multiple meals before they spoil. For example, my wife often cooks a large batch of lean ground beef and uses it in tacos, chili, and enchiladas. These meals also allow us to use tortillas, corn chips, cheese, and sour cream efficiently without having to throw out old ingredients.
9. Go the Store Only Once Per Week
This simple point is worth repeating – extra trips to the grocery store will cost you in the long run. Stick to weekly shopping trips to save the most money on groceries.
10. Be Willing to Try New Grocery Stores
Our last tip for saving money on food in the planning stages is an important one – you need to be willing to shop around to get the best deals. Over time, you’ll begin learning which local stores offer the best deals on items you purchase regularly.
Saving Money at the Store
Now that you’ve got a shopping plan in place, let’s explore ways to save on food while you’re at the grocery store.
11. Keep Your List Out
Shopping without the grocery list you prepared is the quickest way to buy things you don’t need. Our best advice: make an electronic shopping list on your mobile device.
12. Avoid Processed Foods
In most cases, processed foods are priced significantly higher than their fresh counterparts – and they don’t keep you full and satisfied for long.
13. Stay on the Perimeter of the Store
In nearly all grocery stores, the majority of fresh and inexpensive items you need will be found on the perimeter of the store. This is where you’ll find fresh produce, deli options, seafood, and dairy items.
14. Avoid the Middle of Shelves
The grocery industry is far bigger and smarter than most people consider – and they know your habits better than you do! Research proves that most grocers place higher-priced items on the middle of shelves at eye-level because you are more likely to buy them.
You can save money on food by comparing pricing on items on the top and bottom shelves.
15. Look at Per Unit Price
Most stores try to draw in shoppers with flashy signage, sales, and buy-one-get-one-free offers. And there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with taking advantage of these kinds of offers when your shopping list calls for sale items.
But before you casually toss sale items into your cart and assume you’re getting the best deal, take a closer look and compare per unit prices on items you are planning to buy. Sometimes regularly-priced competitor options still beat sale prices!
16. Be Willing to Try Store Brands
Did you know can reduce your grocery budget by an average of 25 percent by buying store brands? According to Consumer Reports, these savings can be as little as 5 percent and range up to 60 percent!
More often than not, when you compare ingredients and taste, the differences will be minimal – but the savings will add up over time.
17. Shop Late in the Day
Shopping later in the day — especially if your grocery store has a set closing time – is one of the best ways to get discounts on deli and bakery items.
18. Buy In Season Produce
When planning and purchasing produce, you can almost always save money by buying produce that is currently in season in your area. In season produce is less expensive for grocers and shoppers alike because it is often locally-sourced and less expensive to ship.
Not sure what produce is in season in your area this time of year? Check out this seasonal produce guide from the USDA.
19. Buy Frozen Vegetables and Fruit
And when the produce you need isn’t in season in your area, you can save money by buying frozen options. As a bonus, they won’t spoil, even after you open packaging, if you keep them properly sealed and stored.
20. If It’s Not on Your List, Don’t Buy It!
By now this should go without saying, but the quickest way to destroy your grocery budget is buying items you don’t need. Stick to the list!
Keep Saving After You Shop
Saving money doesn’t stop after you shop – in fact, this is when most people waste the most money!
21. Store All Food Properly
Earlier we shared how much food the average family wastes per year. And poor storage habits are often to blame.
Fortunately, you can reduce your food waste by making sure that you store all perishable and non-perishable foods according to best practices.
22. Plan to Eat Perishables Before They Spoil
Some last for weeks, while others barely survive for a few days, but one thing is certain: your perishable purchases are going to go bad at some point! So make sure you keep tabs on them and use them up before they expire.
23. Stick to Your Meal Plans
Simply put, the best plans are useless if you don’t follow them. Even if you get busy, resist the urge to run through the drive-thru and stick to your meal plans! If you know you’re due for a busy day soon, plan to cook a cheap crock pot meal for the family to enjoy when you get home.
24. Take Leftovers for Lunch
Have you ever calculated how much you could save if stopped eating out for lunch every day? Let’s get conservative and estimate that you spend $3 per day on lunch and only eat out four days per week.
$3 x 4 days/week x 50 weeks/year* = $600
*2 weeks of vacation per year
Add this total to the cost of left overs that you throw out each week, and Houston, we have a problem.
The solution? You could easily save upwards of $1,000/year by taking leftovers for lunch.
25. Clean Out Your Pantry Before Putting Away New Items
Before you put away newly purchased food, take a few minutes to clean out any old, unwanted items and empty boxes. You’ll free up significant space in your pantry – and you’ll actually be able to see the food you just bought.
Save Money by Reducing Food Waste
Despite your best intentions to buy only what you need and use it wisely, it’s easy to let food items go to waste if you’re not careful. Fortunately, a few smart adjustments can help you reduce your food waste.
26. Rotate Your Stock
Any experienced couponer or savvy saver will tell you that rotating your stock on items purchased in bulk is absolutely critical. Sure, it takes a bit of your time, but the savings will add up over time.
27. Make Freezer Meals
Chances are good that you’ve bought ingredients with the best intentions in the past, only to see them go to waste. With freezer meal prep, those days can be over. And all you need to get started is a freezable meal and adequate freezer space.
If you’re looking for a few basic and easy freezer meals, we recommend checking out this list of quick freezer meals – it has options for virtually everyone’s tastes.
If you have a bit more freezer space and an hour to devote to freezer meal preparation, we recommend checking out MyFreezeEasy, our favorite freezer meal guide.
Here’s how it works:
- MyFreezeEasy will walk you through the prep work for 10 freezer meals that you can prepare in under an hour.
- Meal plan options exist for all diets.
- All recipes are budget-friendly, and the meal plans and walk-through videos make them easy to prepare.
- Interactive tools/apps help you choose meals based on what meat is on sale in your area.
- When you’re ready to eat a meal, simply take it out of the freezer and follow the meal plan instructions.
The best part? MyFreezeEasy offers flexible monthly, quarterly, and yearly membership options that are affordable on virtually any budget.
28. Label Containers Carefully
My least favorite monthly household chore is cleaning out the refrigerator; I always seem to find a small, moldy container of leftovers that look a science project gone wrong. And this happens a few times per year, even in spite of my best intentions to label containers.
29. Know How to Store Fruits and Vegetables Properly
Not all fruits and vegetables should be stored in the same manner, but who can keep track of all of the specific rules?
Fill out the quick form below and download our free printable guide to storing common fruits and vegetables.
30. Take Dates With a Grain of Salt
In today’s litigious world, it’s no wonder that grocers and food suppliers are very cautious when it comes to expiration dates. But expiration dates shouldn’t scare you.
In fact, most dates you see on food are really suggested “use by” dates, and they have much more to do with quality of taste and texture than they do with food safety. According to the Cleveland Clinic, taste may diminish after these dates, but overall food safety does not.
The exception, of course, is dates that are clearly labeled as expiration dates for the purpose of food safety. All other labels, such as “best by,” “sell by,” and “fresh until” are indicators of taste, not food safety.
***Please note: This section is not intended to replace common sense advice when it comes to food safety. Always trust your judgment, and when in doubt, throw it out! No amount of money saved is worth taking a risk and getting food poisoning!***
31. Check Your Refrigerator and Freezer Temperatures
While we’re still on the topic of food safety and freshness, one of the easiest steps you can take to keep your food fresher for the longest time possible is to ensure that your refrigerator and freezer are set to the correct temperatures.
According to the FDA, you should keep your refrigerator below 40 degrees F and your freezer below 0 degrees F. Check these temperatures periodically, and if your temperature gauge stops functioning, it is inexpensive to purchase a replacement.
32. Don’t Overstuff Your Refrigerator and Freezer
Most of today’s modern appliances operate at levels of efficiency that previous generations never imagined. Even so, your refrigerator and freezer will not function at their highest levels if you they do not have sufficient space for air to circulate. This causes motors and condensers to work too hard and my cause expensive damage to your appliances.
33. Use Leftovers to Make Meals
Pop culture makes leftovers seem very undesirable, but the truth is you can get creative and use them to invent creative meals. Just be sure to use them promptly before they spoil.
34. Make and Freeze Your Own Vegetable Stock
When it comes to leftovers, there is a use for just about everything, including vegetables. We recommend saving your vegetable scraps when you prepare a meal to make and freeze your own vegetable stock.
35. Stretch Your Portion Sizes
In the US, portion sizes have grown dramatically since the 1950s. One of the easiest ways to save money on food is to keep your portion sizes scaled down to align with recommended nutritional guidelines.
36. Keep Your Perishable Foods in Sight
Knowing how to store perishable fruits and vegetables is part of the battle. But it doesn’t matter if your perishables are stored out of sight, as you’ll most likely forget to eat them before they spoil.
37. Wash Fruits and Vegetables Right Away
If your kids (or husband – I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of this. . . ) are reluctant to eat fruits and vegetables because they have to wash them, beat them to it and pre-wash them. Then they won’t have any excuses.
38. Coordinate Ingredients for Each Meal
When preparing meals using ingredients that you will also use for meals later in the week, take care to be sure you don’t use more than what you planned for the current meal.
39. Get Organized!
If your overall pantry organization could use some help, check out these simple pantry organization designs that you can implement yourself.
40. Buy Only What You’ll Actually Eat
If it doesn’t fit in your plan, it doesn’t matter if it’s on sale – don’t buy it!
41. Use Your Crock Pot or Slow Cooker
As a last resort, if you have ingredients that are nearing their expiration date and don’t have adequate freezer space, quickly tossing them into your crock pot or slow cooker can be an easy way to salvage them.
What Foods to Avoid Buying
If you really want to save money on food, there are a few things you need to drastically reduce or eliminate from your grocery list altogether. Here are a few of the worst offenders.
41. Individually-Bagged and Boxed Snacks
You’re just paying (a lot) for convenience.
42. Paper Products
If you can’t stand heating up coffee that has been sitting in the carafe, it’s time to get a filter-less coffee maker.
44. Bottled Water
Get a reusable water bottle instead.
45. Pop, Soda, Sports Drinks
I love them just as much as you do, but they should be an occasional treat.
46. Pre-Cooked Foods
Again, you’re paying a steep premium on pre-cooked foods.
What You Should Buy
These items will help you save money on food – guaranteed!
47. Glass Containers
Glass storage containers with firmly fitting lids will help you keep foods fresh longer.
48. Insulated Water Bottle
Bottled water is way too expensive.
49. A Good Coffee Maker
It’s the best part of waking up, at least if you’re a coffee drinker (or addict). A good coffee maker will reduce the urge to stop at Starbucks on the way to work.
50. Common Ingredient Substitutes
In a pinch, common substitutes for frequently used ingredients can prevent you from having to run out on a quick store run. This list of common ingredient substitutes should be added to your pantry ASAP.
Save Money on Food Using Your Phone
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve read just about every effective habit to save money on food that we have tried. The remaining tips will help you leverage technology to save even more money on your monthly grocery budget.
Would you believe that you can save money on food simply by scanning your grocery receipts after you shop? Believe it.
The Ibotta app is changing the way the world views couponing and is making it easier than ever before to save money on food and other household items. Here’s how it works:
- Sign-up with Ibotta (you’ll qualify for a $10 bonus once you redeem your first offer) and download the app.
- Check out local cash back offers before you go shopping and add them to your grocery list. Offers change frequently, but I have great luck with offers on items such as toiletries, milk, beer/wine, fresh produce, laundry detergent, diapers and baby formula, and over the counter medicine. (Ibotta has recently expanded offers to include new categories, including Travel, Clothing, Electronics, and Restaurants.)
- Redeem offers by snapping a photo of your receipt on your smartphone.
- You can request payment in the form of cash via Paypal or Venmo or receive gift cards to a variety of stores. The minimum payment threshold is $20.
This month, I saved nearly $5 on every grocery shopping trip thanks to Ibotta. Not every featured offer is a fit with my grocery list, but those that are tend to add up quickly.
Checkout51 is another leading grocery saving app. It’s free to use – simply sign-up, find offers, and start saving money.
Offers are updated every Thursday morning, so if you’re like me and make a shopping list or order on Thursday nights, this is perfect timing.
After you shop, simply snap a photo of your receipt in the app to activate your savings. It’s really that easy!
53. Walmart Grocery Pickup
Walmart Grocery Pickup has been the latest addition to the FinanceSuperhero household grocery shopping hacks list, and I can’t minimize the impact it has had on our budget and time management.
My wife and I simply sit down, discuss what food we need to order for the week, place our order using the Walmart Grocery app, and pickup our order when it is ready.
With Walmart Grocery, we no longer spend hours each month walking the aisles of the grocery store and waiting in long checkout lines. Instead, we check in on the Walmart Grocery app before we even leave our house, and a Walmart associate grabs our order from its holding area and brings it directly out to our car when we arrive. Technically, you don’t even have to get out of your car if you don’t want to – but I always do.
Here are just a few of the highlights of Walmart Grocery Pickup:
- You choose the items you need, and someone else does the shopping for you.
- You can add and delete items from your order, even after it has been placed, until your order is locked in the system.
- It is easy to choose items using the app. Over time, the Grocery app will remember your preferences and suggest items for you to add.
- Walmart Grocery Pickup is 100% free to use, and the minimum order threshold is very low at $30.
Walmart Grocery Pickup has been a serious game-changer for our family, and as Walmart continues to expand its offerings of healthy and organic options, we will probably do 100% of our shopping this way.
The only con: you do need to be somewhat organized to use Walmart Grocery — simply throwing together an order and requesting the ability to pick it up a half hour later isn’t going to happen.
BONUS ALERT: As a FinanceSuperhero reader, you can sign-up to try Walmart Grocery Pickup and get $10 off your first order of $50.
Save Money on Food by Buying in Bulk
These bulk buying tips aren’t for casual savers – they require commitment!
55. Costco/Sam’s Club
Bulk retailers allow you to leverage their buying power and save lots of money on groceries. Just be sure that you study per unit pricing to be sure that you’re getting good deals.
Believe it or not, buying on Amazon is a surprisingly effective way to save money on food – especially foods that do not perish easily. We often buy organic beef jerkey and protein bars via Amazon.
And if you’re an Amazon Prime member? Even better.
Whew! If you made it this far, you’re a serious grocery savings champ! We’re confident that you can save money on food if you follow even half of this advice.
Like what you read? Please consider sharing this article on your favorite social media platforms.