Are You Feeling the Grocery Pinch?
Food is one of the essentials that humans need to survive. And if you’ve found yourself reading this article, you’re looking for ways to make that need less expensive. Maybe you’ve resolved to build your finances, have felt your wallet tightening from inflation, or you just like a good deal. No matter the reason, I’m here to make it easy to save money on groceries.
Over the years, I’ve learned tips and tricks to stretch my dollar at the grocery store. That’s especially important when testing recipes to publish here on my blog. That knowledge comes from food blogging and my experience working at a grocery store. To help lower your grocery bills, I have 13 of my best tips guaranteed to save money. We’ll talk about two general areas today: reducing your grocery bill and then making the most of your groceries once home.
Saving at the Grocery Store
When trying to lower your grocery bill, there are simple tricks you can use when shopping the aisles to reduce your total cost instantly. I know you’ve probably heard not to shop when you’re hungry and to stick to a grocery list to avoid surprise totals. But, even if you already use those tricks, there are plenty of tricks you may be leaving on the table that will save you money on your next shopping trip. The easiest shopping hack is to use the shelf tags to your advantage.
1) Shelf Tags are Designed to Help You Save Money
Shelf tags can be packed with helpful information, whether you are stocking the shelves or purchasing items. However, as a shopper, there are two numbers you will be most interested in. The first number is the retail price, which you will pay at the register. The second number is the unit price, which is golden information when shopping to save money.
What is the Unit Price?
The unit price is the calculated cost of how an item costs per ounce, pound, etcetera. For example, an 8-ounce package of shredded cheddar cheese is available for $2.99. A 16-ounce bag of shredded cheddar cheese is also available for $4.99. The unit price of the 8-ounce bag is 37 cents per ounce, and the 16-ounce bag is 31 cents per ounce. You will pay a higher retail price for the 16-ounce bag, but the unit costs will save money in the long run. You’ll notice the most significant difference in unit prices between name and store brands.
2) Store Brands are Designed to Save Money
If you’re trying to save money on groceries, you’ll usually pay less for store brands than name brands. While that may not be a new revelation, the cost difference creates a perception of lower quality. But the truth is stores don’t produce the items themselves. Instead, they outsource the production and packaging to an external manufacturer.
To lower the production cost of store-brand goods, companies will hire manufacturers to produce their items. Sometimes they are a less-known manufacturer, but quite often, they’re a name brand. In this scenario, the name brand may create a minimum order amount to guarantee a profit, and the store can attract more customers by offering less expensive options. It’s also common for multiple stores to use the same manufacturer. The packaging and label may change mid-production, but the ingredients are identical.
3) Avoid Packaged Produce
Circling back to unit prices, the next time you compare shelf tags, look at the difference between loose and packaged produce. Purchasing washed and chopped produce offers convenience, but the unit price can sometimes be five times as expensive, if not more! As a general rule of thumb, the less food prep consumers need to do, the higher the markup will be. Chopping at home instantly saves money and can help the environment by reducing single-use plastics. Invest your savings into some time-saving kitchen gadgets to make food prep even easier. Two of my personal favorites are:
- Egg slicers can be used for cutting more than just eggs! They can also slice black olives, strawberries, mushrooms, and other soft fruits and veggies. This makes egg slicers an affordable gadget offering versatility and compact size.
- Mandoline slicers are a quick and easy way to cut consistent produce slices. Whether you’re making a cucumber salad or potato chips, the thickness of the pieces will be the same cut after cut. Fullstar’s mandoline also includes a spiralizer, chopper, julienne, and grater attachment for a versatile and space-saving design.
4) Make Your Own Snack Portions to Save Money
Foods packaged and sold in single servings are great for quick lunch box additions and portion control. But that convenience comes at a premium cost. To lower the cost of single servings, buy a larger bulk size pack size at a lower unit cost and package the servings when home. You can reinvest your savings into reusable containers to lower your carbon footprint. Some of my favorite lunch box containers are:
5) Buy in Bulk to Save Money
Bulk purchasing is a great way to save money at the registers. Typically, larger pack sizes are offered at a lower unit price. You may pay more upfront, but the long-term savings will add up. One potential downside of buying bulk is the shelf-life consideration, especially with fresh produce and meats. If you cannot use the full pack size before the best-buy date, buying in bulk may mean throwing money away. To prevent food waste, buy foods in bulk that you often use, have a long shelf life, or plan to freeze.
6) Stock Up During Sales
Keeping an eye on sale prices is the ultimate way to make the most of your dollar when shopping for groceries. If you have the space available in your pantry or freezer, stocking up during sales is a great way to cash in on those savings. If possible, try to plan significant events ahead of time and make a list of what you will need. Keep an eye on flyers to shop the items as they go on sale.
7) Browse Every Aisle
The first time you visit a grocery store, give yourself time to check out every aisle. The main reason is that not all grocery stores group similar items of brands together. There may be sections with a brand’s product lines grouped instead of scattered throughout. Brand grouping is something my grocery store tends to do with Badia. Badia’s products are usually less expensive than other name brands but provide comparable quality. If their products are in an aisle you don’t usually walk down, you may not know the savings exist.
8) Save Money with Loyalty Programs
For extra savings, don’t forget to take advantage of loyalty programs if your grocery store has one. You may earn points for purchases made and receive exclusive coupons. Some grocery stores may only reward points for purchasing store brands, but not always. However, the potential coupon savings make loyalty programs a must-have, even if you only buy name brands.
Making the Most of Your Dollar at Home
When trying to save money on groceries, it’s easy to focus on savings at the store. But once you bring your groceries home, there are areas you can focus on to save yourself even more money. Those areas include cooking strategically to lower energy bills and avoiding food waste.
9) Properly Store Produce
When it comes to produce, it’s often perceived that the fridge is the best storage place. While that may be true for many fruits and vegetables, a few items should be kept out of the refrigerator.
- Potatoes and onions should be stored in a cool, dark location away from moisture.
- Basil should be stored at room temperature with the stems in a cup of water. Storing basil in a fridge will cause the leaves to form dark spots and wilt faster.
- Tomatoes should only be stored at room temperature. Refrigerating tomatoes can reduce their flavor rather than preserve them.
- Stonefruit should only be stored in the fridge once reaching the ripe stage.
10) Save Money with Your Freezer
Taking advantage of your freezer is a great way to lock in flavor and savings! You can designate space in the freezer you currently have, or if space and finances allow, invest in a chest freezer for extra space. In addition, freezing food allows you to:
- Give extra life to fruits and vegetables that are showing signs of ripening. Instead of throwing produce, meats, bread, and baked goods away, freeze them before they expire.
- Say goodbye to coming home to spoiled food. Before you travel, check your kitchen for foods that will expire during your time away. Those items can be frozen to avoid a date with the trash can.
- If those lemons or oranges on your counter are beginning to show a few wrinkles or soft spots, peel the zest to dry for later use, and freeze the juice! I cover how to do both in my lemon hacks article.
When freezing single portions of juice, broth, or even caramelized onions, use silicone sphere baking molds! Once frozen, you can pop out the portions and store them in the freezer for easy cooking in the future.
11) Air Fry to Save Money
If you don’t already have an air fryer in your kitchen, the investment is worth considering. Air frying allows you to cook more nutritious meals using less oil, and the less oil you need to buy equals more savings. But did you know air fryers can also help you save money on your energy bill? Because air fryers are smaller than ovens, they require less time to preheat, and the circulating air cooks food faster. A shorter cooking time means less electricity use and a lower bill.
12) Use Your Oven to Meal Prep on a Set Day
Another way to save money when cooking groceries is to use your oven more efficiently. Rather than cooking with your oven multiple times a week, set aside one or two days to meal prep. It may require planning, but cooking fewer times with a full oven instead of single dinners uses less energy. You can use an air fryer or microwave for energy efficiency when reheating.
13) Save Money Growing Your Own Herbs and Vegetables
If you have a yard and space to create garden beds, consider planting fruits, herbs, and vegetables! Gardening is a way to help reduce stress, spend more time with nature, and lower your grocery bills! It may require an initial investment in the tools, materials, and seeds, but the savings will add up when harvesting your food. If you don’t have a backyard or a green thumb but regularly buy fresh herbs, an indoor aerogarden can fit on your countertop and allow fresh herbs year-round.
Choose What Works for You
Making small changes to your shopping habits can create significant savings over time. Even if you can’t afford an air fryer or chest freezer now, keep an eye on unit pricing and plan your shopping trips around sales. Then, you can take those savings and invest in reusable containers, air fryers, or freezers down the road. What are some of your favorite tips and tricks to save money at the checkout lines? I’d love to hear them in the comments!