Let’s talk about the dreaded grocery budget. If your family is anything like mine, then figuring out how to save money on food is one of your biggest budgeting struggles.
Our grocery budget seemed to be the one area of my monthly budget that I just couldn’t figure out. I kept hearing over and over about how great couponing was, but I just couldn’t spend that time of time each week.
So, I went back to the drawing board and came up with some other ways to save money on groceries, without coupons.
How Much do Families Spend on Groceries?
With the rising cost of food, it’s not surprising that the family food budget it rising with it. According to the US Department of Agriculture, an average family of four spends between $146-$289 a week on groceries.
The big problem is that most of that money goes tends to go towards snack and junk food, or simply wasted food.
Figuring out how to cut some of those extra and unnecessary food costs can go a long way towards a family’s financial freedom.
How to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons
1. Make a Budget and Stick to it
I think the hardest thing about budgeting for groceries is actually sticking to it. The food bill has always been my family’s weak link and sometimes you think, “oh it won’t be that bad if I buy these extras.”
This type of attitude though can get you into trouble before you know it. Set a realistic budget for yourself and stick to it.
Remember what your goals are. Is it to get out of debt? Is it to be able to afford to stay home with your kids? Is it to travel the world? Knowing what you want out of your financially free life will make a huge difference in your resolve.
2. Buy Produce in Season
Buying produce out of season is ridiculously expensive. Try to shop for produce not only in season, but also locally if possible. You’ll not only get the best quality ingredients that way, but they are typically much cheaper than the ones in the store.
3. Can, Dry, or Freeze Meals and Produce
When you’re buying all of that really cheap in-season produce, you should figure out how to preserve it so that you can use it year-round.
Things like fresh tomatoes can easily be made into pasta sauce and frozen, or extra applesauce is extremely easy to make with the extra apples, and even pears, that you may have leftover.
Having those things available and on hand year-round will keep you from having to buy the overly expensive store-bought options when they’re no longer in season.
4. Limit Juice and Drink Purchases
Learn to love water. Juices, sodas, and pre-made teas and coffees are ridiculously expensive for what they are. Especially when you think about how unhealthy they are thanks to the really high sugar levels.
Learn to love water, even flavored water, and your wallet will love you back.
5. Shop Wholesale Stores
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love shopping at Costco. I save a boatload of money on my grocery bill each month shopping there. The trick though is not to get carried away. If you don’t use a product often enough to justify buying such a large quantity, then it’s just going to be a waste.
6. Stop Buying Convenience Foods
Buying things like pre-cut lettuce and pre-shredded cheese really adds up in cost over time. Though it may be convenient, it isn’t always cost effective.
You can typically get more for a lot less money if you’re willing to do the chopping and shredding yourself.
7. Shop Your Pantry
Take the time to go through your pantry and refrigerator before heading to the store. I always had a really bad habit of buying items simply because I couldn’t remember if I had any just to get home and realize that I had plenty.
Making sure that you’re properly rotating your food will also help to ensure that you aren’t letting things expire because they’ve been banished to the back of the cabinet. That’s just a waste of money. Pay attention to what you have first.
8. Check the Local Ads
Most stores will have certain items that they put on sale each week. Having an idea of which sales are going on each week will help you plan out your shopping trip. Just make sure you know what a good sale actually is. Just because it says “sale” doesn’t mean that it actually is.
Keep track of the average prices of all of your frequently purchased items. That way you’ll actually know if a “sale” is really a good deal.
9. Cook From Scratch
Make more staples from scratch rather than buying the pre-made versions. Things like bread and pasta made at home are not only more delicious, but also cheaper in the long run that their store-bought counterparts.
10. Eat Less Meat
It’s no surprise that paying for meat is a guaranteed way to jack up your monthly food budget since the prices of most meat products rose.
Bring it down to a more reasonable level by opting to have at least one day a week be meatless. I like Meatless Mondays myself, but do what makes the most sense for you and your family.
Not only is eating more vegetables healthier for you, but you’ll also be saving money each month. Not bad, right?
11. Stick to Your List
Make a list and stick to it. This is one of my biggest struggles. I am notorious for making a list and then buying extra items that catch my eye at the store. Just don’t do it! Those extra items add up big time
12. Don’t Shop Hungry
Never, I repeat, NEVER go to the store when you’re hungry. Everything will look good and you will end up shopping with your stomach rather than with your budget.
Try to plan your shopping trips after a meal to keep you from binging on useless items.
13. Skip Brand Loyalty
There is no reason at all to be brand loyal these days. Especially since most of the major food producers are all owned by the same people anyway.
Store brands have come a long way. Just read the ingredients list to make sure it’s what you’re looking for. Store brand items can generally save you big money on your grocery budget.
14. Use Cheaper Cuts of Meat
Experiment with different marinades and cooking methods to jazz up the different cuts. Things like sirloins and flank steaks can be completely transformed with a nice marinade.
And buying a whole chicken and breaking it down yourself can give you several meals worth of food rather than just the breasts. It really isn’t as difficult as it looks.
15. Shop the Bottom Shelves
Big brands with big bank accounts pay good money to have their products at eye-level. That means that the generally lower-priced items are on the bottom shelves.
That doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality, those are just the items that don’t make as much money for the store, so there’s no incentive to place them in a prime location.
The only exception to this is the cereal aisle. Cereal companies want to be lower so that kids can see them and beg for them, so the pricier stuff will be on the bottom. Don’t you just love marketing?
16. Shop Less Often
Trips to the store every couple of days not only wastes money on gas, but it can also add to the risk of impulse buying. Going to the grocery store less often also can lead to get a little more creative in the kitchen.
I can’t tell you how many times I just threw something together without any real plan and it turned out to be a hit. And it’s generally all thanks to being out of an ingredient for a common dish.
Food doesn’t have to be fancy to be good. Just get creative with it.
17. Store Produce Properly
We already talked about freezing and canning produce items, but what about produce like lettuce that that doesn’t work for? Americans waste about a pound of food each day. That’s enough food to feed 2 billion people annually.
All of that wasted food leads to wasted money. Finding out how to properly store your food will help to ensure that your family isn’t throwing your hard-earned money in the trash.
18. Don’t Go Shopping with Family
Kids and, in cases like mine, husbands can be horrible budgeters. I’ve found that I save so much more money each month by not allowing my husband to go to the grocery store. He is a snacker and sees absolutely nothing wrong with spending $5 on a bag of pretzels if that’s what he wants. If your family can’t help you at the store, then leave them at home.
19. Buy Groceries Online
There are several stores and companies offering grocery deliveries or curbside pickups. Using this type of service can help you stick to your budget by eliminating impulse buys as well as ensuring that you actually stick to your budget.
20. Make Simple Meals
When you’re planning out your menu for the week, don’t feel that every meal has to be a lavish affair. Making BLTs or pancakes for dinner every now and then isn’t going to hurt your family. Rethink what dinner really means. Your budget will thank you.
21. Buy Frozen Produce
If you can’t get in-season fruits and veggies, or you’re just looking for some easy additions to your morning smoothie, then shopping the frozen section is the way to go. Not only will the frozen fruits and vegetables last longer, but they’ll also be a lot cheaper than the fresh, out of season counterparts.
22. Double Your Recipes
A while back, I found out that my husband was spending around $35 a week on lunch. That may not sound like much, but that adds up quickly. We’re talking over $1,800 a year! Oh no!
Now, when I cook dinner, I always make a little extra so that he has leftovers for lunch the next day. I’ll even occasionally make up a big batch of pasta and sauce and freeze it in individual portions. That way he can just grab it as he needs it and he always has lunch available.
Doubling your recipes can also give you an entire extra dinner later on as well. Just take the extra portion and freeze it. Things like soups, casseroles, and pastas are great for this. It’s always a great and easy backup dinner idea on those days when you just don’t feel like cooking anything.
23. Learn to Love Meal Planning
I’m sure you’ve heard a hundred times that meal planning is the way to save money on groceries, and it is, if you do it right. The problem with most people’s meal planning idea is that you have to have specific items for each day of the week. That type of rigid system just never worked for me.
I always found myself scrambling to get food on the table and half the time just ended up caving and buying pizza. Not good for my waist or my wallet.
Now, instead of being strict about it, I make a list of all of the meals that I can make given the items that I have. This is why shopping your pantry is so important. From there I can just decide what I want on any given day. And I always, ALWAYS have at least one easy go-to item that I can whip up quickly.
While all of those fancy meals on Pinterest may look amazing, if you have a teething toddler screaming at you, you aren’t going to want to try to pay attention to a recipe.
How do I Keep My Grocery Bill Low?
Once you’ve started taking the proper steps to cut down your monthly food budget, it’s important not to fall back into any old habits.
It’s very common for people to slip up every now and then and then have that snowball into an all-out disaster. That doesn’t have to be the case though.
Know that money saving, especially trying to save money on groceries without coupons, is a work in progress. There will be good days and there will be bad days. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes a little getting used to.
Once you catch your stride though, and you see all of the savings each month, you’ll appreciate the effort you’ve made.