9 Food Shopping Hacks to Save a Third on Your Groceries (and no coupons!)
Grocery Shopping Hacks
When money is tight, it’s important that you know how to feed your family on a budget. At some point in their lives, many people try to find ways how to save money on groceries and food. Food shopping can be expensive, and it’s often one of the family’s highest living costs. If your family is looking for ways to cut their food budget, try these food shopping hacks!
These shopping tips are more than your typical “make a shopping list and stick to it” advice. If you utilize these tips and tricks, you will likely be able to save a lot of money on groceries, as well as eating out, per year.
10 Money-Saving Food Shopping Hacks That Will Cut Down Your Grocery Bill
Ignore Expiration Dates
Listen closely: Neither the FDA nor the USDA regulates expiration dates on food packages. They are only a food manufacturer’s “best guess” based on their research. Expiration dates are used for monitoring but do not guarantee food safety. You know what bad food looks like, smells like, feels like, etc. You should be going by that since a date does not guarantee that the product will be safe. You might be worried that nearly expired food isn’t the freshest, but in most cases, especially non-perishable and shelf-stable products are not any different one week after they expire as they were one week before.
I shop at a grocery outlet near me, and they sell expired food for super cheap. But, how can you use this hack? I buy expired or ready-to-expire stuff at the regular grocery store, particularly meat and produce. Just find someone and ask, “Hey, this expires today. Can you make it half price?” You’ll be surprised–because they either have to risk giving it to you today at half off or throwing it out tomorrow. This is a great way to get groceries at a significantly lower price.
For fruits and veggies, such as bananas, try saying, “Hey, these bananas are brown. Do you think you could mark this whole bunch of them for a $1?” And bananas will last longer in the fridge and can even be frozen for smoothies. Day-old bread can be turned into french toast, eggs in the middle, grilled cheese, toasted croutons in a soup, etc. Bring home that ground beef you just scored at half off, cook it off, and use the last hack on the list. All it takes is a little imagination.
Eat Only 2 Meals A Day
One of the first and possibly most essential things you can do to save money on food is having a meal plan. Meal planning will keep you from splurging on restaurants and take-out and helps to make your grocery list meaningful.
There are two techniques that I have used over the years. One is to build future meals off of previous meals. Leftover chicken becomes chicken stirfry. But the second one is to eat only two meals a day. You can click that link to get some free printable meal plans for 2 and 3 meals a day.
Of course, this won’t work every day and not when school is in session. But snacks are cheaper than meals at snack time. Eat a decent-sized breakfast and then another meal at 2-3 pm. A banana and a protein bar or yogurt make for a decent snack later on, and this meal plan option also solves the evening sports practice dilemmas. It can help reduce obesity, too much sugar, and other issues. It seems drastic because “3 meals a day” has been drilled into us for decades. But by whom? (hint: food marketers)
Grocery Shop Less Often
If you shop once a week, you may want to reconsider that. The more often you go to the grocery store, the more money you end up spending on food.
You can avoid shopping for groceries altogether now if you want to. One way is to have your groceries delivered through a grocery delivery service, such as Instacart. While these typically have a delivery fee, it’s probably a lot less than what you would impulse spend at the store. Plus, getting your grocery shopping done for you is a great way to save on gas and check off something on your to-do list. And who doesn’t want their own person grocery shoppers?
Another way to avoid in-store shopping that has become popular is online grocery shopping and pick-up. This can be a huge money saver! Most local grocery stores and large chains such as Walmart now offer the option of shopping online and picking up at the store. You add all of the items to your cart, checkout, and select a pick-up time that suits you, and they will bring it out to your car and load it for you! The best part is that grocery pick-up is typically free. Save time and money by avoiding grocery store shopping altogether.
There are a few reasons that online grocery shopping saves you money. You won’t be getting anything that’s not already on your grocery list because you won’t be walking up and down aisles throwing stuff in your cart just because it looks good. You also save money because you can see your total cost as you’re adding items to your cart, so you don’t have to worry about going over your budget.
Try the “One More Day” Trick
I had to get myself out of the mindset of “I always grocery shop on Wednesday.” Instead, try the “one more day” trick.
Instead of going to the store, ask yourself, “Can we go one more day before I make a grocery trip?” Then add on another, and another. Surprise, surprise, the world does not end if you run out of eggs, bread, or milk. And you’ve only made three trips to the grocery store that month instead of four or five.
The national average is that Americans throw out 40% of the food we purchase. That’s huge. Start monitoring what you throw out often and stop buying it. Or buy less of it. I bet without even trying, most of us could trim 10-25% of our food waste this way.
Add it to the “one more day” tip above: Instead of going to the store today, what should I really eat today before it has to be thrown out? Wasting food is wasting money.
Eat and Repurpose Leftovers
If your family doesn’t already do so, embrace the leftovers. They make a great cheap lunch for the following day and, in many cases, actually taste better than they did the night before. I have found tremendous success when I repurpose them into a different meal. Last night’s leftover pork tenderloin is getting diced up and tossed with rice and broccoli for stir fry.
Get into the habit of using up leftovers when doing your meal plan and your grocery shopping. You buy one packet of chicken, but it’s chicken and baked potatoes on Monday and chicken stirfry on Wednesday. Baked chicken on Sunday becomes chicken soup later on–and all you need for that is a bag of noodles and a few veggies.
Buy In Bulk Only When It Makes Sense To
Some of your kitchen staples should be bought in bulk. Rice, oats, and flour are the most commonly purchased things that should be bought in bulk. This also goes for things like canned tuna, cream cheese, and salt.
It might be beneficial to make some price comparisons between Costco, Walmart, Aldi, and your local ethnic food store. If stored carefully, many products can last for a very long time. I keep many pantry staples like flour in the freezer.
Have a Few Extra Meals in the Freezer
Remember when I talked about repurposing leftovers? How about freezing them? A few weeks ago, I made a large batch of sloppy joe and only got a “meh” response on it. So, into the freezer it went! Next time we’re tempted to order take-out, we can heat and eat instead.
The truth is that no matter how prepared you are, no matter how much you do to make sure your family eats cheaply, there will come a day when you’re too tired to cook or something else has thrown a wrench in your carefully crafted plans, and you are tempted to eat out.
It never hurts to plan for this sort of thing. Have some ready-to-eat meals in the freezer that you just have to heat up. It will keep you from ordering take-out on those difficult days. I also freeze leftover meats (think Thanksgiving turkey, a whole roasted chicken) to whip up a pasta dish, stir fry, or a shepherd’s pie.
Cook In Bulk When It Makes Sense To
If I’m going to cook up a pound of ground beef for tacos, wouldn’t it make sense just to cook up 3lbs and then freeze the other two? That saves me money per lb when I buy a larger package of meat. And, it saves me time because now the first step is done for two future meals.
If I’m going to grill chicken tonight for dinner, why not grill extra that I can chop up and put on salad later in the week? Or, instead of one giant pan of lasagne with tons of leftovers, what if you put it in two 8×8 pans instead? Then you can either freeze one or cook it 4-5 days later (so as not to have the same meal back-to-back).
Use Grocery Coupons and Cashback Apps
You want you can still find paper coupons in the Sunday paper. Or e-coupons on websites. And there are savings apps, too. Couponing works if you’re willing to put in the effort.
Couponing and cash-back apps can be cumbersome and time-consuming. If you want to get into couponing, so many people online have mastered the art of saving money with coupons and frugal living. Follow them and learn all of their money saving tips.
Final Thoughts: Grocery Shopping Hacks
Groceries are often one of the most expensive costs of living for families. But a trip to the supermarket doesn’t have to break the bank! Use the tips above for saving money on groceries to stick to your grocery budget and cut down your grocery bill. Don’t let buying groceries be a stressor in your life anymore, and use the extra money you’ll save for something else. Happy Budgeting!