Seven Tips to Lower the Grocery Bill

It doesn't take a lot to save a lot

Nov 7, 2011 | WRITTEN BY CHRIS RUSSELL

Hope you're in the mood to save money at the grocery store. Because with these tidbits of advice, you'll be doing a lot of it. Let's get to it.

Make a list

This may not seem like it can save you money, but if you look through the kitchen and write down what you need before you go, it will keep you away from those budget-busting impulse buys. If you run out of milk, for example, then you know you should get more. But if you forget that you have milk and buy some because you think you need it, then you do that race-against-the-clock-with-the-expiration-date thing.

Use coupons

It's not unusual to spend $50 at a grocery store and get $80 worth of food and supplies. How? Coupons! Go online or even pick up a Sunday paper and you'll find tons of savings for everyday stuff. Just make sure you only buy what you'll need. Buying something just because you get a good deal is stupid if you never use the item.

Buy in bulk

If you're a member of a warehouse-type store such as Sam's or Costco, you know how much you can save by purchasing food or household supplies en masse. Just make sure you'll be able to use it all before it spoils.

Stock up on sales

This kind of goes along with buying in bulk, but we want to emphasize the importance of taking advantage of a deal. It makes good sense to pile up on stuff you use when it goes on sale. Stock up and save dough.

Don't go hungry

When you have the munchies, everything looks good. You'll buy food that you wouldn't touch if you weren't hungry. Have a snack before you go to the store, or, even better, eat a full meal.

Buy the store brand

A big part of the jacked-up price is the name on the front of the box. Paper towels, trash bags and aspirin (just to name a few) work just as well regardless of the brand, so don't pay $5 for something you can get for half that.

Comparison shop

Go where the lower prices are. It can actually benefit you to shop at two different stores for some items such as produce. If your grocery list includes 25 items, and you've found that you can save money by getting 11 of them at a different place, then do it.

The reason many people don't do well with their grocery budget is because they don't invest the time to find bargains. If you look closely enough, you can spot deals.

Don't just find them—eat 'em up!

Reader Comments (17)

I'm on constant coupon savings mode! Saved $45 Sat. morning shopping trip. Used 2 $2 coupons at lunch and got a $5 gift card to Target. Couponing is super easy once you get started!
Member at 12:51 PM, November 07 2011
I'm on constant coupon savings mode! Saved $45 Sat. morning shopping trip. Used 2 $2 coupons at lunch and got a $5 gift card to Target. Couponing is super easy once you get started!
Member at 12:51 PM, November 07 2011
I agree with the using coupons to save money. However, what many people do is try to get something for nothing. Don't try to beat the grocer and try to stack coupons or other extreme couponing tactics. The cost to the store only raises prices for the people who play by the rules.
Member at 2:18 PM, November 07 2011
When buying in bulk, don't forget to comparison shop there, too! Sometimes the 'deal' that you think you are getting at Sam's or Costco really isn't - a simple per unit calculation can save you from spending more than you need to.
Member at 7:35 AM, November 08 2011
There is nothing morally wrong with "extreme couponing" in & of itself. Some stores legitimately allow you to "stack" coupons, & I see nothing wrong with this. Target, for example, allows you to use 1 Target coupon & 1 manufacturer's coupon per item. I routinely leave Target having saved 70-90% on my total bill. Just last week, I had >$700 of stuff & paid <$71. This costs the store very little because their own coupons are just like their sale prices (already reflected in their expected earnings), & they get reimbursed for the manufacturers' coupons. The direct cost to the store is the 30-45min they are paying the clerk to scan all those coupons. Finally, the truth is, even in these "tough" economic times, there are shockingly few people couponing. Most people, even the poorest among us, are too lazy to coupon at all, nevermind "extreme couponing". In fact, I just got a 4" high stack of coupon circulars from a lady who earns just above poverty line. Why? "It's too much trouble." (her words)
Member at 9:39 AM, November 08 2011
My daughters and I try to best each other with coupon savings whenever we go to the store! It's a lot of fun trying to save more that you did the last time!
Member at 1:17 PM, November 08 2011
It's okay to "stack" coupons if the stor allows you to. The store calculates their prices so they aren't losing. I have begun to really compare prices and have found that coupons used at Walmart beat double/triple coupons elsewhere. It's all about only buying items you use and using the coupons.
Member at 2:19 PM, November 08 2011
What advice can you give the shopping mom who wants to buy healthy for the family? I'm not talking about full blown organic, but I do want to stay away from sugar cereals,processed,convenience foods, empty caloris snacks et al. It seems that the coupons-online and in the paper- are all for stuff I don't buy. I don't need coupons for a 24 pack of Key Lime Gatorade or Lay's chips or lunchables. I rarely find coupons for organic foods or deals from companies that produce more healthy choices in the bread/milk/cereal/eggs/meat catagories. Any suggestions?
Member at 9:58 AM, November 09 2011
Couponing seems to be harder if you don't purchase processed items. We are always trying to eat healthier and although we don't buy organic, we mostly just buy fruits, vegetables, eggs, brown rice, oatmeal and lean meats and cheeses. So there never seems to be a lot of coupons for those items. We do two things to lower the cost. #1 We go to a fruit and vegetable market like Joe Randazzos's in Westland Mi. The prices are very low. For example Lettuce is usually $0.99/lb. Or apples right now are $.69/lb. #2 We make all our meals for the week on Sunday and pre-portion them into glass pyrex dishes. So this week we had 2 meals that we stretched into 5 lunches and 5 dinners for the week. The first one was meatloaf (gr turkey with spinach, onions carrots etc) with roasted sweet potatoes and meal # 2 cream of mushroom crock pot chicken over brown rice. It took me about 2 hours prep time to make those on Sunday and I am done cooking for the week. Best part for two of us (I know not a big family) but for two of us our grocery bill was $100 total. When I was on my own I used to spend nearly that on just me. #3 I plan the meals around which protien is on sale for that week. Hope that helps!
Member at 1:40 PM, November 09 2011
Halford56, I too buy organic foods, if you shop at Whole Foods they have a circular that has good deals in it. I buy VERY little and I mean VERY little pre-packaged food, it's not good for you no matter what you get it at, free or close to it. I have pinched my budget soo many places that I have decided that I will not pinch in the food department. I may have debt but I don't need to sacrifice my health to by cheap boxed food items. I shop the perimeter of the store, and buy organic and non-drugged up meats to feed my family. So in the long run I may be paying more for my food but I'm paying less in medical expenses for an unhealthy family. We all make choices that work for us, my family gave up cable and expensive vacations - so glad my kids love to camp (I don't so when they go with Dad, I get my vacation by staying home and chilling). I make my own laundry soap and fabric softners (search the net - you can find recipes for just about everything. I grow my own veges and wish Greenfield allowed chickens!! LOL I love having choices and until that is taken away, I'll stick with my organic healthy non-packaged, non-drugged slightly more expensive food.
Member at 4:25 PM, November 09 2011
Trader Joes is a great place to shop. The prices are low and the quality is high. Lots of fresh frozen foods for those with busy lives. The ingredients are easy to read and NATURAL. Like people have said previously, buying prepackaged food is cheap but not very good for you. i am amazed at the bill total. I call it a poor man's Whole Foods. Try it out
Member at 8:04 PM, November 09 2011
Make it yourself! Bake your own bread, make jams, yoghurt, etc. As mentioned above, just shop the perimeter of the store, buy the "whole foods" and cook it all at home.
Member at 12:27 AM, November 10 2011
Couponing is great, if you live somewhere that offers double coupons and the like. But couponing is useless otherwise. A 50 cent discount on a name brand item is usually still more expensive than the generic item. When I use coupons, it has to be for something new I'd like to try, otherwise, I'm actually spending more money.
Member at 10:38 AM, November 11 2011
We live in Canada and rarely get food coupons. However, because of matching coupons with a great sale, we pay nothing or pennies for toiletries, laundry supplies, paper products, etc. This makes it possible have a low grocery bill while buying a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. And buying things only at their rock bottom price makes a huge difference! Good luck!
Member at 4:04 PM, November 11 2011
really appreciate the feedback that others aren't willing to eat "coupon" foods at the expense of their health. locally Kroger has been sending in the mail a circulation of coupons that will offer $5 off your total produce purchase. we also stock up on "freezable" veggies in season for the long winter season.
Member at 4:08 PM, November 11 2011
Stock up on BOGO's that you will use.
Member at 8:40 PM, November 11 2011
You don't have to eat junk to use coupons. Use the coupons on toiletries, household goods, staples, frozen veggies & such. With appropriate stacking & combining with sales, I often get things like freezer bags, foil, lipstick & tampons for FREE!
Member at 10:42 AM, November 12 2011

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