If you went grocery shopping anytime in the past few weeks, you might have noticed that the price of basic goods has risen sharply this year. It’s not just one of the routine price hikes we get every year either; the recent rise of food and drink prices are the highest in the past 40 years.
Pork and chicken are two of the food items that increased in price the most, with pork rising by 14.1% and chicken by 10.3%. The worst part? Economists expect that grocery prices will keep surging.
As pricey as everything is, it’s not like we can stop eating. Our only option is to cut down on costs by finding smarter ways to shop cheaply.
Here are fifteen money-saving tips while you’re out grocery shopping.
1. Always Make a List
Lists are still “in;” don’t let anyone make you think otherwise. Writing down a grocery list isn’t an outdated practice – it’s actually the best way to make yourself think about what you really need.
Research has shown that the act of physically writing down notes improves our ability to recall information which makes it handy for making sure you don’t miss anything on your list. Additionally, the extra step that writing adds to your grocery shopping prep gives you time to pause and check your pantry for items you need to restock.
Once your list is made, stick to it!
2. Check If You Have Coupons
Who hasn’t seen an episode of Extreme Couponing? Even if you haven’t tried it yourself, it’s hard to deny that the idea of getting a ton of grocery items for free isn’t alluring, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
Finding that many coupons takes a lot of time and effort, but you can cut back on your grocery bills by using a coupon or two. Check your magazines, newspapers, and mailbox for any coupons from grocery stores that are running a promotion for certain brands or items.
3. Buy In Bulk
Buying items in small quantities only seems cheap. Most of the time, though, you’ll find that the per unit or per gram cost of “cheaper” sizes is much higher than the price of buying that same item in bulk.
Whenever you can, buy the largest size of any item. It’s best to buy non-food items like laundry detergent, bar soap, and shaving products this way. Food items can also be bought in bulk without risk of spoilage as long as you stick to non-perishable food items like canned goods and grains.
There are many gluten-free grains that can be stored for long periods and easily cooked on a budget. Rice, for example, is a cheap, filling grain that can be used in a stir fry, congee, or dessert.
4. Download a Rebate App
Coupons and rebate apps are the foundations of a two-pronged approach to saving money while grocery shopping. While coupons slash off a percentage of the price from the item you’re buying, rebate apps return a percentage of what you spent.
Ibotta is a great rebate app that gives you cash rewards for doing simple in-app tasks. Make sure to save your grocery receipt because you’ll need to scan and upload it to the Ibotta app. After submitting the receipt to the app, you’ll get your rebate within 48 hours which you can then cash out via PayPal or Venmo.
5. Shop With a Credit Card
We get it: credit cards can be intimidating when your goal is to save money. TV shows, movies, and people around us who spend like crazy with their credit cards have scared us into thinking that these little squares of plastic are debt traps.
Here’s a little secret: credit cards are tools. If you have the right credit card and know how to use it responsibly, it can be a game-changer for your grocery shopping bill.
Discover It Cash Back offers 5% cashback of up to $1,500 for purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants. There’s also the U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature Card which offers double reward points for grocery store purchases.
6. Get A Membership Card and Join a Loyalty Program
Many grocery stores offer a membership card that lets you store points that you can later use to redeem grocery items, join raffles, and discount your purchases. Before you write membership cards off, keep in mind that those points rack up fast since you’re buying groceries regularly.
If your preferred grocery store offers a loyalty program, sign up for that as well. Loyalty programs have additional perks that make your grocery shopping easier, even if they give you a direct discount. Busy parents and young adults stand to benefit from the free delivery services that some grocery stores provide to their loyal customers.
7. Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
According to a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shopping for groceries on an empty stomach is a bad idea because you’re basically giving your temporary cravings a chance to derail your budget. Not only do you end up buying food with bad nutritional value, but it also makes it likelier for you to buy items that aren’t even food.
8. Skip Pre-prepped Food
Buying pre-prepared food is tempting because of how convenient it is. When you’re offered the opportunity to not skin, slice, or cook your own meals, it almost feels like you’re buying yourself extra time.
Before you end up buying another overpriced container of pre-washed lettuce or cubed watermelons, ask yourself if the dollar cost difference between the pre-prepped and un-prepped food is worth it versus the time it takes to rinse your own veggies or cut your own fruit.
9. Only Buy Enough Produce for A Week’s Worth of Meals
Americans waste 108 billion pounds of food each year. Now whether or not you care about the environmental implications of that is up to you, but if you’re wasting food on a regular basis, you’re practically letting your money rot.
When buying fresh produce, remember to shop for items that will keep for longer. For example, if you’re buying bananas, you might want to buy them at different ripening stages. This way, you won’t have overripe fruit sitting on your kitchen counter at the end of the week.
As for vegetables, if you buy leafy greens, prioritize cooking them first before they wilt. Hardier vegetables, such as potatoes, can be left in your fridge for the latter half of the week.
10. Don’t Turn Your Nose Up At Generic Brands
Let’s get a common misconception out of the way first: store-brand grocery items are just as good as name-brand ones. Sure, they might taste a bit different, but they’re rarely made at a lower quality, considering that many of them come from the same production line as brand-name products.
If you’re tasting anything different, the chances are that it’s just branding making you think it should taste different.
Love Peter Pan Peanut Butter? You’re in luck because Great Value Peanut Butter is the exact same thing.
11. Buy The Loss Leaders
Have you ever wondered why Costco’s rotisserie chicken is so cheap compared to making it at home? That’s because rotisserie chicken is Costco’s loss leader.
A loss leader is a product that’s sold at a loss for the purpose of attracting customers. Once a grocery store has you walking through their doors, it’s almost certain that you’re going to buy something.
Find what the loss leader for each grocery store is to get the most bang for your buck.
12. Take Your Time Looking At Aisles
PSA: brands compete against each other for who gets to put their products at eye level on grocery store shelves. The cheaper ones will almost always be in different parts of the aisle, especially at floor level.
13. Check Your Pantry
Speaking of taking your time, take the time to list down the items you have in your pantry to see what you should and shouldn’t buy on your next trip to the grocery store. Not only does it prevent food waste, but it makes it easier for you to plan your bulk and in-season purchases.
14. Make Up Cheap Meals
Cooking homemade meals isn’t expensive as long as you don’t cook recipes from a chef’s TV show or blog.
There are many cheap and easy-to-make healthy recipes online that are made by regular people for other regular people. When you get used to cooking for yourself, you can begin to experiment with ingredients and make your own recipes.
15. Stock Up During Sales
Non-food items and non-perishable foods often go on sale, and the long shelf-life of these items makes them great for stocking up. By hoarding items on sale, you can save on up to a year’s worth of products.
Grocery items may be getting more expensive, but with credit card rewards, rebate apps, coupons, and a little #adulting savyness, you can save money without having to give up your grocery staples. By following these tips and taking the time to cook your own healthy meals at home, you can cut down on your expenses drastically.