20 Ways You Can Reduce Your Grocery Spending

Cooking at home is very inexpensive when you compare it to eating out at your favorite takeout restaurant. But you can easily rack up your grocery bill when you mindlessly spend it on food items you don’t need. Here are 20 ways to reduce your grocery spending.

  1. Create a realistic shopping budget.  This will vary for different families depending on the family size, number of adults/children, food allergies, whether the person is vegetarian/vegan, and the number of grocery stores available in your area. You can start off with an arbitrary number such as $40 per adult and $21 per child. When you go grocery shopping, notice if you ended up spending more or less. Calculate the average amount you spend and voila you have a number. It is all about being aware of how much you are spending, setting a number and sticking to it.
  2. Create a grocery list and stick to it.  This can be the most difficult thing to do if you are easily tempted by food. But by sticking to your grocery list, you can significantly reduce your grocery shopping time instead of walking by aisle by aisle to see if anything catches your eye.
  3. Do not go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.  Shopping while hungry is a bit too tempting. Shopping while full will help reduce the number of things you put on your shopping cart because you suddenly craved a snack. This will also help you stick to your grocery budget.
  4. Plan your meals. My parents would generally plan their meals based on the food they bought that was on sale. This sounds good in theory, but what would end up happening is most of the food would not get used because there was not specific plan for the food that was bought beforehand. Plan your meals first and buy the necessary ingredients for those meals to reduce food waste. You can plan different meals for each day of the week, or you can cook meals in bulk for your meal prep.
  5. Plan your meals based on the weekly specials. If you know that every Wednesday, the grocery specials arrive in the mail, scan through the items that are on sale before you decide what you will be cooking that week. If certain vegetables are on sale, plan your meals using the vegetables included in the weekly specials.
  6. Scan your pantry first. Before you plan your meals, be sure to scan your pantry first to see what items needs to be used up first. Start with the items that have a shorter shelf life like fruits and vegetables. Then you can purchase more ingredients that will compliment the meal. This is how I am able to significantly reduce my grocery budget.
  7. Google recipes with ingredients you already have. You would be surprised what delicious concoctions you can make with the ingredients you already have! For example, I always have pasta and garlic, there are so many delicious Italian and Asian recipes using these simple ingredients. By doing this, I was able to discover some very delicious recipes and add them to my cooking repertoire.
  8. Don’t buy ingredients from a recipe that you just watched on YouTube.  I used to do this all the time. I follow over 50 cooking YouTube channels with some recipes that look so tempting. But most of the time the recipes are for meals that I don’t have the ingredients for, or would use the ingredients rarely, or would warrant for a trip to a specialty store. Don’t get me wrong, this is significantly cheaper than dining out at a restaurant, but this can easily make you go over your grocery budget.
  9. Buy less meats. If you can dedicate some of your meals to be vegetarian, this would save you a bit of money. Meats like beef can be very expensive at around $4 a pound. Seafood can be double that of beef and most of its weight isn’t even edible sometimes because of the shell. Chicken can be the value meat if you still want to opt for a protein option.
  10. Make legumes and rice the star of the meal. I know people don’t want to aspire to eat a rice and bean diet, but let me tell you that this can actually be very delicious! Legumes like beans and lentils can start at $1 a pound and there are so many varieties! You can make soups, salads, and even veggie patties! Cultures from all around the world have their own bean and rice recipes, so you don’t have to make the same recipe.  Some of my favorite recipes are garlic fried rice, arroz moro, frijoles charros, mujadara, red lentil dal, and so many more! If you get a little creative, you can make yourself a tasty meal with one of the cheapest and nutritious ingredients.
  11. Shop at ethnic markets for fruits and vegetables. From my experience of living in Los Angeles, shopping for fruits and vegetables at the ethnic markets are significantly cheaper than the Ralph’s and Alberton’s supermarkets. Grocery stores like 99 Ranch Market, H-Mart, El Super, and Northgate (aka the Asian and Latinx supermarkets) have more affordable fruits and vegetables. They also have more “exotic” fruits and vegetables and more specialized ethnic ingredients such as kimchi and special Latinx cheeses.
  12. Shop at Aldi. Aldi is one of my all-time favorite budget stores. Most packaged items are significantly lower in price than pretty much all of the stores I have been to. I am not a huge fan of their meats and fruits and veggies though. But if your recipes require a lot of canned goods, pastas, and breads, this is where you would want to buy your stuff.
  13. Buy store brand items. Trust me, for the most part you will not notice the difference. There are certain brands that have their secret formulas (Coca-Cola) that aren’t replicable, but that is the exception not the rule. Don’t let your friends and family know if they are picky.
  14. Use coupons. Only use coupons for things that you would actually buy. Sometimes you can save more money by skipping the coupon and just buy the store brand. Know the price per unit and calculate which one you would save the most on.
  15. Don’t forget your reusable bag. If you are in the states where you have to purchase a reusable bag, then this is for you. Those 10 cents for each bag can add up! Be good to the environment and your wallet by remembering to bring your own bag.
  16. Use cash envelopes. If you have a difficult time calculating your total grocery expenses at the end of each shopping trip, consider paying in cash instead of a credit card to make sure you don’t go over budget. This is also a great option for those that are currently paying down their credit card debt.
  17. Go grocery shopping alone. If I take my husband grocery shopping, I can’t say no to his cravings sometimes. His weaknesses are steaks, Scotch, and seafood. These are all food items that can easily rack up the grocery bill. He does not crave them as much when I leave him home. That is what I end up doing most of the time. It is a win-win for us because I get to save money and he gets to do other productive things. If you have someone in your household like my husband, leave them at the house from time to time. At least during months where your budget is tighter.
  18. Know the shelf life of your food. I can’t tell you how many times I thought my Thai basil would last more than 3 days in the fridge. This herb is a little more on the expensive side and has to be used soon before it goes bad. Root vegetables on the other hand last a bit longer and I appreciate that. Be sure to cook your ingredients before they go bad. It is always hard for me to discard of food that has gone bad because I did not cook them on time. Discarding of food is wasteful and a waste of money.
  19. Only buy in bulk if you will use before the expiration date. Buying things in bulk can save you a lot of money. But what good is it if you end up not using it before the expiration date and end up throwing it away? There are certain foods that can be used a little past the expiration date, but if they do not pass the smell test, throw it out.
  20. Use Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, Shopkick or other rebate apps. Rebate apps are a great way to make a little cash and it only takes a few seconds! Snap and download a picture of your grocery receipt and cash in on the rewards!

No Soy Coda

Karen Carranza is a personal finance content creator and enthusiast. She is a first generation Mexican American determined to build generational wealth and spread financial literacy through her blog, workshops, and Instagram page.

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