10 Tips for Saving Money at the Grocery Store

There are four areas of everyone’s financial life that are absolutely essential: food, shelter, transportation, and our utilities. For good reason, these essentials form the backbone of our monthly budgets, but keeping these costs within budget every month can be a challenge. Not only do our families and circumstances change, but the state of our local economy can have a significant impact on the costs of these essentials. Consider how food and energy costs have risen during periods of economic uncertainty and inflation! But this also means there is plenty of room to find ways to save money at the grocery store. Consider these 10 tips to save money at the grocery store: 

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Tip #1 - Make a running grocery list

This first tip may seem obvious, but making a list of what you need is key to saving money before you even take your first step into the grocery store. In fact, make it a habit to create a running list of what you need during the week as you plan your meals and food for following week. In this way, you will be less likely to forget something you need and avoid multiple trips to the store (in theory). You can also create categories on your list to help organize the items.

Tip #2 - Discuss the list with your spouse

It may feel like having financial discussions with your spouse is difficult, but discussing the grocery list is a great way to start a pattern of regular financial conversations together.  And since shopping at the grocery is a fairly regular activity, it will open the door for these discussions to happen regularly.  Discuss your meal plans and your grocery items  together, and decide what is necessary (and what is not!). By eliminating the unnecessary food items (or the food no one wants!), you will save time and money at the grocery store.

Tip #3 - Put the list on your phone

A grocery list is a great idea until you forget to bring the list with you to the store. At that point, you’re winging it and hoping you get everything on the list while resisting the urge to impulse buy. Save yourself the trouble and keep the list on your phone. By keeping to your list at the grocery store, you reduce the impulse buys and save money at the grocery store.

Tip #4 - Be rewarded for your loyalty

Sign-up for your favorite grocery chain’s loyalty program. Yes, no one likes email spam. And it’s possible that signing up for a loyalty program opens the flood gates of email offers, but many of the grocery store chains have fairly lucrative rewards for participating. The programs will also send you relevant coupons based on your spending habits, which can help decrease the cost of your grocery trip.

Tip #5 - Be loyal at several grocery chains

I know several people that only shop at one store. They are deeply loyal to their store and refuse to shop at other competitor stores. Why? Shop around and get the best deal. And sign up for all the competitor’s loyalty programs as well! I promise, it’s OK. Your secret is safe with me!

Tip #6 - Don’t buy something you don’t need because you have a coupon

There are no good deals unless what you need is on sale. Just because you might get a coupon in your email or see a flyer with items on sale does not mean that you need them. If you can work those products into your list, then go ahead and buy. But avoid buying for the sake of saving. You will save more money saying “no” in the long run.

Tip #7 - Don’t shop hungry

Maybe it seems obvious, but don’t shop hungry. No, seriously, eat a meal before going to the grocery store. You cannot save money at the grocery store on an empty stomach. It’s physically impossible. Eat a good, balanced meal before going and show good discipline as you adhere to your grocery list.

Tip #8 - Use store brand products

Most grocery chains produce their own store brand products that are very close (if not, the same) to the name brand products. These products are usually deeply discounted from the name brand, especially if you are a part of their loyalty program. There may be some name brand items you insist on – that’s OK. But try some of the store brand items and see what you think. You might be surprised you like them better!

Tip #9 - Use wholesale clubs sparingly

There is nothing that will bust a budget like the wholesale clubs. In a matter of minutes you can find yourself with a six pack of 72” LED TV’s and wonder where all your money went! Wholesale clubs can be a nice addition to your monthly grocery strategy, but be smart about how and when you shop.

Tip #10 - Cut out the unnecessary foods and drinks

If you are struggling to make the food costs work within your budget, trying cutting out unnecessary foods and drinks. This includes desserts, soda pop, and alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine. While these are nice treats to have during the week, eliminating them from the list can make a significant impact on your grocery bill. 

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