How to Reduce Your Grocery Bill Using My 5 Easy Steps

How to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill

Living in a dessert can be expensive! I say this while glancing at our electric bill in the peak of summer. While the cost of living in Arizona is still lower than many places in the united states, I'm always trying to think of ways to reduce cost and save money. There are ways to lower your monthly bills-- specifically ways to lower your grocery bill.

Saving money requires discipline. Without discipline, none of these steps will do anything for you. Oh and one more thing... time.

It's the age-old dilemma of time VS money. Saving money will take a little extra time. Or a lot depending on how much you want to save. Just take an objective look at how you shop and spend money in the grocery store.

My husband and I will spend about 80 dollars or less on groceries for a month. We usually do two forty-dollar trips. These tricks have helped me keep our bi-weekly bill to about 40 dollars or less. As I get a little better at it, I can hopefully keep our grocery bill even lower.

Grocery Budget Tips

Groceries in Basket
Groceries in Basket | Source

1. Always Make a List

Make your grocery list, check it twice, and STICK TO IT!

This may seem like a "no-brainer" but many shoppers just make purchases to stock up without knowing what they have. Are you planning out meals, even loosely, or just buying what you think you need? Making a list of what you already have is just as important as a shopping list of what you need.

We shop at least twice a month, so I need to make sure we have enough dinner items for 14 days. I do a rough table that shows meal planning, like so. Although, I do it in a little notebook I use for shopping.

I'll call it my "cave-woman" chart because it's crude, basic, and easy to navigate.

My "cave-woman chart"

Meat
Sides
Fruits/Veggies
x
x
x
 
x
x
 
x
 

"cave-woman" list

so simple, but it helps me inventory and shop
so simple, but it helps me inventory and shop | Source

I have three columns, one each for meat, sides, and fruits/veggies respectively. I have fourteen rows, one for each dinner meal. First, I check my freezer, fridge and pantry to see what we have. Each meat item I have that will be part of a dinner meal will result in an 'X'. If it's a large package of chicken for example, that would make at least two meals for my husband and I, and will result in two consecutive 'X's-- one for each day. I then continue to the next columns until I've made a crude inventory of what we have. Each empty box will represent an item that I need to buy. I take my notebook (and table) shopping with me and now I can make sure I buy exactly the right number of dinner meats, sides, and fruits/veggies. This eliminates buying more than I need and keeps me focused. For each item I buy, I make an "X" in the appropriate box and keep shopping.

Depending on how light my shopping trip is, I can sometimes get away with just using my cave-woman chart as a list-- if I don't have specific items with coupons and I'm just buying whatever is on sale. However, if it's a shopping trip with more items, then I use this table as a first step to making a list.

During the week I have gathered any coupons and or fliers that come in the mail. Based on what we need and who has it on sale, we will shop there. For example, if I know I have to buy four side dishes and my grocery store ad says rice-a-roni or pasta-roni are 89 cents a box AND I have a coupon for 75 cents off two boxes, I will be buying four boxes. I know before I even go into the store that I will be hard-pressed to find any other side-dishes that will cost about 70 cents per meal. And that was just with one coupon on two boxes. If I have a second coupon, I will use it of course, but this is just an example. I'll talk a little bit more about coupons later.

With my first list (cavewoman chart) out of the way, I can either

  1. go shopping or
  2. if it's a bigger shopping trip with lots of random items, I will then make a more traditional-looking shopping list. All my pretty "X"s do me no good if I need light bulbs and toothpaste.

Staples
Meal Items
bread
rice-a-roni (4)
milk
frozen carrots
cheese
5lb bag of potatoes (b1g1f)
flour
 

Shopping List

Budgeting Tips
Budgeting Tips | Source

I usually make a two-column list. Column A contains what we absolutely need like bread, eggs, margarine. You know, staple supplies that we have currently depleted. Column two might contain items that we need to fulfill our 14-day menu, that are also on sale that week. It's a great way to write little notes to myself to make sure I take advantage of whatever specials are going on and if I have to buy two of something for a coupon, for example.

This is also a great way to get my husband to help. He hates grocery shopping and is always worried he will pick out "the wrong one." So, I can tear this list right down the columns and have him go get the staples. He is very familiar with what kind of milk or bread to get, and this can cut our trip time in half.

2. Don't shop on an empty stomach

This is straightforward and doesn't need a chart.

Hopefully you already use this method but if not, get to it! Shopping on even a slightly hungry tummy makes everything look delicious and puts you at risk for buying more food and ultimately spending more money. For this reason, we make our grocery trip right after eating lunch or dinner at home.

Remember--

Hungry tummy = more food = more money $$$ = more stuff that might go bad before you get to it = wasted money

There's always room in the grocery budget for eggs.
There's always room in the grocery budget for eggs. | Source

3. Don't Always Rely on Coupons

Coupons are great but I am in no way a coupon lady. I wish! It is possible to cut your grocery bill without coupons.

I will use coupons only if:

  • it's for an item that I would spend full price on anyway
  • it's for an item that is already on sale that week in the grocery store
  • it's truly less expensive than buying an alternative

Having a 50 cent coupon for 1 box of Wheat Thins doesn't mean I'm always going to use it. Our favorite grocery store increases all coupons under $1.00 to $1.00 and anything more than a dollar is face value. SO! That policy would increase the value of my coupon for Wheat Thins but if they aren't on sale and Ritz are on sale and ultimately less than the Wheat Thins after the coupon savings, I'll keep the coupon for next time and get the Ritz.

Weekly sales will heavily dictate what we'll be eating for the next two weeks. This doesn't mean our meals and snacks are boring, though. Especially since the sale items change each week. I'm not always buying the same stuff.

Fresh fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and Vegetables | Source

4. Buy Only What You NEED and Don't Waste Food

Shop smart but also EAT SMART! Freeze what you can. My husband and I have a hard time finishing a loaf of bread before it expires. So we freeze half until we're ready for it. Do this with anything you can. I feel absolutely terrible about wasting food and even if you remove your emotions, you're still just wasting money.

In our house, eating smart also means eating whatever might get yucky first. Frozen vegetables last a while, but that doesn't mean we don't buy fresh veggies. When buying fresh fruits or veggies (we love cucumbers, bell peppers, apples), make sure you eat those first. When making dinner, I keep in mind we have fresh items and I will use those each night until they're gone. Then we'll start using frozen items like crinkle cut carrots or edamame. By doing this, I've never had to throw away a fruit or vegetable that went bad.

Don't throw away leftovers. Take them to work the following day for lunch or revamp them for your next dinner. Just because you have leftovers doesn't mean you have to eat it the exact same way until it's gone. Have lots of leftover bread from a gathering? Whip up some french toast the morning after. Have lots of leftover vegetables? Whether they're cooked or raw, they'll go nicely into stews, salads, omelets and quiches. Just be creative. See my chart below for easy ways I reinvent leftovers in my kitchen.

What Can I Make with Leftovers?

Leftover
Plus
Becomes
Potato Latkes
Eggs, onions, cheese
Frittata
Steak
Bell pepper, onions, cheese, tortilla
Fajita
Mashed Potatoes
Chopped bacon, sour cream
Potato Pancakes
Fish
Tomatoes, cabbage, avocado, tortilla
Fish Tacos
White Rice
frozen peas and carrots, soy sauce, egg
Fried Rice
Plain Pasta
Carrot, cucmber, Italian salad dressing
Italian Pasta Salad
Chicken Breasts
BBQ sauce, ketchup, crockpot
Pulled BBQ chicken
Broccoli
Bread crumbs, egg, Parmesan Cheese
Savory Fritters
Hamburger/Hot Dog Buns
Milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon
Bread Pudding
Turkey
Rye bread, saurkraut, swiss cheese, thousand island dressing
Grilled Turkey Reuben
Hot Dogs
Crescent roll dough, American cheese
Pigs in Blankets
Spaghetti Sauce
English Muffins, cheese, pepperoni
Baby Pizzas
Taco Meat
Beef broth, corn, tomatoes
Tortilla Soup

To me, syrup is syrup.

Source

...but not all cheese is cheese

When it comes to sandwich slices, it has to be Kraft!
When it comes to sandwich slices, it has to be Kraft! | Source

How Many of These Methods do You Already Use?

See results without voting

5. Be reasonable

Be reasonable. Be flexible. Be realistic.

When I say be reasonable, I mean this in two ways.

Example 1

"Be reasonable. Buying generic bleach will do exactly what you need it to do and cost one third the price of the name brand."

Example 2

"Be reasonable. Why buy cereal that you hate just because it's cheaper than a name brand? Spend the extra 2 bucks and be happy."

Now, unless if bleach happens to be your happy item, then buy it. My point is, there are name brands that you can't live without. I know. I have my own (Kraft cheese, Coke/Pepsi, nice toilet paper). But there are items that will substitute too.

So buy the items you have to pay full price for and save money in another aisle. But, experiment once in a while. Try a bargain brand, and if it really SUCKS, then keep your receipt and bring it back. Let the customer service representative know that you bought the item because you "trust their store name and wanted to try it, but it simply isn't comparable and you'd like to put the refund price towards the name brand of the same product and pay the difference." They'll do it.

The key is that you'll find some items that are comparable and little by little, you can test them and perhaps begin to save money.

Heather Says

I'm a rare breed of person that enjoys grocery shopping. Like most people, I enjoy saving money. Keeping my grocery bill low makes the experience even better. Hopefully I have given you a few ideas that you can incorporate into your own grocery routine and save you some money. If all five aren't in your future, at least try steps 1 and 2. I bet you'll notice a difference.

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Comments 20 comments

Healthyannie profile image

Healthyannie 2 years ago from Spain

Making a list is so important, I make a list and try to stick to it.


ElleBee 4 years ago

Smart to point out that w/ certain items the national brand and the budget brand won't make a difference, but with other items it can make a big difference! For example I know that the store boxed mac & cheese at my local grocery is good, but there are other items where the store brand does not impress. I had to laugh at your syrup is syrup comment thought, because for us syrup would definitely be in the does matter category! Not that we're brand specific so much, but we definitely want pure maple syrup and not "pancake syrup." I guess that's what being a New Englander means!


Brian Ahearn profile image

Brian Ahearn 4 years ago

Totally agree with the coupons. Printable ones, being so easily available, are tempting but we found that we'd end up not using about half of them and ink isn't cheap. And we will turn back if we find we forgot our list haha.


carter06 profile image

carter06 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

Great hub, really well laid out and useful in so many ways & thank you for sharing it with us as it helps to see tips like no 5 explained clearly...where would we be without lists...Up & shared...


shalini sharan profile image

shalini sharan 4 years ago from Delhi

this a really useful hub, enjoyed it


lovedoctor926 4 years ago

Excellent tips. Your cavewoman chart is awesome! You're right! It's never a good idea to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You end up buying unnecessary items and spending a lot more. Voted up!


Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

Great hub and totally informative on how to spend less on groceries. I have to say I recently starting doing more of what you outlined by making a list and sticking to it and only buying if something that I need is already on sale. I have been actually saving around $20 dollars a week now more than when I wasn't doing this and do feel like I am doing something right now. Thanks for the advice and am sharing and voting up too!


LauraGT profile image

LauraGT 4 years ago from MA

Interesting hub! I can't believe you only go 2x/month. I go at least 2x/week! I don't know if I could go less, as I put a huge premium on having fresh fruits and vegetables around all the time. My biggest shopping vice is Whole Foods. I usually get my shopping in on my way home from work in about 15 minutes. Whole Foods is right and is guaranteed to have everything I need, even strange ingredients that regular stores sometimes don't carry. But, I really should cut down! Thanks for the tips!


Diana 4 years ago

Great hub! I can't believe there's other people that love grocery shopping too! I've been shopping like this for years. It gives me great satisfaction feeding my family within a budget and everyone is eating very well and healthy at a fraction of the price others pay.You have to plan to accomplish this but it's well worth it.


Heather Says profile image

Heather Says 4 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona Author

Thanks for reading MsDora :)


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean

Voted useful. Real common sense suggestions, but sometimes we need to see it in print like Example 1 under Number 5. Good job!


coffeegginmyrice profile image

coffeegginmyrice 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

I am one grocery shopper who goes out of control. I carry a list with me, but I get easily sidetracked, humph! I like buying items that would save me from trips to the grocery in the next week or two (just in case there is nothing in the fridge to cook, then, the cupboard is next). I stock on a variety of pasta and bottled sauces, tuna flakes, cream soup, sardines and other canned goods for instant alternatives (on sale items). My partner is a better disciplined shopper than me, but I don't enjoy the quick 'run to and out' idea. And I need one of my daughters with me when I go grocery shopping for someone who could tell me, "Mom, you don't need that. Return it."

Voted up for a useful hub and I enjoyed very much the term "cave woman list" and it is exactly a mutual feeling when we run out of "those guys".


Heather Says profile image

Heather Says 4 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona Author

Hi Cosmic Bus. My father is retired military and I have very fond memories of grocery shopping at the commissary :)

In our house it's just my husband, myself, and our medium-sized husky.

Our 80$ a month does include a toiletry or bottle of windex here and there. That stuff will last us awhile, so we don't buy it each time. If I'm shopping and we haven't hit our $40 mark, I'll buy a couple of something on sale, like toothpaste or deodorant-- even if we're not out. I like to stock up when something is on sale, but I don't go overboard.

My husband and I both used to work retail, sometimes 50, 60 hours a week each. We never had time to eat at home, let alone prepare it or shop for it. So we ate out A LOT! I'm not currently working, so we can't afford that lifestyle (and neither can our health). The loss of my nice income prompted this new mindset. We eat out maybe twice a month (maybe once we'll get some drive-thru and then maybe somewhere at a sitdown). If we are saving money for something specific, we make a "no fast food rule."


Heather Says profile image

Heather Says 4 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona Author

Thanks, Pamela99. I'm a forgetful person, so I've gotta plan almost everything :)


Heather Says profile image

Heather Says 4 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona Author

Thanks for reading Donovan :)


Heather Says profile image

Heather Says 4 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona Author

Thanks for reading, CJ Andrews. "Back to basics..." very well put. It's tough these days, for sure :)


Cosmic Bus profile image

Cosmic Bus 4 years ago from Maryland

Oh my goodness! I had to read over the paragraph that said 80 dollars a month a few times! We are a family of 5 humans, 3 dogs, 2 cats our bill for groceries per month is around 1,000 dollars and that is from commissary shopping, which is always cheapest and light Couponing. Does this include your household items such as toiletries and cleaning supplies? Do you ever dine out? You have inspired me to at least cut back. Thanks! Voted up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

I think your plan is good and sticking to a plan is sure to be cheaper. This is a very useful hub. Thanks.


Donovan 4 years ago

This hub is awesome! Great information and really fun to boot. My wife and I giggled at the egg picture cause we are so there...


CJ Andrews profile image

CJ Andrews 4 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

A great hub, it reminds me of what my mother did for shopping. It also made me reevaluate what I do for my family. I know my wife and I said we need to get back to basics. Thanks for the hub. Up and useful.

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