Image of a man browsing the internet and drinking coffee, looking at ways to save on groceries.

Tips for How to Save Money on Groceries

Updated May 3, 2020 . AmFam Team

Looking to save money on groceries? Maximize your grocery money with these 21 tips to help you save and eat healthy on a budget.

Simple ideas like building a budget and squeezing every dollar to its fullest potential make good sense when you’re looking for ways to save on groceries. As you probably know, one of the best ways to save money on groceries is to have a thorough plan and stick to it.

Ways to Stretch Your Food Budget

When you get serious and start to limit your spending at the grocery store, you may feel like you’ve got to compromise on food quality or quantity — but nothing could be further from the truth. From leveraging smartphone apps to preserving garden-fresh veggies, we’ve put together some great ways to stretch your food budget without sacrificing on taste.

Track Grocery Expenses or Save With Mobile Apps

One surefire way to save the most on your grocery budget is by tracking cost trends between various stores. Don’t worry — there’s an app for that. But what’s the best app for tracking grocery prices?

How much should you budget for groceries? Get your finances in order with powerful banking and budgeting apps like these:

Pay Careful Attention When Online Grocery Shopping

By dedicating to using these deal-finding and budgeting apps each time you shop, you’ll need to invest some time in order to ramp up and get familiar with the app. These ideas to save on groceries can translate into real savings. Remember to search online for rebates that are being offered by food manufacturers. And keep a close eye on coupons posted online and in grocery store entryways.

Limit Your Number of Monthly Shopping Trips

By placing a cap on the number of times you go shopping — either online or in-store — you’ll also be limiting opportunities for impulse purchases. With restrictions like these in place, you’ll prevent some extra spending on smaller purchases.

Planning and Preparing Meals

In order to save on groceries, you can invest more time in the kitchen and build your meals from scratch. You’ll find purchasing items in bulk can save you money. But with so much more food around, you may need to invest in a food storage system to keep your food lasting longer. You can save more in the long run because you’ll be wasting less through planning and preparation of meals before you even start shopping.

Buy Dried Food Over Canned

Although you may find canned foods convenient, the truth is they may not last as long as dried foods. Bulk purchases of dried beans can last longer and because there’s no preservatives or added salt, they’re better for you. The same goes for other dry goods in the bulk aisle. Lean into savings and nutrition by getting out of your comfort zone — your family will notice the homemade difference at the dinner table.

Buy Generic Counterparts to Big Brand Food

Even though you may have a favorite brand of crackers, there are other options available to you. And some of those options are cheaper, too. Purchasing off-brand or generic counterparts to mainstream products is a great way to save on groceries.

Learn to Vacuum Seal & Preserve

Products like Food Saver and GERYON vacuum sealer machines are great ways to break down bulk purchases into portions. From marinating and freezing meat to breaking down five pounds of frozen veggies into meal-sized segments, you can parcel out bulk purchases you’ll use well into the future.

Price Compare and Keep a Running Tally

In addition to leveraging price-finding apps, do your own homework and take notes on where you’ve found the best deals. Shopping in-store with a calculator handy can also help you stay on track and under budget.

Grow Your Own Food

Start in the spring by ordering seeds and work on building an area to start a vegetable garden. After you start harvesting, you’ll be able to store, preserve and can your crops for use into the fall and winter.

Check Out the Farmers Market

Now’s a great time to buy your veggies locally. With more farmers making their way into more city centers every week than ever before, you can get super fresh food on your table and help out your local economy, too. Be sure to explore all that the farmer’s market has to offer. You’ll find everything from honey to smoked meats to handmade artisan products.

Ignore Eye-level Items in Big Brand Stores

One key takeaway on in-store shopping is being aware of end cap and eye-level impulse purchases. Food marketers will often put their most profitable and marked-up products up front and center. Take a look at bottom shelf items or those that are a bit more difficult to reach.

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons!

Dig deep into savings by collecting coupons. All that junk mail you’ve been tossing might finally be worth something, so look carefully through Sunday paper ads and online coupon consolidators, and pick up your favorite foods for less.

Stick to Your Original Grocery List

Do your best to purchase only the items on your grocery list. In addition to avoiding impulse buying, you’ll be able to build purchasing discipline that can extend across all your finances. Another good idea is to shop with a pen and paper and make a list of items that you find while shopping that can be add to your purchase another time. That way you can pick these items up soon and you’ll do so by budgeting for them.

Shop for In-season Items

Even though avocados might be great in February, you’ll probably be paying a premium for them at that time. Instead, shop for in-season fruits and veggies in order to save money.

Make Sure You Finish Leftovers

By cutting back on food waste and taking advantage of a vacuum bag food storage system, you’ll be able to do more than just save leftovers. You’ll be able to safely freeze them for weeks and eat those tasty treats for another meal down the road. Be sure to label and date everything you store and make a list of items like these that can be converted into side dishes for future meals.

Go Meatless If Possible

Eating healthy can also help you go green. By dedicating to eating just one meatless meal per week, you and your community can really help to reduce demand for meat. And that can greatly reduce the amount of animal-based greenhouse gas emissions. Your cholesterol levels can be better managed with a meatless diet, too.

Clean Out Your Pantry

Pulling everything out of your pantry and inventorying it all can pay off in several key ways. First, you’ll have a chance to toss any spoiled or expired items. Second, you’ll have a real understanding of what staples you need and which ones you can hold on buying for a while. And lastly, you’ll be more organized with your foodstuffs upon putting it back.

Buy More Frozen or Canned Foods If You’re a Slow Eater

At the end of this exercise, it’s also important to acknowledge that you know yourself best. If all of these ideas sound great in theory but you know you won’t be able to follow through, do your best to eat more economically when you can. If purchasing canned goods helps you from dining out a few times a week, start there.

Consider a Wholesale Membership

Big box grocery stores are popular for a reason. People have seen real savings by limiting their purchases to large quantities. Although the price for groceries can be less expensive at stores like these, they typically cost you to enroll. So be sure that you’re going to be able to justify the annual fee in savings before you dive in.

Learn Your Preferred Grocery Store’s Sale Cycle

If you do have a favorite place to shop, check in with the store manager the next time you’re there and find out what their sale cycle looks like. Do they run specials every two weeks? Are there holiday sales coming up that can help you save even more? Get those details so you know when to shop and what to pick up ahead of the event.

Don’t Shop Hungry!

Lastly, some age-old advice that still holds true: Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. Be sure you’ve had a good meal before shopping, and you’re statistically less likely to make impulse buys or hunger-inspired choices.

Learn About Ways to Save With American Family Insurance

If you’re looking at making major purchases in the coming year or two, getting into the rhythm of a predictable budget every month is a great first step. So, whether you’re upgrading appliances, or planning on building your dream home, we’ve got resources to help you out every step of the way. Remember to check in with your agent (Opens in a new tab), and learn about all the ways we can help you save on insurance and help you tackle your goals.

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. You should contact a professional for advice specific to your situation.

Related Articles

  • Family of four walking hand in hand down beach
    Family of four walking hand in hand down beach
    Ways to Save Money for a Family Trip

    Among the many joys of being a parent is the opportunity to share your passions with your children. From exploring your favorite hobbies to diving into cherished family recipes, as your kids grow so do the memories you create together.

    Going on vacation with your children is a great way to bond with them, but it can get costly. The good news is that getting out of town doesn’t have to break the bank. Plan for your next family adventure by exploring the tips in these family vacation FAQs.

  • Man using entering his credit card info into his cellphone.
    Man using entering his credit card info into his cellphone.
    Credit and Identity Theft Monitoring

    Protecting your home with a security system and locking your doors when you leave for the day are measures you might take to protect your home from intruders. Credit and identity theft monitoring are a type of “security system” that protects you from intruders gaining access to your personal information. From credit fraud to identity theft, everyone is susceptible to these types of breaches — that’s why it’s so important to defend yourself against them.

    Credit monitoring and identity theft protection are two different ways to proactively protect yourself if your personal information gets into the wrong hands. Let’s take a look at the differences and why it’s important to implement them both together.

  • Couple looking at housing prices
    Couple looking at housing prices
    Saving for a House

    There are a few defining moments in our lives. For some, it’s the realization that buying that first home is within reach, both financially and emotionally. It’s a big step, and it’s one that’s built into the American dream. And if you’re left wondering how much money you should save before buying a house, you’re not alone. These costs can add up quickly.

    After you’ve made the big decision to start shopping for a home, you might be surprised to find that coming up with the cash down payment is only one of several financial hurdles you’ll need to clear. Exactly how much you should save for a house depends on a number of factors, like the value of the home you’re targeting and the amount of money you intend on pushing into your down payment.

  • A white woman budgets for saving money using a calculator at a cafe.
    A white redheaded woman works on her budget for saving money with a calculator at a cafe.
    Pay Off Student Loans or Buy a House?

    After college, life moves fast. You get your first big job, move out of your parents’ house and start a whole new life on your own. For most people, this also means paying off student loan debt from your college tuition. Having this debt may make big milestones like buying a house seem far off, but there are ways to make the leap from renter to homeowner even if you have student loans. So can you get a mortgage while also paying off student debt? Or should you wait to pay it off before you buy a house?

    Every situation is different, so it’s important to do the right research and choose the best option for you. Luckily, we’ve done some of the breakdown for you to help you decide whether to pay off your student loan entirely or buy a house.

    Can Student Loans Affect Buying a House?

    Typically, student loan debt doesn’t prevent you from getting a mortgage. The biggest thing to note is that student loan debt does influence your debt-to-income ratio, which is a factor lenders consider before giving you a loan. It can also affect the interest rate you pay on your mortgage.

    Buying a house with defaulted student loans

    If you’ve defaulted on your student loans, it’ll be more difficult — but not impossible — for you to get a mortgage. Because defaulting negatively affects your credit score, lenders will be less likely to want to give you a loan or will charge a much higher interest rate on a loan.

    Getting a home loan with student loan deferment

    If you’ve deferred your student loans, this usually won’t affect your chances of getting a mortgage. Just be sure to consider how the future estimated payments will factor your debt-to-income ratio. Some types of mortgages may reject applicants with deferred loans, so do your research on the different types of mortgages before shopping.

    Should You Pay Off Student Loans Before Buying a House?

    Buying a house is expensive, there’s no doubt about that. It can seem smart to hold off on house shopping while you still have student loan debt, and it can be even more difficult to save for a house if you’ve got a high debt-to-income ratio. But if you have enough income to handle the payments for both, you may want to consider investing in your first home.

    Signs You Should Pay Off Student Loans

    When considering whether to pay student loans or save for a house, there are a few factors that can help you decide if paying off your student loans should be a priority.

    Your debt-to-income ratio is too high

    If the amount of money you bring in monthly or yearly is almost the same as the amount of money you pay out in debts — like student and car loans or credit cards — it may be best to pay down your debt before buying a house.

    You’ve defaulted on your loans

    Defaulting on your loans has a severe negative impact on your credit score, which tells lenders that you’re a bigger risk to take on. Work on improving your credit score before shopping for a mortgage.

    You’re struggling to make payments

    If you feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to make payments on your loan every month, it’s best to hold off on saving for a house. Need help keeping track of your student loan payments? Try our student loan payment tracker to get organized.

    You haven’t saved for a down payment or emergency fund

    Before you start picking out which houses you want to tour, you should take a look at your savings. If you don’t have enough for a 5 to 10 percent down payment or enough as an emergency fund for home expenses — like a broken dishwasher or damaged roof — take more time to put money away for your first home.