The one thing to stop doing if you want to slash your grocery bill


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We’ve all heard the standard advice about grocery shopping on a budget: make a grocery shopping list and stick to it. We’ve all heard it. Plan out what you need and then only buy what you need. Meal plan, make a list before going to the supermarket- we’ve all heard it! However, when it comes to food shopping, I say: do the opposite!

I do a lot of grocery shopping on a budget. I work very hard to make sure my food budget stays low, and my grocery shopping bill is not too high. I have become pretty awesome at having a super low grocery budget.

Grocery Shopping on a Budget: The Best Tips

Don’t Meal Plan!

The conventional wisdom is to plan exactly what you will make each day for lunch or each night for dinner and then go shopping for what you need.

Having a shopping list is the best way to save money on your food budget. I guess this can help with impulse shopping if you are struggling with that. But, when you are on a tight budget, this is the best way to spend less on groceries.


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When grocery shopping on a budget, especially when it’s a tight budget, I go to the store, see what’s on sale, and plan my meals around what I find on sale. So I do a meal plan- but I plan my meals based on what I bought; I don’t buy based on what I plan. This is such a simple way to save a little money in your grocery budget.

Are tomatoes on sale? Go home and google tomato recipes. Is canned corn on sale? Look in your cookbooks for recipes with corn. Don’t make teriyaki chicken if you need to go and buy teriyaki sauce. Make teriyaki chicken because the sauce was on sale.

I found some of my favorite food recipes because I was searching for what to do with the food that I bought. And you will discover new foods that you like. I had a memorable two weeks, where I tried tons of beet dishes because beets were dirt cheap. It turns out my kids like beets! Really.

My 6-year old will down a whole serving of beets for a snack. Who would have guessed? Not me. I would have assumed that he wouldn’t like them, and I would probably have never thought ever to include them in a meal. It would never have made my way onto a grocery list.

Once I bought the beets, I had to research how to serve them, and I realized that there were so many ways to prepare them. They are also great plain- just roasted or boiled. They are also super, super healthy, so score! Who would have thought beets would be one of the most eaten veggies in my house?

Don’t buy two pounds of a random grain just because it was on sale if you have never tried it before. You may not like it, and that would be a colossal waste and not particularly budget-friendly! But once you do try it and love it, run out and buy some more- some for eating and some for stocking up.

When you have a preconceived idea of what you MUST make for dinner or what you NEED to buy, it’s tough to leave the store without it- even if it’s more than you want or can spend.

When you plan your meals around what’s cheap and available, you can stay within your budget and eat deliciously even when you’re tightly budgeted. Don’t fall into the trap of finding delicious recipes online with exotic or expensive ingredients, and then buy them. Buy the ingredients, and then find the delicious recipes!

Use Building Blocks

What I do is I take a few hours and create the building blocks of a few meals. I don’t need to decide in advance what dishes I will be making- I just prepare ingredients. Then, I can choose what I am in the mood for and what works for me time-wise.

As a working mother, my goal is to get a decent supper on the table every night. I don’t always have time for a “fancy” home-cooked meal, which keeps me away from take-out or unhealthy, quick, kids-foods like chicken nuggets and hot dogs. I can also customize the dinner based on a kid’s current preferences, as my son likes to keep me guessing what foods HE HATES!

If you are beholden to meal plans, then you will find it more challenging to do your grocery shopping on a budget. I use the Building Blocks Meal Planning method instead (Meal prep and use leftovers from what is already available)- and it helps me save money and reduces meal planning stress!

It also discourages me from eating out because the food is already in the house.

Stock Up on Basics

It’s a good habit to buy one extra thing on sale to keep in your pantry. When a staple or a favorite goes on sale, buy it and put it in your closet. If you have basics in your pantry, you won’t be tempted to buy takeout or run to the store when you are hungry (a notorious budget-buster!).

Store-brand items are usually cheaper than name-brand- but if you must have the name-brand, wait until it goes on sale and then stock up, especially if it’s a pantry staple.

Remember, food prices are very seasonal and location-dependent, so not every cheap and budget-friendly recipe will be affordable and budget-friendly FOR YOU. That is why you have to know what you can afford before you plan what to make. See what’s on sale before you decide what to make.

You can also stock up on some veggies and put them in the freezer when they are in season so you can eat them all year round. Buying non-seasonal items just because it’s in a recipe is not the best way to save money on groceries.

Make Drastic Diet Changes

Eat more plant-based food and slash that grocery budget.

Of course, you can shop all the sales and use all the coupons and do all the tips and hacks to save money on groceries, but if you need to do your grocery shopping on a budget, you probably do not have much extra time on your hands. I can certainly attest to that!

As a mom who works full-time, I certainly have my hands full, and I can’t run around to every store to get the best deal and use each coupon properly. This is especially true if you are trying to feed a large family on a tight budget.  You will need to make some drastic changes to get your grocery shopping bill under your budget.

For us, that drastic change was thinking of plant-based food as a main dish instead of animal-based foods. This means that instead of eating meat, chicken, fish, or cheese as a main dish, we switched to eating various beans and tofu as the main dish instead. Doing this major diet switch helped save us tons of money on food, and we started being more healthy overall, which is a great extra benefit.

Doing your grocery shopping on a budget is not an easy feat! Hopefully, these ways can help you grocery shop on a budget and save some money for you and your family.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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31 tips for cutting your grocery bill

31 tips for cutting your grocery bill

You may think there’s not much you can do about the high cost of groceries. After all, we all have to eat!

But the truth is, there are a number of relatively easy ways to slash your weekly spending on groceries. And, saving at the supermarket doesn’t have to mean skimping on taste, quality, or nutrition.

What follows are 31 simple tricks that can help you shop smarter and spend less every time you hit the supermarket.

Related: Saving money as a family


Impulse buys can quickly bust your budget. So before going to the supermarket it can be wise to plan out your meals and make a detailed list of all the things you will need, including any household supplies.

At the store, you’ll want to be strict about sticking to the list. Yes, those pineapples look great and they’re on sale, but are they on your list? No? Then you should probably keep walking.

Shopping with a list not only helps save money, but can also cut down on food waste–the items that tend to sit idle in the fridge or on the countertop are often the ones that never had an assigned meal to begin with.

Sticking to a shopping list can save money as well food waste.

If you enter a supermarket hungry, there’s no telling what you’ll end up putting into your cart because, since just about everything is going to look good.

Walk into the grocery store with a full stomach, on the other hand, and you might be shocked by how much lower your grocery bill is.


According to a study by Bosch home appliances , the average American tosses $53.81 worth of spoiled food a week from their refrigerator, or $2,798 every year.

One reason that food goes to waste is that it can be difficult to buy the exact amount of food you need to make the meals we’ve planned. This can result in leftover ingredients languishing in the fridge or pantry, and then landing in the trash can.

You can help reduce wasted food (and money) by doubling your recipe and then having leftovers for lunch and/or putting some in the freezer so you’ll have a meal at the ready when you need it.

Deposit Photos

Think you’ll be tempted to go off-script if you enter a grocery store? You might want to try online grocery shopping instead. Many local supermarkets offer online ordering, and allow you to choose either curbside pick-up or delivery.

Or, you may want to try one of the many online grocery services, such as Peapod, Instacart, or Amazon Fresh. You can often choose one-off delivery, as well as recurring delivery of staples (like toilet paper) so you never run out.

It can be easier to avoid the temptations when you can type everything you need into a search bar. Plus, shopping online makes it easy to compare brand prices, see what’s on sale, and watch the total tally up in real time.

Even if you’re not much of a gardener, you might want to try growing one or two of your favorite vegetables in a container or a small garden area outdoors. You can then step outside and pick your tomato or bell pepper rather than buying them at the store.

If you don’t have any outdoor space, you might consider starting an indoor herb garden. If you have parsley, basil, or cilantro right on your windowsill, you can just pick what you need rather than buy a whole bunch at the market.

Having a tried and true grocery store may be good for your wallet. Walking into a store you’re familiar with means you already know where to get the items on your list.

Head into an unfamiliar store and you may be left wandering the aisles for what seems like an eternity trying to find your goods.

That’s because grocery stores are set up to be a little confusing and to drive consumers to have to do a bit of wandering, as that’s when you’re more likely to make random purchases.

One quick way to potentially drive down the cost of your grocery store run is to BYOB—bring your own bags. Many stores now reward customers who bring reusable bags by reimbursing them about 5 to 10 cents a bag at checkout.

It may feel like a small financial transaction, but it’ll add up over time–and it’s also kinder to the environment. Keeping some reusable bags in your car is a good way to avoid forgetting them at home.

Many stores now offer discounts for regular shoppers and even secret sale items only for those who’ve signed up.

It’s typically quick, easy, and free to join, though some stores like Whole Foods require customers to be part of its Amazon Prime membership service (which comes with a yearly fee). Still, it may be worth it as discounts at the register can add up to real savings.


Reducing meat consumption and eating more plant-based meals has benefits for the environment, your waistline, and your wallet.

Chickpeas, black beans, peas, brussel sprouts, quinoa, tofu, along with many other beans, whole grains, and vegetables are all excellent (and inexpensive) sources of protein without the added saturated fat that comes with animal products.

You may want to consider going meatless at least one day a week, and then building up to a few meat-free meals per week.

Buying the largest size of packaged, canned, and frozen foods can sometimes help you save money on food

. That’s becuase some of the cost of every grocery item is in the packaging.

If your grocery store has a “bulk foods” section you might save even more by buying the amount of food you need to place into plastic bags.

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Another way to save money at the grocery store is to buy fruits and vegetables in the frozen or canned foods aisle. The savings can add up, especially when the food is out of season.

If you’re looking to add pineapple to a recipe in the winter, you can save money by opting for canned pineapple over a fresh one that’s not in season. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables also don’t go bad as quickly as fresh, so they may be less likely to get wasted.

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A Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program can help you save money on fresh produce, eggs, and herbs. You can look for one using the USDA’s CSA directory and see if they’ll deliver to your front door.

Not only will you be saving money but you’ll be supporting local farmers and eating food that’s close by helps ensure it’s fresher.


While it’s not rocket science, this tried-and-true technique is still one of the best ways to cut your grocery bill. You may want to consider scanning the local circulars that come in the mail to see which stores are having deals on the food items you need that week.

You can also look for manufacturers coupons (often in circulars inserted into Sunday newspapers), clip them, and store them in your wallet.

When it comes to couponing, however, it’s wise to make sure that you’re only buying items you need and usually buy–otherwise you could end up adding to, not shrinking, your grocery bill.

It’s typically cheaper to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season than ones that have been shipped to the store from a far-away place where it can be grown year-round.

Also, since in-season produce is in large supply, it tends to be sold at affordable prices to maintain demand. In-season produce also tends to be tastier.


There are a number of rebate apps you can download onto your phone for free that allow you to get cash back on items you purchased. Options include Ibotta, SnipSnap, Saving Star, Coupon Sherpa, and Checkout 51 and Fetch Rewards.

While rebates don’t give you a discount up front (like a traditional coupon), you should see savings in the long run.

If you frequently shop at large chains like Walmart or Target for groceries, getting their apps may help you earn rewards and get discounts for being a loyal shopper. You just need to scan your mobile app when you check out.

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When your grocery store is having a sale on canned goods, dried goods, or other pantry items, you may want to consider buying multiples. Items like beans, sauces, soups, nuts, peanut butter, pretzels, shelf-stable snacks like unpopped popcorn won’t expire for a long time.

You’ll be able to enjoy the cost savings and will likely appreciate having them on hand when preparing meals.


You don’t have to sacrifice flavor and taste in order to save money while grocery shopping. While It’s easy to overlook no-name or store brands, in many cases these items are actually made by the brand name companies, just with a different label.

And the savings can be real. Preparing dinner using generic (rather than brand name) products can save as much as $20 week–or $80 a month.

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The inside aisles of the grocery store are where pricier processed foods are typically stocked, The outer edges, on the other hand, is where you tend to find fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and beans.

Shopping on the edge–and filling your cart with nutrient-dense items and fresh, seasonal food–can help you wallet, as well as your waistline.

Steve Debenport

It can be tempting to buy convenience items where food is pre-portioned into single servings so you can just grab-and-go. Smaller items can also help you keep from overeating. But all of that packaging tends to increase the cost of the item.

If your kids love crackers, you may want to buy a full-size box and portion them out in zip-top bags or reusable containers. You can do the same with other favorite snacks so you won’t be tempted to eat the whole bag in one sitting. You can also spoon yogurt into small containers for school and cut cheese into slices from a block for easy snacks.

To avoid spending money on bottled water, you may want to get a filtered pitcher and switch to drinking tap water. By drinking from a reusable water bottle or a glass throughout the day, you’ll also reduce the amount of plastic waste you’re putting into the environment.

Getting your kids used to drinking water instead of juice or soda can also reduce your supermarket bills.


If you’re not shopping for a full week’s worth of groceries, consider grabbing a small cart or, even better, a hand-held basket. This will automatically limit how much you can buy because only so much will fit.

When you have a smaller cart–or a basket that will get heavy quickly–you’re forcing yourself to ask, “Do I really need this?” every time you pick up something to buy in the store.

AnnaNahabed / istockphoto

One way you can save money on your grocery bill is to only shop when you need to and to minimize the frequency that you set foot in the supermarket door.

The reason is that the less often you’re physically in the store, the less likely you’ll be tempted to buy something you don’t absolutely need. It can be all too common to go to the grocery store for “one thing” and come out with a few items.


Most of us don’t want to spend our weekends grocery shopping, right? Unfortunately, Saturdays and Sundays are the days when many of us have the time to go to the supermarket–along with everyone else in our town.

Shopping during peak times can hurt your budget in a few ways. You might try to speed through the supermarket and be more likely to buy an item at the end of the aisle because it’s convenient, rather than grab a similar product on the shelf a few feet away. This could mean they are buying a more expensive version of what they need.

You might also run into trouble shopping during peak times because you’re more likely to get stuck in a long line–and become tempted by miscellaneous items stocked near and along the checkout line.

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Shopping with a calculator or getting out your phone and adding things up as you put them in your cart can help you stick to your spending plan. (If you’re shopping with kids, you can give them the job to tally what’s in the cart.)

By keeping a running tally of how much money is in your cart, you can save yourself from any unpleasant surprises during check-out. Plus, it can make you think twice before putting any extras in your cart.


It’s easy to accidentally buy an extra item at the supermarket that you didn’t realize you already had stored at home. That’s why after you write your grocery list, it can be a good idea to double-check pantry shelves, spice racks, the fridge, and freezer to make sure you truly need what’s on your list.

You may even want to shop your pantry and fridge before making your meal plan and shopping list to see if you can think of meals that incorporate foods you already have on hand.

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A simple trick for lowering your grocery bill is to set your budget and then only bring that much money in cash, leaving the plastic at home.

This will help ensure that you stick to your list and avoid grabbing any tempting extras. You can only spend what you have in your wallet. Full stop.


Eggs are one of the most affordable protein sources out there. By making simple breakfast-style food for dinner, you’re offering your family a fun meal and using up some of your (affordable) breakfast foods.

You might consider making an omelet or frittata with eggs, cheese, and leftover vegetables, whipping up blueberry pancakes, or creating a bacon, egg, and cheese burrito. Not only are many breakfast recipes a delicious dinner option, but they’re affordable and often quick to prepare.

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Grocery stores are designed to get you to spend more money, which is why the most expensive products tend to be stocked at eye level. Brands often pay more money for their products to be displayed prominently so you’re more likely to buy them.

Searching high and low when you’re shopping may yield significant savings. Once you start looking, you may even notice a price differential between the eye-level item cost and the one at your feet.


Many impulse buys happen in the bakery and snack sections of the supermarket. Before you succumb, you may want to ask yourself if you could bake it at home. 

You may already have the baking basics on your pantry shelves and could whip up some muffin or cookies fairly quickly. Or, you might want to buy a mix to save time (you’ll still save money).

Before buying chips and snacks, you may also want to consider if there is a more affordable DIY option, like buying popcorn kernels to cook on the stove.

Asking yourself, “Can I make this?” will likely result in saving money and getting the freshest item possible.

When it comes to snagging good deals, shopping on a Wednesday may be beneficial. That’s because grocery stores tend to restock their shelves and make new mark-downs in the middle of the week. Since they’re in the process of changing the discounts, they may still honor the price cuts from last week’s sale as well as the new ones.

cyano66 / istockphoto

Those packaged baby carrots and bagged pre-washed salads make it easier to eat healthier, but if you’re willing to do the cleaning, prepping and chopping of fresh produce, and even meats and poultry, you can save money.

A boneless, skinless chicken breast package will cost more than buying a whole chicken. You’re paying for the convenience. By setting aside time to prep and chop your foods after you get home from grocery shopping, you’ll likely reap savings.

A little planning and knowing some money-saving tricks can help you lower your monthly grocery bill and stick to your budget.

By following these budget shopping tips, you may find that you have more money leftover each month to pay down debt, invest for the future, or save for something fun.

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