General Question

dee1313's avatar

How can I spend less at the grocery store?

Asked by dee1313 (939 points ) August 13th, 2009

I recently moved out of my parents house, so I’m completely new to shopping for myself. Oftentimes, everything I buy is $3 or less (excluding the $5 frozen pizza I get weekly and meat). For my husband and myself, we still end up spending $200 every two weeks on groceries! I just don’t know what to buy and what not to buy.

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22 Answers

sandystrachan's avatar

By cheap brands or store brands , buy what you eat don’t buy snacks and treats :)
Make a list and stick to it also .

jrpowell's avatar

I usually eat at Taco Bell before I go shopping. This does two things.
#1 : I am full so hunger doesn’t make me buy stuff that I want to eat right now. I end up buying stuff to cook from ingredients instead of premade stuff that I just need to stick in the microwave.
#2 : I need to use the restroom and want to get home as quickly as possible.

Don’t shop while hungry. Oh, and learn to love spaghetti.

dpworkin's avatar

It is very expensive to eat healthily, and we are powerfully seduced into buying overprocessed foods, which while nominally cheap have hidden health costs.

I suggest you plan your meals differently: try basing them as much as possible on complex whole grains (quinoa is one good example) accompanied by fresh vegetables, and if you enjoy meat/fish, try to use it as a flavoring agent and a treat rather than the centerpiece of a meal.

Shop around the periphery of the market where the fruits, veggies and dairy products are found, and stay away from the middle where the pop tarts and Count Chocula dwell.

dynamicduo's avatar

First off, you can make your own bread and reduce that $5 frozen pizza to a $3 fresh pizza with whatever ingredients you want on it.

You can start by making a budget and watching what exactly you are buying, then tweaking that until you are happy with the financial to taste ratio (such as, not buying pop, or buying half as much).

Planning meals in advance makes it easy to purchase only the things you need. Cooking from whole fresh ingredients is more healthy and more tasty in my opinion than buying frozen premade foods. Similarly, buying fresh foods is often cheaper, here here in Ontario only one of the two taxes are applied to fresh foods, compared to frozen foods which get both taxes applied.

Buying in bulk also reduces your prices.

Never buy hummus. My god, it’s one of the biggest markups I’ve ever seen! Even buying a can of soaked chickpeas is on the higher price of things – if you buy dried beans in bulk, soak them the night before, then throw them into a food processor or blender, you have reduced the costs from $3–4 for a premade thing of hummus to 25, 50 cents for at least twice the volume of hummus. Multiply this by everything you do and eat and you can see how to save a lot of money – buy bulk, make it yourself, and don’t eat too much of it.

I am currently investing money in high quality (restaurant grade) food storage bins for my pantry, in which I put my bulk purchases of flour, sugar, oats, etc. One problem you can encounter when buying bulk is little bugs and pests, so it’s important to eliminate the chances of contamination. A cool trick is to throw your stuff in the freezer for a few days which tends to kill most if not all pests that may exist.

So to solve the issue of not knowing what to buy, you need to plan your meals in advance. This can actually be relaxing because then you know what you are making for dinner and who can do what. Plus you can have something to look forward to during the day! Lunches can usually be the leftovers from the night or two before. Cooking saves money but takes time, it’s a careful balance, but I promise you it is well worth investing time to learn how to cook and bake your own foods. Cooking from actual ingredients versus popping a precooked item in the oven will produce a more nutritious meal with far less junk and fatty crap. And try to save at least one portion for a lunch the next day, because it’s a sure thing that eating less food will cause you to spend less money on food.

eadinad's avatar

See if there’s an Aldi in your area, and do most of your shopping there.

Don’t buy processed foods – instead, eat home made sandwiches, pastas, salads, wraps, burritos, casseroles, breads/muffins, stir fries, etc. These things can all take 20 minutes or less of prep time, and will save you tons of money and also improve your health.

Eat three meals, two snacks, one dessert per day (optional) and that’s it. Plan out what you will eat that day, and stick to it. Your snacks should, again, be things like fruit, trail mix, yoghurt, home made breads, etc. NOT chips, cookies, basically any packaged snack foods.

Cut down your meat consumption to a few times a week.

mrentropy's avatar

If you’re going to buy a lot of store branded stuff make sure it is actually cheaper than a name brand. In the store I go to there are times when their brand is actually more expensive than the others sitting around it. Also, my store (an HEB) has two store brands and one can end up being a lot more than the other.

Don’t forget to also check to see what’s cheaper per ounce. With cereal, especially, you may buy a cheap box of cereal and not realize that there’s a lot less in it than another box. That example is a bit more relevant if you have kids, but you may be a fan of Cocoa Pebbles or something.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

There are tons of meals out there that are quite tasty and serve entire families.. AND are cheap. I look forward to tomato soup night. We get the crackers and the cheese and just have a can of 59 cent tomato soup for dinner many nights. Rice, also, is very cheap and can be added to just about every meal… AND even a retarded cook like myself can cook it up without too many casualties.

Being thrifty with your grocery shopping is much easier when your meals are planned out. Don’t go to the grocery store when you are hungry and stick to your budget and you will be fine.

mrentropy's avatar

You can also do money saving dinners like this

PerryDolia's avatar

Spend most of your time in the produce section. Fruits and vegetables are your most nutritous foods for the money and they are CHEAP compared with processed foods (crackers, breakfast cereal, spaghetti sauce).

Bri_L's avatar

just because there are coupons for brands doesn’t mean that is the cheaper buy.

Just because there is a bigger size doesn’t mean it is cheaper than the smaller size.

tedibear's avatar

See if there are local farmer’s or farmers’ markets or roadside stands. In my area, their veggies and fruit are cheaper than my grocery store. You can freeze most fruits and vegetables but learn how to do it right and save money that way. Buy it when it’s cheap, use it later.

Watch for sales at the store as well. My grocery store has buy one, get one free on chicken breasts about once a month, so I wait for that sale and buy more of it. In fact, I never buy meat unless it’s on sale. (And yes, I check the dates on it before I buy.) If you’re a soda drinker, try to stop. Buti f you can’t, that’s another thing to only buy on sale.

Coupons are okay, but check the prices of things. Don’t assume that “Fantastick” is cheaper because you have a coupon. “Formula 409” might be a better buy. Just an example. Not schilling for either one.

MrBr00ks's avatar

don’t shop while hungry is rule number one.
rule number two is potatoes are your friends.
rule number three is top ramen can be made 1,000,000 and one different ways.

ru2bz46's avatar

Learn to cook.

If you buy fruits and veggies when they are in season, they are inexpensive. Don’t buy avocados in the winter.

Buy bulk foods, such as oatmeal, etc. I spend about $7 a month on breakfast by eating freshly prepared oatmeal, sweetened with organic honey, topped with freshly ground flax seed, halved organic walnuts, fresh organic blueberries, and a splash of milk.

Buy your meat from a local farmer. You buy a whole, half, or quarter of your favorite animal and freeze it. You can save some money per pound, and you’ll always have meat available, so you don’t half to run to the store and get sidetracked by all the shiny processed foods.

Not only will you save money by eating fresh whole foods, you will also be healthier and/or thinner over time, spending less time/money at the doctor and using fewer sick days (if you get them).

dee1313's avatar

Thanks everyone! A lot of this stuff we already do (off brands, budget, don’t go when you’re hungry, take a list, etc).

Thanks for all the tips!

Hatsumiko's avatar

Pasta is always great—and cheap. Store brand all the way!

TheCreative's avatar

Keep the coupons you get in the mail!

tiffyandthewall's avatar

buy things in larger packs, if you use them a lot/they don’t go bad quicker than you can consume them.
i don’t know if all places like sams club are membership only, but maybe it would pay off? good luck (:

Bri_L's avatar

@tiffyandthewall – always check the price comparison. Not everything is cheaper just because it’s in bulk.

tracy_h81's avatar

Coupons and your local grocery weekly sales ads should be your new best friend. plan meals by whats on sale and use the coupons also go to the stores web sites and print or download the store coupons as well. Theres a great web site called faithfulprovision.com that will give you lots of ideas. Hope this helps.

WestRiverrat's avatar

If there is a local truck farm, shop there for fresh produce. If you go out to the farm, they will sometimes discount the items because they didn’t have to spend the gas money to truck it into town for the farmers market. You also get the pick of the crop and not what is left after the early birds hit the market.

Learn to identify the local mushrooms, berries, nuts and fruits that grow wild. You can harvest your own for just the the sweat equity. Just make sure you check with the local Conservation Office, it is not always legal to harvest wild produce.

livingchoice's avatar

Take a look at this new show on TLC “Extreme Couponing”. http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/extreme-couponing to get some ideas. The show airs on Wednesdays at 9pm EST on TLC “The Learning Channel”

Have you tried growing the food you use most often. In my family we eat a lot of fruit, salad and greens so we grow tomatoes, cucumbers, salads, greens (kale, broccoli) bell peppers etc. For fruits you can grow berries (raspberries, strawberries, grapes etc)

You can grow these in a small space in your back yard. If you don’t have a back yard you can still grow them in pots.

Then freeze, can or dry what you don’t use to have for the rest of the year.

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