12 Ways to S-T-R-E-T-C-H Your Grocery Budget
Is Saving Money one of the things you plan to do this year?
I looked up statistics on New Year's resolutions and found that:
- getting out of debt and
- saving more money and spending less
are two of the most popular.
And--Many people make resolutions surrounding the topic of money. In 2020, that number was 73%! (source)
Groceries are a big part of any family (or personal) budget. So I'm sharing today some tips that have helped us save money on food.
We've had times when we've lived on $100 per month, and during college, I lived (total budget) on $100/month. (That included rent.)
Now, I / we weren't on a whole foods budget during either of those times, but I did try to include veggies and fruits in good amounts.
Things are different now, following are some of the things that I do to keep from blowing our food budget.
(And if your budget is already under control-- hopefully you can get a tip or two to give you a bit more extra to spread around to those in need.
12 Ways to Save Money on Food
1. Shop the perimeter
--of the grocery store, that is.
Remember what the perimeter is? It's the outside edge.
Have you ever noticed this? The "basics" are almost all on the outside and back of the grocery store.
Well, store owners are smart.
If they put milk, eggs, and cheese are at the back of the store, you need to walk through all of the fruit gummie stuff, chocolate cookies in teeny weeny packages, and chips coated with sprayed on fake cheese in order to get to them.
Most of that stuff in the middle of the store isn't good for you--and it's for sure not good for your budget.
So--avoid. avoid. avoid.
2. Take a list with you
--and stick to it.
You know how it goes. You plan on:
- Pot Roast
- Organic Veggies
- Beans and
- Brown Rice
but somehow you ended up with a cart full of
- Sugar Coated Cereal
- Gluten-Free Pretzels
- Chocolate Bars
I typically have pretty good discipline at grocery stores, but I can be known to waver on occasion.
If you really need more than a list, take someone with you to keep you on track :)!
3. Shop without the kiddos
Again, those grocery store marketing folks are geniuses. They know how to make the packages of sugar-coated stuff and chips and all super appealing to the Little Ones.
4. Eat Before Shopping
Go to the store on an empty stomach and you never know what you might end up within your cart.
'Cause EVERYTHING looks good.
5. Shop online
Two of my favorite online places to buy healthy food are:
- Vitacost and
Amazon has just about everything you'd need. I have some Jerusalem Artichoke Sweetener in my cart that I am going to be trying :)!
6. Shop loss-leaders
Loss leaders are those items that a store advertises in order to get you into the store so you spend more on other things.
Basically the store is maybe taking a loss on those items, but they plan to make up for it on what you spend on the rest of your shopping trip.
Hubby and I were the Loss Leader King and Queen when we were first married.
Folks would laugh at us with our cartful of 10 cent yogurts and 10 cent oranges.
Oh well, we laughed later (well, we didn't laugh, really, but we were glad) when we were able to get out of his 2 masters and a PhD with no debt. (yes, we did other things besides buy loss leaders, but you get the idea).
7. Eat 'Dem Beans
Beans are a great protein source and work with almost any kind of diet (did you know 1 cup of lentils has 18 grams of protein? (Source) and are a real bargain. I buy all of my beans in bulk, dried.
- If you like beans, but don't like how they--ahem-- treat you, read How to De-Gas Beans.
- You can typically substitute 1 cup of dried beans for 1 pound of meat in any recipe.
Need some great bean recipes?
- Pizza Hummus
- Savory Hummus
- Fast and Yummy Bean Dip
- Kid-Friendly Lentils (ready in as little as 9 minutes!)
8. Make your own--everything
--within reason. None of us can do everything, right? I mean you could spend your life in the kitchen making
You don't have to do it all, but if you can add one of these DIY pantry items to your kitchen each week, over time you will save a big bundle!
- Easiest Almond Milk
- Easy Smooth Coconut Milk
- Nut Butter
- "Best" Chili Powder
- Vegetable Broth Mix | All Purpose Seasoning
- Great Taco Seasoning
- Homemade Chocolate or Carob Chips
- Powdered Egg Replacer
- Powdered Sugar Substitute
9. Don't Throw It Away!
Leftovers are a regular in our home. Instead of throwing the "I don't know what to do with this", why not put a bunch of little bits of stuff on the table and have yourselves a "Leftover Buffet" :-).
And if the "little bits" are veggies and meats and beans, put them all in a pan for a stir fry, or into a pot of soup.
We sometimes put the "little bits" on top of rice and just have a "throw together" meal.
10. Start or Join a Whole Food Co-op
I've had one of these out of my home for about 11 years now and it's been a HUGE help for keeping our budget in line. I hope to write more on that later.
We kind of have "brown thumbs" but they're getting greener as we work on it. (and really--it's not all us. We've got clayish soil and the dreaded Black Walnuts all over our neighborhood and those trees make it a bear to grow almost anything.)
More gardening tips hopefully to come.
But in the meantime, check out this post on "How to Re-Grow Plants in Water" for something that even the brownest thumbs can grow.
12. Buy in Bulk
I wrote this post years ago about some of my frugal pantry storage tips. I am kind of the Queen of Bulk. It helps TONS!
When you buy in bulk, you almost ALWAYS save big time.
13. Store Your Food
Get a canner.
Get a dehydrator.
Get a freezer.
With these machines at your disposal, you can really put the bulk buying to work for you.
This post on Which Saves the Most--Freezing, Canning, or Dehydrating. It's fascinating!
I hope these ideas are a Big Help to Save You Big Money on your Grocery Bill.
What do YOU do to save money on food?
Love your post, I have just go read your article and I love the twelveth point where you have mentioned Buy in Bulk. If you don't want to stretch your groceries budget I suggest you buy your grocery in bulk from the online store where you get amazing discounts and offer.
Hi there and thanks. I'm thinking you have a typo in there?
Love your post. Thanks for taking the time to provide such great tips with supporting links and details. Sharing 🙂
Thanks so much!!
So many great tips. I really should pay more attention.
All great tips. We use many of them ourselves. We also buy brown rice in bulk at a local Asian supermarket. It makes it so much cheaper than the regular store. On your tip or reusing leftovers, we came up with a great carrot top pesto sauce using the tops of carrots from the garden. Tasty.
Love the ideas - I use many. Now if only we could eat beans that would help so much with the budget! 🙁
On no. Digestive issues or a special diet?
Digestive issues for my son - he seems to react to many things legume. 🙁 We are headed toward GAPS in the next month which of course seriously limits beans also. Praying we get through it, get him (and me) healed, & are able to do beans more in the near future.
Yes! These are great tips and one's that we use as well. Thanks for sharing! Leftovers and not wasting food are huge in saving on your grocery budget. Stretching everything you've got before going to get more helps too. This is a really helpful post 🙂
Hi Adrienne! Great tips! Any suggestions on how to find a heathy food co-op? I really want to buy nuts, seeds, and beans in bulk but don't know the best place to buy. Thank you!
Where do you live Beth?
I live in Northern Virginia.
Hmmm...Well, I have been using Country Life Natural Foods. but they don't go there. Have you looked at Azure or UNFI? I just found out what the min order would be and then paired up w/ others and I charge 6% to place the order and sort it all. You can do any kind of system you like. Hope that helps!
Great tips Andrea!
Aldi's is also carrying organic for very reasonable prices.
And just one more thing, another recipe for beans is Tico. It is Costa Rican and almost a national dish. Cook two cups of black beans, and save the bean liquid, and cook a double recipe of brown rice. Saute diced garlic, onion, green and colored bell peppers in the quantity desired till softened. Add cumin, fresh cilantro, salt and pepper, and worcestershire sauce to taste. Lea and Perrin is gluten free. Combine the beans, and rice, vegetables, and bean liquid to combine the flavors. Reheats very well. We often serve with the Tico chopped tomato, hard boiled eggs, diced fresh mango when in season and reasonable, fresh diced pineapple, diced avocado, a little fresh squeezed lime juice, and salsa. The go withs are strictly what you desire and have on hand. We've had no go withs either and it is still delicious.
These are great tips!
I cannot stress more the importance of adding beans to at least one meal a day! Beans are dirt cheap, super healthy, fill you up, take up little space and go with almost anything. My kids for lunch get bean/rice/salsa burritos almost everyday for lunch. Like a replacement to PB&J. Cheaper, healthier, easier (because we make tons in advance)
Perfect timing! I am trying to get my grocery budget in order! Great tips, I would love to heat more about your pantry storage!
I need to get my meal planning I order...I am a mess at the grocery store right now... No direction!
Hi Candace- oops! Forgot to link to it. it's there now :).
Great Post!! I would love to hear about your whole food co-op and what that entailed.
Sure! Where do you live?