How to Save Money on Groceries: Spend only $35/week!
Last updated: October 2020
One of the best areas to save money is in your grocery expenses. You can easily save money on groceries and reduce spending on food by following these tips and tricks: My husband and I spend $35 per week on groceries and have never looked back! Take your budget to the next steps with these financial savings.
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Reasons to Save Money
Saving money can help you meet your financial goals.
If you are pursuing financial freedom, you are likely working toward a financial goal. Maybe that’s paying off debt, saving for a big purchase, or adding money to your retirement funds.
When working toward these goals, your options to save money are either to increase your income or decrease your expenses. As I discussed in Powerful Money Saving Tips for Your Holistic Financial Plan, I believe that reducing expenses is often the easier way to save more money, as increasing your income often has more barriers to entry.
You can save money by decreasing your expenses at any time you want. However, you must be willing to sacrifice to some extent.
Why You Can Likely Reduce the Money You Spend on Groceries
In the two years that my husband and I have been married, I’ve found that saving money on our food is often the easiest way to reduce the greatest sum of expenses.
One of the quickest ways you can save money on food is to reduce or stop eating out. I promise this can save you hundreds per month on your budget!
If you’ve already reduced or stopped eating out, the next step is to reduce the amount that you spend on groceries at the store. My husband and I have never spent more than $150 dollars on groceries per month that we’ve been married. For the first year of our marriage, we only spend $120 per month! Right now, we sit comfortably each month spending $140 dollars on groceries, which comes to about $35 per week.
You read that right. We only spend $15-18 dollars per person per week on food. That comes out to about $2 per person per day.
Now, I recognize that our situation might be different than some. We don’t have kids, we live in a rural area, and we don’t eat a TON of meat. These might be things you have to work with.
I’m not saying everyone has to only spend $2 per person per day on groceries. I do believe that there is always room for improvement!
Let’s take a look at these strategies for saving money on groceries!
Before You Arrive at the Grocery Store
Some money saving tips start before you even get to the store.
Shop Your Home for Groceries First
Shop your home before you start planning for the week or going to the store. Check your pantry, cupboards, and the fridge.
You likely have food in there that you either didn’t think about or that you’ve forgotten in the back of your drawers. I know I do this.
The first step in grocery shopping is checking to see what you already have BEFORE you spend any money.
If you went grocery shopping and bought pasta, only to find out when you get home that you already have two boxes, you’d be pretty frustrated.
While pasta lasts a long time and you will likely eventually use it, imagine if that purchase were milk, or fruit that goes bad quickly.
Reducing food waste is the first and foremost way to save money on groceries. It’s good for your wallet and the environment.
Another way to reduce waste is by meal planning.
After you’ve looked in your pantry and fridge and taken inventory of all of the food you currently have, start meal planning for the week.
Strategy for Planning
You might want to use some of the food in your fridge for meals this week – maybe you use leftover celery in a soup or make chicken salad. Or you might decide that you want to keep your stockpile of that item for a later date – like the pasta mentioned earlier.
When you meal plan, take into account the serving sizes for each meal, and how many people you have. In our house, a six serving meal will last us three days. If you have kids or teenagers, or a hungry husband, those numbers are going to be different for your family.
My husband and I only meal plan dinners, as we eat a light breakfast (if anything) and we generally eat the same things for lunches. You could choose to meal plan just your dinners, or any combination of meals, including snacks! While we don’t plan every meal, it would definitely be helpful to do so if you’re just starting out with the meal planning process, or you have a bigger family.
Plan for Leftovers
One thing that’s important to note as well is that we eat left overs on most nights. My husband and I only cook two to three meals per week, which means that the other four to five nights we’re eating leftovers from the night before. This reduces food waste and our grocery budget because it also reduces variety.
Purchasing two meats is less expensive than purchasing five.
Once you’ve got your meal plan, be sure to write down ALL of the ingredients and check them twice. I’m infamous for thinking we have six cloves of garlic but we only have three. Don’t be me!
Make sure your pantry, meal plan, and groceries list all match up.
Here is a great meal planner and grocery list combination booklet. I like that you can plan all of your meals and your grocery list in the same place AND still have room for notes. This meal planner notebook is especially good for those who want to track their diets over a period of time, since all of your planning and lists are in one place!
Choose Your Grocery Store Wisely
When you’re ready to go to the store with your meal plan and your list, start thinking about which store you’re going to go to.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Caroline, I’ve been going to _______ store for years. I’m not going to change now!”. Hear me out.
Some stores are more expensive than others and they sell groceries of the same quality. Why? Because they can.
In our small town, we have a Walmart and a Kroger. In my experience, the food – especially the produce – is NO DIFFERENT at our Kroger and Walmart. However, our Walmart is much, much more inexpensive than our Kroger.
This might not be the case in your area, so you’ll need to check.
In my experience, if you have an Aldi or a Lidl in your area, I would highly recommend. The quality of groceries is not any different, but the price certainly is.
The only difference between most grocery stores, in my opinion, is the shopping experience and stereotype that they are trying to sell you.
At the Grocery Store
Once you are prepared at the grocery store, follow these tips to save money on your groceries inside.
Focus Only on Your List
This is key.
Focus. On. Your. List. Only.
DO NOT purchase anything that wasn’t on your list. Why? It will teach you to make sure you plan ahead of time and put things that you need on your list! It will also prevent you from impulse spending.
Yeah, those cookies.
Every time I pass by them I think of my husband and how happy he would be if I brought him those cookies home. BUT I only buy those cookies when they are on my list ahead of time.
You know why? Because they are about $6! That can VERY easily blow a $35 dollar weekly grocery budget.
Only buy what’s on your list when you’re in the store.
Shop the Outside Aisles
When you’re in the grocery store, it’s important to shop mostly on the outside aisles of the store.
The outside aisles are most likely the fruits, veggies, and meats that aren’t already processed. One thing that I don’t sacrifice when I purchase groceries is quality. So I’m not going to purchase canned chicken because it’s cheaper and more convenience because I would much rather have whole cuts.
I also don’t purchase many packaged things because those can add up fast! Have you ever noticed how much Goldfish are? They are typically $6-7 at our local Walmart. Just like those cookies, that’s a large portion of our weekly budget.
When you choose processed snack foods over whole foods, you are sacrificing your physical health. This defeats the purpose of wellness!
The Wellness Model teaches that the healthiest person is one who promotes health in all areas of wellness – not sacrificing physical health for financial health.
Obviously we do buy some things from the center aisles like flour, chicken broth (although I would love to start making my own!), and our weekly snack item. This isn’t a hard and fast rule.
But make sure that the groceries you’re putting in your cart are whole foods.
Purchase Frozen Fruits and Veggies
Sometimes, when I want to save money, I purchase frozen fruits and veggies.
These often have the same nutrient density as fresh fruits and veggies, and don’t have the extra sugar or salt that is typically present in canned versions (not to mention the chemicals in metal cans of food!)
I often use this trick during the winter time when I want certain fruit to snack on or I need a certain fruit for a recipe and the fresh is out of season. Therefore, it’s more expensive.
We also buy frozen veggies year round because we can get two nights worth of veggies (four servings) for about $1.20.
Obviously there is some downside, as you can’t purchase frozen foods in bulk so there will be some plastic created. The BEST thing to do to save on fruits and veggies is to grow your own, but I realize this is improbable for many people, including myself at this time.
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Buy Generic Groceries When You Can
Something that IS easy for most families to do is purchase the generic brand of food.
Guys. The generic brand is often just as good or better than the name brand!
I like Walmart brand wavy potato chips SO much better than Lays. Gasp! I know. Shocker. But it saves SO much money on your groceries if you choose to purchase generic brands.
For example, a large bag of Great Value wavy potato chips is $1.19 at our local Walmart. The Lays brand of the same size is $2.38. Almost double! Imagine if all of your expenses were doubled!
You can always try generic one week and if you’re dissatisfied, don’t buy that specific product in the generic brand again.
Try generic when you can though. I promise it will help you save money.
Finally, while you’re at the store, be flexible on the ingredients that you purchase.
I know I just told you not to purchase anything that wasn’t on your list, but what I really mean is not to purchase anything EXTRA.
If your chosen store has a sale on pork shoulder but your recipe calls for pork butt, be flexible and get the cheaper one.
Maybe your store’s zucchini is out of season this time of year, try a different green veggie that will still work in your recipe.
If you’re flexible in what your recipe looks like, you can save extra money on your groceries because you shopped the store sales.
Hear me very clearly though – DO NOT BUY EXTRA.
It is not a good buy, or a great sale if you were not intending to purchase it or a similar item.
Being flexible in what you purchase for a recipe is not the same as buying more than you need.
After You Purchase Your Groceries
Once you get home and put your groceries away, there are a few final tips you can use to save yourself money on groceries this week.
Ration Your Snacks
Something that my husband and I do to help save money on processed foods and to improve our diets is to ration our snacks.
My husband and I purchase one snack per week for each of us. This snack has to last us ALL WEEK until we go to the grocery store seven days later.
If we binge the entire tub of ice cream or veggie chips in one sitting, we won’t have anything the rest of the week unless we use something already sitting in the pantry.
This is a behavioral shift that you might have to make. But portioning your snacks is not only good for your wallet, it’s also good for your physical health.
I don’t need a half gallon of ice cream in one night. The half cup or one cup serving is certainly enough.
By shifting your mindset on snacks – knowing that you only have one per week – you can save money on groceries because you won’t be purchasing a variety of items.
Stay Away from the Store Until Your Next Trip
This last one is so tempting, but has to be done to save money.
When you go to the grocery store, know that you will not return until your next grocery trip.
This saves money because you don’t get to the middle of the week and make impulse purchases. Just like we aren’t going to purchase extra things on our grocery trip, we certainly aren’t going to purchase extra groceries on an extra trip.
Not only will you spend needless money on extra groceries but you’ll also spend extra time and money on gas to get to the grocery store.
Saving Money on Groceries
Saving money on groceries won’t be difficult if you follow some or all of these tips! Whether you have room to make many changes or just a few, by changing the way you shop, you can save money on your grocery budget, and reduce your spending. When you reduce your grocery spending you have more money to put toward your important financial goals.
Share with me which tips you’re going to use to save money on groceries, and if you have any tips not included in this post! I look forward to reducing my grocery expenses with you!
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Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, I am not YOUR mental health professional. The information provided on this website is for educational and informational purposes only and using this website does not establish a counselor-client relationship, or constitute provision of mental health services. I am not responsible for any damages resulting from your use of the content on this site, as the information provided does not substitute for collaboration with a health professional. Please consult with your health professional before making changes to your health regimen.