How to Nail Your Grocery Budget

Erin OsterhausJanuary 30, 2023

Reviewed By: FINANCE WRITER

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Many Americans may be looking at their grocery bill and experiencing a jolt of disbelief at how expensive food has become. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the cost of grocery store or supermarket food purchases is 12.4 percent higher year over year. These historically high inflation rates have caused many households to reevaluate their grocery budgets and seek out new ways to save on food at the supermarket.

We’re all about saving money and building wealth, wherever and however you can. If you’re looking for ideas on how to lower your food cost, read on for ways to wrangle your grocery budget.

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1. Plan Your Meals

One of the most impactful ways to reduce your monthly grocery bill is to meal plan. Making a grocery list and knowing exactly what you’re going to purchase before you head to the store—and sticking to that list—can drastically reduce your monthly spending.

In addition to reducing impulse buys, thinking in terms of meals you’ll have over the next week rather than specific items (like bread or milk) can help eliminate extra impromptu trips to the store or last-minute take-out orders. Meal planning can also help you avoid the stress of trying to get something on the table with whatever ingredients you may have on hand.

2. Adjust Your Recipes to Shop Sales

While meal planning is a powerful tactic to save money on groceries, it’s also important to adjust your recipes to take advantage of items that are on sale or in season. After all, if your meal plan involves an expensive steak every night of the week, it’s likely not going to save you too much money.

Instead, look at what’s on sale first and then decide which recipes you’ll cook. If there’s a certain cut of meat on sale that you don’t normally buy, maybe you can seek out a new recipe or alter an existing one. The same goes for produce. Most fruit and vegetable prices vary by season, so it’s a good idea to keep your shopping list flexible.

3. Compare Prices

When looking at products on the shelf, you might instinctively go for the one that has the lowest overall price, but that isn’t always the best strategy. Instead, compare the price per ounce or price per unit. In general, the larger size has a more cost-effective price per ounce, but that isn’t always the case, so it’s worth taking the time to figure it out. Many stores will conveniently include this calculation in small print on the pricing label, but if not—divide the total price by the number of ounces. Compare two items this way, and you’ll find out which is actually cheaper. For maximum savings, purchase the size with the lowest cost per ounce.

4. Buy in Bulk

Consider buying non-perishable items that your family uses regularly in bulk. Prices for these items are usually cheaper per unit, allowing you to stretch each dollar further. Just don’t buy anything you won’t use before the expiration date, and make sure you have enough space to store these items in an organized fashion. Otherwise, you may forget you have an extensive supply of a certain item and either buy more that you don’t need, or forget to use it.

5. Shop Generic

Some items may be on sale for a limited time or at a reduced price for a season, but by choosing to buy generic or store-brand items instead of name brand products, you can save money every single grocery trip. Generics usually have the exact same ingredients as the name brand, and cost 20 to 25 percent less.

6. Change Grocery Stores

Another great tactic when you’re grocery shopping on a budget is to change grocery stores entirely. It’s no secret that the retailer you choose to shop with can have a significant impact on the overall price of goods. Even if more upscale supermarkets like Whole Foods are closer to where you live, the slight inconvenience of driving or commuting farther to a more reasonably priced store like Costco or Aldi can still save you hundreds on your grocery bill every month.

7. Try Online Shopping

If you struggle to keep track of how much each item in your basket costs as you peruse the aisles of the grocery store in person, online shopping can be a great help. With online shopping, you can keep a running tab of how much your entire basket costs without having to painstakingly input the price of each item into a calculator as you go. This allows you to easily monitor the total cost of your shop, and you can add and subtract items to make sure you stay on budget before you arrive at the checkout.

8. Save with Coupons and Cash Back

For additional savings on your grocery bill, you might consider signing up for cash-back grocery apps such as Ibotta and Checkout 51. These apps send rebates digitally when you buy certain items. You can accept offers at particular grocery stores, then send a picture of the receipt or scan the barcode of a product to earn rebates.

Another option for additional discounts: Groupon Coupons. While many may not think about using Groupon when grocery shopping, you might be surprised to learn that Groupon Coupons offers more than 55,000 online and in-store coupons every year from retailers around the country—including grocery stores.

9. Don’t Shop Hungry

This tip has nothing to do with numbers or deal-seeking—it’s simple but can save you a significant amount on your grocery bill. What’s the secret? Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Shopping for food on an empty stomach can leave you vulnerable to impulse buys, which are usually more expensive than items you would normally buy if your stomach wasn’t rumbling. Try to have a snack before you head to the store, and it will be much easier to stick to your shopping list.

Enjoy the Savings

Grocery shopping on a budget can be challenging at first, but once you become accustomed to using new strategies when food shopping, the savings can add up quickly. Use these ideas to help nail your grocery budget every month and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with scoring great deals!

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Erin Osterhaus

Erin is a personal finance writer based in Austin, Texas. Her work has been featured on TechRepublic, Yahoo Small Business, and Entrepreneur.com. She's been passionate about helping others manage their money since she successfully paid off $60,000 in student loans in four years. When she's not writing, Erin loves reading, studying languages, and spending time with her family.