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10 Simple Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill by $50 This Week

This is Day 5 of the 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series. If you missed the previous posts, read Day 1 hereDay 2 here, Day 3 here, and Day 4 here.

Once you’ve set up your grocery budget and created some accountability to actually stick with it, it’s time to start considering some simple ways you could shave off some of your grocery expenses.

Groceries are one of the budget areas that are the very easiest to cut — and it’s the first place I encourage people to start if they are looking to get their finances in better order.

Why? Because the majority of Americans could make some simple changes in their lifestyle and grocery purchases that would pretty easily reduce their grocery expenses by $50 or more!

Now, here’s the thing: some of you don’t need to cut a penny off your grocery budget. You have worked hard to keep your budget low, you are couponing ninjas, you cook from scratch, you plan inexpensive menus, you cook with beans and rice, and you eat up all your leftovers.

This post is not for you (unless you want to share some of your wisdom in the comments — which we would love!). This post is for the average American who is feeling like they know they are spending way more on groceries than they should, but they just need some ideas as to how to get started lowering their budget.

I thought through a lot of grocery-saving strategies and came up with 10 simple techniques that could save you $5 per week if you employed them — for a total of $50 in savings every week!

If you’re looking for a little wiggle room in your budget, try a few of these ideas:

1. Use Up What You Have on Hand

When I plan our menu, I look through the cupboards, pantry, and fridge and freezer and see what we already have on hand. Maybe a recipe only used half a carton of something, maybe I have extras from an item I got marked down, or maybe there other items we didn’t use the week before.

I take note of these items and try to incorporate them into the menu plan for the following week. If you need some ideas on how to incorporate these ingredients into your menu plan, check out , , or .

In addition, I often get creative in substituting items I already have on hand instead of buying something. Learning how to substitute ingredients has saved so much money and extra trips to the store. You can often Google for ingredient substitutions and get some great ideas.

Here’s an example of how I create menu ideas and recipes based upon what I have on hand. Check out this post for step-by-step help on How to Plan a Menu.

2. Look at Your Grocery Fliers Online

Planning your menu based upon what’s on sale at your local store(s) is where you really start to see the savings happening! Most grocery store chains have their weekly sale fliers available online. If not, you will often receive a copy in the mail. Or, you could even pick one up at the store if you’re going to be driving right by it.

Quickly browse through these sale fliers and see if there are any exceptional deals on items like meat or dairy or produce. Whenever possible, plan some of your menu based upon these sales!

Most of the time, the hottest deals of the week are listed predominantly in the front page of the flier. Oftentimes, these front-page deals are “loss-leaders”.

(“Loss-leaders” are deals which the store is actually breaking even– or losing money on! They are designed to be good enough to “bait” you into shopping at that store.)

Don’t neglect to look through the full flier, though. Sometimes there are great deals which are hidden on the middle pages. However, remember that just because something is listed in the sales flier it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great deal. Over time, you’ll start learning what are the “rock-bottom” prices for items you buy and how often they go on sale in your area.

3. Only Buy the Produce That’s on Sale

Produce prices can kill your budget — but they don’t have to! One thing we try to do is pretty much stick to buying what produce is in season and on sale. (You can .)

For instance, when apples are on sale, I’ll buy a few bags of them and that will be our go-to fruit for the week. When grapes are on sale, we mostly eat grapes for fruit that week. When carrots are on sale, we eat a lot of carrots.

Sure, this means that we eat a lot of the same kinds of produce in one week. It might seem boring, but it sure saves a lot of money. And over the course of the year, we’re eating lots of different fruits and veggies!

4. Print Some Coupons

Once you’ve made your shopping list based upon the weekly sales fliers, check the Coupon Database and Store Deal Match-ups on our site to see if there are any printable coupons available for products you’re planning to buy.

If you’re not familiar with these resources on our site, here’s how they work:

Coupon Database: Just search for the product name of what you’re already planning to buy and the Coupon Database will automatically generate a list of all coupons available for that product. It does all the legwork for you–all you have to do is type in the products you want to buy and print the coupons!

Store Deal Database: We have a listing of the best weekly sales and coupon match-ups at over 100 grocery store chains nationwide on the Store Deals Section of our site? Find and click on your store(s) logo here and it will take you to this week’s best deals list for your local store(s).

Quickly scan the list to see if there are any deals you’re interested in doing and print any coupons you’ll need for those deals. You can also click through the link at the bottom of each list to see an extensive sale and deal list put together by a blogger who lives in your area.

(Note: If you don’t want to mess with checking the Store Deal Section every week, you can sign up to have the list of the best deals for your local stores emailed to you each week when the sale ads come up. We’re all about saving you time–and money!)

Taking five minutes of your time to check the Coupon Database and Store Deal Match-ups when planning your shopping trip could easily save you $5 or $10–or more!

5. Ditch Breakfast in a Box

You can save a lot of money and feed your family more wholesomely if you ditch breakfast out of a cereal box! I’m a big fan of make ahead breakfasts — that way you don’t have to worry about cooking a hot breakfast every morning!

Pancakes and waffles can be made ahead of time and frozen. Just whip up a batch of pancakes or waffles, let cool, and then stick in airtight freezer bags. When you’re ready to serve, you can warm them in the oven, microwave, or toaster oven.

Breakfast burritos are a hearty grab-and-go food that teenage boys and men seem to especially love. Make a big batch on the weekends, freeze individually in foil, and then they can just be pulled out and microwaved before heading out the door in the morning. (Be sure to remove the foil before microwaving!)

We love muffins at our house! To make them ahead, just bake your favorite muffin recipe, let them cool, and stick them in an airtight freezer bag or other container. When you’re ready to eat them, just pull out however many you need and microwave or let them thaw for 15 or 20 minutes and they are ready to eat!

Love oatmeal? ! They are quick and easy to make, very inexpensive, and you can

Find a bunch of other Make Ahead Breakfast Ideas here.

6. Have One Meatless Dinner

If you cut your meat consumption by one meal per week, you’ll usually save close to $5! For most families, it wouldn’t be too hard to cut back on $5 worth of meat each week — especially if you’re willing to get a little creative.

Meatless doesn’t have to mean tasteless. Try making Bean & Cheese Burritos, breakfast for dinner, or even meatless lasagna. Need more ideas? Check out this list of 52 Meatless Meals that I posted earlier today. You can also read my post on How to Live on Beans & Rice for a Week.

If your family isn’t keen on the idea of going completely meatless, stretching your meat with legumes is a great way to save money while still eating meat. Mexican dishes, bean soups, and chili are recipes that you can pretty easily add in extra beans to replace some of the meat without most people realizing it.

Lentils hide especially well in taco meat, too. Just add in cooked lentils to your ground beef along with your usual seasonings and there’s a good chance your family won’t even notice!

Also, stop centering your meal around meat as the main thing and instead view meat as a garnish. Use it as a topping for pizza or salads, or stir some into stir fries or soups. The less the meal’s focal point is a big hunk of meat, the more you’ll likely save.

7. Cook 2 Things From Scratch

You can save so much money off your grocery bill by cooking from scratch. However, if you’re cooking from scratch solely for the purpose of saving money (not for the health benefits or because you enjoy it), make sure it’s worth the return on your investment of time.

If you spend hours in the kitchen and it’s only saving you a $1 or so per hour to make things from scratch, it’s likely not worth your time. That’s why I don’t make homemade tortillas.

I have a personal policy that I must be saving at least $20 per hour to invest my time in any money-saving tactic. This helps me to focus my energy and effort on those things that are really going to make a difference in our budget, instead of exerting half a day on something that really doesn’t change our bottom line.

It’s easy to think that cooking from scratch has to be a huge time investment, but that’s often not the case. In fact, in 10 minutes, you can easily throw a big batch of beans in the crockpot to cook and a loaf of bread in the bread machine.

You’ll never know how much time something will take you or how much you’ll enjoy making it until you’ve actually experimented with it. So go ahead, try making homemade refried beans, homemade go-gurts, freezer-friendly breakfast burritos, homemade baking mix, or homemade pizza.

8. Have a Leftovers Night

We try to have at least one or two leftover nights per week. It saves time, because we don’t have to plan a dinner or make dinner or clean up the dishes from dinner. And it saves money, because we don’t have to buy the ingredients for another lunch or dinner.

It’s such a simple, no-brainer thing, but saving money in simple ways on a regular basis adds up over time! We’ve also found that serving leftovers for dinner on busy nights cuts down on the temptation to grab carryout. So on busy nights, I’ll often set out all the odds and ends in the fridge and declare it a Leftover Buffet night.

For those of you who wish you had leftovers but it seems like your hungry teens or growing kiddos eat everything you make, consider doubling a casserole or soup recipe you’re making a couple times per week and sticking half the recipe in the fridge or freeze before you eat dinner that night. That way, you’re guaranteeing you’ll have “leftovers” to eat later in the week! 😉

My favorite part of eating leftovers for dinner? Less kitchen clean-up!

9. Save Up Your Swagbucks

When we buy specialty ingredients — such as protein powder and olive oil — and we get these with Amazon using gift cards earned through Swagbucks. It’s a great way to be able to afford a few of those high-quality ingredients we love to use in recipes.

I signed up with Swagbucks years ago and have since earned many, many gift cards from them. While much of my Swagbucks credit now is earned from referring readers here (thank you, all!), as I’ve written about, you don’t need to refer others to still earn at least $25 to $40 in Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks — which can be a huge help to your grocery budget!

10. Don’t Impulse Buy

Finally, the best way to save money on groceries is to make sure that you only buy what you planned to buy. Make a menu plan, make a grocery list, and stick with the list.

Also, you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: don’t grocery shop when you are hungry or when you feel like stress-eating. And, if you have family members who encourage you to impulse buy, leave them at home. 😉

*****Important Note*****

If you’re new to budgeting and to saving on groceries, please do not go and try to do all of these things this week. That’s a surefire way to set yourself up for overwhelm!

Instead, pick one idea and commit to do it for the next 4 weeks. If you like it and it saves you money, then make it habit. Once it’s a habit, add in another idea. And so on and so forth.

Don’t try to radically overhaul your grocery budget overnight. Focus on cutting it by 1-3% every month. It’s much more doable and sustainable this way — and there’s a good chance you’ll actually stick with it!

What are YOUR ideas for simple strategies to cut your grocery bill by at least $5 per week? Share them in the comments!

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35 Comments

  • says:

    Such good ideas and they work! Eating out of your pantry keeps me from buying too much of one thing too. I’ve experienced that this month when I decided to use up the weird foods that are in my pantry. Who knew I had 4 cans of salmon and 3 quart jars of molasses in there.
    We also love to use up our leftovers every week. If I change the meal up the next day or so it really helps. Add in garlic bread or beans to go along with it. Even making a complete different meal or side dish. Like making potato cakes out of the leftover mashed potatoes.

    • Jo says:

      Isn’t it amazing how we can collect random odds and ends of food over time??!

    • Samantha says:

      I recently cleaned and reorganized my pantry. As I put everything back in, I used an inventory app to scan everything. Now, l don’t buy something because I can’t remember if I have it. Which is what led me to owning three jars of relish. 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    We don’t buy pop and I limit juice to one half gallon per week for the family. I try not to make too much at a meal. We are not always the best at actually eating leftovers. If there is more than one serving of leftovers and it can be frozen, I do that. Then I send it for my husband’s lunch a week or two later. I pack my husband’s lunch, which saves even more. Just doing that easily saves $50/week!

  • Lisa C says:

    I learned recently to think of food as “per pound cost”. I keep a balance, with fruits, veggies and protein, but instead of comparing a sale cost to the original cost, I use my calculator to figure out cost per pound, of everything. It was eye opening. I no longer buy lunch meats, unless they are really on sale, and buy the cheapest produce.

  • Amy says:

    We don’t eat a ton of meat–we treat it more as a condiment or flavoring–it’s pretty easy to get the protein you need from plants, eggs and milk. (I do make an exception when I’m pregnant–I need a lot more protein, so I will eat more meat during those few months)
    I also menu plan for a whole month at a time, and double meals to freeze often.

  • says:

    We keep lunches super simple. My kids do PB & J sandwiches with fruit and yogurt most days, while my husband and I eat leftovers with some extra fruit or veggies on the side. Really easy and really inexpensive!

  • Jennifer says:

    Another small thing we do regularly is make soup for dinner. It doesn’t take as much meat as a lot of other dishes, you can usually bulk it up with something cheap like beans or diced tomatoes, and it’s basically filling your family up on flavored water! 😜 I usually toss a loaf of bread into the bread machine too. Nobody complains about fresh soup and homemade bread!

  • Amanda s says:

    I use a meal planner and it really prevents me from buying extra food I may not even cook! And we always make a little extra dinner to make sure our lunch is leftovers. Then we never go out for lunch!

  • Erin says:

    Shop ALDI to save so much more than $5!

    • Jo says:

      Yes!! I didn’t put this on the list because I know so many readers don’t have an Aldi so I wanted this list to be things everyone could do!

  • Annie says:

    I love your feature where we can have the best deals from local stores emailed to us weekly. However, the main stores from our local stores (Hornbacher’s & Family Fare) aren’t listed. Any chance of adding them in the future?
    Thanks!

  • says:

    Great tips you have share here. Each time I go grocery shopping I like to go to the reduction section of the section shop and check if I can get something from my shopping list.

  • says:

    So many great tips! I love having breakfast made for the week- so much healthier, easier (and cheaper!) Definitely sharing this!

  • says:

    At our house, every other night is leftover night! I always make enough for 2 days at a time, so that means I only have to cook every other day and I can save money by buying things in bulk. Tonight I’m making ham and scalloped potatoes. Tomorrow, we’ll just heat the leftovers!

    Do you have a recipe for freezer pancakes? I’d do it with mine, but I’m afraid they’d turn soggy when I thawed them. Nothing worse than soggy pancakes! Bleh!

  • Lori A. says:

    Any new tips or strategies for Swagbucks?

    We used to each earn $40+ a month by using SBTV and EntertainNow. The number of videos you now have to watch to earn bucks seems to have increased, the daily allowance has dropped to 10 bucks, bonuses are rarer and require more videos per buck. We’ve also installed Sportly and Lifestylz, and try to get a total of 40 bucks a day, hitting the daily allowance of 10 bucks each per app.

    Open to any suggestions on how to get better returns.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Jodi says:

      I have been doing the surveys. Often they have five or ten minute surveys that give 80 or even 100 SB. Some days I seem not to qualify, but I can usually meet my daily goal by doing a survey. Have you noticed that they now give you some bonus SB for doing 6 out of 7 daily activities? (Look on the left side of the home page). The daily search and deal of the day take literally one second just to click. The bonus varies from 2 to 4 SB, I find.

      Don’t forget to do your online shopping through Swagbucks, too!

    • Nichole D. says:

      I haven’t used swagbucks in awhile so thank you for the reminder! Do you still get 10 SB for printing and redeeming coupons? That always added up quickly for me.

    • Jo says:

      One thing that I do often is to look through the free offers — I usually can find some that will earn 7 to 20 Swagbucks for very minimal work (just make sure to use a separate “junk” email account when signing up for free offers).

  • says:

    I am focusing on budget stretcher menu options for January in particular. Planning a menu is key to stretching the budget. I’m including options such as casseroles and soups which with low cost ingredients that yield enough for two meals or lunch the next day.

  • Corinna W says:

    I cook chicken or hamburger in water in the crockpot every week or two and I put in onions and green peppers with the hamburger. I rinse and strain the hamburger and bag into 10oz serving sizes and freeze. We don’t use the water because it is so greasy.

    The chicken I throw into my kitchen aid to shred and cool and then bag into 2 cup portions to freeze.

    We almost always get our meat from zaycon when there’s a coupon and that saves too.

  • says:

    So many great tips! I employ many of them, but my grocery budget still isn’t very low. (I believe it’s because of where I live and the fact that I sometimes buy supplements with the money as well) One of the biggest things that does save me money, though, is that I have learned to cook using a recipe, but if I don’t have something on hand I substitute something else. I rarely follow a recipe to the t anymore. I’ve gotten especially go at making soups without a recipe. I use the same basic broth/water/recipes ratio and add different meats and veggies. I always use what’s in the fridge that’s near to going bad or leftovers, etc.

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