52 Smart Ways to Spend Less on Food

Food can be an expensive part of a budget if you don’t do the proper planning and shop in the right places. Cut your grocery bill with these tips on how to shop, when to shop, and more, and keep more of your money in the bank.

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If you’re constantly looking for ways to spend less on food, this article will give you multiple ways to cut the grocery bill so you spend less money.

As crazy as it may sound, saving money in one area of your life can help you save money in another.

For example, eating healthy instead of junk food is a way to save money at the grocery store and prevent overspending.

The following tips will put extra money in your pocket by helping you save money on food at the grocery store, as well as a few tips outside of shopping.

How to cut your grocery budget quickly

You can cut your grocery bill quickly with the following tips:

  • Buy only what you know you will eat.
  • Shop with a friend or loved one and split the cost.
  • Buy frozen or canned fruits and vegetables when fresh produce is out of season.
  • Before spending money on food, think about how much you’re spending an hour at work.
  • If you make $10/hr and you buy lunch for $5 every day, that’s $250 per month! Use this tip to help spend less on groceries.

The following tips will also help you stay on budget with your grocery bill and keep you on track to keep growing your savings!

1. Shop at the farmer’s market

Not only are you supporting local businesses, but you’ll also be able to find fresh organic produce a lot cheaper than what’s offered by regular grocery stores that taste great.

If you aren’t sure what days the farmer’s market is open in your area, check with the local chamber of commerce or hop onto Facebook and see if the town or city has a page where they post events.

people at a local farmers market to spend less on food

2. Make a meal plan each week

Meal planning before shopping will let you know exactly what dishes you will make when you cook dinner for the next 1-2 weeks. If you need ingredients that can get rotten, stay in the 1-week time frame.

Another option is to buy frozen if the ingredient is fresh vegetables or fruit since it won’t go bad.

3. Subscribe to a store’s email updates

If you know what the coupons and sales are before shopping, you will save money on your groceries.

It also gives you the opportunity to comparison shop other store sale flyers.

When you compare prices be sure to compare unit prices to get an accurate comparison.

This also helps avoid impulse buying items that aren’t on sale so you stick to your budget.

Each store has its own name brand, which will save you money over purchasing trendy brands since they tend to be more expensive.

However, don’t just assume the generic brand is cheaper because that is not always the case.

Check the prices and compare them before you make your final purchase.

5. Don’t shop hungry

This may seem like a silly money-saver, but it holds true time after time!

Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach because being hungry will only lead you to buy more items than you need which creates the chain reaction of spending money you didn’t plan on spending.

It’s amazing what looks good when we’re hungry, that we might not crave any other time.

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6. Use free samples at your local grocery store

Many stores offer free food samples from time to time, so check to see if your local store has this option of free groceries when you do your shopping.

You can often even get a little bit of meat for dinner or some cookies for the road.

This will also give you an idea about whether or not that brand is worth purchasing later on when you need it for meal prep.

7. Avoid paying fees with credit cards

illustrated lady deciding how to pay to spend less on foodIf you pay with cash you can avoid the ridiculous percentage rates charged by credit card companies when paying off purchases, including groceries.

Taking cash out of the bank each week will prevent overspending and help you save up money faster.

Consider the Dave Ramsey envelope system if you struggle with impulse purchases.

8. Take advantage of price adjustments at the register

Most stores will offer a price adjustment if there is something wrong with your product or if it gets put on sale after check out.

If you see something wrong with the packaging that may cause people not to purchase the item, ask the clerk at the register if they will take off a percentage or dollar amount so you don’t have to pay the regular price.

Also, if something isn’t right return it for a refund so you get your money back.

This also works for perishable items that might have gotten thrown in the wrong bag by accident (just make sure to bring your receipt.)

9. Plan meals around weekly deals instead of daily deals

Saving money on groceries means you need to avoid impulse buying and stick to a budget each week.

This isn’t that difficult when you use the sales flyers when doing your meal planning.

Use the weekly sales flyers to plan your menu for the whole week instead of coming up with different meals every day.

10. Don’t buy stuff on sale just because it is cheap

If you find something on sale that isn’t on your grocery list, that you don’t use regularly or don’t have an immediate need for, don’t buy it just because it is on sale or because you have a coupon for the product.

If you don’t need it you aren’t saving money just because it is cheap.

Also, make sure not to purchase more than what you will actually eat so it doesn’t go bad before you have a chance to consume it all.

You’d be surprised how many people do this, thinking they will freeze perishable products like meat or bread but end up throwing them in the trash when they forget about them!

11. Shop at stores close to home during inclement weather

This is more of a safety issue than anything else.

If the roads are bad and/or you live in an area that gets snowed in during the winter months, make sure to get all your grocery shopping done before the snow hits so there’s no danger involved.

This also works the other way around if it’s hot outside and you feel like it isn’t safe to go outside.

Meal prep for a couple of weeks in advance when you see the weather is going to be a problem.

Pick dishes that don’t require perishable items and you can stay on track with your budget plus stay safe indoors at home.

12. Buy frozen vegetables instead of fresh

Frozen vegetables are just as good (if not sometimes even better!) than fresh ones, plus they’re often cheaper since they’re preserved at peak season.

They can also be used to stretch meals when finances are tight or to help make up for food waste if lunchtime isn’t worth staying away from work for.

It is also easy to stretch a bag of frozen vegetables into several meals because you can take out exactly the amount you need without worrying the rest is going to get rotten.

13. Stock up on food during good sales

illustrated woman in grocery store with basket to spend less on foodTaking advantage of sale prices is a great way to spend less on food.

Stock up during the big annual sales when items are often given away free with purchase or boxes of cereal can be purchased at a discount.

Remember to check the expiration date on items that may stay in your pantry for a bit of time to make sure what you buy won’t go bad before it’s eaten.

14. Shop at your local food cooperative

If you live near a large city, contact your regional co-op and find out if they participate in Community Supported Agriculture so you can eat seasonal foods that cost less than regular produce year-round.

Most grocery stores stock fruits and vegetables year-round anyway, but it’s always best to buy things from shops with an established relationship with local farmers instead of relying on items shipped from across the ocean or picked before they’re ripe just to be more convenient.

A food co-op is essentially a grocery store that’s owned by the people who shop there.

Members get to decide what foods and products are stocked on the shelves, where those items are purchased, and what quality standards both products and vendors have to meet. [source]

15. Eat leftovers for lunch when you can’t brown bag it

Not everyone has time to prepare a packed lunch every morning because they are working two jobs or have other obligations.

If this is your situation, look for ways to cut costs by eating food you already have around the house or use up some of your leftovers from your Friday night dinner.

Eating your own food will also help you save money on takeout or fast food since your lunches won’t cost as much!

16. Use coupons for items that expire soon

Watch your coupons in advance so you know when they will be expiring and if they are, check if you can combine coupons to use them before the expiration date hits.

If you find a coupon that’s expiring within the next few days, don’t waste your time chasing it down and just throw it away instead.

You’ll be better off finding another deal where you can save more in the long run.

The same goes for expired coupons since we’re talking about saving as much as possible here.

17. Buy foods that are about to expire instead of others on sale

This practice saves you money because you can buy food at a discount that would otherwise be thrown away since the normal price is higher and then use these as leftovers or to stretch your meals when there’s not enough to make for everyone in the family.

Sometimes finding ways to stretch out leftovers until they’re stale can even give you more variety throughout the week without adding anything new!

18. When using coupons, use them for the least expensive items

Coupons are always helpful but if something is on sale and you have a coupon for it, don’t waste your money!

Instead of spending $1 to save another dollar, try to find ways to save more by finding items that weren’t discounted originally but still will cost less than they normally do when using the coupon.

If you can find items that start out at a lower price than usual or weren’t discounted at all, those are the ones you should look for with your coupons to get the most savings possible.

19. Eat out with cash instead of credit cards or checks

Coupons are always helpful but if something is on sale and you have a coupon for it, don’t waste your money!

This doesn’t apply to one-time events like birthday celebrations or the occasional night out, but it’s a great way to stay on track and spend less money on food.

illustrated hands exchanging cash to spend less on food

Many people will immediately find ways to reduce how much they spend at restaurants by bringing their own drinks and skipping appetizers because you’re already paying for food, but going out without paying any interest is the best way to keep your food budget under control.

20. Avoid convenience foods that aren’t really convenient

If you want something faster than cooking it from scratch yourself because you don’t have time, consider buying whole foods instead of pre-made mixes for a quick meal.

If you can’t avoid convenience foods, choose ones that can be prepared quickly so you at least get some benefit for paying the extra price tag.

21. Buy in bulk when the price is right

Many people are hesitant to buy in bulk because they think it’s not cost-effective since you have to invest more upfront than if you just buy a few ingredients for each recipe.

This doesn’t always work out when buying from your grocery store, but warehouse stores are another story, and buying in bulk there will save you money even after accounting for shipping costs if store pickup is not available.

If you have enough freezer room, some of the best foods to buy in bulk are ground beef, frozen fruits, and canned goods.

Items like toilet paper and paper towels (which are not necessarily recommended on a tight budget and for other reasons) are also good products to buy in bulk at member warehouses.

If you can’t avoid convenience foods, choose ones that can be prepared quickly so you at least get some benefit for paying the extra price tag.

22. Pay attention to unit prices

To get a true cost comparison between products or stores, it is vital to compare the unit price.

Unit pricing makes comparing different items much easier because you can look at how much you pay per ounce or per serving instead of needing to figure out how many servings are included in a package like with regular prices.

This can help you avoid spending too much money on packaged food products as well since those are the ones that usually charge more for less food even if they’re from a good brand!

23. Freeze fresh produce when possible

It might seem like frozen produce is automatically higher quality than fresh since most store stock will be frozen produce and it’s more convenient to buy ready-to-eat.

However, if you have the space in your freezer or enough bags of ice to keep fruits fresh until you’re able to cook them then this is an easy way to reduce how much money you spend on your food budget.

24. Make sure you know what a good deal is

Quite a few people spend tons of cash on their groceries without really knowing if they’re getting the best deal or not.

This often happens when people don’t take the time to compare prices before they shop and just grab whatever looks like it’s the cheapest.

Oftentimes, it isn’t actually a great deal at all!

Learn how to recognize the best price by using a unit price comparison to make sure you’re getting a good sale or the best deals possible.

Planning before you shop will make a big difference in how much you spend on food.

25. Avoid buying pre-cut produce

It might seem like you’re saving a lot of time by buying pre-cut fruits or vegetables, but they cost quite a bit more for how much food you receive in return.

26. Eat foods that grow locally

illustrated people shopping at local farm market to spend less on foodProduce grown close to where you live will generally have better flavor than items shipped in from other countries.

This is also important since local foods will have the lowest price since you won’t have to pay for shipping or import taxes!

If your store doesn’t carry what you need, try a farmers market in the area instead.

27. Avoid buying items out of convenience

Items with unpronounceable ingredients might cost less but that doesn’t always mean they are the best choice.

Take them off your shopping list and spend less money making your own meals instead of buying processed foods, especially when you consider how much junk food costs in the long run.

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28. Buy what is on sale and buy a few extra

People often come up with elaborate meal plans based on what they want to cook each day only for their strategy to fail miserably because everything goes bad before they can finish it creating unnecessary food waste.

Or worse yet, a family member makes them feel bad because the food is so unfamiliar.

Buying those expensive “healthy” ingredients is fine if you use them during the week but don’t spend more just because some stores have sales or because you think that spending more means getting better quality.

29. Shop around for the best prices

Don’t let store ads convince you that this is the one and only grocery store for miles.

In some areas where there aren’t many stores, you might think you have to shop at this or that store and pay full price.

However, if it’s actually more expensive than other places don’t feel like you have no choice.

There is always another store to choose from and if not, consider doing your grocery spending at an online store.

30. Don’t buy unnecessary items

We all have our favorite foods and snacks, but they can be bad for the grocery bill.

If you want to splurge on a special treat with one of your favorites, put it on your grocery list and monitor the sale cycles to buy when it goes on sale.

31. Cut out the middle-man

There’s a lot of work involved in selling products so nobody gets paid very much for what they do.

However, by buying directly from producers, not only are you cutting down on your costs you’re also helping them so it’s a win-win.

32. Limit yourself to one trip to the store per week at most

There’s nothing worse than having an entire refrigerator full of food that’s about to go bad because you made one too many trips to the store.

To avoid this problem, make a list of everything you need so you have enough food, but not too much.

Only buy those items so your food doesn’t get ruined in the meantime!

33. Plan ahead

Sometimes it’s not enough just to plan what you’re going to eat for dinner during the week.

Make sure you also know which days will have big shopping trips so you can avoid making more than one trip.

weekly meal plan to spend less on food

The fewer times you have to go out, the more likely it is you will spend less and make your money work for you.

34. Buy groceries online instead of buying them in stores

There are many different ways for people to do their grocery shopping online!

Some choose to get their food delivered directly to them, while others opt for picking out what they want and then getting a home delivery service.

Whatever your preference, you’ll be able to save yourself a lot of time by buying groceries using these types of free services.

35. Use coupons only sparingly

Often if you plan ahead a bit, you won’t even need to use coupons to get a good deal on groceries.

Keep track of when certain sales are going on and save your coupons for those days instead!

36. Be careful about where you shop

You have no control over the quality of what goes into most products; therefore, it makes sense to choose places that sell high-quality foods first!

For example, many processed food products contain artificial ingredients but they’re cheaper than healthier alternatives.

So by sticking with more natural brands, you’ll be able to spend less money on food and also keep from consuming unnatural products.

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37. Plan your meals in advance

Looking at all those delicious recipes in cookbooks and on Pinterest can sometimes make us want to try new stuff.

However, this is not always the best idea when your goal is to save money on food.

Remember that everyone has their own favorites which mean eating them again will likely be cheaper in the long run and we know exactly what items to add to our shopping list to make the dishes!

Feel free to try new recipes when you can add them to your meal plan and shop for the best prices to get the ingredients you don’t have on hand.

38. Consider starting a garden

Depending on your location, you can grow almost every kind of fruit and vegetable in your own garden such as:

  • Strawberries
  • Green Beans
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Zuchinni
illustrated people working in their garden to spend less on food

A lot of people love fresh veggies and fruits, but they never think about growing them in their own garden to spend less.

39. Buy generic brands and cuts of meat

Sometimes you can buy meat really cheap in a butcher shop, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that they aren’t delicious or healthy!

You’ll just need to make sure that you know how to cook your steaks on an open flame so nothing gets wasted or is ruined if you can avoid doing so.

40. Grow your own herbs to save money

People think they have to buy herbs at the store because they’re too hard to grow, but that’s not true!

You can save more money if you buy seeds and start them yourself on your windowsill or in some planters.

41. Don’t forget about chicken

Nowadays people eat a lot of beef, so it’s easy to forget about other meats like chicken.

At the same time, there are also plenty of healthy things you can do with chicken besides just frying it in oil or eating hot wings.

Chicken is generally a hot item for store sales as well, so you can monitor your spending and still eat well.

42. Butter isn’t always better

People often think of butter as being healthier than margarine, but margarine is actually pretty close (especially when you make homemade versions), and sometimes even better for cooking purposes!

And it will save you money at the store.

43. Eat less meat without missing it

People often think they can’t live without meat, but as long as you cook with other delicious ingredients then your meals will still be just as satisfying.

And it will save you money at the store.

44. Avoid pre-prepared foods at all costs

It’s very tempting to get fast food or order in instead of eating dinner when we’re too busy, tired, or lazy to cook a meal.

However, we all know that buying those meals is much more expensive than preparing them ourselves!

45. Buy basic dried beans (or grow them yourself)

Buying your beans from bulk bins because it’s cheaper and better quality than the prepackaged varieties is a great way to make your money work for you.

46. Use coupons and store rebates wisely

It’s a challenge to remember to use coupons and rebates, but it definitely saves money and time in the long run.

47. Avoid ready-to-cook meals at all costs!

Just like with pre-prepared foods, it’s tempting to just buy our dinner or even snacks so we don’t have to do any work cooking them!

However, these products are usually more expensive than if you prepared them yourself.

48. Eat rice instead of potatoes

On their own, neither one is very healthy because they tend to be high in carbs and fat.

However, rice is much healthier than potatoes alone – many calories can be burned off when you eat rice because of its light calories and the fact that it’s very filling!

It is also cheap to buy a box of rice that can be used for many meals.

49. Use coupons on things besides food

Coupons for cleaning products, household goods, and even clothing items can save us a lot of money in the long run if we have space in our homes to store them.

50. Buy fruit in season

Just like vegetables, it’s important to buy fresh fruits in season to get the best price.

One option is to add them to reusable containers and freeze them so you can enjoy your favorites year-round without hurting your wallet.

51. Make your own soft drinks

It’s so easy to just buy a soda, but you’ll save a lot of money if you make your own drinks with the ingredients that are already in your fridge!

52. Use coupons on toiletries and cleaning products

These items are often marked up higher than they need to be.

A good way to avoid paying extra is to use coupons on them just like we do with food products!

53. Drink more water

Cut your grocery bill by cutting out soft drinks and other drinks besides water.

54. Cultivate wild plants

We have a lot of weeds around us every day that are full of vitamins!

Hop online if you aren’t familiar with the healthy ones and see if any are growing close to you.

55. Cook with cheap seasonings

It’s easy to go crazy with spices, but the best way to save cash, in the long run, is to find a couple that you like and use them all the time!

When you shop for seasonings, the Dollar Tree or stores like Big R and Trader Supply have super cheap prices on seasonings.

56. Get better deals by shopping at multiple stores

We tend to fall into a rut when we go to one store all the time.

Don’t be scared to try new things and shop in new places to see if there is a better way to save on food prices.

57. Spend time with a friend

Save some cash and spend special time together with a friend by making time to share meals together.

Each of you prepare a favorite dish, then meet up and enjoy the meal.

friends eating at table together to spend less on food scaled

Final thoughts

There are many ways to spend less on food.

If you are willing to try some of the tips included in this article, you are sure to notice a difference in how much cash you are spending on your food shopping visits.

The key is to make small changes that will add up over time.

These shifts can easily save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars over the course of a year!

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