How To: Save On Groceries

Who’s going to say no to saving money, especially on a necessity such as food?


☑ Gym memberships

☑ Workout clothes and shoes

☑ Vitamins, protein powder, and other supportive supplements

☑ Grocery hauls

☑ Utensils and tools to meal prep

☑ Maybe even personal training programs or meal plans

The thought of embarking on and maintaining what goes into a healthier lifestyle is daunting, especially financially. Understandably so because it can get expensive real quick!

Note the key word though: can. It doesn’t automatically or involuntarily have to be. Naturally, some costs are unavoidable. But overall, it’s about determining what components of a healthy lifestyle matter most to you and defining your priorities. Is an all-inclusive gym with state of the art equipment important to you? Or will a gym that’s less fancy but full of the basics suffice and get the job done so you can have more to spend on high quality supplements or food?

Those priorities are a reflection of what you truly want and desire most – they’re what you’ll be more willing to splurge on. So once your priorities are clear and you decide what you want and the areas you don’t want to budge on, you can then look to cut corners elsewhere in order to make your priorities happen.

Food and supplements are one of my top priorities (or non-negotiables as I like to call them), but that doesn’t mean I don’t still look for ways to cut costs when possible. No matter if they’re a priority of yours or not, who’s going to say no to saving money, especially on a necessity such as food? Here’s how you can save on groceries with minimal effort and without sacrificing quality or integrity:

Have a plan and follow it

Planned meals or a meal plan (even a loose one) provide guidelines that trigger a positive domino effect of: only buying what you need (with maybe only one or two impulse purchases), saving time by meal prepping in advance, avoiding the stress of figuring out what to eat – especially at the end of a long day, and even cultivating a more positive relationship with food from feeling fuller, more satisfied, and less prone to mindless “where did that bag of chips go” snacking which can result in feelings of remorse.

Buy in bulk

When grocery stores have the bulk bins where you bag the product yourself, do as much of your shopping as you can from there! Those prices are usually the best in the store and substantially less than the packaged counterparts in the aisles. Go to Sam’s Club or Costco to get certain items in mass quantities such as rice, tortillas, frozen fruits and vegetables, apples and other produce with a longer shelf life, meat, poultry, and fish (freeze what isn’t going to be cooked in the first 2-3 days), unsweetened yogurt, eggs and egg whites, flavored waters, flour, and pantry staples for example.

Invest in a lean protein powder

At an average cost of $1 or so per serving, protein powder is an absolute essential to have on hand with how quick, convenient, flexible, and portable it is. Not only does it boost the protein content, but protein powder can be used to liven up oatmeal, smoothies, yogurt bowls, and a number of baked goods with a pop of flavor and added sweetness – which is ideal for those who have a hankering sweet tooth!

Don’t skimp out on storage containers

I always say you can never have too many Tupperware containers. A seemingly small detail, but quality does matter here as cheap containers don’t hold up well and can leach BPA into food (a hormone-disrupting chemical – this applies mostly to containers made of polycarbonates, or plastic #7).

Glass containers are considered the best option. But if glass isn’t the most realistic material (as it isn’t for me either), there are plastic containers available that are BPA-free. 6 Pack Bags Containers are my personal favorite out of all the brands I’ve used; they’re leak-proof, very long-lasting, the ideal size, and come with a warranty (no affiliation or commission by the way, just an honest recommendation).

Proper care is important to get the most out of your containers too. Although it feels convenient, avoid cutting food in the containers directly if you can help it; doing so will leave gouges, make the containers harder to clean, and promote bacterial growth. If you have a dishwasher, place them on the top rack to prevent melting (but be aware that over time, plastic containers can get a little warped and worn from the dishwasher regardless). Do what you can to make them last!

Adhere to a grocery list and shop on an empty stomach

It’s all too easy to go the store and leave with far more than intended (I’m looking at you, Target). It starts with browsing and wandering up and down the aisles, tossing an impulse or hunger-influenced item or two ..or five into the cart, getting sidetracked, then reeling it back in and double checking you have everything you need, and before you know it, your cart is full of what you need and then some. Having a list written down can prevent that from happening and help you stick to the necessities, save time and money, and often make better food choices!

And there’s nothing wrong with impulse buys – those are usually the times you grab something new, different, or totally out of your comfort zone! But it’s when a spontaneous item added to the cart snowballs into shopping with your stomach and winding up with a cart full of purchases you don’t really need that it can become problematic. Do yourself (and your bank account) a favor; have a snack and drink some water before heading to the grocery store!

Think versatility

Make the most out of what you have. Black beans can be used for soups, stews, tacos, burritos, dips, grain bowls, or baked sides. Nut butters can be used in smoothies, cookies and baked goods, spreads and dressings, on toast or crackers, or with fruit. Keep grocery shopping simple by sticking to basic, inexpensive foods that can be used a number of ways such as eggs, rice, beans, lentils, seeds, and nut butters to name a few versatile ingredients.

Be lazy but don’t be lazy with produce

Unless you’re cool with wasting money, don’t be lazy and buy pre-cut produce. While it’s handy and hassle-free, it actually costs more for less food; you’re paying extra for it to be washed and cut. If a particular fruit has you stumped, simply Google or YouTube how to cut it – there’s no shame in that!

Feel free to be lazy though with frozen fruits and vegetables (with no added sugar or salt). It’s much cheaper, lasts longer, and is actually higher in vitamins and antioxidants than fresh produce because it’s frozen at peak ripeness!

Below are some examples to illustrate how vast the difference is between pre-cut produce and produce that’s cut at home.

  • Pineapple: $3.98 per pound or $0.25 per ounce pre-cut vs. $0.98 per pound or $0.06 per ounce DIY
  • Watermelon: $3.99 per pound or $0.25 per ounce pre-cut vs. $0.79 per pound or $0.05 per ounce DIY
  • Romaine lettuce: $0.25 per ounce pre-cut and packaged vs. $0.06 per ounce DIY

Compare the price per serving

Aside from fresh produce, how much are you paying per pound, ounce, or serving for other grocery items? Look on the price label, typically in the fine print, for the cost per serving of other unit of measurement to ensure you’re getting the best deal. This is particularly helpful when comparing similar brands and price points. Every penny counts, right?

Less money = lower quality?

Some foods are considered classics for a reason; no off-brand Oreo will come within spitting distance of tasting like the real deal. But that’s not always the case will all products. When it comes to basics like cooking spray, oats, nuts, seasonings, baking supplies, and other staples, the difference (if any) is minimal. Generic brands serve the same purpose, cost significantly less, and can turn out to be even better than their name brand competitors!

Don’t dis dollar stores

It’s surprising what dollar stores offer nowadays, so it wouldn’t hurt to swing by your local dollar general to see what they have. You may be able to pick up some simple items such as Ziploc baggies, napkins, dish towels (especially seasonal ones), mixing bowls, drawer organizers, and core ingredients like salt, pepper, canned goods, and flours.

Shop around if possible

One store may have the best priced meats and seafood while another has more affordable produce and a larger plant-based selection. So be on the lookout for which stores have the best bargains and most economical prices. When shopping at multiple stores, try to stay in a close vicinity or utilize Instacart, DoorDash, and other similar services to save gas and time.

Capitalize on cash saving apps

I was happy to be wrong when I learned that not all money-saving apps are gimmicks. There are plenty to choose from, but Ibotta is my personal favorite. It’s as simple as this: browse the current offers at any of the available stores, add the offer(s), shop as normal, scan the receipt, and get money back! A withdrawal can be made via PayPal once the earnings threshold is met. With more than grocery stores and in-person shopping, Amazon, Etsy, Under Armour, Best Buy, Cabelas, PetSmart and other retailers on top of online offers are all available on Ibotta!

Take advantage of sales

Seriously, sales are your friend. If a non-perishable item or product you go through regularly is on sale or part of an Ibotta offer that’s about to expire, stock up on it! While you may not need it at this very moment, you will sooner or later; it makes the most sense to buy it now (if you’re able) when the sales are still effective so you can save some money. Keep an eye out for sale sections too, some grocery stores have them on the ends of aisles or towards the back of the store.

Sell-by is not the expiration date

Sell-by dates are when the store has to get rid of a food. Some products will have both; a sell-by and an expiration date. But generally, most foods will keep for up to a week or so after the sell-by date – and it never hurts to double check with a quick Google search if you’re unsure. When it comes to meat nearing the sell-by date, I always err on the side of caution and cook it that day or the day after purchasing it and eat it within 2-3 days.

Ditch bottled water

But stay hydrated, of course! On average, a bottle of water costs approximately $1.00 (with some estimates putting it at $1.50 each). Imagine drinking four bottles per day – that turns out to be an extra $120 per month spent. Which is why a durable, insulated, leak-proof cup that can be used over and over again is a must-have. Even if the reusable bottle is $30 and a $40 water filter pitcher is bought along with it, that’s still less than the cost of 3 weeks’ worth of bottled water. The investment pays for itself and then some. And it’s better for the environment, so you really can’t go wrong here.

Become your own barista

One we’ve all heard by now: making coffee at home in lieu of a daily cup of Joe run saves a LOT of money. Getting a $4 drink – which is low-balling it at many places – each day of the work week comes out to $80 a month on coffee (not to mention the gas and time spent waiting in line). The tradeoff is convenience; people are always willing to spend on the seemingly more convenient option. But making coffee at home is convenient. You save time, gas, and money all while deepening your self-sufficiency. And there are so many copycat recipes out there that you can make your favorite Starbucks drink at home now, but with higher quality, less processed ingredients. Set yourself up for success by perfecting an at home coffee.

If you use a Keurig, compare the price of K-cups and ground coffee. While K-cups are favorable, the price is astronomical in comparison to coffee beans and bagged coffee grounds. Reusable K-cups can be found for as little as $2 and are more eco-friendly. If you don’t have a Keurig, I’m sure there’s some sort of coffee pot laying around – so brush the dust off and brew your own coffee, even if it’s only two or three times per week. It’ll make that trip to the coffee shop feel more like a treat than a necessity!

Wrapping up

Some of the above points involve cooking or a form of “doing it yourself” where you might be wondering if it’s worth it, to which I have to say it absolutely is. Meal prepping and cooking at home is so much more cost efficient than eating out. To put it into perspective, my meals break down to being around $2-4 per meal, on average. How much does it cost to buy a decent lunch from somewhere?

My hope is that this provided you with worthwhile insight and that you have a few new tricks you’re going to take with you on your next grocery haul! To wrap it up, I’d like to leave you with these two thoughts:

  • Be cognizant of convenience it often comes at a cost
  • Setting priorities is the key to saving money (in any area)

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