How to Save $100 (or More) at the Grocery Store This Month

When gas prices were soaring in the summer of 2008, my family was scrambling to find ways to save money. We could not reduce the prices at the gas pumps, we were locked into the lowest interest rate on our mortgage, and our budget was maxed out. I knew the only way we could continue without running into the red each month was to reduce the line item marked Grocery — but I didn't know how exactly to go about doing that.

At that same time, I discovered the world of personal-finance blogs and frugality blogs. It was through these blogs that I found myself a “job”. It wasn't a job that earned our family any income; it was a job that involved spending less of the income that my husband worked so hard to earn. My new job? Grocery store savings expert!

My new grocery-shopping techniques allowed me to save over $100 the first month, and close to $200 the second month. Our monthly grocery budget dropped from around $500 to $300. (And sometimes less!) Here are the steps I took to save at the supermarket:

  • Get a store loyalty card. Sign up for a card that will help you save money each week at the store (and maybe even earn money back, like with the CVS Extra Care Bucks card.)
  • Study your store's circular. Look through your grocery store's weekly circular to see what is on sale. Products on the front page are called “loss leaders” and are priced very low to entice you into the store, where you will then purchase the loss leaders, but other items as well. Loss leader prices are typically the lowest prices of the season, so it is worth buying extra items if you know that you will use them. For example: If boneless skinless chicken breasts are on sale for $1.77/lb (regularly $5.49/lb), it is worth purchasing 5-6 packages to freeze for use in the coming weeks.
  • Make a meal plan and a shopping list. After studying your grocery store circular, plan a few meals using the products that are on sale that week. (If you need extra help with this, my $5 Dinners blog has a feature called the bargain meal of the week, where different contributors from all over the country post a recipe based on their grocery-store circular. Also check out $5 Meal Plan.) Create a shopping list based on your meal plan and what you already have in your cupboards. Do not buy anything that is not on your list. You didn't need it when you were at home creating your list, and you don't need it when you are standing in the store — even if you think you need it.
  • Look for marked-down proteins. Watch for meats, chicken, pork and fish that are on sale. Or, better yet, marked down for “quick sale”. These products can be used right away or frozen for future use. A vacuum sealer or food saver system is a worthy investment if you aim to get the very best prices on protein sources.
  • Buy your produce on sale. Purchase produce that is on sale that week. This is often based on what type of produce is in season. This will not only help your pocketbook, but it will also help you explore new foods and experiment in the kitchen.
  • Clip coupons from the newspaper or print them from online. “But they don't make coupons for the products that I buy,” you might say. Do you purchase toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo? I hope so! All of these products can be purchased with a coupon. I don't remember the last time I paid for toothpaste. When name-brand toothpastes go on sale for $1, you can match a $.50 coupon that doubles to $1 (if your store doubles) to get the toothpaste for free.
  • Consider digital coupons. If you're not up to the paper-and-scissors task of couponing, then load your store loyalty cards with electronic coupons. Shortcuts.com, Cellfire, P&G eSaver, and Upromise are four websites that allow you to save money electronically on a wide variety of products. Sign up at each website and the coupons will be deducted automatically from your receipts. Upromise electronic coupons are deposited back into a college savings account you can set up for your children.
  • Resist the displays. Purchase items from the top or bottom shelf, as opposed to the ones at eye level. Manufacturers pay a premium to have their products displayed at eye level, which translates to higher prices for those products! Look above and below for other products that might be similar to what you are looking for. Walk past the large displays for holiday/seasonal items or the cardboard displays that jump out at you as you round from one aisle to the next.
  • Leave the kids at home. Shopping with the kids makes it difficult to focus on your shopping list, your coupons and your mission: To get in and out as quickly as possible, saving the most money possible! Leave the kids at home.  There's something to be said for shopping at 10pm! [J.D.'s note: I love to shop late at night. Kris and I used to do that when we were younger.]
  • Make it a game. Challenge yourself to save $5 one week, $10 more dollars the next week, $20 more the following week, and so on. Before you know it, your grocery bill could be half of what it once was!

With a little time, planning and extra effort, saving money at the grocery store can be both fun and rewarding.  By utilizing these techniques and becoming a “professional” grocery shopper, I prevented our family from running into the red during the months when our budget was just about stretched to its limits. Happy saving!

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Mike
Mike
11 years ago

What if you are like me? A single dude who only spends $60-$90 a month on groceries.

TosaJen
TosaJen
11 years ago

This is a good review of how to shop well! We also follow a lot of these principles, although sometimes having the kids in the store makes me move through faster (less stocking up on unplanned bargains). It would have been helpful to know that you’re feeding two adults and two small children on the money you’re talking about. (Went and looked at your blog, though to find that detail — if that was strategic, it worked!) A change that significantly reduced my family’s monthly grocery bill was adding non-flesh protein sources into the rotation. We eat a lot more… Read more »

AD
AD
11 years ago

I’m a devotee of the farmer’s market, and I’m okay with paying more for better quality (especially for meat). I cut back on other stuff I don’t care about, and I don’t have to have meat at every meal. In fact, we have it a few times a week and eat a lot of vegetarian meals.

Spender
Spender
11 years ago

I do try to buy my meats on sale, but what do you do when you are always on the go go go? It’s just so hard it seems to find the bargains all the time when you have to actually schedule time to go to the store.

Nicole II
Nicole II
11 years ago

It seems like this post is recycled about every 2 or 3 months on here. I don’t know how much mileage this blog can get out of 1) use coupons 2) make a meal plan and 3) buy staples but it is getting a little redundant. They are great tips to know, but nothing new here.

Meks
Meks
11 years ago

For produce, I hit up my neighborhood produce stand. While this is not true everywhere, many stands here in Seattle Proper have the same produce priced at 60% – 75% discount from grocery store prices.

Carrie
Carrie
11 years ago

great tips. i used to be a big believer that coupons made you spend more but now that i follow several coupon blogs i’ve learned that they can make a huge difference

Kris
Kris
11 years ago

I’m with Mike (#1), I only spend $110 a month. It helps to make big batches and eat the same thing all week or freeze some portions. It’s boring, but it saves money and makes cooking more fun.

Chelsea
Chelsea
11 years ago

I save $15/wk just by buying fewer prepared goods: I bake bread once a week, granola once every two weeks or so, and make sure that whatever I cook will make leftovers the next day. It does require time, but I personally find it a great break during the day (since none of this takes very long in actual work time). And it’s a great way to teach kids some cool skills. I find that clipping coupons (while great when it works) doesn’t … always/usually work: the store brand is frequently cheaper unless something’s on sale. (Plus I buy all… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

@Nicole (#5)
Believe it or not, I agree with you: this topic is covered at GRS a little too often. Part of this is because there’s a demand for it, however. People are always e-mailing me with questions about saving on food. And there are actually entire blogs devoted to the subject. All the same, I’d expect to see less of this in the future. But the topic will never go away completely.

Kim K
Kim K
11 years ago

Regarding upromise – I have always ignored the upromise program because I don’t have any kids. I just found out this past weekend, that you can sign it up to contribute to your Sallie Mae student loans. I signed myself & my husband up. I’m so happy to find out about all the products that I buy can contribute a percent to my husband’s student loans. It doesn’t cost me anything extra and it is not just for grocery stores. It’s for all kinds of stores.

rdzins
rdzins
11 years ago

I find that if you can get to the stores early in the morning that you can get some deals on closeouts and close dated items. As far as printing coupons most of the stores I try to use them at will not allow me to use them because many have been hit with fraud. They even post they do not take printed coupons. We don’t have cvs or any of those type of stores where I live so as far as getting free stuff that does not happen real often, I would have to say you can only cut… Read more »

Shara
Shara
11 years ago

I think it’s funny that this was posted so close to the post about how we waste 25% of the food we buy. Most of the food I waste is because I get too ambitious about shopping with ads or coupons. Chicken breast might be a great deal at $1.77/#, but if you wind up throwing a bunch away because it was at the back of your freezer and you forgot about it, it wasn’t such a good deal. You also have to be careful of coupons that they fit into your lifestyle. Coupons are there to entice you to… Read more »

Kris
Kris
11 years ago

I agree – these posts are the same everywhere. I think by now we all know that to save money at the grocery store, we have to pay attention to sales and what’s in season, etc. Here’s the thing..the people that can really get deals like this, live in area’s with stores that will double coupons and that do offer a customer card. Most of those in my area won’t. Or you mention upromise – I signed up for it years ago and no grocery store in my area is on the program. So it’s prett much worthless unless I… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
11 years ago

My DH and I don’t eat a lot of manufactured food, so most of those coupon deals I ignore, but I do use store loyalty cards everywhere (and they do help) and I buy store brands often. We also this year bought a promotional package from Omaha Steaks – about $70 and so far we have had ten meals, and there’s still stuff in the freezer. That’s pretty good. If people really need to cut grocery bills, the first place to look is at beverages. Juice & sodas are expensive, and aren’t nutritionally good choices versus fruit and water. Bottled… Read more »

Emmy
Emmy
11 years ago

Kim – about how much money goes toward the loan payment? I always ignored the upromise ads on the sallie mae website, but now I’m kind of intrigued. Is is scammy, or does it really help? Lord knows I would love a way to pay down that loan faster, and my sister and mom shop online alllll the time.

Jessica
Jessica
11 years ago

I used to do the grocery game, clip coupons, etc. but I’ve found a better way to save money. I do as much of my shopping as possible at Aldi’s now. They have most of what I need and the store is small enough that it keeps me from impulse buying. I also can get most of my grocery shopping done in 15 minutes or less – something I could never do at a regular grocery store. I usually spend around $30/week now for my husband and I. This covers almost all of our meals (we go out to eat… Read more »

Julie
Julie
11 years ago

I’m too lazy to look for coupons for groceries. I know how I am so I worked it into my process. I just buy in bulk frozen meat products at Costco and buy everything else at WalMart. I end up not paying more on my overall bill than I would if I go to the regular grocery store. I had a bad experience with WalMart quality a while back but have given it a second chance…

Brian
Brian
11 years ago

Everyone should consider joining a wholesale club. I work at BJ’s, but Sam’s and Costco also work.

If you’re a savvy shopper it is quite easy to save A LOT of money by buying in bulk.

xtina
xtina
11 years ago

I have used this website : http://www.grocerygame.com with great success. It basically combines grocery store sales with weekly coupons, so you don’t have to do the work yourself.

Beth
Beth
11 years ago

I found this post repetitive too… but it never hurts to hear that I’m on the right track! 🙂

I’m also glad I found Erin’s blog — that article about bone-in split chicken breasts was great! I’m surprised she didn’t mention that in her money saving tips. The more prep work you’re willing to do at home, the less you’ll pay at the grocery store. (Which is why I learned to cook raw shrimp — it goes on sale more often).

db
db
11 years ago

What I want to know is what the heck are you eating if you only spend $60-90 a MONTH on food?

My guess is lots of ramen and hot dogs.

That’s the low end of my WEEKLY spending, and I’m single. I buy mostly fresh or frozen fruits/veggies, 1-2 packages of meat a week, whole grain bread, eggs and cheese or yogurt. Sparkling mineral water and hot chocolate. Not much in the way of processed foods.

Wojciech @ Fiscal Fizzle
Wojciech @ Fiscal Fizzle
11 years ago

I’ve only heard of the “loss leaders” concept recently, thanks to my involvement in personal finance blogs. I have to say, I’ve saved a ton of money using that tip alone!

A lot of people “complain” that they have to structure their weekly meals according to what’s on sale at the supermarket. My take – what’s wrong with that?? You are getting fresh items at a great price and saving a ton of money. Food is food, and there’s nothing wrong with using your money in better ways than paying full price.

Frugal Bachelor
Frugal Bachelor
11 years ago

“Leave the kids at home.” – this is golden advice. Most parents don’t realize how incredibly obnoxious their children are to the rest of us. The last thing I need when picking up my groceries is some disruptive kids yelling, screaming, blocking the aisles, running around, and just being a nuisance. People – you don’t need to bring all 2.5 of your children into the store just to pick up a gallon of milk, and if for some reason you must, please keep them controlled and restrained. I personally would pay a premium on groceries if I could find a… Read more »

Charlotte
Charlotte
11 years ago

I don’t have time for coupons at the grocery store but I use them a lot for restaurants and household items. We are working on reducing our grocery bill ($400-$500/month for 2 adults, 1 dog, eating out once a week) and have found this is what works for us: Most groceries are bought at Trader Joe’s. Costco for bulk items like: soymilk, bread (we freeze them), fruit, cheese, dog food, salad greens We also grow our own food in the summer and subscribe to a CSA. Sometimes shop at produce stands and farmers’ markets. We do like good quality food.… Read more »

Sandy E.
Sandy E.
11 years ago

Frugal bachelor is funny – I know he doesn’t mean to be, but wasn’t he a little boy once? I’m biased. Some of my happiest memories are of my 3 yr. old little grandson, shopping at the grocery store together. But the poster suggested not bringing kids as a way to save $ to avoid kids from seeing something they want, as opposed to their sometimes rowdy behavior and that effect on others. Kids have energy. They can’t help it.

Cyllya
Cyllya
11 years ago

I’m not keen on the loyalty card idea. Yeah, it saves you a TON of money versus shopping at the same store without a card, but in my experience, stores that don’t have such a card are cheaper anyway.

I guess get all the stores’ loyalty cards so that when they have an especially good sale, you can get it, but shop at Wal-Mart or whatever otherwise.

Jorge
Jorge
11 years ago

The content may be “recycled” every few months, but it is “new” to me. With the economic downturn we’re definitely cutting back and trying to save where we can. I just e-mailed this post to my wife, who is the primary shopper for our family. Great tips!

Miss Moneypenny
Miss Moneypenny
11 years ago

Most importantly, don’t go to the store hungry!! Like my mother always told me, you inevitably by more when you are starving. Eat a little snack, and then go. You’ll save your waistline and your wallet.

Kathryn
Kathryn
11 years ago

@db (#22) she said she spends $300/month not $90.

Erin’s website is a great resource for me to use what I have in my pantry instead of shopping all the time. I highly recommend it.

Kustomer
Kustomer
11 years ago

Not bad for an article :3 I find it helpful to keep in mind a few things: 1.) Store brand is cheaper, and sometimes with the same exact ingredients as the ‘original’ brand (cereal comes to mind specifically, and that stuff aint cheap! 2.) What are you getting for your money? For example…chips lets say. We all know they are tasty (and highly fattening) but- lets face it- full of air with less chips due to settling. So it helps to pay attention to the WEIGHT of the packagaing, because that is how much you are getting for your money.… Read more »

Marie
Marie
11 years ago

I’ve found that it pays to learn and follow the cycles of ethnic holidays in your area. My area is heavily Pennsylvania Dutch, and a traditional dish in that culture is pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s day. I buy a year’s worth of pork right after Christmas, when it’s the cheapest it’ll be all year. Another tip is that when you buy in bulk, keep a freezer inventory taped to the door. I draw a little diagram to show where everything is, and it’s all in dated baggies. Before I open the door, I know exactly what I’m going… Read more »

Amanda Pingel
Amanda Pingel
11 years ago

@Mike:
There’s still room to save; I’m a single girl living on a part-time minimum wage, and can’t ever spend more than $50/month. So it doesn’t hurt to try them out.

Ru
Ru
11 years ago

@Kathryn (#29)

I think db was referring to the first post (#1)

Aman@BullsBattleBears
11 years ago

one thing I hate is loyalty cards. What message does that send to customers without a card who are shopping at the same store? I know it take seconds to apply for the card, but isnt just walking into a store over another enough loyalty to get a discount?

These are great points, but its just the first one that really bothers me on a personal level…(sorry for the rant)

db
db
11 years ago

@Kathryn: I didn’t say I spent $300/mo on groceries. I said $60-90 is on the low end of what I pay per trip. My average bill is more like $110-125, though sometimes I can keep it to around $75. (NOTE: that includes any other household products, like shampoo, laundry detergent or toilet paper, etc. — I don’t break down the trips to food-only cost.) I don’t actually go once a week — I go to the grocery store about once every 10 days, so about 3 times a month. I have a difficult time believing anybody who says they are… Read more »

Ken
Ken
11 years ago

My wife has taken off with the couponing and is getting great results.

DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad
DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad
11 years ago

Solid advice and a good reminder that while groceries are a big expense, they can be easily manipulated for big savings . . .

sandy
sandy
11 years ago

A couple of ideas that aren’t mentioned. We have several grocery stores around, and I go to almost all of them over the course of a month. The high end store in our community has a really nice meat option….they have a section of Pick5 for $19.95. I often pick up the majority of our meats there, and since it’s high end, they often have organic or no hormone meats from the Amish country not far away. They also have a 3 for $9.99 chees section, with no-hormone cheeses. Thes items go directly into the freezer,(yes…cheese CAN freeze!) unless I’m… Read more »

Steve
Steve
11 years ago

Step 1. Shop at Aldi’s.
Step 2. Repeat.

Mike
Mike
11 years ago

Quote:”db says:
25 March 2009 at 4:33 pm
What I want to know is what the heck are you eating if you only spend $60-90 a MONTH on food?

My guess is lots of ramen and hot dogs.”

CORRECT! I also eat frozen veggies, hamburgers and lots of boxed foods. My joke is, if it doesn’t come in a box or a bag, I don’t eat it. The microwave is my BEST friend. In addition to that I spend about $150 a month eating out. So my total food bill for a month is $250 or less.

TJ's Is the Simple Solution
TJ's Is the Simple Solution
11 years ago

Take the easy route and ditch the traditional grocery store for Trader Joes. When we started shopping there we began to shop less frequently, eat more variety, and save money.

Also it’s spring now, so it’s time for everyone to think about a CSA program and Farmer’s Markets. Check out localharvest.org for information about your area.

mary b
mary b
11 years ago

This is one topic that people always seem have a lot of passive barriers set up to say why they cannot save money shopping. To save a lot you have to change your mindset a little, something has to change or you get the same results! We are a family of 4 and spend $60-80/wk on groceries, toiletries, cleaning products and food for the dogs. I really have to max out the deals and stock up when things are lowest, and adjust our meal plans to achieve this goal. As far as those who say there are no coupons for… Read more »

Marie
Marie
11 years ago

I’m envious of those of you with access to so many grocery options. We don’t have Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, and our Wal-Mart doesn’t have groceries. We have two semi-national chains and that’s it.

beforewisdom
beforewisdom
11 years ago


Look for marked-down proteins. Watch for meats, chicken, pork and fish that are on sale.

Dried legumes( beans, peas ), oats, sweet potatoes, low sugar,salt peanut butter are ubiquitous and almost always cheap. They are also healthier than the quoted alternatives, which will save you more money in the long run on medical bills. Better for the planet too and better for animals.

It pays to learn about nutrition. You can save money by learning what you need, then finding the cheapest healthy source. There are recipes that will turn *any* food into a tasty treat.

Linear Girl
Linear Girl
11 years ago

It may go without saying, but be skeptical of “sales,” especially on produce. Buy items in season, but make sure they’re in season where you live or they’ll still be very expensive. I’ve lately seen sales on peaches and nectarines which aren’t in season anywhere in the Northern hemisphere. I see asparagus on sale at Thanksgiving and Christmas when it’s not in season. If you haven’t educated yourself on how much things cost generally, when they’re in season, what a good deal really is, then you’re at the mercy of the store. The stores put things on sale in order… Read more »

reallysparkle
reallysparkle
11 years ago

I recently moved out of my mom’s home, and it is frightening just how expensive it is to eat well. My boyfriend and I don’t like to skimp on quality, but there are always ways to save some money. We plan the shopping list ahead of time, and try to buy what’s on sale. I’ll check out the weekly flyer when I plan out the list. I’ll replace more expensive products with generics if I know the taste/quality is similar. It takes some thought and a bit of imagination, but it isn’t too hard to save some money on groceries.… Read more »

Kim
Kim
11 years ago

“Look for marked-down proteins…marked down for “quick sale”.” We hit our local grocery store early (at opening) on Monday morning, which is the best time to get the meat markdowns from the weekend. This is especially true after a holiday weekend, like Memorial Day or Labor Day or Independence Day. Ask the personnel at the meat counter when the best time is to get those good deals. Often they will be happy to give you the scoop. @beforewisdom: I tend to agree with you about non-meat sources of protein. they are usually healthier, too! However, I do like to eat… Read more »

rdzins
rdzins
11 years ago

I agree with Sandy E! Frugal bachelor is funny, maybe that is why he is a bachelor! I am sure he was a saint when he was young. I would have to say most of the kids in the store you see are not like this, but there are some. Some people do not have the luxury of having some one to pawn there kids off on when they go to the grocery store, but I try to bring mine when they are not tired and I do try to leave the younger ones at home. I have found very… Read more »

Jay
Jay
11 years ago

Does the picture in the story look like it was taken at Tom Thumb or Randall’s, or is it just me?

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