Don’t have time to clip coupons? You can still save big with these easy money-saving tips from a mom of six who has a $400/mo. grocery budget!
It’s true, using coupons used to be one of the big things that helped me keep our grocery budget at just $200/mo. In fact, there were many years that I saved a whopping $1,500 from just coupons alone!
And while I love couponing and in many ways would be happy to see more people using them to save on their groceries, I’ll be the first to also say that using coupons is not the only way to save on groceries.
I get it that some people just don’t enjoy the whole coupon thing. I realize too, that depending on where you live, it may not be very feasible for you to easily coupon.
And sometimes, even if you would enjoy doing it, the season of life you are in simply does not allow you the time you need to do it. Whatever the case, there are definitely other great ways to save too!
6 Ways to Save on Groceries Without Using Coupons
1. Use a Grocery List
Shopping without a list means that you are less likely to think through your purchases and much quicker to grab anything that looks appealing. As a result, you obviously spend more money!
Here’s how a grocery list can help:
- Keep a running grocery list. When you open a new box of something that you normally keep on hand, add that item to your grocery list to avoid running out and having to make a last-minute trip to the store.
- Before you head to the grocery store, think about any other items you need. Look in your cupboards and assess what you are low on. Were there things you missed adding to your grocery list when you used them? Are there events you need to take food to this week? Any cleaning supplies or toiletries that you are low on?
- Think about the food you plan to make that week. Planning your menu so you know exactly what items you need to purchase can be super helpful.
- Take a look at your grocery store’s sales flyer. What times are on sale for a great price? If it’s something you regularly use, add it to your list.
Once you are at the store, stick to your list. Don’t let that package of Oreos end up in your cart just because they look so good!
2. Look at Unit Prices
It’s easy to think that bigger packages are always cheaper than smaller ones. And honestly, they often are.
However, you might be surprised to find out just how often smaller packages are actually less expensive!
Make it a habit to look at the price per unit (such as $0.98/oz.) which most stores have displayed on their shelf price labels. Compare the unit price and buy whichever size is the least expensive.
3. Buy in Bulk
Many stores offer things like rice, pasta and grains in bulk. Often it is cheaper to purchase these items this way rather than in the smaller-sized packages.
Again, check the unit price to make sure, but often you will discover that you can save by purchasing larger amounts.
I also typically purchase ground meat and chicken breasts/legs in bulk too. Grocery stores will also often give you savings of up to $1.00/lb. for purchasing larger quantities (5 to 10 lbs.) of meat.
When I purchase these bulk packages I like to repackage them into smaller portions and put them in the freezer for future use.
Sometimes I even take it a step further and cook the meat before freezing it. That one small step can really simplify meal prep!
4. Stock Up
I mentioned that I like to look at the sales flyer to see what items are listed at a great price that week. If I have wiggle room in my budget and if it is an item that I can either use before it spoils or that I can freeze, I like to stock up on it.
I do this frequently on things like butter, salsa, pasta sauce, pasta, sugar, crackers, and toilet paper.
This might not seem like a huge way to save but it really does add up. In fact, it is one of the big ways that I’ve been able to save as much as I do on my groceries.
It’s easy to think, “But I’m only saving $0.40 by purchasing this box of butter on sale now and that’s not really that much.”
But look at it this way. Say you use about 8 lbs. of butter a month. If you stock up and buy 8 lbs. of butter when it is on sale for $0.40 off the regular price, you are saving $3.20!
Funny how $3.20 sounds much more impressive than $0.40! And the thing is, if you do this over and over with all the items that you regularly use, it gradually adds up to big savings and gives you a lot more wiggle room in your budget!
Related: 40 Foods You Can Freeze to Save Money and Time
5. Buy Only What You Need
Okay, so I know that sounds like I’m contradicting the stock-up concept that I just told you about. Trust me though, I’m not talking out of both sides of my mouth!
For perishable items like fresh fruits and veggies, milk and sour cream buy only what you know you can use before it spoils. These items are the ones that people end up throwing out the most.
Remember, a great deal is no longer savings if you end up throwing it out.
6. Watch for Clearance/Markdown Items
Stores are always changing out the products they stock and items are continually getting close to their sell-by/expiration date. When this happens, typically those items get either put on clearance or given a markdown sticker, making them a great deal.
Clearance items will be found all over the store, usually marked with a bright-colored shelf label.
For markdowns, I’ve found the best spots to find them are in the meat, deli and dairy departments. Generally, those things get a markdown sticker when they are within a day or two of their sell-by date.
Don’t let the sell-by date scare you- the product is still perfectly good! And if you won’t be able to use it right away chances are you can freeze it, making it still a great way to save money.
Great list post! I definitely agree with these. Shopping with a list is so important!
Hello! Have you ever used the Ibotta app? It’s been a handy way for me to save money, and works with Walmart pickup orders also, which is one of my main ways to shop these days. If you know prices and take advantage of Ibotta bonuses, you can get really good deals. Over the last few years I’ve gotten over $1500 cash back. 🙂 (I do have 12 children so we obviously go through more groceries than a lot of families…)
Yes, I love Ibotta too! I talk all about how it works here if anyone is interested. As you said, it’s definitely a great way to save money on groceries! And amazing that you’ve gotten that much cash back with it. Impressive!
Love the list! Here are a few more things I could think of:
Shop Seasonally- Bring out the recipes that use fresh asparagus when it’s springtime and there is a killer sale on fresh bunches. When butternut squash is dirt cheap in the winter – make recipes using that – and so on. DON’T choose to make something with fresh strawberries in the middle on winter! I mean you can, but they’ll be pretty expensive strawberries! 🙂
Shop Loss Leaders – If you normally shop at a certain store, for me it is Aldi, but have reasonable access to other more expensive stores, don’t rule out taking advantage of certain things in their sales ads.
Most of the time, every store will have at least a handful of items in their ad – usually the first page but also check the last one! – that they are taking a loss on by selling at that price. They gamble that people coming in for those deals will stay and buy other things that are NOT at a great price. What I suggest is being what is called a “cherry picker” and going to the store JUST for those deals. I’m not proposing that you clean the shelves, mind you, but a little bit here and there can really help build a stockpile.
I happen to live an area where I have to drive by several grocery stores as part of daily commutes, so a quick stop in doesn’t add a big dent to the gas I’m using.
But I would say that using a Price Book to track what really is a good deal between stores is a good idea too!
Research Store Rewards Programs – Some stores, like Meijer, have pharmacy rewards programs that allow you to earn points towards free groceries. Every time we fill 5 scripts we get $10 to use towards food or general merchandise. We have to fill the scripts anyway and this lets us get a little extra $ in the grocery budget! Read the fine print in store ads and google it online to find out the details of what you might be able to take advantage of!
NOTES on Clearance/Markdown Items – Get to know your butcher! Smile, schmooze, and then find out when the meat markdowns happen every week! 🙂 Be there! Aren’t those little orange or yellow stickers sooooo pretty?
Bakery items are frequently seen on rollout carts in the back corners of stores like Meijer and Walmart with heavily discounted items. I have often snapped up loaves of French or Italian bread to freeze for making garlic bread, croutons, strata, etc.
Finally, post holiday clearance happens in the food world too! What you can find will vary, but be on the lookout! Candy of course is the most common thing to be marked down but there are other things to be found. Just keep a watchful eye! Especially in those little out of the way corners these things seem to get stashed in!
I have a question for you about coupons. I made an attempt at couponing, but quickly realized that all the coupons I could find were for name-brand products. I decided to just save the time I would otherwise spend clipping coupons and buy the store brand products because it cost me about the same as using coupons for name brands. It sounds like you have had more success with coupons. How do you make couponing worth your time?
Jenna, what you are saying is something I hear a lot. And it’s true, that using coupons alone will not necessarily save you money. But using coupons WISELY will. Here’s what I mean.
It’s easy to get sucked into thinking that using a coupon is a great way to save money and then just buy anything that seems like a half decent price simply because you have a coupon. The way I recommend approaching it though is a bit different. Just because you have a coupon doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it. Here are a couple of the questions I typically ask myself first:
1. Do I need the item or is it something I will use?
2. Will I be able to use it before it spoils? (For deals that you need to buy a lot of an item.)
3. Is it cheaper than I could get it otherwise (compared to generic brand, another size of the same product, price at another store that I shop)
If I answer yes to all of these questions, then I usually will buy the item.
By using coupons wisely, I can often get brand name products for less, often much less, than what I would buy the same item in the generic brands. Usually to do this, I need to combine coupons with sales. I’m actually in the middle of a series of posts about how I shop to get groceries for $200 a month. I haven’t done a post in that series for a bit because I’ve gotten side tracked with some food related posts, but I think even what I do have on the subject might be helpful for you. (Things like using a price list and building a stockpile are key to using coupons well.)
Hope that helps! And if there’s something else that doesn’t make sense, please ask. Because there are so many factors and things that go into this whole process of grocery shopping with coupons, sometimes it’s easy for me to miss basic things that are helpful for people to know!