During law school, I discovered coupons and used them faithfully for a couple of years. We are still using the toiletries that I stocked up on 5 years ago. Now that we live in the boonies, I don’t do any more couponing. I just make a monthly shopping trip to Grocery Outlet, Sam’s Club and Winco.
Here are 7 ways to save money on groceries without using coupons:
1- Use Cash
When you shop with cash, leave your credit card and debit card at home. You will be much more conscious of what you put into your cart in order to keep your food purchases within the cash budget you have allotted. It’s impossible to overspend.
2- Cook from Scratch
Learning to cook from scratch is a great way to save money. Grocery staples and ingredients cost much less (and are much healthier) than pre-made meals and convenience foods. If you would like to cook more from scratch, but feel you don’t have time, look into cooking meals in the crock pot.
3- Plan a Menu
Every trip to the store increases the likelihood that you’ll fall prey to impulse buys and spend more money on non-essentials. When you plan a menu, you can make sure you buy everything you need in one trip. Plan your menu before you go shopping and go to the store with a shopping list. If your house is like mine, things get a little crazy when the dinner hour is approaching. Knowing what you’re going to make before you walk into the kitchen removes most of the stress of making dinner.
If you’re new to menu planning (or interested in eating healthy on a budget), I definitely recommend Frugal Real Food Meal Plans. They bring a whole new level of organization to shopping and meal prep.
4- Stock Up
When items you regularly use are on sale and in season, stock up. Grocery sales go through cycles, so if you buy enough of something when it’s on sale, you won’t have to buy it until it’s on sale again. Each week the sales will be different, so your purchase of staples will be spread out over a month or two. Even if you live in a small space, a little creativity will go a long way. If you haven’t read Stocking Up on Food: Why We Do It and How We Save Money, it will give you some ideas.
5- Shop the Sales
If you live close to several stores, take a look at the weekly ads before you head out. You don’t have to painstakingly compare every deal if you’re short on time. The best deals are on the front page anyway. In conjunction with menu planning and stocking up, watching the ads to shop the sales will help you save money on groceries.
6- Think Outside of the Typical Grocery Store
We do a good deal of our shopping at Grocery Outlet, a discount store. Their inventory is always changing, but they have consistent good deals on foods that were overstocked in regular stores or are close to the “best by” date. I often get great deals on cheese and other perishables that I can easily put in my freezer. When I found 3lb packages of Li’l Smokies for $2.98 I bought several and stuck them in the deep freeze. When I find cereal for less than $1, I stock up for our Cereal Sundays.
We also shop at Sam’s Club regularly. You can read all about what we buy at Sam’s Club and why a membership is worth it for us. Winco is also a little different than your regular neighborhood grocery store, in that they don’t take credit cards (and can pass the savings on to the customer). They also have a fabulous bulk foods section which is usually cheaper than prepackaged staples.
7- Skip the Store Altogether
There are a few ways you can eliminate buying groceries either seasonally or occasionally. Once a year we have a no-spend month where we don’t buy anything, including groceries. Our garden harvest also prevents us from needing to buy produce for a good part of the year. If you are new at gardening or have only a small space, you can focus on growing veggies that are the most cost-effective for you to grow.
Bonus– Cash Back Apps
Cash back on online purchases has been around for years, but cash back for in-store purchases, credit card benefits aside, is relatively new. In-store cash back is more limited than online shopping cash back, but I expect that it will expand as time goes on. Here are my two favorite grocery cash back apps. For more cash back programs for online and in-store, you can see my favorites here.
Ibotta is my favorite grocery cash back app. When you find items you’re going to buy (includes both brand name and generic), you scan the bar code with your phone, then upload a picture of your receipt. There are other bonus activities you can complete as well. You can cash out anything over $5. If you use my link or enter WQIYXFA when you sign up, you will get a $10 welcome bonus after you redeem your first rebate!
I’m cool with coupons
Just for the record, I am not against coupons at all. My main reason in not couponing is that I live so far out. If you are interested in learning couponing strategy (and lots of other strategies to reducing your grocery budget), I recommend getting on the waiting list for Grocery Budget Makeover. It only opens up a few times a year, but it’s a very comprehensive online course that teaches you step-by-step how to cut your grocery budget. You’ll learn about meal planning, strategic shopping, and stocking up, as well as couponing.
How About You?
- What other ways do you save money on groceries without using coupons?