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?
henna Smith says
Good to hear about it. Thanks for share with us.
Hi. I am in Canada. We are Costco members and shop at a lot of wholesale stores open to the public. I go online and read all the flyers of the grocery stores near our place. I also make sure I always do my grocery shopping on a full stomach and I stick to my list.
I shop once a month. Our family of 4 have a budget of $340 CAD (About $250 USD) for the month and since we live in an apartment, we cannot have a garden. I have a few potted herbs but no place for anything more.
The first 2 weeks of the month, we have fresh fruits and veggies but the remaining 2, we have frozen veggies and no fruits, because frozen fruits are way too expensive. I also have to use powder milk because fresh milk is out of my league. I make everything from scratch, including yogurt, hot chocolate mix, mayonnaise, broths, etc. My Instant Pot is my best friend in the kitchen.
When my monthly amount comes in, I withdraw what I need for grocery, fuel, transit, and allowances. I separate the money in envelopes so that I do not use more than the budget for each item.
That’s great Marie! Shopping on a full stomach is a good one! 🙂 It sounds like you have your food budget down to a science. Mayonnaise is something I’ve never made from scratch! Thanks for sharing!
Some things our family does to save money on groceries, other than the obvious “buy only on sale” tips or growing a garden.
1. We eat more beans, less meat. My cooking style has really changed, and so has our digestion. At first our stomachs reacted to the change in diet, but now, we’re all used to it and loving the more vegetarian options.
2. I go as long as I can before going back to the grocery store. There is always one more food in the pantry that can be used up. These are the days when I have to be extra creative, but at least our pantry is full of food that’s been there forever.
3. When I buy meat, I try to buy the bigger pieces (whole chicken rather than just thighs or breasts) and cheaper cuts. Cheaper cuts benefit from longer cooking (like stews) or the slow-cooker.
4. I buy ahead and lots of it. If something that is a staple in our house, is on sale, I’ll buy as much as the store will allow me.
5. I scour the flyers for any store that sells food and spend more time shopping from store to store, based on what is on sale. You can get some amazing deals at non-food stores too for things like paper (tp and pt), juice, non-perishables. It definitely takes more time to shop, but in the end, there are lots of savings.
6. Can’t save money without a deep-freezer, a slow-cooker, and storage space.
This is a really informative post. I shop the sales each week, even if it means going to 4 different stores. Also, I shop for food items at places other than the grocery store. For example, milk is cheaper at the gas station and butter frequently goes on sale at Walgreens. I don’t know if you have a Save-A-Lot near you, but their fresh fruits and veggies are significantly less than the other grocery stores in my area.
I check out the Walgreens ad for bonus points. Sometimes there is a coupon for 5000 bonus points on a $25 purchase, plus 2,000 points on toothpaste or detergent. It doesn’t take long to reach 18,000 points this way, which becomes $20 worth of free food to replenish the pantry.
Yes Diane! You can definitely find great food deals outside of the grocery store. When we had a Walgreens close, I always got honey there when it would be on sale for $3.99 for 32 oz, which is an excellent price. I would also stock up on peanut butter when there was a Register Rewards deal. When I was growing up milk was always cheapest at the gas station (that’s definitely not the case where we live now). The bottom line is to know your target prices and always be on the lookout for a deal! 🙂
GiselleR @ Diary of an ExSloth says
Shopping with cash is such an amazing idea! I am a master at picking up things I don’t need when I have a shorter list. Hard to do that if I know I won’t be able to pay for it all lol
Also, I don’t drive so I’m usually limited by what I can carry. Definitely helps me stick to my list most days!
Sticking to what you can carry is another way to keep your spending down!
We still haven’t been able to make the cash thing work for us. Weird schedules, laziness (umm, me…lol) and any number of other things has not made it easy for this to happen. We do, however, stock up whenever possible and also try to eat healthy. I find that when I eat healthier, we spend less. This is usually because healthier meals keep me fuller for longer (unless I’m eating fruit…then I can eat that all day) so I don’t feel hungry all day.
We don’t do cash either, but we are really good at sticking to our budget. Cash really helps if you have a hard time keeping your grocery spending within your allotted food budget.
Healthy foods are much more filling! My kids are full much longer with whole wheat pancakes than with cold cereal, for example.
Janelle @ Run With No Regrets says
These are such great tips!! Meal planning is huge for me, it keeps me focused on what I need to buy. I need to get better about stocking up though. Maybe I will look into a membership for the big staples.
I agree! If I’m focused on what’s on your list, I don’t get distracted by so many other things.
Jennifer Johnson says
I love Aldi for deals, I also like to stock up when things are on sale. Planning meals is definitely the most important. Great list.
I’m so sad we don’t have Aldi in California!!
Debbie in Florida says
Hello! I found you through the Prudent Homemakers Frugal Accomplishments posts and have enjoyed poking around your blog. Lots to think about and good info to use!
One big way I’ve saved on groceries is to waste nothing so I have to buy less. Saving even bits of veggies to make soups or add to pastas or fruit for smoothies adds up. I have a very small chest freezer also like CeCee so if I can’t use something up I freeze it. I freeze the bits and pieces until I have enough to make soup. Also using the whole part of the veggies, like the beet tops for greens, peelings for veggie stock, and the stems of herbs to make pesto. I keep a gallon ziplock in the freezer and the veggie peelings and trimmings go in there until I have enough to make stock. A book which really changed the way I think and how I do things is The Everlasting Meal Cooking with Economy and Grace.
Hi Debbie! I’m glad you found my blog! You’re right- soups are a great way to use bits of veggies. I need to start making my own veggie stock. Right now I give all of our peelings to the chickens, so it’s not completely wasted since they “turn it into eggs” as my kids always say in amazement! I’ve never heard of that book. I’ll have to check it out!
Julie @ Millennial Cents says
Great tips- I notice serious savings when I plan out a menu with recipes for each day before I hit the store! Although I always have to use my credit card to get points 🙂
We use credit cards too (or debit cards where credit cards aren’t allowed). We are consistently able to stick to our budget, so I don’t use cash for groceries either. If you are constantly going over budget though, cash will fix that!
Jessi Fearon (@TheBudgetMama) says
Shop with your two year old running around the store and you’ll save money! 🙂 Or at least that’s what happens with me. I have to stick to the list and can’t look around for other things because my toddler will break a jar of pasta sauce (which why are they ground level any way??!). Also, I love Aldi which doesn’t allow coupons. We save so much money shopping there especially on things like olive oil, cooking spray, spices ($.99!) and organic items.
Love this post! 🙂
Ha ha! Jessi that is so true!! You really have to focus and stick to the list because you never know when the kid’s internal timer is going to go off and craziness will ensue (or just those natural kid accidents and curiosities that happen to involve glass!). 🙂
We don’t have Aldi in California and I miss it so much! Our grocery budget was $200/month when we had Aldi. Moving to CA, we had to up it another $100.
Liz S says
As usual, I love all your ideas and agree with them all. For me, shopping with a list is key and also having tunnel vision and NOT going when I’m starving, as we all know is never a good thing. If I WANT to stay on budget, it’s easy for me to. But if I’m on the other end of my yo-yo where I just saved a lot and went without, then I tend to not care about the budget or list and reward myself. But, what I do most often is this: I have a budget for weekly food, and sometimes I grab a couple extras, but I wait until everything else is scanned and if I’m under budget, then I buy them. If I’m not, then I don’t. And it’s not always junk food…sometimes it’s some type of healthy food, because as we all know, that is the type of food that is usually most expensive. Anyway, we tend to spend a lot more than others on food (live in NH where food isn’t the cheapest & we basically only have a Hannaford to shop at) & I used to get mad that we spent so much, but now I try to realize that food is a GOOD thing to spend money on (if you aren’t going nuts, but just buying what your family truly needs) and I should be down on myself for going into Marshalls when I don’t need anything and filling up a cart–not mad at myself for filling up a grocery cart with items we need to survive…it’s all about perspective. 😛
It is all about perspective. I’m glad you don’t beat yourself up over groceries. 🙂 And yes, shopping hungry (or with hungry kids) is dangerous!
A DEEP FREEZER!!!
It is the single best investment that I have ever made! We always had a deep freezer in the house when I was growing up. Back then we lived in the “boonies” like you do Stephanie. So when I moved out on my own I really missed the convenience of one, and I had no idea how much money I would eventually save! I bought the smallest one I could find when I living in a one bedroom apartment. It cost me $179 at Sam’s club in 2008. I still have the exact same one and it has moved 3-4 times with me.
Deep freezers are so nice for buying meat in bulk and freezing. I bought chicken breast at 99 cents/lb a few weeks ago and packaged and froze them. So you save money on buying things in bulk. Then you save even more money when you don’t have to go grocery shopping as often which = less impulse purchases. Then you save even MORE money when you make freezer meals or freeze leftovers instead of throwing them out.
I have to say of all off the things in my house the deep freeze is probably my best investment EVER!!
Yes! We love our deep freeze too! My parents bought each of their kids a deep freeze for a college graduation gift. We’ve moved it around with us everywhere. Like you said, it’s well worth it and really allows us to stock up and save money!!
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
Great tips, Stephanie. We have been going over budget consistently, and are going to use cash only for June. That should force us into getting back on track. 🙂
Good for you! Cash can really help you be under budget. It can be embarrassing to have to put something back when your total is over at the checkout, so you err on the safe side and go under. Best of luck Laurie!
If I’m really honest with myself, for me it works best to buy only two days worth of meals. I do make menu plans, but the longer the shopping list, the more likely I am to bring more stuff home than actually needed. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I’m already considering my bill as high and I feel like it doesn’t make a big difference? Thank you for this post, it made me actually realize this, and I should handle accordingly.
Wow! I cannot imagine going shopping so often. Have you tried writing a list and forcing yourself to follow it? That helps keep me on track. Instead of looking around at all the end cap features, I am focused on finding the next thing on my list. Just a thought.
I always shop with a list, it just seems to me that not completely sticking to it is easier if there’s more on it. Plus, and I think that’s the part that makes me stick quite well with a small list, if I think I’m gonna make it on, let’s say 20 euros for two days, I am putting an effort in getting change from that. I don’t know why, it’s just my mind that works that way. Weird.
Hey if it works for you, then great! 🙂