Frugal Grocery Shopping

Prices for anything from groceries to gas have been soaring the past few ones and our hard-earned dollars are challenged to stretch further. Now, we may be able to ride a bicycle around town if we can’t put gas in our cars. But, we have to eat. There’s no getting around that. So, we have to find ways to spend less on groceries while still getting the things that we need to feed ourselves and our families. Here are six money saving tips to try the next time you go grocery shopping.

1. Clip coupons. They put those in the newspaper for a reason. If there are new items you want to try, use a coupon to get it at a discount. If you like it, you have saved some money. On the other hand, if you don’t take a liking to it, you didn’t pay full price. For me, coupons save an average of ten or more dollars per visit. That’s money in my pocket that I can put towards gas for the car.

2. Buy more staples than prepared foods. It is easier to buy a box of macaroni and cheese, but is it more economical? A large box of macaroni and a block of cheese will make more servings for your family than one box of prepared macaroni and cheese. The next time you go shopping and pick up a box or bag of an already prepared item, ask yourself if you can make that at home for less. If you can, then put that item back in favor of less expensive staples.

3. Buy in bulk. Consider the food items that you use most often. Cereals, meats, vegetables, condiments, juices, and paper products can be bought in bulk usually at a lower price at food warehouses like Costco, BJ’s, and Wal-Mart. If you have a coupon, you’ll save even more money.

4. Don’t shop when you are hungry. This is a definite no-no. Shopping on an empty stomach means that you will pick up more things than you need. You are more likely to pick up that bag of chocolate chip cookies or that box of donuts when the growling gets underway.

5. Take a grocery list with you. This is another protection against picking up things that are too costly. Check your cabinets and the fridge to see what you need and write them down. Remember, the goal is to stick to the list as much as possible.

6. Shop at the same stores. This is more of a frustration reliever. In a new store, you spend most of your time looking for things and walking up and down every aisle, which oftentimes leads to forgetting an item or two. Going to the same store each time makes you more familiar with the prices so you can estimate your bill as you write your grocery list.

Rising prices don’t have to mean a lean dinner table. There are ways to make your food dollar go further and if you take the time to implement the ideas listed above as well as others of your own, you’ll see savings each and every time you shop.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Catherine Gibson - April 28, 2009

Another frugal shopping tip; Plan your attack!

Organize your shopping list by the layout of your grocery store(s). What does this look like? We’ll most stores actually have a chart or map of the aisles and what is located where. Then as you are making up your list put the items in the order that you would logically go through the store. For example, I always go to the frozen food area last, milk and meat just before that so that nothing thaws out or gets into the food safety danger zone. I also will jot down the aisle number on my list so that Inever go down and aisle I’m not getting anything from. I use a relatively static shopping list that I created based upon a rotating menu system. This lets me keep the list pretty much the same and just circle (or check) the items I want or need to buy based on what’s on sale, what I have coupons for, what’s been specially requested, etc.

What this means is that you can move through the store faster, because as you go down your list, you’ll be at the right aisle or area to buy exactly what you need. You aren’t going to be going down aisles where there isn’t something on your list. If you are focused on your list you aren’t going to fall prey to the lure of the impulse purchase, or the attractive end-cap. You also won’t be going back through the same aisle multiple times getting the one thing you forgot/missed. The less time you spend going up and down the same aisle the more and more tempting that one impulse item will appear.

The major benefit – less time shopping and more time living with your family.

    Mellanie Caporuscio - May 31, 2011

    Thanks for the great tips! I have a family of 5 (and a husband that still eats like a teenage boy!) and a very limited budget. Unfortuately, I also suffer from severe panic and anxiety attacks, and they frequently pop up during a trip to the grocery store. For this reason I can’t successfully “bargain shop” from store to store. Having the layout of the store handy while making up the list is going to work wonders for me. I never would have thought to do that! I also have a “No Kids Allowed” rule for the grocery shopping. I know it may sound harsh, but I find that my trips are less hectic and less costly if I go without my 3 children in tow. Just another tip you may want to pass along to your readers! Thanks for the great advice! Shopping day is right around the corner (again. sometimes i feel like i live at the grocery store!) and I can’t wait to try out this new technique!

Fred B - August 5, 2009

While I am not a housewife, I do most of the shopping for the house and cook for a living.

One tip I have not seen on your site is when you get your grocery ads, find the items you want and that are on sale at each store. Then take the ads and go to Wal-Mart. They will match the ad prices and you do not have to spend the time or gas to go to four or five different stores. This will not work on buy one get one free items. It also has to be an exact match-if a store advertises a 5# bag of chicken breasts and Wal-Mart has them in a 4# bag, they will not match. They will match a store brand to their brand in most cases.

They do take coupons unless it is specific to the store and they do not double.

Maureen - February 19, 2010

I live in Australia and our supermarkets have online shopping. I have found that by setting up a menu (mine rotates 6 weekly) I can set up a shopping list online based around this menu. If you set this up with more than one supermarket chain you can check who has the best prices at the click of a button. I now only purchase once a month and the cost of delivery is only $8. I would save this amount in fuel and the purchase of extras when entering the store. Quite often they will advertise free delivery and this is an opportunity to save even more. Quite a number of my friends now use this method of shopping and save quite a bit by doing so. I have halved my grocery bill this way.

Melissa - June 29, 2010

I live in Australia, and recently Costco came our way. Having envied this type of shopping I couldnt wait to try it. We dont live close but we spent around $1000 which would usually be about 5 weeks shopping and wow it lasted about 12 weeks with only a few trips for fresh fruit and veg. usually an impluse buyer but trying to save as I was about to go on Maternity leave I only bought things I would usually buy, could not believe the savings :)

Print Free Coupons - May 9, 2011

Very thoughtful and thought out submit! I have been researching around for the perfect Free Printing Coupons and found an ideal post for them and your web site appeared like your readers might value it so I’ve linked to it on here!

Try it out!

– All the very best, Chris :)

Lael - June 1, 2011

…The ideas y’all have listed above are great! I only have one thing to add about the order in which I shop. I shop at the cheapest store first (in my area, Aldi’s) then I go to Walmart, and then I finish shopping at Jewel. I get most of the staples and frozen meats at Aldi’s. I get sale items at Walmart. that I have found online or in a flyer. I only pick up specialty items at Jewel, such as Twinning’s Earl Grey Tea or a roast that I can’t find at the other 2 stores. Walmart is opening a superstore in our area soon, which should make my shopping even easier.
…I also keep a notebook where I write menues and grocery lists for each week on the right side of the page. I estimate the cost of each item as I write out my grocery list, and keep a running total to estimate the cost of groceries. I attach the receipts to left side of the page next to that weeks lists. This enables me to more accurately budget my groceries and keep track of the prices from week to week.

est. cost item running total

4.00 Half and Half, 2 @ 2.00 each 4.00
3.00 2% Milk 7.00
3.00 Whole Milk 10.00

Lael - June 1, 2011

That didn’t format correctly, so I’ll try again.

est._____ cost item_______________________________________ running total

4.00_____ Half and Half, 2 @ 2.00 each___________________________ 4.00
3.00_____ 2% Milk___________________________________________ 7.00
3.00_____ Whole Milk ________________________________________10.00

Lael - June 1, 2011

The first column should be ” cost est.” Sorry about that.

barb - October 29, 2011

a tip for people who use coupons. if you have a coupon in say local drug store and it says the name of the drug store on it you can use that plus your manufactures coupon to and save double. glad to share it with you

Michele - June 15, 2012

Word of warning about Walmart, much of their items, including food, have been made in countries that do not have decent regulations in what is in them. Is it worth it to get an extra loaf of bread if the soup you are buying (I see a lot of recipes here for the cream of soup) has mercury or lead in it? Just today there was an article in a major Newspaper that was warning parents about baby formula made in China with mercury in it. Not good. Seriously, just do as the post says, make a list, stick to it, make from scratch and as another poster said, shop the aisles. When I bother to list by aisle I am in the store 20 minutes tops because my store also has the hand-scanners. It takes me about 3 minutes to get through the self check out with a weeks worth of groceries and I can still use coupons, and NOT get arguments about using two coupons on bogo items.

Minnesota Housewives - August 20, 2012

Great tips! I like to go buy staples as soon as I get the coupons for them. It’s also so helpful to keep up with coupon blogs and see what you can save on, or get free. Nice article here!

    Sue - August 22, 2012

    Coupons are fantastic but I am not finding many for “staples” any more. Are you? It used to be that you could get some for flour, sugar, cornmeal, yeast. You know the stuff you use to actually make things. Now 99% of the coupons are for cleaning supplies and though one does need them one does not buy them every week or for pre-prepared stuff. If anyone has an outlet for real staples I would love to hear it!

      Cynthia - September 14, 2012

      I think we will get more coupons for staple items as we approach the holidays. Also, if you have a bulk food store in your area (I like GFC because you dont have to pay to be a member) you can get some of those things for a reasonable price.

Michelle - August 24, 2012

Great tips. I think it is also important not to buy more than you will use. Most families throw out $1000’s each year that went bad….know what you have and use it.

Cecile - September 9, 2012

A tip that I use is to only bring my ID and the cash of my budget + $20. My normal budget is $100 for groceries to last me 12-16 days. I normally bring in 120 and my coupons in an envelope and lock my purse in the trunk. I always follow a list unless there is an AMAZING deal then I use the extra 20 to stock up on that. I figure if 20 isn’t enough to stock up, it’s not a good enough deal. I always shop the perimeter of the store first and try to buy staples to make things rather than convenience foods. After I have shopped the perimeter minus frozen food, I park my cart at the end of the aisle and walk to get what I need and bring it back to my cart. This keeps me from buying any impulse snacks because I only can grab what I can carry. I also NEVER go down the cereal or soft drink aisles. Even without my cart. Those aisles in my store have nothing but junk so I have no reason to go there. That’s how I save money on grocery trips :)

Rob - March 2, 2013

In virtually all grocery stores, the cheaper products are less visible. Look high and look low: the store brands and less-promoted alternatives will not be at eye-level, the most sought-after positioning by manufacturers. Also, stuff displayed at the end of an aisle is not necessarily on sale at all. People just assume it is.
I do virtually all of my grocery shopping at Walmart and nearly always the best-priced generics are almost at floor-level.
Conversely, the highest-priced items are those on the impulse rack that faces you as you are in the check-out line. If you buy food there, you are an idiot.

Leave a Reply: