Whether you’re an expert home chef making culinary masterpieces or a kitchen novice whose idea of home cooking is boxed mac and cheese, you’ve got to hit the supermarket to stock the kitchen. Grocery expenses add up, and you might be looking for ways to avoid sticker shock at the cash register.
Here are 50 ways to save at the supermarket.
1. Get a Store Loyalty Card
Many supermarkets offer some version of a store loyalty card, which can provide exclusive discounts and even custom deals based on your shopping preferences. Many loyalty cards can save you money at the pump with select gas stations.
2. Use Your Grocery Store’s Gas Rewards
If your supermarket loyalty card has a gas program, make sure to take advantage. They’re often tied to specific fuel providers, and the savings per gallon can really add up. While this doesn’t save on groceries, it will provide fuel savings as a direct result of your shopping.
3. Get a Cash Back Credit Card
Cash back credit cards earn money back on all purchases, including groceries. Some cards have special cash back rates on groceries, and can earn you as much as 6% back every time you spend at the supermarket. Most credit cards with great cash back require a decent credit score. Before applying, check your credit score for free with Credit.com to see where you stand.
4. Check Your Mail
Those flyers you tend to throw out with the rest of your junk mail may contain valuable offers at your local supermarkets. Next time you get some circulars in the mail, take a few minutes to page through them.
5. Check the Store Entrance
If you did throw away last week’s flyers, look around the supermarket entrance as you walk in. Oftentimes, you’ll find the current circular stacked up and waiting for your perusal, which is a great last-minute way to find deals.
6. Sign Up for Emails
Sign up online for emails from your supermarket of choice. They’ll send you current local deals and even personalized offers based on your shopping history if you tie a loyalty card to your account.
7. Save Your Receipts
When you get home, check your receipts before tossing them out. They may contain coupons on the back that you can use next time.
8. Look for Deals on Multiple Units
If you can save a bit by stocking up on multiple units of the same item, take advantage. You can save later by stocking up now.
9. …But Check the Unit Price
Be wary when looking at those “10 for $10” deals, however. They may simply use creative phrasing to encourage bulk buying. Check the unit price, because sometimes you can get the same price no matter how many units you buy.
10. Only Buy Nonperishable Items in Bulk
Only buy things in bulk if you can freeze them, stow them away or use them before they go bad. The best deals in the world won’t help if you have to throw away your goods before you get the chance to use them.
11. Shop at Warehouse/Bulk Stores
Bulk or warehouse membership clubs can offer great discounts. You may want to compare prices, but don’t assume that prices are lower based on the supermarket you’re in. Membership clubs tend to work best when you’re shopping for big families.
12. Look Out for Deals
Many supermarkets “flag” deals using labels that stand out as you walk down the aisle. Any time you’re hunting for a specific item, make sure to look for flags in the area.
13. Buy Generic When the Quality Is Similar
Some store brand items aren’t of the same quality as their brand name counterparts. Others are fairly equal in quality, and you can save by buying the generic brand.
14. Check the Top & Bottom Shelves
The most expensive goods are usually placed at eye level. It’s a trick that encourages shoppers to reach for the priciest items. Look up and down before choosing what to put in your cart.
15. Ask for Rain Checks
If the supermarket is out of a sale item, you can ask for a rain check, which is an IOU they will honor the next time you’re in the store. When you come back, they’ll give you the sale price, even if the sale is no longer running.
16. Make a List
Don’t head to the supermarket without a plan, as you can wind up wasting money on things you don’t need. Instead, plan your meals ahead of time and make a list, then stick to that list when you get to the store.
17. Don’t Buy Something You Already Have
As you’re making your shopping list, check your fridge, freezer and pantry. You may already have some of the items you need.
18. Plan Meals Around What You Already Have
You can also reverse engineer your shopping list based on what you already have stocked in your kitchen. Look at your existing supplies and plan meals around those, choosing recipes for which you already have some or all of the ingredients.
19. Plan Your Meals Around Sales
If you know what deals are currently available, you can plan your meals around discounts and source all your meals from sale items.
20. Don’t Shop Hungry
Shopping while hungry can lead to indulgences, and you may end up stocking your cart with things you desire in the moment. If you want to avoid splurging on ice cream and potato chips, eat before leaving home.
21. Shop Alone
Heading to the supermarket with friends and family (especially kids) can lead to unnecessary purchases. If you can, head to the supermarket alone so you can stick to your list.
22. Buy Reusable, Not Disposable
Reusable goods can reduce your reliance on disposables, which must be continuously restocked. For example, Tupperware containers will last indefinitely, while paper bowls are thrown out after one use.
23. Bring Your Own Bags
Some states, counties and cities impose taxes on plastic bags to discourage their use. Buying reusable bags once can help you avoid those taxes forever. Plus, you’ll be helping the environment.
24. Start Your Own Kitchen Herb Garden
If you have a green thumb, you may already supplement your grocery shopping with an outdoor garden. Even if you aren’t botanically gifted or you don’t have space for a garden, you can create a mini herb garden in your kitchen to complement your recipes.
25. Buy Seasonal
When it comes to produce, buying what’s in season will save cash. For instance, peaches are cheaper in the summertime. While you may be able to get peaches in the winter, you’ll have to pay a steeper price.
26. Get a Grocery App
There are many grocery apps available for your mobile phone. These apps may offer rebates, compare prices across multiple stores or help you plan recipes. Check out what’s available for your phone to identify apps that can help you save.
27. Use the Smaller Cart
If you can fit your necessities in a basket or mini shopping cart, roll with the smaller option. The large shopping carts may encourage you to fill them up with unnecessary goods.
28. Double Couponing
Some supermarkets allow double couponing, which means you can get twice the advertised savings. Not all stores offer double coupons, and those that do may only honor double coupons for certain deals or on certain days. Check with your local supermarkets to learn their policies.
29. Price Matching
Some stores have price matching policies in place if you can demonstrate that another store has a lower price. Some supermarkets will even honor competitor coupons.
30. Drink Tap Water
It’s much more cost effective to get your drinking water straight from the tap or keep a water filter in your refrigerator. In most cases, bottled water is an unnecessary expense.
31. Don’t Buy Single-Use Items
It will always be cheaper to buy an item in a large container and avoid single-use items. For instance, a two-liter of soda is cheaper than canned or bottled soft drinks.
32. Don’t Wander the Aisles
Only visit the aisles and areas that have the items on your list. If you wander the aisles aimlessly, you’re bound to see something you want (but don’t need).
33. Don’t Buy Premade Meals
Premade meals will cost you dearly for the prep work. If you’re tempted by the salad buffet or the deli’s premade pasta, remember that you can eat these meals at a fraction of the price if you buy the ingredients and make them yourself.
34. Slice and Dice Your Own Food
Whether it’s fruit, deli meats or cheese, you’ll pay extra for the privilege of buying your foods pre-sliced or pre-diced when you could cut them yourself. And while we don’t all have deli slicers at home, you can chop up your fruits and veggies in a matter of minutes.
35. Shop Around
If you shop at the same supermarket out of habit, you may want to try shopping at other area stores. Pay attention to the prices of your favorite items as you shop around. You can compare receipts from different stores to see where you’re getting the best deals.
36. Review Your Receipts
When you get home from your shopping trips, take a close look at your receipts. You may start to see patterns: unnecessary purchases, items you’re paying too much for and what tends to cost you the most. You can use this information to make frugal decisions the next time you shop.
37. Buy Frozen Veggies When They’re Out of Season
When your vegetables of choice are out of season, you can find them bagged up in the frozen aisle, usually at a cheaper price than the fresh versions.
38. Eat Your Leftovers
Depending on its size, yesterday’s dinner can provide today’s lunch or feed you for a week. Don’t pass over leftovers in favor of something fresh. It might be even tastier today.
39. Use Your Senior Discount
Senior discounts vary between supermarkets and locations, and some stores only offer senior discounts on certain days. If you’re eligible for a senior discount, make sure to ask about your store’s policy. If they don’t have one, you may want to start shopping elsewhere, because an automatic discount can really rack up savings over time.
40. Follow Supermarkets on Social Media
Already on Facebook and Twitter? Make sure to follow your supermarket. They could share deals you can’t find elsewhere.
41. Avoid Impulse Buys Near the Checkout Line
The candy, magazines and other goodies by the checkout line are meant to tempt you for one last impulse buy before you leave. When you’re that close to the exit, try to resist temptation.
42. Shop Earlier in the Day
If you shop earlier in the day, you’ll have access to a better selection of goods that haven’t been picked over. Not only will you have better options, you won’t have to choose a more expensive substitute if the store has run out of a certain item.
43. Eat Less Meat
Eating less meat can reduce your risk of preventable diseases and health conditions and reduce your carbon footprint. Meat can be also be expensive, and removing meat from a few meals a week can cut your grocery bill. If a few meals a week sounds like a lot, you can try Meatless Mondays, which are exactly what they sound like but can still save significant dough.
44. Eat Less Cheese
Cheese can be quite expensive. Removing the cheese from a few meals a week should cut down on your spending.
45. Check Expiration Dates
When buying perishable products like milk, make sure to check the expiration date. You don’t want to buy something that expires in two days and you’ll have to throw away.
46. …But Know the Limits of Expiration Dates
Expiration dates aren’t well-regulated, and are often used to indicate peak freshness, not warn you that a product is no longer safe to consume. Many people don’t understand this, with 90% of Americans throwing out food before it’s gone bad. Do a little online research to educate yourself before you toss something out.
47. Properly Store Your Food
Anything that you can freeze — such as meat and bread — should go in the freezer if you aren’t using it soon. You don’t want to forget about some fish in the fridge until it starts smelling. Properly organizing your fridge and freezer will certainly help.
48. Practice Portion Control
Eating smaller meals can be good for your figure and your wallet.
49. Take Advantage of Your Workplace’s Food
Does your workplace offer breakfast, coffee or snacks in the break room? Make sure to take advantage.
50. Hunt Down Free Meals
Free meals are a boon to the frugal. Employer-sponsored dinners, backyard barbecues and meals with a generous family member can help get you through the week. Of course, if you’re afraid of looking like a freeloader, you could ask for gift cards to your favorite restaurant for your next birthday.