How to Save Money on Groceries

Feeding a family is complicated enough without worrying about the cost of groceries. But here we are in a world where food costs continue to soar. If you’re feeling a particularly sharp pinch at the supermarket, you’re not alone. Inflation and continued supply chain issues are impacting consumers around the globe. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to spend less and avoid unnecessary waste.

Today I’m going to hit the lightning round bell to give you my course, Grocery Shopping on a Budget, at rapid speed. So buckle up and let’s go!


Every good home cook knows you’ve got to know what you have on hand before you head to the supermarket. Know what you have already and how to repurpose leftovers as ingredients for new meals.


Check the weekly flyer to know what’s on sale before you even get there. Build your meal plans around what’s on sale. Make it your goal to buy only items that are on sale — authentically 30% to 50% the regular price. Once you reach that goal you will automatically save 50% or more every week!


Now make a specific list of everything you will buy once you get to the supermarket. For goodness’ sake, do not enter the store without a clear plan for what you will put in your cart. Without that you are an impulsive accident just waiting to happen.


This may sound counterintuitive, but statistics bear this out: The bigger the cart, the more you’re likely to fill it up with items — and plenty that are not on your list. If you can, avoid a large cart and go for a basket or a smaller cart.


The unit price (total cost divided by number of units) is often listed in the left-hand corner of the shelf label above the item price. Go for the version of the item that actually costs the least. That adds up. You’ll save a lot over time by just paying attention to the unit price.


Meat is super expensive these days, particularly beef and lamb, so load up on vegetables. But that doesn’t mean you have to switch to tofu. Several times a week, make meat the side dish rather than the entree. Sear a single steak as a main ingredient in a big stir fry featuring vegetables and rice. You get the idea!


The store brand is going to be a lot cheaper than the name brand from a manufacturer who has to pay for advertising, shipping or shelf space. If the generic option is awful, return it for a full refund.


Prechopped, prewashed, presliced options are convenient but also expensive. Buy whole and then wash, chop, grate, cut them yourself. Same goes for whole blocks of cheese. Over time, you’ll be paid handsomely in significant savings.


Stop buying all those expensive junk sweets. You know what I’m talking about. Instead, make cookies or other dessert items at home.


It’s when the price of an item hasn’t changed, but there is less in the package than there was. It’s not unusual for manufacturers to raise their prices by 50% by giving you half the amount. Can you say rip-off?


Grouping is when stores typically put, for example, chips in a different aisle, but strategically next to the salsa. Your initial intention was to buy salsa, but into the cart goes the chips, too. Stay aware!


Shelf placement is everything and that’s where the pricier options are shelves. Check the lower- and higher-level shelves first to see if those brands are cheaper.


End caps are those displays at the end of the aisles that highlight items. You’ll think they’re on sale, but beware, often they are no bargain at all. Don’t get sucked into a shiny, bright marketing ploy.

There you go — a concise outline for grocery shopping on a budget. Learn it well and you will be on your way to mastering the grocery game!

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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One Comment

  1. Wow buy less stuff and watch for cheaper goods that’s brilliant I never would have thought of that! There’s three minutes of my life I’ll never get back!

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