Mother and children perusing the produce section in a grocery store.

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Grocery shopping expenses, especially if you prepare meals for a large family, can often feel like a budget buster.

According to a recent GoBankingRates survey, groceries are the second most expensive monthly budget item, followed by rent or mortgage. The good news is that with a little time and planning, there are many easy ways you can save money on your groceries. Here are our favorite four:

1. Use coupons. If you are not a coupon user, then you might want to consider becoming one. Shoppers using U.S. Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) coupons report saving an average of $30-$50 a week, which is $1,560 to $2,600 a year.

When using coupons, you can go the old-fashioned route of cutting them out of circulars and inserts from your Sunday newspaper or (often free) neighborhood weekly, or use printable grocery coupons, which are easier than ever to find and use. To get the most value from your coupons, check to see if your local grocery store offers “double coupon” promotions. Double couponing is when the store takes your coupon and matches the value of it up to a certain amount. Also check to see if your store allows “coupon stacking”, where you can use more than one coupon towards the value of your purchased item. This policy will vary from store to store and can sometimes be confusing, so be sure to do your research and check with your local store regarding its policy.

There are a number of couponing blogs that do a lot of the work for you in finding the best deals. You can search by store, and they will tell you which coupons to stack store deals with. There are a lot of great blogs out there, and a couple we like are The Krazy Coupon Lady and Cuckoo for Coupons.

2. Use rebate apps. Using rebate apps is probably one of the easiest ways to get money back on items you’ve already purchased. A rebate app earns you cash back, so instead of getting money taken off your total before you pay, you get reimbursed (typically via PayPal) once you’ve reached a particular minimum amount in spending. With most rebate apps all you have to do is scan the receipt through the app and then watch your cash add up. For more information on rebate apps, check out this guide.

3. Menu plan and then make your shopping list. Planning out your meals for the week or two, depending on how often you like to grocery shop, will save you time and money in the long run. Take few minutes each weekend before you hit the grocery store to sit down and plan out what you will cook for the coming week, then make your list and stick to it. There are plenty of blog sites that offer free meal plans—and some that are budget-conscious—and corresponding grocery lists for your convenience.

4. Stick with groceries and save the other items for pharmacies. Unless it’s a really good deal, you should avoid buying toiletries, cosmetics or other similar items from the grocery store as they tend to be more expensive than purchasing them for your local drugstore or specialty store.

Need some guidance creating your grocery budget? Let America Saves help. Check out our resources on creating a budget by first tracking what you’re spending, and then coming up with a realistic figure of how much you will need for your grocery budget each month. Take the America Saves pledge to receive tips to help keep you on track with your budget.

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