14 ways to save money at the grocery store

A weekly planner, cellphone with a shopping list and veggies on a table.

As inflation (finally!) slows, it only makes sense that grocery prices should fall along with it…right?

Unfortunately, not always. When inflation slows, it doesn’t necessarily mean prices drop; it just means prices don’t go up as fast as they did before.

So, until prices do finally fall and stabilize, check out these 14 ways you can save money on your trips to the grocery store.

1. Make a plan to make a list

Before you head for the grocery store, plan out your meals and snacks for the week and then make a list of everything you’ll need. To prevent overbuying, account for leftovers in your planning, and don’t forget to check your pantry and fridge to be sure you’re not buying unnecessary duplicates. Sticking to a list will help you avoid impulse buys.

2. Shop sales

Keep an eye on weekly ads and buy items when they’re on sale. Stock up on non-perishables and freezer-friendly items when they’re discounted. Another great tip? Use the store’s circular or app to plan your menu for the week based on upcoming sales. 

3. Use coupons, loyalty discounts or cash-back apps

Look for coupons in newspapers, mail, online or through apps. Many stores—chains and independents—offer a loyalty program. Whether the program uses an app or punch card, they can save you money with discounts not offered to the general public. Some apps also give you cash back in the form of rebates or discount coupons for purchasing certain items.

4. Buy in bulk

Purchasing items in bulk can save you money in the long run, especially for non-perishable items. For bulk food items you use frequently (bread, meat, vegetables, fruit), freeze the extra for future meals. But be realistic with bulk items based on your household size and needs. You could be throwing out a lot of expired food if you’re shopping for just one or two. If that’s the case, try shopping at a store that features bulk bins, so you get only the exact amount you need.

5. Buy store brands

Store brands are often cheaper than name brands and the quality is usually comparable. In fact, many of the store-brand products are made by the same manufacturers as the name-brand products. So, you’re not taking a step down in quality to save a few bucks.

6. Buy seasonal produce

Do a little research to find out what time of year your favorite produce is in season. That’s when fruits and vegetables are usually cheaper, because they don’t have to be shipped as far. They’re also fresher and tastier—and you’re buying local, which is a win-win for everyone.

7. Reduce or switch up your meat consumption

Meat is one of the most expensive items in your cart. Consider substituting less expensive meats (e.g., ground turkey for ground sirloin, chuck roast for round) or having meatless meals a few times a week to save money.

8. Avoid pre-packaged items

Pre-packaged and pre-cut fruits, vegetables and meats are convenient, but often they’re more expensive. Opt for whole items and do the prep work yourself.

9. Check unit prices

Look at the unit price (per ounce, per pound) to compare different brands and sizes. Sometimes, it’s more economical to buy larger sizes. P.S. Don’t forget the smartphone or calculator when you shop.

10. Avoid shopping when hungry

You’re much more likely to make impulse buys at the grocery store when you’re hungry—because to your stomach, everything looks good. Eat a snack or meal before you go to the store, so your brain can be heard over your rumbly tumbly (™ Winnie the Pooh).

11. Shop the perimeter

Even if you’re not grocery shopping with an eye toward weight loss, follow the recommendation to shop the store’s perimeter. That’s because the center aisles tend to be where you’ll find processed foods, which can be expensive, while the outer aisles contain fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and other less-processed items. Bonus: It will help you plan healthier meals.

12. Don’t buy health and beauty aids at the grocery store…

Have you ever taken a close look at how much more health, hygiene and beauty products can cost at a grocery store than at, say, Target, Walmart or drug stores? While it’s convenient to pick up everything on your grocery run, you could be paying a premium for some of those items.

13. …But buy your groceries at the store

The convenience of grocery delivery comes at a cost. Depending on the service, their per-item prices may be higher than what you’d pay in the store. And when you add in delivery service fees and tips, you may be spending a lot more money. (Note: If you really don’t want to shop at the store, check into curbside pickup. Fees are usually lower, and you won’t be tempted by impulse purchases.)

14. Shop solo

Impulse buying is a relentless budget-wrecker; nearly three out of four Americans make most of their purchases on impulse. Add in distractions like navigating a crowded store or shopping with family members, and the chances of buying something on a whim rise exponentially. If possible, shop on the least busy days of the week, and ask family members to stay home and add their requests to your list.

These tips will help make your grocery budget go further so you save money each week. Maybe we can’t completely banish inflation, but it is possible—with a little planning and some smart strategies—to make it hurt less when it does happen.