The average American family spends between $640 and $1280 per month on food, which adds up to between $7,680 and $15,360 a year. That's a lot of money!
That means if you're making $54,000 a year (the median US income), you're spending about 15% of your income on food - even if you consider yourself "thrifty!" Spending more than you planned to (or want to) spend at a supermarket is a good way to kill your savings over time. The good news is that saving cash on groceries is pretty simple if you put a little effort into it.
Here are 10 easy tips to save money on groceries.
1. Rearrange Your Fridge the Right Way
Americans throw out up to 40% of the food they buy. That's more than plastic, paper, metal, and glass combined.
Why not save money by throwing out less food? It's as simple as it sounds and can save you a small fortune of money over time.
Pay attention to these 5 areas in your fridge:
- Milk and dairy: Keep in the back on the bottom shelf where it's coldest
- Eggs: Keep in their original container on the middle shelf where temperature is most consistent
- Vegetables: Keep in high humidity, in the drawer labeled vegetables and in the original packaging.
- Fruits: Keep in low humidity, in the drawer labeled crisper. Leave unwashed until you use them, as water may promote mold
- Condiments: Fine to keep in the door where it's a bit warmer because they contain natural preservatives like salt and vinegar. This includes pickles, ketchup, mayo, and salad dressings
2. Grab a Cart, NOT a Basket
You read that right. This one was really interesting to me since I used to believe the opposite to be true.
A recent study by the Journal of Marketing Research found that when you flex your arm to hold a grocery basket, you're more likely to purchase "impulse items" like candy because they are conveniently within reach at the checkout.
Instead, choose a cart and try to pick up everything you'll need for an entire week in one trip. The less you shop, the more you save.
Besides, pushing around a cart will make you stay focused on only buying what you need.
Speaking of which...
3. Only Buy What Your Need
Before you go to the supermarket, take a look around your kitchen and pantry and then make a list of the items you're going to buy.
Only list the items you truly need.
This will help you avoid buying an item you already have or don't need. By staying focused on your list at the store, you'll be less likely to make impulse purchases.
4. Skip the Circular
There will always be "good deals" or sales, but these tricky in-store marketing tactics will probably cause you to spend more than you intended.
BOGO ("buy one, get one") deals can be tempting, but consider if you really need the item (let alone two of them). And those circular coupons? Forget 'em! They'll probably entice you to buy stuff you wouldn't otherwise buy...which really isn't a deal at all.
Remind yourself that there will always be useful sales in the future. Always. Every dollar you don't spend now is huge!
5. Don't Shop When You're Thirsty
Another slightly strange one, right? You've probably heard about not shopping while you're hungry, but thirst? That's a new one.
It's true, everyone knows the dangers of GSWH (Grocery Shopping When Hungry), but people often underestimate the cost of impulse beverages.
You can easily spend $20 on beverages instead of $2, especially with impulse purchases like the small can of soda or bottle of water at the cashier (speaking from experience here!).
Based on my own experiences and observing others, when you're dehydrated - say after a workout, a night out, or a long day - you end up buying more juice, milk, and soda than you really need, which can easily add up to a nice chunk of change.
6. Get Your "C" (CHEAP) Vegetables
Some of the least expensive, highest nutrient vegetables start with the letter "C" and you should incorporate more into your weekly meals!
For example, cabbage, collard greens, and carrots are extremely healthy and versatile in a variety of dishes. When you purchase them fresh, they're among the cheapest veggies available. Roasted and souped, they're among the most delicious!
Finding ways to buy vegetables for less will not only save you money, but can also help save money on long-term healthcare bills. Win-win!
7. Game the System
Supermarkets frequently put the most expensive, high-margin foods at eye-level since that's where most shoppers quickly look as they shop.
Instead of falling for this marketing trick, look up at the higher shelves and look down at the lower shelves to find better values on similar products. This alone can save you tons of money on a weekly basis.
8. Stop Hatin' on Frozen Foods
Many people think fresh fruits and veggies are the only way to get the health benefits out of produce, but that's simply not true!
Many frozen items are cheaper than their fresh counterparts and are sometimes even more nutritious because they're frozen at the peak of freshness.
Some of my favorites are broccoli, brussel sprouts, berries, and mangoes. They're great for cooking and delicious in smoothies!
9. Don't Buy Milk At the Supermarket
Milk sold at convenience stores and drug stores are usually .30 to .50 cents cheaper per gallon than if you were to buy them at traditional grocery stores.
Just think, if your family goes through two-three gallons of milk per week, the savings could add up to $6.00 per month, or $72 a year!
10. Choose Cash Back Over Coupons
Printing coupons from Coupons.com is great, but you can do better!
Coupons are wonderful when they're convenient and you need to purchase that item anyway. If not they can be a time-waster and compel you to buy unnecessary items.
Instead, use a mobile app that allows you to earn cash back. My favorites:
- Ibotta: Collect cash back on purchases by snapping a photo of your receipt, scanning the product barcode, then unlocking the rebate after answering a question about the product. Cash back is paid via PayPal, Venmo or store gift cards
- Checkout51: Collect cash back by purchasing one generic item per week like tomatoes or apples. Works with any store but there aren't a lot of brand name products to choose from. Cash back is paid via Paypal
- SavingStar: Collect cash back on purchases by snapping a photo of your receipt or automate the process by linking a credit card. Cash back is paid via Paypal or bank deposit
With these 10 simple tips, you'll easily cut your costs on groceries and can invest 15% of your income instead of spending it on taco fixings. Your future self will thank you.