How To Grocery Shop On A Budget

Learning how to grocery shop on a budget can save you thousands of dollars per year. It’s one of those financial skills you can pull from your back pocket to fix your household budget in an emergency situation.

I’ve never been an extreme coupon user or someone that enjoys living frugally. However, I love growing my money by investing so I like to save money in order to invest more. To do this I’ve learned some frugal living hacks like how to grocery shop on a budget.

How to grocery shop on a budget? It just takes planning!

Saving Money At The Grocery Store

Rushing through the store shopping for groceries is unfortunately what many of us do in our day-to-day lives. This is the most expensive way to shop. Without knowledge, planning, and conscious effort the typical grocery shopping method ends up costing you hundreds of dollars per month extra.

You cannot save on groceries if you rushing through the store or too rushes to plan before hand. Once you take the time to go through this process once you will be able to refine it and improve over time.

This post will cover a few of my favorite tips on how to save on your grocery bill, especially if you have children.

Start With Educating Yourself

Saving money on groceries begins with education. Unless you know how to cook and what to buy then you won’t be able to succeed in cutting your budget down. Buying all convenience foods will make your grocery bill substantially higher.

There are two forms of educating yourself on grocery savings:

  • First, you need to learn about ways to cook foods that are easy to fit into your lifestyle.
  • Second, you need to educate yourself on how grocery stores work and the ways you should shop.

Learn About Cheap Meals

There are a ton of great books on how to cook great food on the cheap. A couple good ones include:

budget bytes cookbook to slash your grocery bill

Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half – This book and the blog by the same name are a great resource for learning easy recipes that don’t cost much to make. Beth makes simple recipes and breaks everything by the price per serving of the recipe. It is a great way to educate yourself on how much your favorite foods cost to make at home.

ten dollar dinners to save money on food bills

Ten Dollar Dinners: 140 Recipes & Tips to Elevate Simple, Fresh Meals Any Night of the Week – This book is another fantastic option for educating yourself about affordable meals that you can make during the week. Dinners can be an expensive meal so it will save a lot of money learning how to make these.

Learn About How To Grocery Shop

You can also educate yourself on the basics of how to grocery shop and how to save money on your groceries.

There are many ways to do this from watching YouTube videos and reading blogs to taking a course about saving money on groceries.

This course from my friend Kelly shows you

  • how to learn the grocery store sales cycles
  • how to utilize grocery pickup
  • ways to use apps to save money
  • tips to shop smarter and use what your have
  • how to meal plan efficiently
  • ways to track sales for the best deals
  • how to make a plan for your leftovers
  • shopping for the best price per ounce
  • how to stretch your grocery money further
  • more tips and tricks to save money

The course gives you a lot of real world examples and tips Kelly learned while keeping her grocery budget very low during her debt payoff. It also shows examples of Aldi grocery hauls that you can recreate in order to save money.

My favorite way to save money at the grocery store I learned from the course is by using apps like Fetch & Ibotta. Check out these posts to learn more:

Before The Store: Make A List

First and foremost, make a list.

Before any other step to save money at the grocery store is the fact that you need to make a list. It is mandatory to help you not buy things you don’t need.

Most people, myself included, spend too much money because we are disorganized. We don’t really know what we have at home or what we need at the store. We shop without a list and end up buying things we don’t need and forgetting things we need.

We hit the store with no list, just vibes.

It is a terrible and expensive way to shop.

When you start your grocery shopping experience with a list you are much more likely to save money on food. You’ll know what you need to buy and stick to it.

Let’s look at the steps to take in order to make a money savings grocery trip.

Step 1: Check Your Pantry

Before you make your grocery store list you need to first check your pantry. What do you already have on hand? What foods have you already bought and need to use? This is the first step to saving money.

You can pick some of the items you already have on hand to plan your meals for the week.

You can also decide what items might need to be replenished if they are missing.

Keeping an inventory of what is in your pantry is the best way to make this happen quickly. By always having a list available and updating it when you run out of items you will be able to replenish when things are on sale.

You can try a pantry inventory printable like this one to keep you organized:

Use a pantry inventory list printable to get you organized for grocery shopping on a budget!

Step 2: Set Your Grocery Budget

The next step after seeing what you already have is planning the amount you can spend.

What is your grocery budget for this week? What amount are you able to spend after paying yourself first in your budget? Is it higher or lower than normal? Do you really need to scrimp or is this a week you can stock up on sale items?

Your grocery budget is one of the most flexible line items in your budget and you should take advantage of the weekly flexibility.

When you have a little more to spend you can stock up on pantry staples and sale items for your freezer. If you are short for the week then you can figure out the cheapest meal plan you are comfortable with for a week and make it work.

Set the amount you are able to spend for the week based on your budget and other spending. Once you have this number written down you will then plan everything else around it. You will not go over this amount so your plan will have to account for the budget.

Next you will look at the current grocery sales to see how to grocery shop on a budget.

Step 3: Shop The Sales

When you are learning how to grocery shop on a budget the sales will be your best friend.

Using coupons, sales, and apps all starts before you actually hit the store. It’s the second step in saving money after taking inventory of what you already have.

In this step you’ll look at the weekly grocery sales and determine what foods are cheapest. The sales will include the foods that are currently in season which makes them less expensive. This sale information is how you will plan your meals for the week.

You will also want to check the store coupons and any other coupon sites you enjoy using. Compile these coupons to help you choose the foods you will buy at the stores. take the time to look for coupons or write the manufacturer of your favorite brands and they will send you coupons. Most of them like you to take a survey and then they send you the coupons you check off and some even send samples, can’t beat that.

Finally you will also look at the grocery saving and cash back apps like Ibotta. This will give you another layer of information about the price of foods for the week.

Next you will take all of this price information and plan out your meals for the week (or longer).

Step 3: Make Your Grocery List By Planning Your Meals

Once you have the coupons and sales matched up then you can think about what will go with these items and stay within your budget.

You’ll want to plan out meals for the week based on sale items, typical cheap meals, and things that you love. I know when my children were little they loved spaghetti and meatballs because we would have it average of twice a week. It was a big money stretcher since pasta was a cheap pantry staple. It is really a good meal for children and I always made my own sauce which helped a little for their taste buds.

Make a plan based on all the information you have already. At the very least you should plan for 7 dinners and 7 lunches. Some of those can be leftovers or planned meals outside the home. But you need to have a written plan for your grocery list.

Once you have planned out the meals you have then you need to make a list for the store. Look through the planned meals and add items to your grocery list that you need to complete each one. If you already have it in the pantry you can skip it or add that to the list to replenish your pantry staples.

So we have a list, we have coupons, and we have a meal plan, what is next? Heading to the grocery store!

Shopping To Save

Are you starting to see how prep work is key to how to grocery shop on a budget?

Now that you have the list ready you have several ways to shop:

  1. In person at multiple stores
  2. In person at the store
  3. Shopping online for grocery pickup
  4. Shopping online for grocery delivery

Which option you go with will depend on how much you want to save. I wrote the list above in order of most savings to least savings.

If you shop at multiple stores you’ll be able to get items at the best price depending on who sells them at the lowest price. This option can save you a lot of money but will take considerably more time. If you shop in person at just one store you’ll still save money but you will not always be able to get the lowest price in your area.

Shopping online will save you money because you can easily stick to your list. If you do grocery delivery due to the convenience you’ll need to pay a little bit more. It’s possible you can save enough with good planning to make delivery worth it!

Shopping For Groceries With Intention

When I shop I go to Kroger since I have found that their prices fit my budget. I always make sure I have my list and I am never in a hurry, that can cost you too! Taking my time and shopping with intention saves money in the long run.

When you rush through you may miss something that has been marked to clear out or mistake prices which can give you additional savings.

For instance, I found pork sirloin (tenderloins) mis-marked one day and they said “save 14.97” instead of “save 5.37” like it was supposed to, so I got them for the 5.37 total. If I had been rushing through I would have missed a great deal. Now instead of one meal, I will filet them and into butterfly chops and have many meals for the price of one. I picked up all of the ones that were mis-marked, three in total. I do this often with clearance items too as long as the date is workable. Shopping slowly with the intention of looking for deals that aren’t on your list can help stretch your money further.

That is just one of the many times I have slowly walked the isles and found great bargains to stretch my dollar. This is along with my planning. I always search for bargains that I may have missed or not known about. It is like a big treasure hunt. Each grocery dollar you find can be saved or invested!

Enjoy Feeding Your Family Well

Remember you can feed your family healthy flavorful food for a lot less that you might think. Shopping with a plan and with the intention to save goes a long way. It is easier to to learn how to grocery shop on a budget and make delicious meals.

After you learn to shop for groceries you can then move on to the process of cooking. Even if you don’t enjoy cooking it is possible to learn how to efficiently make meals you enjoy.

Feeding yourself and your family well can be a source of joy when you know it is saving you money to spend on things you love.

Mary is the founder of Pennies Not Perfection where she shares her journey to build wealth through online income. She quit her day job in 2021 after she paid off her debt and doubled her 9-5 salary.

Mary's favorite free financial tool is Personal Capital. She uses their free tools to track net worth and work toward to financial freedom.

Her favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, where she built a custom portfolio for free with no fees. She shares her portfolio growth and savings progress every month on YouTube.