Inflation is through the roof, and we’re all feeling the pain. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices increased by 15% from January 2021 through September 2022. While the Fed is taking steps to rein in inflation, relief hasn’t reached us yet. We’re still dealing with cost increases unseen since the early 1980s.
If you’re feeling the pain and need tips to cut grocery costs, we’ve curated a list that could save you up to 50% off your next grocery bill.
1. Plan Your Meals Ahead
We’re all guilty of wandering through the grocery store, picking up items that sound good to us at the moment. However, that bad habit can add a pretty hefty increase to your bill. Rather than going grocery shopping at the last minute, plan your trips in advance.
Identify the meals you need for the week and all of their ingredients. Make a grocery list of everything you need and stick to it. Stay away from the grocery aisles that don’t contain the food you need (like the candy aisle).
Once you get in the habit of making a shopping list, you’ll likely see your costs go down.
2. Avoid the “I Ran Out of…” Trips to the Grocery Store
Chances are, you make more than one trip to the grocery store each week. You may run low on milk or crave a 12-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper. Whatever the reason, try to minimize or eliminate the extra trips to the store.
You’ll probably buy things you don’t need, which adds to your monthly costs. If you genuinely need an item to cook a meal you’ve already planned, try to purchase it from your local 7-11 or other mini-mart. That way, you keep impulse buys to a minimum.
3. Beans Are Your Friend…
Beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you – STOP! Beans are one of the most filling and nutritious foods in grocery stores. They’re also incredibly cheap. The more meals you cook that include beans, the better, especially if you want to cut your grocery bill.
Our advice is to check out all the delicious meals available that include beans as the dish’s focal point. With a little extra seasoning and some side ingredients, beans can become one of your primary protein sources at a fraction of the cost of animal meats like beef and chicken.
4. …and So Are Casseroles
For decades, casseroles have been a staple of the American diet. However, many people tend to disregard them as being “too much like what my grandma used to cook.” It’s time to let go of your biases against casseroles and accept them as a cheap way to fill your family’s stomachs while saving on food costs.
A casserole is always an option regardless of what kind of cuisine you prefer. There are thousands of Mexican, Italian, Southern-style, vegan, and keto-friendly casseroles that you can make in advance and freeze until your family is ready to eat them.
Individuals who cook only for themselves or a partner are in luck – you can freeze many casseroles in individual portions. You cook the casserole and divide it into separate containers for freezing. On the day you’re ready to eat your meal, let it thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours before reheating it in the oven.
5. Stay Away From Foods That Don’t Fill You Up
Many foods are tasty but have little nutritional value and don’t tide you over to your next meal. Pretty much any packaged snack should be left on the grocery store shelves. They’re an expense that will add to your waistline and chip away at your wallet. Granola bars, potato chips, crackers, and candy contain little fiber and protein (even so-called healthy ones).
Other foods can keep you full between lunch and dinner if you’re a snacker. Consider hummus and celery sticks, unsalted trail mix, plain Greek yogurt and fruit, or apples and peanut butter.
6. Look for Store Brand Options
Many times, the only difference between store-brand food and name-brand versions is the label. If you’re purchasing canned or packaged goods to use in a recipe, you won’t notice any difference in the taste.
Cereals and soda are the only store-brand foods that may not taste as good as the real thing. Everything else you buy should be the store-brand version unless the name-brand is cheaper.
7. Don’t Buy Groceries To Last More Than a Week
When you plan every meal, you’ll use everything you purchase during your weekly grocery shopping trip. There is no reason why you should be housing extra food in your pantry unless they are staple items like flour, sugar, or spices.
According to RTS, the average American family of four throws away $1,600 of food each year. That’s equal to approximately 320 pounds of beef or 1,143 apples. You can keep the money in your pocket and avoid contributing to food waste simply by planning your weekly meals.
8. You Don’t Need Protein Bars
Protein bars are one of the most expensive items at the grocery store, and most people don’t need them. Unless you’re an Olympic athlete who requires hundreds of grams of protein daily, you’ll meet your nutritional needs through your regular diet.
To keep your protein intake up, consider protein shakes or Greek yogurt. Both products are inexpensive if you don’t go for top-name brands and buy in bulk.
9. Quit Your Soda Habit
Many of us are guilty of a soda habit. Whether you find yourself stocking up on cases or bottles, soda isn’t doing you any favors. Regular soda contains lots of sugar, and diet soda contains artificial sweeteners known to increase sugar cravings, among other health issues.
If you reach for the soda at the grocery store, try switching to water. Water keeps you hydrated, can increase your mental focus, and ensures your bodily functions run smoothly. If your home water is safe to drink, feel free to run to the faucet whenever you’re thirsty. Those concerned about chemicals can purchase a water purifier for less than $100 on Amazon.
10. Shop at the Cheapest Grocery Stores
Step away from the beautiful displays at Whole Foods and look to your local discount grocery store for your grocery needs. Grocery store chains like Aldi, Wal-Mart, and Trader Joe’s are known for their low-cost prices on all types of foods.
While bulk-shopping meccas like Costco and Sam’s Club can save you money on grocery prices, you’ll probably end up with some food that goes to waste, which negates the savings you’re looking for. They’re also tempting places for extra purchases that you don’t need. Unless you’re buying for a family of five or more, you probably don’t need a Costco or Sam’s Club membership.
Those with access to a government commissary should do their grocery shopping there. Under federal law, commissaries sell all their goods at cost plus a surcharge of 5%. On average, you can save up to 30% on your bill simply by shopping at the commissary.