12 Tricks for Saving Money at the Grocery Store

One of the biggest necessary expenses in life is food. Groceries are an everyday essential, but if you shop at places like Whole Foods, they can be a costly endeavor. For example, when I was working as a personal chef for a family of five, I spent $600 per week on groceries—which is a lot of money! However, according to Anna Newell Jones, the author an upcoming book about debt-free living that’s featured on Business Insider, you can actually save money when grocery shopping. Jones did just that in 2009 when she paid off $23,000 of debt. So what are her tricks? I round them up below.

  1. Buy food that is non-perishable or freezes well, to avoid empty-pantry syndrome. Empty-pantry syndrome occurs when you have no staples at hand, so you end up going out to eat. In order to stop that from happening, stock up on canned goods, rice, nuts, beans, and noodles. These foods will last for a long time, and you can make a variety of dishes with them.
  2. Perfect a few go-to recipes. Make them often and freeze or package leftovers in single-serving containers. Eat these for lunch the next day instead of buying lunch out.
  3. Do the fake-out. Don’t buy name-brand products. Instead, get the generic brand’s or grocery store’s more affordable coffee, water, or cereal.
  4. Embrace oatmeal. It’s dirt cheap, healthy, and incredibly filling.
  5. Buy special ingredients at ethnic markets. If you’re going to cook Asian or Mexican cuisine, don’t shop in the ethnic aisle at Whole Foods. Buy the ingredients at a local Asian or Mexican market, and you will save significantly.
  6. Consider becoming a secret shopper. Many companies hire people to visit their stores, pretend to be a customer, and then report back about the food experience. Normally you’ll get some sort of reimbursement or payment, perhaps in the form of free groceries.
  7. Shop at the local dollar store. Newell Jones says to get cheap snacks and cereals at your nearby discount center. However, if the dollar store is a binge trigger and you end up buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need because it’s cheap, then don’t shop there.
  8. Avoid recipes that call for unusual ingredients. If you’re not going to make a bunch of hummus, don’t spend money on a giant tub of tahini.
  9. Resist the temptation to stock up on supplies you don’t need. Buying in bulk is only a good idea if you will use the items. There’s a difference between blatantly overbuying and having enough staples.
  10. Ask for gift cards. If you love shopping at Whole Foods but it’s out of your price range, ask you friends and family members for store gift cards for your birthday or Christmas.
  11. Shop local and in-season produce. It’s cheaper to buy foods that are in season, because they are more abundant. They also taste better.
  12. Skip most organic foods. Clean fruits and vegetables like grapefruit, pineapple, and avocados are perfectly okay to eat nonorganic. Only buy organic when you know it makes a difference like with spinach, strawberries, and grapes.

Learn more ways to save by reading Newell Jones book, The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living.

How do you save at the grocery store?