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I will admit that I am a voracious deal-shopper. To the point that I probably spend way too much time searching for the best deal. But, with the average American spending $4,643 at the grocery store every year, just a 10% savings amounts to nearly $500. That seems well worth investing a little bit of time to me.
What does your grocery spend look like? Ready to start saving some money? Here is a list I’ve put together of my best frugal grocery shopping tips.
- The Basics
- Clipping Coupons
- Sales & Discounts
- Loyalty Programs
- Curbside & Delivery
- Cashback Credit Cards
- Other Tips
The first set of frugal shopping tips are general pointers that are easy to implement. No pre-planning, research, or coupon-clipping required.
Before stepping a foot in that grocery store, come up with a budget. You can use some of your previous shopping trips as guidance on what you usually spend.
Once you have a number in mind, do your best to stick to this number.
#2. Shop With a List
Another good step to take before you venture off to the grocery store is to make a list. This saves you money in two ways. One, you don’t have to make extra trips for items you forgot. And two, you can avoid buying items you don’t need.
Also, consider writing down the price of every item as you cross it off your list. This will save you from sticker shock when you reach checkout.
#3. Put items back
If your shopping trip is going over budget, or a particular item is not on your list, don’t be afraid to put it back on the shelf. One item can quickly turn into two, three, four, and so on.
If the item is one that you need and it wasn’t on your list, add it to your list before you get to checkout.
#4. Shop In Season
This one is important for produce. Instead of paying exorbitant prices for strawberries in January, buy them when they are in season, which is April – July.
If the item is not in season, consider buying frozen. The frozen version was likely packaged when the item was in-season, so you could get better flavor than the fresh but out-of-season version.
#5. Avoid Prepared Foods
Cooking is a pain, and sometimes you just need an easy meal. I get it. But try to limit the prepared food you buy. Or buy just part of the meal prepared and make your own sides for a balance of saving time and money.
And when it comes to fresh produce, cut it yourself instead of buying pre-cut.
#6. Don’t Shop Hungry
When I come home with a trunk full of groceries, my husband always asks “did you buy all of aisle 8?” It’s a running joke in our house, and this kind of shopping is always the result of shopping while hungry.
Don’t do this.
Eat a meal or a snack before your shopping trip to avoid the eyes-bigger-than-your-grocery-budget scenario.
#7. Leave Kids at Home
Another budget killer is taking children (and sometimes spouses) along on your shopping trip. When the whole family goes, it is twice as hard to keep track of what goes in the cart.
Also, if your kids or spouse are impatient, an attempt at express shopping could make you miss out on potential sales and discounts.
So, if at all possible, make your grocery shopping trip a solo adventure.
You don’t need to be an extreme couponer to take advantage of coupon savings. Between newspapers, websites and apps, there are so many ways to find and use coupons, even someone short on time or new to frugal shopping can save money.
#8. Sunday Paper Coupons
The tried and true way to collect coupons is from your Sunday paper. Unfortunately, the Sunday paper is not free.
You can try to find discounted or free Sunday paper coupons by purchasing the paper on discount, talking to neighbors who don’t use the coupons, or stalking your apartment complex’s junk mail bin.
#9. Weekly Paper Coupons
If you are lucky, your city might also deliver a midweek newspaper for free. These papers usually come with an assortment of grocery coupons, though the selection is much smaller than the Sunday paper. But hey, at least they are free.
If you have a printer, then you don’t even need a newspaper to get coupons, you can print them online. Coupons.com has a variety of coupons available for various grocery items.
They do make you sign in so that you can only print each coupon once. Because of this, I highly recommend using the print to PDF feature so that a paper jam or ink-out situation doesn’t deprive you of your coupons.
#11. Digital Coupons – Manufacturer
Most grocery stores these days now have their own website and/or app where you can clip digital coupons. Simply click or tap a button to clip the coupon and it is automatically stored to your loyalty card/account.
Some stores even allow you to use paper coupons and digital coupons at the same time, just make sure you read the fine print.
#12. Store Coupons
Many grocery stores with their own couponing website or app, will also offer their own coupons, otherwise called Store Coupons.
At Kroger, these coupons sometimes have the benefit of being used multiple times. For example, a $1 off crackers coupon could be applied to 5 boxes of crackers.
At stores like Target, these coupons can come in the form of a percentage off, i.e. 10% off frozen broccoli.
Coupons offered at Costco and other Warehouse clubs are automatically applied at checkout, no clipping needed.
#13. Loyalty Coupons
Several grocery stores provide customer-specific coupons. These loyalty coupons are based on individual shopping habits and are not available to all customers. For instance, I buy a lot of cheese at Kroger, so I often find extra cheese coupons available on my loyalty account.
#14. Coupon Displays
When you are in the store shopping, keep your eyes peeled for coupon displays. Sometimes it’s those little red beeping boxes that spit out one coupon at a time. Or it’s a post-it-note-style pad where you can tear off as many coupons as you want. Just leave some for the rest of the customers.
These are coupons that are printed at checkout. So while they can’t help you on your current shopping trip, they may be able to help you on your next shopping trip.
Some catalinas are coupons that give you X amount off a future purchase of XYZ brand product.
Others give you X amount off your future shopping trip. This is like free cash. Just pay special attention to the expiration date as these catalinas are usually only good for a week.
#16. Product Packaging
Sometimes the item you buy will have its own coupon attached to the packaging somewhere. In certain cases, these are coupons that you can peel off the product and redeem during checkout. These are most often seen on cat litter, dog food, and non-perishables.
Other products have coupons in their packaging. Either printed on the cardboard/paper package or as a loose coupon in the box. So check that empty box before you toss it.
Sales & Discounts
If you don’t have time to clip coupons, or your store doesn’t offer a loyalty program, you can still save money on your shopping trip by keeping your eyes peeled in store for various sales and discounts.
#17. Buy the Brand On Sale
If you don’t have any specific loyalty to a brand, then consider shopping the sales. For instance, if you need shampoo, but don’t care which brand, buy the on-sale Garnier Fructis instead of the regularly priced Herbal Essences.
Just make sure the on-sale one is actually cheaper than the regularly-priced item.
#18. Store Brand
Another good tip for products where you aren’t picky about the brand is to purchase the store brand. The store brand is often cheaper, and can often be on sale or have coupons.
Just be aware that if you like a certain taste, the store brand may disappoint. For instance, I love, love, love Dr. Pepper. And the store brand stuff does not even remotely taste the same.
#19. Buying in Sale Quantities
Sometimes the sale on an item is only for specific quantities, i.e. $1 off two boxes of cereal. The signs on these sale items can be tricky, so be sure to read the fine print to avoid surprises at checkout.
And don’t purchase more than you can use by the expiration date.
#20. Mix & Match
Some sales allow you to mix and match certain products. Kroger, Albertsons, Tom Thumb, and other such stores often do this. You are required to buy 5 or 10 participating items, so make sure you keep track of items on your shopping list to make sure you have enough qualifying items at checkout.
Another common sale type is the buy one get one free, or BOGO. The quantities and discount amounts can vary. I.E. Buy 2 get the third free, buy one get the second one half off, buy 4 boxes of cereal, get a gallon of milk for free, etc.
If you are lucky, you may even be able to use coupons and rebates on these items to save even more money.
#22. Free Gift Card
Only a handful of stores use free gift card promotions.
Target is one store that I have found that consistently does this. Most often they do this for toiletries, pet products, and baby products. These promos require you to buy a certain quantity or dollar total and reward you with a gift card ranging in value from $5 to $20.
#23. Clearance Stickers
Every store has a unique clearance sticker. Sometimes they are on the shelf, while other times the clearance sticker is applied directly to the product. At Kroger, the clearance shelf stickers are usually white with a red border while the on-product stickers are bright yellow.
Familiarize yourself with what the clearance stickers look like at your grocery store and keep your eyes peeled for them to land substantial savings.
#24. Discount Bin
In addition to searching for clearance stickers, be sure to raid your store’s discount bin. Many stores have one or more of these scattered throughout the store. I.E. one in produce, one in canned goods.
Many people shy away from the discount and clearance bins because they think the items there are damaged or close to the expiration date. But items can end up in the discount bin for other reasons, such as seasonal, oversupply, packaging changes, damaged packaging, no longer stocked items, etc.
#25. Bulk Buying
Another way to take advantage of sales is to buy in bulk when you see a good price. This is best done for non-perishables like canned food, frozen veggies, or laundry detergent. Just make sure you have enough room in your home to store the extras.
#26. Vacuum Packing
If you want to take advantage of low prices on produce and meat, consider purchasing a vacuum sealer. While they can be pricey, the savings they can offer you over their lifetime can be huge.
My husband purchased a vacuum sealer nearly ten years ago, and it is still chugging along. And we perpetually have a freezer full of discount meat and on-sale fruit.
Even after you’ve checked out and gone home, there are still opportunities to save money on your groceries. Rebate programs and apps are one way to get back some of the money you spent.
This app allows you to scan your grocery receipts to get cash back on your purchases. You simply select the offers you want to redeem, snap pics of your receipt, and then verify purchases (usually by scanning individual barcodes).
They also offer bonus earnings for certain brands, for redeeming X number of rebates, and for completing team challenges. Some stores even let you link your loyalty account to Ibotta so that you don’t even need to scan a receipt.
You can then redeem your rewards in Paypal cash or as a gift card that you can use on your next grocery purchase.
#28. Store Cashback
Several grocery stores now offer their own cashback program. Kroger lets you clip offers just like you would coupons. And you can apply the cashback directly to your rewards account for money off your next purchase.
Another app that allows you to scan your receipt for rewards is Fetch. Instead of earning cash back, you earn points. They usually have only a handful of high-point offers, but they have multiple partner brands allowing you to earn points for purchasing specific brands of products.
For instance, if you buy Huggies diapers instead of Pampers, you’ll earn more points.
You can redeem these points for a variety of gift cards.
#30. Coupons.com App
In addition to a website where you can print off coupons, Coupons.com offers an app where you use “coupons” to get cashback. Their coupons offers are usually limited and can be store-specific, but each time you redeem an offer the money is immediately transferred to your PayPal account.
This app is similar to Ibotta but with fewer earning options. Many of the grocery rebates are store-specific and/or quantity-specific. Checkout51 does however redeem directly to your PayPal with no minimum required and they usually offer potential earnings on watching video advertisements and taking surveys. They also sponsor a monthly giveaway just for uploading a receipt.
This app is similar to Ibotta with the focus being more on online shopping, but they do offer grocery rebates in addition to cashback on a variety of other activities including playing games and watching videos.
You can cash out using one of their many gift card options including a PayPal gift card.
#33. Receipt Hog
Receipt Hog allows you to earn cash back on your purchases anywhere. Simply scan a receipt from any grocery store, convenience store, gas station, restaurant, etc. to earn coins or spins on the hog slot.
With a low rewards rate, it does take a while to earn any significant rewards, but it can be worth it for only a few minutes to snap a picture of each receipt lying around your house.
#34. Manufacturer Rebates
You don’t see too many of these at the grocery store. I have most often seen them on cat litter and cleaning products. These old-school rebates usually take a little extra effort as you’ll need to register your purchase online or by mail and wait for a snail-mailed check.
Similar to rebates, loyalty programs offer you incentives to shop only their brand of products. This can be in the form of cashback, coupons on future purchases, free products, and more.
#35. Pampers Rewards App
If you currently have a little one in diapers, then you know just how expensive everyday diapering can be. Any money that you can save on diapers is worth pursuing.
Pampers has its own rewards app that allows you to earn points on each diaper purchase. These points can then be redeemed for diaper coupons, photos, gift cards, and more.
It is worth mentioning that Huggies previously had their own app, but switched to a partnership with Fetch for future rewards earning.
#36. Enfamil & Similac
The only baby-related grocery store cost that is a bigger hit to the budget than diapering, is feeding. Formula is expensive. Luckily, most big-name formula brands offer a loyalty program.
These loyalty programs allow you to sign up before your little one is born and they’ll send you free samples. We’re not talking a serving or two either, these are usually large-size samples.
They also send coupons that you can use on your formula purchases. Similac tracks the usage of these coupons and will send you a coupon for the full value of a can of formula once you’ve earned enough rewards. Enfamil allows you to earn special rewards and discounts on purchases directly from their website.
#37. Warehouse Membership
Memberships to warehouses like Sam’s Club and Costco also offer rewards, though the level of rewards you get might depend on the level of membership.
For instance, the Costco Executive membership offers you 2% cashback on all of your purchases in the form of an annually issued check. You can only use this check at the Costco store. This is a worthwhile benefit if you do a lot of shopping at Costco.
#38. Limited Time Rewards & Sweepstakes
Be on the lookout for programs that run for a limited time or offer short-run sweepstakes. You can find these kinds of programs on lots of grocery products. I’ve seen these run on various cereal brands, CocaCola, Pepsi, Lunchables, and more.
These programs usually offer you the opportunity to earn free products and the potential to win huge prizes. If you were already going to buy the product, then why not try your luck.
Curbside & Delivery
When you don’t have the time or energy to expend on physically going to the store and shopping yourself, it can be difficult to find ways to save money on your groceries. That said, there are usually special deals out there that are only available for this type of shopping.
#39. Curbside & Delivery coupons
Check your store’s loyalty/coupon program before you checkout. Often times there are specific coupons that only apply to curbside or delivery services.
I’ve seen these offered at Kroger, Target, and Walmart. They usually apply to non-perishables though you sometimes find them for frozen items and other pre-packaged products. I.E. $5 off a large bag of dog food for pickup orders.
#40. Product Upgrades
Another bonus to curbside and delivery orders are stockouts that result in free upgrades. I.E. the store was out of the brand of cheese you wanted, so they gave you a more expensive brand at the lower cost.
On a recent Walmart pickup, I scored a larger block of cheddar cheese, a bigger package of ground beef, and a better brand of frozen veggies for no extra charge. These upgraded substitutions would have cost me $10!
You do have to watch your receipts though because not all substitutions are free.
#41. Delivery Services Partnerships
On the delivery side of things, many grocery stores have partnered with delivery services to offer you discounts. This can be in the form of a coupon off your entire purchase or a certain number of deliveries with a waived fee.
Just be sure to calculate how much the shopper tip will eat into your savings.
#42. New Delivery Signups
Going directly through the delivery service instead of the grocery store can also net you some savings. They will usually waive the delivery fee on a certain number of deliveries, and/or reduce or remove the delivery fee on a certain dollar total for the order.
#43. Amazon Subscription
An often overlooked way to save money on your groceries is to use Amazon’s subscription service. This service allows you to save 5% to 20% off each item you add to your monthly delivery. Adding 6 or more items to your delivery results in a higher percentage per item off.
They also offer special coupons on certain items that apply to your first order, or first few orders, of that item.
#44. Monetize Spare Time
This isn’t so much a grocery savings tip as it is a money-making tip, but, if you recently switched to curbside or delivery, you could try monetizing the time you are no longer spending in the grocery store.
For instance, signup to be a delivery driver for UberEats, DoorDash, etc., and see if you can’t find a delivery or two on your way home from a pickup. Or if you are a WholeFoods shopper, consider joining Amazon Flex to deliver groceries while you wait on your order to be ready.
Many of the food delivery services like Instacart also offer discounts for their drivers/shoppers who want to try out their services.
Cashback Credit Cards
Another easy way to save money on your grocery bill after the fact is to use a rewards credit card. Be sure to look for one that fits your spending habits and earns maximum rewards at the stores that you shop.
#45. Store Credit Cards
If you do all of your grocery shopping at one store then consider a store-branded credit card.
- The Target credit card offers 5% cashback on all of your Target purchases.
- The Kroger credit card offers 2 points per $1 spent at Kroger and 1point per $1 everywhere else.
- The Costco Anywhere Visa offers 4% cash back on gas, 3% cash back on restaurants and travel, and 2% cash back at Costco.
#46. Amex Blue Cash Everyday & Blue Cash Preferred
If you spread out your shopping to multiple grocery stores, then a card with grocery stores as an earnings category may be a better fit.
The Amex Blue Cash Preferred is the premier credit card for grocery shopping rewards, offering 6% cashback on grocery spending up to $6000 a year. There is a heft annual fee of $95, but you can always go with the no annual fee Blue Cash Everyday card that offers 3% at grocery stores.
#47. Capital One Savor
This credit card offers 4% cash back on dining out and entertainment, and 3% at grocery stores. Along with 1% cashback on all other purchases. And, there is no annual fee.
#48. Citi Double Cash Card
This credit card offers 2% cashback on all of your purchases everywhere. You earn 1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay for the purchase. This card does not charge an annual fee.
Finally, here are a few bonus tips on how to save some extra moolah at the grocery store.
#49. Moving Prescriptions & Shots
Many stores offer a one-time discount on your groceries if you move over a prescription to their pharmacy. You can also find one-time shopping discounts for obtaining certain shots, like the flu shot or a Covid shot.
#50. Price Matching
It can be difficult to price match grocery products at the store, so you’ll want to read the store’s fine-print on what they will and will not price match. They often won’t honor sales, coupons, certain retailers, certain quantities, etc.
#51. Change Stores
If prices start going up at your store, or they change their coupon/rewards policy, consider switching stores. You might have to learn a new rewards program or new coupon policy, but it can be worth it once the savings start rolling in.
#52. Shopping Surveys
This often forgotten shopping hack could win you free groceries. Many stores, like Target, Kroger, etc. offer a survey opportunity at the bottom of each receipt. These shopping surveys usually only take a minute or two and you could win gift cards, cash, and free groceries.
#53. Stack Your Savings
The single best frugal shopping tip is to combine all the savings you can to score the best price. Use coupons and rebates on the same item, shop the sales and use a cashback credit card, price match and budget to control costs. Only time and effort can limit your grocery store savings.
I like to save money, and if you are reading this, then I’m guessing that you like to save money too. Hopefully the tips I’ve listed can help you score some significant savings on your next grocery shopping adventure.
And if you run across any tip that I may have missed, please share your frugal find.