How to Save Money Grocery Shopping

Money / Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Groceries—you can never seem to afford them but you’re living on Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats (which really adds up) without them. If you’re tired of spending your monthly food budget in one go, I have some tips and tricks to help you save money grocery shopping!

Girl, grocery shopping is hella expensive. You would think—at least I assumed when I first moved out on my own—that shopping for one would make the whole thing significantly less expensive than shopping for a whole family. But somehow, buy some un-Godly like calculation, it actually seems more expensive (at least, on a per-person basis), and quite frankly it kind of is.

First, there’s the whole pre-packaged meal deal. Besides your odd Hungry Man or other frozen delicacies (read: sarcasm), portion sizes on pre-made and packaged meals are WAY too big for the solo gal. No one makes a dish of “home-cooked” pre-packaged lasagna for the single lady. Those dishes come in twos, fours or more!

Then there seems to be the law of grocery physics by which I always, and I mean ALWAYS, come out of the store with ten times more than I intended to purchase. Why buy one box of spaghetti when they have a six-for-one deal, you know it won’t go to waste.

All-in-all, grocery shopping is one of the most expensive activities in my adult life that I seem to undertake on an ongoing basis. And it’s a big problem for both my cupboard space and my skimpy wallet. So, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve acquired over the years to save money grocery shopping!

Make a weekly meal plan

Some weeks I am on top of meal planning (and proud of it), but other weeks I totally suck at it. However, if you want to make an honest go to save money grocery shopping, meal planning is one of the best tools in your arsenal. 

Having a weekly meal plan means that you know exactly what you need to buy. That way you don’t end up with a boatload of crap that’s costing you extra money, you can’t actually make a meal out of and you have no room to store (#SmallApartmentProblems). 

Meal planning doesn’t have to be a huge task. I recommend getting yourself a weekly meal planning pad and sitting down with it once a week to quickly plan out meals. You also need to remember to account for leftovers (which can be a real grocery money saver) and make sure you add all of the items that you need to make your meals onto your grocery list.

If you really want to save money grocery shopping, try to plan meals that make use of the ingredients that you are purchasing for other dishes so you don’t end up with 15 types of cheese and buttermilk, regular milk and half-and-half—seriously, who has space for all of that?

Meal planning is also a great way to stay on top of a good, healthy diet. If you give it a thought in advance, you can make sure you have a bit of everything you need to have (like vegetables) and less crap you don’t (like Kraft Dinner).

Make a damn list

I can hear you grumbling and moaning from here, there’s no way I need another list in my life. Girl, I hear you. But instead of being a list that you write and never look at, this list will save you a boatload of cash in the long-run… pending you learn how to use it right.

There are three kinds of groceries you’re going to shop for that you might or might not purchase on a shopping trip:

  1. Regular use items—these are the things that you use on a regular basis for multiple meals, either to actually make dishes like butter, milk and eggs, or to add on to dishes, like pepper, salt and condiments like ketchup.
  2. Meal specific items—these are things that you might or might not regularly stock but you do need them for specific meals or recipes that you’re going to make this week, like ground beef, a loaf of French bread or a 4-pack of yogurt.
  3. Snack items—these are one-off items that you intend to snack on throughout the week but they’re not necessarily part of one of your meals that week like carrots, crackers and granola bars.

Lists are a lifesaver for the over-shopper when it comes to figuring out what to purchase at the grocery store. I don’t know about you, but I always seem to end up with three jars of pickles, two bottles of ketchup and WAY more boxes of pasta than I can count.

Seriously, I have an over-stocking problem and it’s not because I want to have extra, but because I can never seem to remember what I actually have. I’ll be buying a package of say French fries and I’ll start to think… hmm… do I have ketchup? I’ll convince myself that no, I don’t have ketchup, and God-forbid, I have to take another trip to the store so, what do I do? Buy more! And voila. I end up with multiple ketchup bottles that I don’t need and I don’t have the room for. 

While a $3 bottle of ketchup doesn’t seem like a big deal it’s $3 here, $6 there and I end up spending $50 I didn’t need to spend. That’s where a grocery list comes in! 

If you want to save money grocery shopping, get a magnetic list that can stick to your fridge and add regular use items that you finish off as you use them—use the last egg? Add it to the list! Then, before you go grocery shopping add your meal-specific and snack items to the list, then simply grab it and go.

This way you won’t forget anything and you’ll reduce the risk of coming home with way too much.

Adhere to the Reusable Shopping Bag Rule

What is the reusable shopping bag rule, you ask? It’s a little game that I play with myself when I go grocery shopping. 

To cut down on the number of things I buy, I bring along a single reusable shopping bag (or two if I have a bigger item on my list) and purchase only what fits into my bag. This way I not only end up with a reasonable amount of items that I can store, don’t kill my arms trying to get it into the apartment and save money! 

And I always use reusable bags. There’s no need to throw away money on something like a single-use grocery bag. That $0.05 here and there really adds up!

Go shopping more frequently

Going shopping on a more frequent basis sounds counter-intuitive if you’re trying to save money, and it can be… if you spend $150 every single time you head to the grocery store.

But if you spend responsibly and shop right, heading to the local grocery store more frequently can actually save you a lot of money. The method behind this madness of mine is to go more often and spend less.

I was working on a project during my graduate degree and we found that the average Canadian household wasted thousands of dollars a year in groceries. You hear that right, thousands. And, while we didn’t do additional research into it to prove this next point, my estimation is that it’s wasted at a higher rate when you’re single.

This is because people purchase perishable goods that have best before dates and they aren’t able to use the entire product during the time it’s usable. That’s worse for us single folk because you actually save money buying larger items.

A small container of sour cream might be worth $3, but if you buy the larger container for $4 it can double the amount you get. It seems like a good deal until a month later when you’re throwing out ¾ of the larger container and realize you actually wasted the extra $2 you saved… not a great plan.

So, go shopping twice a week and buy only what you’ll use in that timeframe. Ditch the big “deal” containers and opt for the smaller ones. That way you won’t be tossing money at the end of the month!

Budget your groceries

Not budgeting for your groceries is a quick way to end up spending hundreds of dollars that you don’t need. As a girl who has regularly forgone budgeting in the past, I can tell you it’s a quick-and-easy way to spend, spend, spend!

If you want to save money grocery shopping, I highly recommend budgeting groceries on a weekly basis. Limit yourself to a certain amount of money on a per-week basis for groceries, making sure to take into account eating out and visiting your mom’s for free food when it comes to building, and more importantly, using that budget.

I find that a $50 per week budget is more than enough for a single gal to sustain a healthy(ish) eating habit on. If you can pare it down even more, I say go for it, girl!

Grocery shopping on a tight budget

If you’re one of those single ladies out there that finds themselves grocery shopping on a tight budget, I’ll share with you two really important things I’ve learned over the years:

  1. You can totally do it.
  2. And it’s not as hard as you think!

Try out some of these tips and tricks on for size. You might be surprised just how much money you can save yourself! 

How do you save money grocery shopping? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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