We’ve all been there. Needing just a few items at the grocery store only to end up with a full basket and a whopper of a grand total. If you’re determined to lower your bottom line and save money on groceries, you’ll be glad to know there are plenty of ways to keep your wallet just as full as your cart—from using coupons to downloading grocery savings apps and more. Keep scrolling to find our smart and savvy list of hacks on how to save money the next time you’re cruising the aisles.
Shop online and do drive-thru pick up. You might balk at the fee some grocery stores charge to bring the groceries to your car but consider the money you'll save by not wandering the aisles with kids who'll no doubt beg for every snack in sight?
Plan your meals.
To avoid over-buying on your next grocery run, plan your meals ahead. Write out the days of the week and under each heading, choose what you’ll be eating and what ingredients you need so you can streamline (and save on!) your trip. Recovering Spender author and financial life coach Lauren Greutman puts things into perspective. "If we spend $25 on pizza every week, we're forking out an extra $1300 a year on takeout!"
Shop in stores where you know the layout. Quick trips to the grocery store can turn into a free-for-all if you don't know where everything is, especially when you are tired or in a hurry.
Stay away from pre-chopped veggies.
You may be tempted to reach for those containers of ready-chopped onions, celery, and carrots, but they also come with a higher price tag. According to consumerreports.org, you'll be paying almost double for that pre-prepped status. Instead, opt for buying the entire vegetable and set aside time for choppings.
Shop during the quiet hours.
When the store is crowded with busy, tired folks and crying babies, all you want to do is get your shopping done. There's little chance of you taking the time to price compare or search for bargains. Instead, hit the aisles when fewer customers are around, and you'll feel less stressed to get a move on. Want to know what hours to avoid? The Time Use Institute states that the busiest hours of the day are 4 p.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays, and from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m or so on the weekends.
If you’re shopping on a budget, consider adding Meatless Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday) to your weekly meal rotation. You’ll save on one of the most expensive staples on your grocery list and you’re guaranteed to get in all of your greens! In fact, a study published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition found that vegetarians save up to $750 a year by going meatless.
Become a coupon clipper.
We’re not saying you need to audition for the next season of Extreme Couponing, but before you head to the store, do a quick online search for any coupons that will apply to the items on your grocery list. You’ll also want to check if your grocery store has its own app. Many stores like Target and Kroger have their own app with additional digital coupons you can use.
Download cash back apps.
As you’re looking for coupons on the items on your grocery list, take a few minutes to download cash back apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51. These apps allow you to earn a percentage or dollar amount back on certain items after you upload a photo of your receipt. And while they may be small amounts at first (25 cents back on any item, for instance), they add up quickly!
You probably have a few brands that you’ve used for years, but when it comes to everyday items like salt or flour, you can make your wallet a little happier by buying generic. Brandless offers tons of food items for under $3
Look up or down.
Did you know that supermarkets often stock the priciest items at eye level? When you’re looking for the best deal, remind yourself to look on those top and bottom shelves.
Buy in bulk.
If cheese is on your list, spring for a block. Grated cheddar is almost always more expensive. And, when a family staple, like chicken noodle soup, goes on sale 10 for $10, go ahead and load up! If you don't have room in the pantry, ask a store associate if you can still get the discounted price.
Don’t shop while hungry.
Heading to the store on an empty stomach? Do your budget a favor and eat first. Grocery shopping while hungry can lead you to buy much more than you need and make impulse purchases. Like Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping says, "more than 60% of what we buy wasn’t on our list."
Send the most economic partner to the store. If one partner is more likely to use coupons, look for bargains or attempt to spend the absolute minimum amount possible, consider having that partner tackle the big shopping trips (quick weeknight trips don't count—those are anyone's game!).
Buy frozen vegetables and fruit.
Depending on what’s in season, you can save a few bucks by buying your vegetables in the freezer section. Certain grocery stores like Trader Joe’s often have frozen veggies and fruit for under $2 so you can stock up!
Find bargains online.
In the days of Amazon Fresh and other online retailers, you can easily find food at bargain prices—you just have to know where to look. consumereports.org suggests buying the following non-perishable items online to save your hard-earned dollars: snack bars, coffee, baby food, pasta and more.
Feature photo: Pexels