10 Unexpected Grocery Hacks to Keep You on Budget

I hope one of these ten grocery hacks that I'm about to give you will have you thinking a little outside the box to help you spend less money when you go grocery shopping.

Putting these different strategies together helped me to knock almost $200 off my grocery budget last month.

Below are some of the things I did to lower my grocery bill.

Writing shopping list

1. Reverse shopping list

I started with a reverse shopping list, and for a long time, as recent as a few months ago, I used to create my shopping list by walking around my kitchen and writing down all the things that I could think of that I was missing in my kitchen cabinets and my refrigerator.

Now, instead of writing down what I don't have, I start by writing down what I do have and then decide what I need to buy to go with those things. This plays into the whole idea of meal planning.

You should start by taking inventory of what you already have in your cabinet, freezer, or refrigerator, and then build your meals based on those items.

This ensures that you only pick up things that will complement what you already have at home, which means you will use up what you have.


2. Shop late

Go to the grocery store later in the day, preferably during the evening, because this is when many stores mark down items nearing expiration.

You can get discounts on fresh produce, bakery goods, and meat. It is a good way to get quality items at a fraction of the original cost.

Paying cashier

3. Carry cash only

Leave your credit and debit cards at home and bring only a predetermined amount of cash to the store.

If you have a budget set and a shopping list created, then you know how much money you need and how much you can afford to spend.

If you only bring that amount of cash to the store, then when the money runs out, that's it. There's no overspending.

Carrying shopping basket

4. Downsize your shopping cart

Do you know how using a smaller plate for your meals helps you with portion control so you eat less and then lose weight?

The same idea applies to food shopping.

You can choose one of those small double-decker carts at some grocery stores or even just use a basket while walking through the grocery store.

Having this smaller vehicle keeps you from filling up the extra space in a larger cart with a lot of unnecessary items. It keeps you more mindful and intentional about what you're grabbing because you know it all won't fit.

Dairy products

5. Grocery shop online

So many grocery stores, including discount chains like Aldi, use Instacart or have their service where you can place your grocery order online and then go to the store to pick up your preselected items.

With some, you can pay online ahead of time or when you get to the store if you're using cash. This approach is another way to help eliminate the temptation to buy extra things you see when you're strolling through the aisles.

It's just better if you never see it in the first place.

Gift card

6. Buying grocery store gift cards

Purchase a gift card for your grocery store in the amount of your monthly grocery budget.

This one probably works best for you if you shop at only one or two grocery stores, but it keeps your grocery money separate and limited, so you can keep that spending in check.

It also helps you track your grocery spending easily because you can just check your gift card balance to see how much you've spent and how much you have left.

Whatever money you have left on the card, you can just roll over to the next month's grocery budget. For those who are wondering, there are no fees for grocery store gift cards.

Kellogg's vs store brand price

7. Try cheaper brands

This is one that you would think would be a given, but my husband and I still go back and forth on this one sometimes.

When I see a cheaper alternative to a food brand we like, I opt to get the cheaper one. I recognize that not all brands are created equal, but it's always worth trying a new brand if it costs significantly less.

For instance, we like Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats, but the 24-ounce box costs $6.59 at regular price. The 18-ounce store brand only costs $ 2.59, which means I can get two boxes of the store brand version, giving me 36 ounces of cereal for $1.21 less than the cost of one box of the name brand version, and there's no difference in the flavor.

Couple shopping

8. Shop alone

Leave anybody you know will be asking for things that are not on your list at home. Do not take them to the grocery store with you because, inevitably, they will make a convincing case for why you should buy something, and you'll spend more than you intended.

With fewer distractions, you can focus solely on your shopping list, making it easier to stay on track and within your budget.

Shopping bags

9. Save and bring your shopping bags from home

This is for those who live in areas or frequent stores where plastic bags are banned, and there are a few in my area.

Instead of paying for paper bags every time you go, you can just invest a few dollars in the reusable ones they sell, or you can save up your plastic shopping bags from other stores and then bring them with you.

I put a whole stash of them in the trunk of my car, so I always have them when I go to the store.

Shopper loyalty app

10. Use shopper loyalty apps

Take advantage of your cell phone and download your grocery store's app.

Not only are they useful for doing your food shopping online, but the grocery store apps also provide digital coupons that can be scanned at the checkout or digitally loaded directly to your account. This gives you instant savings without cutting anything out and scanning anything beyond your rewards card.

Grocery hacks

What are your favorite grocery hacks? Share your strategies for saving money on groceries in the comments below. Check back often for more money-saving tips.

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2 of 4 comments
  • P P on Dec 12, 2023
    Cut coupons out of the newspaper supplements, then arrange by broad categories in a file box. Arrange the categories by how YOUR favorite store is laid out! Mark coupons you have to use this trip in highlighter in a streak near top so you can spot it if fan thru your file while in the store, or even turn soon to expire & need to use for things buying this trio on end within their category! Looks wild, but who cares if it works! At end of month, only have to sort those on end out &to discard, (or send to someone on a military base overseas if they can use in their P.X.!)
  • Doris Doris on Apr 03, 2024
    I thank GOD that I eat mostly vegetables, fish and chicken, vegetables hasreally gotten expensive so my extra funds go to food and gas, something that I have to have