8 Ways to Save Money On Groceries Without Couponing
Grocery shopping is not my most favorite pass time, and it’s probably not yours either. There’s a lot of work that goes into it with planning, budgeting, shopping, loading and unloading, and all of that before you even get to cook, enjoy, and have to clean up. But it is an essential part of life and a very important part of the budget, so it’s good topic to focus on and look for ways to improve. The way groceries affect the budget directly affects your ability to pay off debt, save for retirement, or spend money on what’s most important to you.
Before we get started, let me say that I am not against couponing. I have just never found a knack for it and right now I don’t have the spare time to put into it. It’s more beneficial for me to spend some time planning and budgeting to save money rather than shopping for coupons. All of the methods I’m going to cover in this post make great alternatives to couponing and while some of them may work together, you won’t be able to do all of them (like shopping at Aldi and using grocery pick up, because Aldi doesn’t offer that!). The important thing is to review these methods, maybe even try a couple of them out, and see what works best for you in helping you save money on groceries.
1. Meal Plan
Meal Planning has absolutely changed the way we grocery shop and how we spend money on groceries. Previously, we would buy a ton of unnecessary things and then still have to make multiple trips back to the store to buy what we actually needed. But now that we have a plan and a system, things are so much easier and we don’t waste as much food, money, or time. When you are first starting to meal plan, the goal is to keep it simple and just go with meals you know and love. You can change things slowly as you go so that you don’t overwhelm yourself with this new habit in the beginning. And if you don’t know what to cook or what recipes are budget-friendly, you can try $5 Meal Plan which will send you a weekly meal plan with meals that all cost under $5 to make. Right now you can even sign up for a FREE 14 Day Trial.
2. Shop at Aldi.
Aldi is awesome because their business structure allows them to keep their costs super low, which makes their groceries cheaper, and in turn reduces your grocery spending. Most likely you will be able to find everything or almost everything here. You do have to take your own grocery bags and a quarter to use the carts. Instead of paying employees to collect and return carts, they have you deposit a quarter to use the cart and you don’t get it back until the cart is returned to the corral. Because they keep expenses like these so low it allows them to have low prices! If you don’t have an Aldi in your area, just try to shop generic brand or look for a surplus or value store in your area.
3. Shop Amazon Prime and Subscribe + Save.
If you’re already paying for an Amazon Prime membership anyway, you might consider buying some of the items on your grocery list from Amazon. Some items will be cheaper on Amazon than at your local grocery store and you can take advantage of the free shipping. There is also the option to subscribe and save. So you schedule reoccurring delivery of an item and get an even deeper discount. We love purchasing dog food from Amazon because it’s cheaper than we can find it at the store and it arrives on our doorstep (side note: we do include dog food in the regular grocery budget and it’s something that we plan for). You can also sign up for Amazon Family and get deals like 20% off diaper subscriptions.
Related: Is Amazon Prime Worth It?
4. Make Simple Meals.
If you’re making complicated meals with a lot of ingredients, you’re probably buying a lot and wasting a lot. Opt for simpler meals and recipes that allow you to use ingredients you typically always have on hand and that don’t require you to buy a lot of things that will take months to use up. We try to keep our pantry to a minimum so that it doesn’t get too cluttered. If it’s cluttered that probably means there’s a lot of food in there that’s already expired and that’s money wasted. We keep it simple both with the meal plan itself and the food we choose to make.
5. Use the Circular Ads.
Most grocery stores run a circular ad each week that features their sales. These are not coupons, just items that are on sale already. We like to create a meal plan and a grocery shopping list based off of the circular ad. I do a quick skim of the ads before starting to meal plan. If tortillas are on sale, we’re having tacos and if strawberries are on sale, I stock up and freeze what we won’t eat immediately. This is much faster and simpler for me than couponing but it still allows me to get some good deals by making a plan off the sale items.
Another great related tip is to shop the sale cycles and there’s a gold mine of information in this episode of the Frugal Friends Podcast.
6. Shop with Rakuten.
If you’re not using Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to shop online, you’re missing out! Rakuten offers cash back on purchases from so many stores, it is a great resource to use and requires zero effort once you install it into your browser. It may not be valid on all grocery purchases (for example, you can’t use it for WalMart grocery) but if you’re buying things like dog food, make up, cleaning supplies, etc you will likely be able to find cash back options. Stores like Amazon, Sephora, Ulta, and more are available for cash back with Rakuten. Use this link to sign up and you’ll receive $10 the first time you shop.
7. Create a Budget.
If you’ve been hanging around me for any period of time, you knew this one had to make the list. One of the most surefire ways to save money on groceries is to create a budget. You need to plan ahead of time how much money you plan to spend on groceries for the month and then stick to it. This will prevent you from buying things you really don’t need or buying more than you can possibly eat that month. There have been times when I see the total due is getting close to busting the budget and I’m like “maaaaybe we don’t really need to buy the boxed brownie mix this time.” Or whatever your weakness is. The budget will help keep you under control when it comes to buying groceries.
8. Shop Online for Pick Up.
In my honest opinion, this is one of the absolute best tips for saving money on groceries. It cut our grocery bill more than 1/3 when we started shopping online and scheduling for pick up rather than going into the store and shopping the traditional way. We stopped making impulse purchases because we weren’t buying out of stress or hunger. We made less trips the the store because it was easier to actually get everything on the list. And it really helps me keep the grocery bill under budget because I can see the total before we checkout and make adjustments if need be. And it’s just an added bonus that we can avoid the grocery store road rage and wait times. Shopping online and picking up is way more time efficient in addition to saving us money.
It is completely possible to save money on groceries without couponing, but it is going to take some effort. It all takes effort, it’s just about finding which effort is the most doable for you and your family. We rely heavily on meal planning, circular ads, and grocery store pick up to reduce our grocery spending. You have to find which of these methods works best for you (or a combination of methods) and that might take some trial and error to find out. But I encourage you to put forth the extra time and effort it takes to reduce your grocery expenses because this is one of the variable spending categories of the budget that you can control and cutting back is going to allow you to put more money towards your financial goals like paying off debt or saving for retirement.
If you’re interested in learning how to meal plan and save money on groceries in a way that is both simple and efficient, you need my FREE download, the Busy Mama’s Guide to Simple Meal Planning. This is the exact method I’ve been using for over two years now and I love that it is so simple and easy to do. This strategy is not the end all be all for meal plans but it’s the right fit for you if you’re looking for ways to save time, stay under budget, and not have a lot of food waste. Enter your email below to get the guide sent straight to your inbox.