9 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Budget in Half

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When trying to tighten your budget it’s hard to lower expenses like rent, utilities, and car payments. But food is a big expense that you can easily flex and alter to fit your budget.

If you’re ready to be more intentional with your food budget then here are nine ways to cut your grocery bill and a sample meal plan to get you started.

What Should my Grocery Budget be?

It can be confusing to know what you should spend on food.

Varying incomes, cost of living, and the ages of your family members all play a part in how much stock you need to keep on a weekly basis. That’s why the USDA puts out a Cost of Food Report every month to help families monitor what they can expect to spend on groceries.

According to the February 2019 report, a couple in their 30’s or 40’s should expect to spend around $350 on groceries if they’re being thrifty and no more than $560 on a moderate-cost plan.

A family of four with a five- and eight-year-old should expect to spend just over $600 on a thrifty food budget or about $966 on a moderate one.

How Do I Set up a Grocery Budget?

If you look at those numbers and wonder if those meal plans are for the scratch and dent store, it might be time to take a look at your grocery budget.

The first step in determining a grocery budget that works for you is to figure out what you’re already spending.

Go back through your bank statements and grocery store receipts to see what you’ve spent, how many trips you’ve made, what you’re buying, and the stores you’re shopping at.

When trying to cut your grocery bill, it’s important to start with small cuts and work up (or down) to your goal budget. Look at all the things you buy on a regular basis and cut each category by a little instead of cutting out everything at once.

Wondering how to make those incremental changes? Here are nine ways to spend less on food without depriving yourself.

How Can I Spend Less Money on Groceries?

All the cost cutting strategies listed below are great, but you don’t need to start them all at once. Begin with the first three and incorporate the other six as you get the hang of them.

1. Meal Plan

Planning a week of meals can sound daunting, especially if you’re not a natural planner. But lucky for you, you probably have a meal plan right in front of you, you just have to open some doors to see it.

The easiest and most cost-effective way to meal plan is to take inventory of the fridge, freezer, and pantry items you already have and create meals for the week around those items.

This helps you cut down on what you’ll buy for the week and reduces the amount of food wasted by oversight. You’ll use up produce on its last leg, back-of-the-pantry items you’ve forgotten about, and freezer foods before they get freezer burnt.

Another easy way to simplify your meal plan is to learn to love leftovers.

The more days in the week you can eat leftovers instead of making an extra meal, the less you have to buy. And by eating leftovers instead of making another meal, you’re more likely to actually take your lunch to work instead of eating out.

2. Shop Sales and In-Season Foods

Another component to a frugal meal plan and lower grocery bill is to shop sales.

When you’re figuring out what side to serve with dinner or what fruit is going in your oatmeal, look no further for the answer than your grocer’s weekly ad.

Don’t have access to your store’s advertisement? You can usually predict what’s going to be on sale by what season it is. In June you’ll see a lot of summer fruits and veggies like corn, tomatoes, and berries. Summer is a popular time for grilling so you’ll also see foods like ground beef, hot dogs, and buns on sale.

Sometimes it can be tempting to buy in bulk when you see a good deal but it’s best to avoid it, even if you have the space for it. Even if you plan to freeze, only stock up on the amount you know you can use in the next 1-2 months.

3. Follow the List

Once you plan your meals around what you have and what’s on sale, you’ll add what you need to your grocery list. Commit to following the list or you could end up spending even more on groceries than you did without it.

Make it easier to follow the list by eating before you go. When you shop hungry, you set yourself up for a cart full of impulse buys.

Another easy way to help yourself follow this rule, especially if you shop with kids, is to shop online. Sometimes there’s a small fee but you can usually eliminate most or all of it by ordering a minimum amount and picking up your order in the store.

4. Change Where You Shop

Your favorite grocery store might be the prettiest and friendliest in town, but do you really want to pay more for that?

No-frills grocery stores like Aldi, WinCo and Fareway don’t offer a shopping experience as pleasant as Whole Foods, but you could change nothing else about your shopping habits except for where you’re shopping, and you can save money.

Give your nearest low-cost grocer a try to see how their products, produce, and prices compare. When you see how much you save, you might not feel as inconvenienced by that quarter deposit for the shopping cart.

5. Shop Less

People can often trick themselves into thinking they’re great at staying under budget at the grocery store.

They’ll stay under on their main shopping trip then they look at all their transactions over the month realize they’re spending almost double what they thought in multiple unplanned trips throughout the week.

Instead of hopping in the car whenever you find you need something, eliminate those impromptu trips by writing it down and waiting until your next trip to get it. Learn to improvise with what you have and you’ll save yourself from coming home with more than you went in for.

6. Pay With Cash

Using cash at the grocery store is a surefire way to keep you from spending more than what you budgeted for, you can’t buy what you can’t pay for right?

You can withdraw cash once a month or weekly but only take what you’ve budgeted for a single trip to keep yourself from ending up with a $20 grocery budget by the end of the month.

7. Buy Less Meat

Chicken currently costs an average of $1.47 per lb. and ground beef $3.83. While canned pinto beans cost an average of $0.80 per lb. and canned black beans cost $0.95.

Meat is clearly the most expensive section at the grocery store so replacing it with low-cost proteins in a few meals a week can save you big time. Beans, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, and oatmeal are all significant sources of plant-based protein that will fill you up and won’t leave you missing your go-to’s.

8. Go Generic or Get a Coupon

Long has the “coupon vs. generic” debate divided frugal shoppers.

Generic and store brand products are known to be closely comparable, if not the same, as their brand name counterparts for 25% less. But more and more name brands are upping their game, producing superior products to truly differentiate themselves from generics.

If you don’t want to spend hours cutting and organizing coupons, but you do find some name brands superior then stick to this simple rule: Try the generic version first and if you don’t like it then use coupons for the name brand.

9. Freeze

Some nights you don’t want to cook and the temptation to order take-out or run to the store and get a pre-made meal is strong.

Instead of eating out or buying pre-frozen convenience meals, try making some of the easier ones yourself. Soups, stews, burritos, and personal pizzas freeze well and can make dinner and clean up a snap on busy nights.

And even if you don’t buy in bulk you’re sometimes left with ingredients from other meals that you’re having a hard time using up. Freezer meals can also make use of the produce that would otherwise go bad before you could use it.

Sample Meal Plan

If you’re still nervous about starting a meal plan, here’s a sample plan that makes use of these tips. Feel free to switch out meals or foods you don’t like with versions you do but following this general guide will give you all the savings without the monotony of eating the same thing all week.

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Sunday

  • Breakfast: Pancakes (make extra and freeze the rest)
  • Lunch: Sandwiches (premake some extra for lunches) and Salad
  • Healthy Snack
  • Dinner: Casserole (prep ingredients for rest of weeks meals while it cooks)

Monday

  • Breakfast: Pancakes
  • Lunch: Sunday dinner leftovers
  • Healthy Snack
  • Dinner: Meatless meal (double it and freeze one)

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Pancakes
  • Lunch: Leftovers or sandwiches
  • Healthy Snack
  • Dinner: Tacos

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal (make extra for overnight oats or to freeze)
  • Lunch: Leftovers or sandwiches
  • Healthy Snack
  • Dinner: Meatless meal

Thursday

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal
  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Healthy Snack
  • Dinner: Meal from your freezer

Friday

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal
  • Lunch: leftovers
  • Healthy Snack
  • Dinner: Meal using up older pantry items

Saturday

  • Breakfast: Breakfast Sandwiches (Make extra to freeze)
  • Lunch: Salad with leftover or unused veggies
  • Healthy Snack
  • Dinner: Eating out of leftovers
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