Want to learn how to save some serious money on groceries? Grocery shop like a thrifty ninja with this step by step list of what every thrifty grocery shopper does to pay the lowest price possible for groceries.
Grocery shopping for a thrifty person begins before the grocery store and ends well beyond it. In fact, the actual shopping is the quickest part.
Step by Step Grocery Shopping With A Thrifty Person
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Steps That Will Save You Money On Your Groceries Before You Leave Home
I generally make one big grocery shopping trip every other week, and then the following week I go to the cheapest store to restock our dairy, fruit and fresh vegetable needs.
1. Grab a piece of paper and either write 1 to 7 or 1 to 14 down one side of it
I go into how I write my simple menu in more detail in this post, but essentially I write down a list of 14 dinner ideas. You would of course only need to write down seven dinner ideas if you shop weekly.
I don’t plan lunches or breakfasts because we tend to eat the same thing over and over for those meals, so I make sure to add those items to our grocery list.
2. Look in the cupboards and think of what meals you could make with what you already have
For instance if you have tuna, mac and cheese, and half a bag of frozen peas, you have the makings of a tuna casserole. Write tuna casserole down as a meal idea for dinner. Repeat this process until you run out of meals you can make with what you have on hand. Then start listing what you need to buy to fill out the menu. Perhaps you have spaghetti noodles and hamburger, but need the sauce so that you can have a spaghetti dinner.
Here are 20 dinner ideas that use simple ingredients that you might already have in your cupboard to give you a few ideas.
3. Now that you have the start of a list and a menu, go through the cupboards again
This time mark down what staples you are running low on like milk, butter, eggs, and flour. You might be able to do this during step 2, but my brain can’t seem to think about meals and staples at the same time so I do it separately.
4. Find out what is on sale and add it to your list
With the list of what you need on hand, it is time to see what is on sale. I visit websites of the stores I frequent and note if any items I need are on sale. I also note items that are on sale that we don’t need now, but use all the time. This allows me to pick the items up at rock-bottom prices.
5. Fill up store cards with coupons
I do a lot of my shopping at Meijer and use their Mperks program to save more money than just shopping sales. I load my card before I leave for grocery shopping. The card is app-based, so all I have to do is open the app at checkout and let the cashier scan the barcode within the app.
6. Check for printable coupons
With my list of needs and sale items I plan to stock up on in hand I then cruise on over to a few printable coupon sites to see if I can find some that match the items on my list.
7. Check to see if any coupon apps have offers you can use
Nowadays I am using coupon apps more and more. They are very simple to use and the savings quickly add up.
Here is a list of the coupon apps I use
- Ibotta: not only can you use the Ibotta app at the grocery store, but you can also use it at the pet store, hardware store and several more stores.
- Fetch Rewards: Fetch Rewards works with 150+ brands to bring you points that you can cash in for gift cards (use my referral code RE9FU at sign up for 2,000 points when you complete one receipt).
- Checkout 51: What I like about Checkout 51 is that if often offers rebates on items like milk and bread regardless of brand (here is a tutorial I wrote on how to use Checkout 51).
- Receipt Hog: Simply snap a picture of your receipt and upload it to win spins or points–that is how simple Receipt Hog is to use (here is a tutorial I wrote about how to use Receipt Hog).
8. Check to see if you have any coupons from other free sources of coupons
I have a tiny coupon collection made up of coupons I find in stores, emails, magazines, and other sources. I gather the ones I will be using that day with the ones I printed off that day (point 4) and put them all in the front of my coupon organizer.
One of my favorite places for finding high-value coupons is in free sample offerings. Daily Goodie Box and PinchMe are two freebie companies worth signing up for. They offer quality free samples that often come with coupons.
9. Divide your list into three to four stores
I keep a price book, which means I know where it is cheapest to get items on my list. Shopping at three to four stores in my area works well because they are all on the same road and all within minutes of each other. Your town may not be set up like mine and you may prefer hitting a different store each week that has the best sales.
Saving Money At The Grocery Store
10. Scan the store for clearance items and unadvertised sales as you shop
This is the tip I use to shop for most of the meat my family eats. I look for markdown stickers and stock up by freezing it in meal friendly portions, then plan our future meals with what I bought this week.
11. Watch the screen as your items ring up
I estimate I save us at least a few dollars a month by watching the screen for errors as it scans and checking my receipt over quickly before I leave the store. A few dollars might not seem like much to some, but when added up over time it makes a significant difference.
Saving Money Once You Get Home With Your Groceries
12. Cut up fresh foods intended for snacks and place in the area they will be seen and eaten
Once I get home and get the food away, I take the time to cut up cheese blocks into bite-size pieces so it doesn’t get pushed into the back of the fridge to mold. I cut up fruits like cantaloupe, watermelon, and pineapple into bite size pieces so that the kids can help themselves to it before it perishes. By preparing our perishables right away for eating, I save money by reducing our food waste.
13. File away Catalinas And Claim App Deals
Meijer prints out Catalina coupons with most orders and I like to go through them and file those I will use and toss those I won’t once I am home. After I am done with this I scan my receipts into the various coupon apps I used.
Steps That Stretch The Grocery Budget Even Further
14. Stock up on lower priced items in other towns
Every other month or so I find myself in a larger center for some type of errand and while I am there I take the time to visit other sources of groceries not available to me in my small town. One place I visit is a bread discount store that saves my family close to $100 a year just in bread.
15. Hold an “eat from the pantry” week
When I used to grocery shop once a week I would often put off grocery shopping just one day, but only plan seven days worth of meals, meaning I had to get creative the 8th day. Now about four times a year I try putting off grocery shopping one more week–meaning I make two weeks’ worth last three weeks. This helps me use up odds and ends that are gathering in the cupboard.
16. Make an online order
There are a few items I find items cheaper online than in-store, so I stock up on these every few months. For instance, Amazon has better prices than my local grocery store chain on my favorite herbal tea, my preferred brand of vitamins and the hydration tablets I use on my runs.
I sometimes place orders for cleaners, coffee and more through Boxed.com. Often Boxed is featured on Zulily at even further reduced prices.
When shopping online, I use the Ebates browser button that alerts me to cash backs and coupons.
17. Once a year carry around a price book for a month
At the beginning of each year, I like to dig out my price book and spend some time noting if prices have changed since the last time I updated it and if those places that had the lowest prices on certain staples are still the ones with the lowest prices. I might find that peanut butter is now cheaper at an out of town store or that butter is cheaper at the second store I shop at instead of the first. These things don’t often change so updating my book just once a year seems to work.
18. Look out for discounted gift cards and daily deals
I don’t do this as often as I should anymore, but you can find discounted gift cards for many stores that sell groceries from Raise.com. The discount on the grocery cards typically are not huge, but hey–every penny counts right? I need to get back into doing this.
I also find that daily deal sites like Living Social will run various promotions for both online and brick and mortar stores that I shop at from time to time.
Do You Have A Super Tight Grocery Budget?
If you are on a super tight budget, you could benefit from spending just a few minutes each day doing daily point-earning activities at point reward sites like Swagbucks. I have had several readers report to me that they are earning $100 a month from Swagbucks alone! Many point reward companies allow you to convert your points to Paypal cards so you can use the money wherever you find the best deals on groceries.
Available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon–get your copy here!
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Lydia @ Not Afraid of the Snow says
Great tips! I just scored a great deal on chicken breasts and I stocked up. Should last us for a little while. I love the challenge of trying to feed us healthy for cheap.
Alison at NOVA Frugal Family says
I try to plan my meal plan for the month with things already in the house and figure out my shopping list based on the few things that I need for the meals like a brick of cheese and some lettuce (plus we always need milk). It helps me because I can get the things that are super cheap and stock up the freezer and pantry for the next coming months without having to worry about the cost to the budget. I love adding lots of super cheap things to the pantry so that I don’t have a high out of pocket total for the month but we are eating a bigger variety because it is already in the freezer and pantry!
Just an FYI- Walmart now does verbal price matching… When I make my grocery list out, I put beside it the cheapest store’s price… Milk ($1.99 Albertsons) so when I go through the line at Walmart, I be sure to tell them the match price. It also helps to segregate the items in the cart so they don’t get scanned quicker than you can watch. This has save us multiple trips to stores.
Theres Just One Mommy says
Awesome tips! I always forget about those online coupons…. Got to start doing that more!
Lots of great tips here. I have always been frugal, and tried to save money by using up leftovers, but now that we live off the grid I have another reason to avoid food waste – no garbage service, lol! I try to save every little spoonful of leftover food from each meal. I freeze it all and make my Kitchen Sink Soup (because I put in everything but the kitchen sink.) Spoonfuls of rice or pasta, mixed vegetables, and meats become another full meal with a few cups of chicken or beef stock, kidney beans, fresh homegrown herbs and homemade bread. Thanks for the great post!
I usually start with the flyers to see what is on sale, then I check the pantry. From there I figure out a menu. Then I go shopping.
The price book is an excellent idea. I have a spreadsheet where I track prices. I try to update prices every few weeks, because unfortunately, prices are going up a lot faster than they used to. And sometimes, if the price is the same, the size of the jar/package/etc. has gotten smaller.
All I can say is “loss leaders are my friends!”
While saving money on groceries using coupons is wondeful in theory, I can’t help but wonder if one ends up shelling out more in the long run. With printer ink costing more than liquid gold, isn’t it cheaper to spend the extra $0.25 on a bag of lettuce than printing the coupon? Thoughts?
Well most coupons I print are for $1.00 off or more on items like razors for my husband, so those do say money. Plus a lot of coupons now are electronic either through being added by you to a store card or an App so no need to print.