10 Ways to Shave $10 (or More) Off Your Grocery Bill
Cutting your grocery bill may seem like a daunting task because there are so many techniques and approaches out there. But what if you could cut $10 by just doing one thing? Good news — you can. In fact, here are 10 things to choose from, any one of which could result in a $10 per week reduction in grocery spending for a family. If you're just shopping for one person, you might have to try two or three of these ideas to get to $10, because you're probably already spending less every week than families do. (See also: How to Grocery Shop for Five on $100 a Week)
1. Cut Back on Meat
Meat tends to be the most expensive ingredient on our plates. A pound of ground beef starts at $2.99 in my parts, and a Trader Joe's roasting chicken (which feeds my family of five for two meals) costs about $11. If you cut the meat from approximately three dinners a week and replace it with a less expensive ingredient, this will easily save $10 or more. Replacing lunch meat in packed sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly, hummus (especially homemade), or a non-fancy cheese could also do the trick. If you pack five lunches a week for three family members, you could easily be going through $15 worth of deli meat a week. But fifteen sandwiches' worth of PB&J will cost you $5 or less.
2. Use Coupons
The value of coupons issued by manufacturers has gone down in the past couple of years, leading some shoppers to lose interest in coupons. But if you need to cut your grocery bill, cutting out some coupons is still a good place to start.
I surveyed the coupons currently available on Coupons.com and came up with at least $10 worth of savings with 13 coupons for products I normally buy (Skippy peanut butter, Frigo cheese sticks, General Mills cereals, Barilla pasta, Nature Valley granola bars, Perdue frozen products, Edy's ice cream, Dole fruit bowls, El Monterey frozen products, Kellogg's cereals, M&Ms candy, Kashi cereals, and Fisher nuts).
What's wrong with that list? I know, I know — it's mostly processed food. I'm not suggesting that you put only processed food on your shopping list so you can use coupons on everything. These 13 items might be the only processed food in a cart with 80 items of fresh food. They are processed items I would have bought anyway, so why not use coupons on them? If you never buy any processed foods, not even pasta, then you'll have to get your $10 savings in another way, because there aren't that many coupons for fresh, non-packaged foods.
3. Stop Wasting Food
Invest in some small food storage containers so you can repackage even a few ounces of leftover dinner for tomorrow's lunch or even breakfast. Leftovers don't have to be a drudge meal; with these tips, you can fancy them up and no one will even recognize them. Even cuttings from vegetables can be useful for broths, and at our house stale bread goes into the freezer to be reincarnated as bread crumbs or croutons.
I've avoided throwing food in the garbage for quite awhile, but there was another way I was wasting food that I hadn't thought much about — eating too much of it. You know, when there are just a few more spoonfuls in the serving dish after dinner, and you're the one clearing the table? It's tempting to just eat the last few bites to avoid throwing them away. Don't do it! I've found that by avoiding treating my body as a garbage can, not only can I save money on my food bill, I've also finally succeeded in losing a few pounds. These portion control tips are aimed at those who want to lose weight, but they naturally result in more leftovers, too.
4. Take Advantage of Basket Discounts and Rebates
In this post, The Penny Hoarder shares a deal for buying discounted gift cards to spend at the grocery store to save 10%. Such deals come and go, but they are a good example of how you can save a flat percentage off your entire grocery bill, even before coupons. Other opportunities come when grocery stores print "basket coupons" in their ads, such as "save $5 off a $50 purchase." Supermarkets with pharmacies often offer a basket discount coupon or even a free gift card if you transfer a prescription to them.
5. Bake Your Own Bread
Homemade bread sounds labor intensive, but with a bread machine it's anything but. And the great news is, you don't have to shell out $100 or more for the bread machine in order to start saving. Quality bread machines routinely sell for $5 or less at thrift stores and rummage sales, because so many people receive them as gifts but never use them. I received my current machine, a stainless steel Williams-Sonoma number, for free at a rummage sale because the seller felt that no one would pay for it since "everyone already has a bread machine." Sliced bread at the store costs $2-$3 a loaf, but a batch of homemade wheat bread costs only about $1.50 to make.
This means you'd need to replace seven loaves a week with homemade in order to save $10 — if you are looking for ordinary sandwich bread. However, it should be noted that homemade bread is usually more delicious than ordinary store bread; it's more on par with a bakery loaf that might cost $3-$4 or more, depending on the recipe you use and your expertise. If you typically buy four $4 loaves of bakery bread a week, you can save $10 by baking your own.
6. Switch Up Your Drinks
Making pitchers of iced tea and Arnold Palmers helped me kick the soda habit, and they are much cheaper. My husband has been able to beat his after-work craving for a cold beer by drinking carbonated water made in our SodaStream. And you may have heard this before, but it's still just as true: tap water is practically free and it quenches thirst perfectly well — with no calories. Sending a bottle of plain water along to kids' sports games instead of Gatorade may not win you any popularity awards, but it's a smart thing to do.
7. Cook with BRECC
BRECC is my little trick for reminding myself to buy the following ingredients of healthy, inexpensive meals: beans, rice, eggs, carrots, and cabbage.
Adding beans — either canned or, for even more savings, dried — to your meals will help you accomplish tip number one, cutting back on meat.
Brown rice can't be beat for stretching everything from soup to chili to salad.
Eggs are an affordable protein source with the added advantage of cooking up super quick — who doesn't know how to scramble eggs?
Even organic carrots can be bought for less than $1 a pound and shredded into all kinds of recipes or eaten whole dipped in hummus. Cabbage is healthy, affordable, and lasts a long time in the fridge — and there's so much more you can do with cabbage beyond coleslaw. I'd feel comfortable betting that every time you swap in one of these inexpensive ingredients as a major meal component, you'll save at least $2. Do that for five meals a week, and there's your $10 savings.
8. Shop at a Different Store
If you are going to the same grocery store week in, week out, for everything, you are missing out. Try adding a specialized bargain store to the mix periodically. Even a once-a-month trip to Costco, Aldi, or a similar budget store allows you to stock up on basics such as flour and rice at lower prices. Another strategy is to locate a cheap fresh produce market — if you have any ethnic enclaves in your area such as a Chinatown or a Mexican neighborhood, that's a great place to look.
9. Buy at the Right Time
Even if you don't use coupons, you can save 10% or more off a $100 weekly grocery bill by making sure to buy items when they are on sale. Cereal is a great example of a product with wildly fluctuating prices. You can pay $4.50 one week or $1.99 the next week for the very same box of cereal. It keeps for months, so why not stock up when the price is low? My favorite sales to watch for are buy one, get one free sales; sales on already lower-priced store-brand products; and of course, clearance sales. Target is a great place to look for clearance food items. On a recent trip I bought 10 cans of Bush's higher-end baked beans for just over $1 a can. Since these normally go on sale at my grocery store for about $1.67, I knew the clearance price was a steal.
10. Package Your Own Snacks and Treats
As the beginning of the school year looms, packing school lunches rears its head as an annual budget buster. It's convenient to buy boxes of granola bars, individual bowls of fruit and snack-sized chip packs, but it's so much cheaper to buy a few tiny containers and portion out snacks and meal components from a larger container. Here are some items I buy in bulk to send with the kids for lunch: applesauce, edamame, pretzels, cereal, crackers, carrot slices, and raisins. More ambitious parents make their own granola bars, but I still spring for the packaged kind when they go on sale for the occasional treat.
How do you shave dollars off your weekly grocery bill?