4 Easy Ways To Save Money On Groceries: How We Cut Our Grocery Bill In Half Without Compromising Time Or Food Quality
Last July my family spent $731 on groceries. This June we spent $371.25, a drop of $359.75! We essentially cut our grocery spending in half!
Here’s the cool part. We didn’t sacrifice quality, we didn’t spend hours looking for deals, we didn’t use coupons, we didn’t eat less, we didn’t grow a garden, we didn’t eat out any more than normal, and we didn’t change our diets much at all.
We simply applied four strategies that helped us save significant money without much hassle and inconvenience.
How To Save Money On Your Grocery Bill – The Inconvenient Way
I assume most of us want to save money on groceries every month.
What we don’t want is to compromise on the quality of food we eat or waste a bunch of time shopping deals in order to save a few pennies.
We just simply want to save lots money while eating the same food and enjoying the same hassle free grocery shopping lifestyle.
After spending $731 on groceries last July, which was much more than our family needed to spend, we knew we had come up with a strategy to cut back that worked for us—one that would save significant money while not complicating or inconveniencing our life too much.
So just for fun I Googled how to save money on my grocery bill. Here’s some of the more popular and “genius” ideas I found:
- Use Coupons
- Grow Your Own Food
- Shop Multiple Stores
- Buy Ultra-Ripe Produce
- Change Your Diets
- Skip the Meat Department
Sweet strategies, right?
Maybe for some but not for me. Here’s why:
Use Coupons. Yes, it’s cool that you can buy 200 bars of soap for 2 cents, but if you don’t have 2 months of free time to stockpile coupons and strategize how to best use them, then it’s probably not worth your time. If you don’t think couponing is a hassle, then by all means, do it—you’ll probably save a few dollars here and there.
Grow Your Own Food. By no means am I opposed to growing your own food, but it does come at a cost, one that I’m not willing to pay right now. Maybe that’s because I’ve killed nearly everything I’ve planted. Growing your own food costs a little money (seeds, watering, tools, etc.) but it generally costs a lot more time (planting, tilling, watering, weeding, etc.). If you enjoy gardening and you think it’s worth your time, then do it—it’s hard to beat garden fresh veggies while saving a little money.
Shop Multiple Stores. Maybe some people love spending hours at various grocery stores, comparing prices, and looking for the best deals, but I don’t. And neither does my wife. I’m not willing to spend an extra 30 minutes shopping to save a couple bucks on cereal. Now with that said, if there’s a particular store in town that has a killer deal on meat, produce, or anything else we like, then we’ll plan a trip in that direction. But we won’t waste time going to multiple places to compare prices. We’ll go where we know the deals are, and if we don’t know about any deals, we’ll go to the place that generally has the best prices.
Buy Ultra Ripe Produce. This one’s funny. I don’t know how many times I’ve noticed fruit baskets full of brown bananas, wrinkled apples, or old oranges that are no longer edible. The goal shouldn’t be to buy overly ripe produce to save a few cents. Rather the goal should be to buy produce that correlates well with when you’ll be eating it. If you’re not planning on shoveling 6 brown bananas into your stomach tonight then maybe they’re not worth buying, even if they are 20 cents cheaper. If you are planning on making a banana smoothie, then by all means, buy the ultra ripe bananas and enjoy the savings.
Change Your Diet. By nature I am very cost conscientious, but I like my diet. I like the food I eat, I don’t down too much of it, and I don’t want to have to change it just to save a few bucks. I simply want to save money without having to change everything about how I eat. If you’re not very fond of your diet, then most likely you could cut costs by mixing things up.
Skip the Meat Department. This one’s not even a real option for me. I like meat. Yes, it’s more expensive than other foods, but it’s also a heck of a lot better. I don’t think I need to become a vegetarian just to be wise with my grocery shopping. If you don’t care for meat much then skip the meat department and enjoy the extra money. Yes, beans, in all their glory, can be substituted for meat, but for some reason, I just don’t think my wife would be a big fan—nor would I 🙂
How To Save A Lot Of Money On Your Grocery Bill – The Convenient Way
Last year, when we decided to significantly cut our grocery bill, my wife was pregnant with our third child. I think I’m a pretty brave guy, but I wasn’t about to tell a pregnant mom that we needed to eat less and give up Oreos so we could save some money. Nor was I going to tell her that she should lug two toddlers around to a few different grocery stores just to ensure we got the best deal. Maybe I was wrong, but … hey, I’m still alive and we’ve saved a lot of money over the last year.
We needed a simple, convenient strategy that worked—one that saved lots of money without lots of hassle. So here’s what we came up with.
Here are the four things we started doing to conveniently cut our grocery bill in half.
#1. Use Cash For Grocery Shopping
Before you start to grumble and complain about using cash, hear me out. This simple strategy is primarily responsible for $281 of our $359 monthly savings.
Here’s How It Works
At the beginning of every month, my wife and I withdraw $450 from our checking account and that’s our grocery money for the month. When it’s gone, it’s gone. It puts an actual cap on the money we can spend on groceries rather than some fictitious, self imposed limit we’ve included on our online budget.
When we see the withdrawal of cash hit our budget on Mint.com, the online budgeting software we use and recommend, we simply categorize the entire $450 withdrawal as grocery expense. This single transaction is pretty simple to keep track of.
Now you’d think that cutting our spending by $281 would require us to make huge sacrifices, but not really. Rather than making sacrifices we just became very intentional about what we did and didn’t buy. We no longer paid full price for meat. We didn’t buy food we wouldn’t eat. We cut out a lot of our snack spending an unhealthy junk, which proved to be a much bigger benefit than a sacrifice.
We simply cut out waste.
Other than that, it didn’t feel like much changed when it came to our diet. The biggest change was felt in our wallets—they were a couple hundred dollars heavier every month.
Why I Didn’t Want To Use Cash For Groceries
Originally, I was reluctant to switch to cash. I had four good reasons why we should just keep using our card instead of making the change.
We Already Had A Budget
We already had a budget. Who cares whether we used cash or a card to make the actual purchases, right?
Here was the problem though. Yes, we had a budget, but we rarely stayed below it. Since there wasn’t any hard and fast rule as to how much we could spend (except our budgeted amount on Mint), we’d just buy groceries whenever we “needed” them. It was always easy to justify “needing” to buy more food. After all, it’s essential survival.
Switching to cash made us become more intentional with how we spent our grocery money, and it forced us to stay true to our budget.
The Card Is Convenient
You’ve probably noticed by now that I try and keep everything as simple and convenient as possible—no need to over complicate your life. I was worried that using cash was going to be too much of a time suck and inconvenience, but it hasn’t been.
We have to spend about 10 minutes a month going to the credit union to withdraw money at the beginning of every month, but other than that, it’s not a whole lot different than using the card. Sure, it takes time to pass money to the cashier, and your wallet might be a little fatter than you may like, but those are small prices to pay for so many dollars saved.
The Card Makes It Easy To Track Our Spending
Another reason I was apprehensive to switch to cash was because I like to track my dollars and see where they’re going. I figured using cash wouldn’t provide the detail I needed.
After using cash for a couple months, it was obvious that categorizing one transaction rather than 10 was a lot easier, and I really didn’t care to see how much we spent at each store. All that mattered was that we spent within the budgeted amount, which meant we saved a lot of money.
But I Get Rewards Points When I Use My Card
This was another kicker for me. I didn’t want to give up potential rewards points by using cash rather than my card.
Here’s the thing. I have yet to find a credit card that delivers cash back or travel points that even compare with the money we’ve saved by switching to cash. Making the switch to cash saved us $281 a month or 38%. That’s at least 8 times better than the best rewards card I’ve seen.
Trust me, making the switch to cash feels inconvenient, old school, and maybe even pointless, but it’s not. I was there. I didn’t like the idea but thank goodness my wife talked me into giving it a try. In one year, we’ve saved almost $3,000 from making the switch.
Give it a shot. What’s the worst that would happen?
#2. Create A Simple Meal Plan With A Shopping List
If you’re like most people, you were probably pretty surprised when I said we spend less than $450 a month on groceries. What may be even more crazy is that we are a family of 5 and we’ve averaged only $60 a month eating out too. Our family of five is only spending about $500 a month on food and that completely excludes the cash back app we use—Ibotta (I’ll get there soon).
Another one of the strategies we’ve implemented that’s helped us conveniently cut our grocery bill so much is creating simple meal plans with an associated shopping list. It’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just simple and effective.
Once a week, my wife scans through the local ads (and her Ibotta app) and looks for any discounts on some of our favorite foods. If anything catches her eye, she’ll take note. If not, no loss, we’ll still enjoy the foods we like.
After she’s gone through the ads, she’ll take a list of her favorite deals and design meal plans around them. If there’s not enough deals we’re interested in, then we’ll focus on creating meal plans around the food we feel like eating. We’ll preplan about 4 dinners or so a week. We focus on dinners since our lunches and breakfasts don’t vary much and dinners are generally the most costly.
From there, my wife looks in the pantry and creates a shopping list of everything we need to keep our family happy and healthy for the week.
This shopping list helps ensure we don’t make spontaneous and wasteful purchases when we visit the grocery store. It helps us stay focused and buy the food we really want. If you don’t have a list, you’ll waste money and time.
Remember, the goal is not to create a complicated meal plan, or it won’t work. Keep it simple or you won’t keep using it. Here’s a recap of how we do it and it’s worked well for us.
- Scan the local ads and Ibotta app for deals you’re interested in
- Create about 4 meal plans around your favorite deals
- Create a shopping list
- Only buy what’s on the list
#3. Limit Grocery Store Visits To Once A Week
The more you go shopping the more money you spend. So if you want to save money, shop less frequently.
This money saving strategy works in conjunction with meal planning and creating a shopping list. You create a weekly shopping list and only go grocery shopping once a week.
Yes, there are emergencies that come up, but if you can keep your grocery visits to 4-5 times a month, it will help you save significantly on your grocery bill—especially from buying stuff you really don’t need.
#4. Cash Back Rewards Through Ibotta
Ibotta is a cool little app that enables you to collect cash rebates for buying certain products. In June, my wife and I collected $78.75 in cash rebates, which lowered our grocery bill from $450 to $371.25. Here’s how it works.
As we plan our meals for the week and create our shopping list, my wife will look at the Ibotta rebates available on her phone and mine (the rebates on her phone are normally different from mine so using two apps allows us to collect even more cash back). If there’s something we’re interested in buying, my wife will add it to the shopping list.
After making the purchase, my wife takes a photo of the receipt, redeems the selected rebate, and collects the cash—it’s a pretty sweet deal.
To make it even more convenient, you can link your Ibotta app to some of your favorite stores’ loyalty programs, so you don’t have to bother scanning receipts. All you do is select your chosen rebates, go shopping, use your loyalty card, and collect cash rebates. In addition, you can shop directly from the app.
Here’s why I like Ibotta:
- Cash Back. You get real cash back, and it can be significant. $78.75 isn’t too bad at all.
- Simple and Convenient. You don’t have to spend lots of time collecting coupons or looking for deals. Ibotta sends you a customized list of rebates that fits your shopping habits and your favorite stores.
- Great Product Choices. You can earn cash back on all brands and the rebate list is full of products you actually use and want—not just a bunch of stuff you wouldn’t buy anyway.
- Significant Rebates. As an example, here’s a few of the rebates available when I opened the app this morning:
- $3.00 cash back on Nature Valley granola bars
- $3.75 cash back on Cheerios and other General Mills cereal
- $20.00 Amazon gift card when you sign up on Amazon Prime
- $1.00 cash back on Clif bars
- $2.00 cash back on juice
- $1.50 cash back on paper towels
You can see how using Ibotta cash back rewards can add up and significantly reduce your grocery bill.
Additional Ways to Save On Your Grocery Bill
There are plenty of ways to save money on groceries, but you’ll always want to weigh the costs of any particular strategy (quality of food, inconvenience, time, etc.) against the benefits (money saved) it provides.
This simple cost, benefit analysis is why I focus on the four strategies I detailed above, but here’s a few other strategies you may find beneficial:
- Using price matching apps
- Online grocery shopping (Walmart, Amazon, etc.)
- Buying frozen produce
- Buying generic
- Eating high cost foods less frequently
- Buying store brands
- Focusing on store discounts
- Perusing ads
- Buying in bulk
- Replacing high-cost foods with less expensive substitutes
- Buying when in season
- Comparing per unit prices
- Buying ingredients rather than prepared meals
- Taking advantage of store loyalty programs
- Shopping different stores
If the overall benefit of any of these strategies don’t justify the costs, then the strategy isn’t worth pursuing. It’s that simple.
Conclusion – How To Conveniently Save On Your Grocery Bill
There are many ways to save money on groceries, but most of them cost us time and convenience. What we want is a convenient way to significantly cut our spending without adding hassle to our life.
The best way to do this is to apply four simple strategies my family used. These four strategies can help you cut your grocery bill in half without adding a bunch of hassle to your life.
First, we bought all of our groceries with cash. This gave us a hard limit to how much we could spend. Second, we created a simple meal plan each each accompanied by a shopping list. We focused our meal plans around the best deals we found in local advertisements and the Ibotta app. Third, we started going to the grocery store only once a week rather than multiple times. Fourth, we earned significant cash rebates from Ibotta by taking advantage of their best deals.
Take action and cut waste from your budget. Get the most out of your grocery money!
You’ll be amazed by how much you can save when you set your mind to it and apply a strategy that’s proven to work.
If you want to conveniently cut your grocery bill, save lots of money, and not add hassle to your life then apply these four strategies:
- Use cash for grocery money. Even if you’re already disciplined, using cash amplifies your intentionality, which helps you save big time.
- Create a simple meal plan with a shopping list. Once a week, design a simple meal plan that focuses on the deals you find in local ads and your Ibotta app.
- Go to the grocery store less frequently. Limit your grocery store visits to once a week.
- Download and use Ibotta for cash rebates. Use this Ibotta link to earn $10 for free today.
Give it a try for at least a couple months. What’s the worst that could happen? I was a skeptic too.
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