9 Tips to Cut Your Grocery Bill by Up to 50 Percent

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Food is one of those variable expenses that can definitely hit your budget below the belt. I mean, have you seen the price of beef lately?

According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. household spent about $4,000 on groceries in 2012.

The good news is that couponing, shopping sales and making a list aren’t the only ways to save a substantial amount of money on your grocery bill. In the video below, Money Talks News money expert Stacy Johnson offers some tips to slash your food costs by up to 50 percent. Take a look and meet me on the other side for additional suggestions.

1. Do your own slicing and dicing

Prepackaged products are convenient for the consumer, but they also come with a much higher price tag. Although it may be a tad bit time-consuming, buying whole food products, such as fruit from the produce section, whole chicken, block cheese and fresh vegetables, will save you a substantial amount of money.

In other words, put your hands to work and stop paying others for something you can do on your own.

2. Buy generic

What’s the point of buying the high-end version of the product if the generic one is comparable in both quality and taste? That’s exactly why you should give those generics a shot, and save between 20 and 50 percent on your grocery bill while doing so.

I was once a Froot Loop junkie until I discovered that the Walmart brand not only tastes better, but is half the price.

And with store brands, you can also rest assured that you’re not wasting money, as most grocers offer a money-back guarantee on their products if you are not satisfied. So why not give it a shot? You may just be in for a treat.

3. Seek alternative sources

Be sure to check out alternatives to the major grocery chains to substantially reduce your grocery bill. And, no, I’m not referring only to warehouse clubs, such as Sam’s Club and Costco, but local meat markets, fruit stands, food coops and salvage grocery stores. The latter stock dented cans, closeouts and items with torn packaging — at rock-bottom prices.

Please note that dented cans have the potential to be hazardous to your health. Check out this document to learn more.

4. Store food properly

Storing your food in the most effective manner possible will extend the food’s shelf life and significantly reduce the number of trips you make to the grocery store each month. You can butter cheese to prevent mold, store perishables in smaller quantities in durable, air-tight containers, and freeze meats.

Also, take a look at this list of optimal storage times from FoodSafety.gov.

5. Shop strategically 

Just like everything else in life, saving big bucks on your grocery bill requires that some sort of strategy be implemented.

For instance, you should never go to the store hungry because you will be tempted to buy all sorts of junk food and other items that look good. Instead, fill up your food tank before heading out so you don’t need to resist the urge to give in to your cravings.

If you’re a member of a warehouse club, take advantage of the bulk offers on the items that you consume frequently. The Sam’s Club in my neck of the woods offers a jumbo box of oatmeal for $8.99, which is what I used to spend for two small boxes each month. But thanks to what I like to call the “mega-pack,” we are still eating away three months later.

6. Look forward to leftovers

There’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned family feast that provides plenty of leftovers, enough to last for several days. In my home, after a holiday meal or other special occasion I know I’ll be spared from cooking duties for a few days.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you cook a Thanksgiving feast for a family of four in an ordinary week, but it’s not a bad idea to prepare a large enough meal to yield leftovers that can be consumed for lunch the following day.

7. Set boundaries

The ultimate goal here is saving, correct? That’s why your needs must supersede your wants. Isn’t it funny how we all of a sudden crave items that we hadn’t thought of before we spot them in an aisle at the grocery store? You must not give in to your cravings, but be disciplined enough to stick to your grocery budget and list.

8. Check the bottom racks

Manufacturers pay for shelf space, and they sometimes cover the cost by passing it on to the consumer. When you’re grocery shopping, take a moment to look at the lower shelves for the cheaper products that you may have been overlooking in the past.

9. Plan ahead

It’s important to plan ahead if you want to cut your grocery bill in half. For instance, you won’t spend money on items you already have in your home.

I’d also suggest creatively combining the food products already at your disposal and preparing meals with items that have been collecting dust on the shelf. In other words, be wise with what you already have, and don’t let food go to waste.

Do you have any additional cost-cutting tips you’d like to share on reducing grocery bills? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Sandy

    I shop at Save-A-Lot for graham crackers, salad dressing and mayonnaise and soda pop. I shop at Aldi for everything else.

  • Cheryl

    All good advice; however, I have noticed in the past year or so that grocers have caught on to the bottom shelf thing. On many occasions, the cheaper brands are now located on the shelf SECOND or even THIRD from the bottom. This has happened to me many times, so just be aware and don’t grab something from the bottom shelf before checking unit prices.

  • Al Seaver

    Beware of grocery prices a Big Lots. Most of the time I can go right across the road to Kroger and get the exact same items on sale for less and they accept coupons, which Big Lots does not. Also, an awful lot of Big Lots offerings are very close to their expiration dates, so always check those dates carefully.

  • Sean Cammack

    To the author: how come you are encouraging consumers to do something (buying dented cans) potentially dangerous to our health just to save a few bucks? I know you are trying your best to help us save money, and we appreciate it. When a can is dented the BPA inner liner is damaged which can leach BPA into the food. Studies have shown that BPA can cause physical and neurological difficulties for humans, especially young children. The FDA even banned it from baby bottles because of its harmful affects. They will not ban it out right because the food and drug companies say there no safe alternatives. They are just too cheap to find a safe alternative!

    To be on the healthy safe side let’s do our best to avoid can goods, including soda and juice if possible. It will be a little difficult at times, but our physical and mental health are worth it!

    • Jcatz824

      #3 – states that dented cans may have a potential to be hazardous to your health and has a link to read a document on the subject.

  • Fearlessfred001

    You mentioned that if you “butter” cheese, it will stop mold, etc. A better method would be to WAX cheeses. Does a better, easier job, does not waste the butter and the wax can be re-used. See the Youtube videos on Waxing cheeses.

  • guest1xprq11

    Fair advice as far as it goes but #3 can cost you more. Is it a good idea to look at the alternatives? Yes. However to save money you have to to consider all your expenses. One stop shopping is often the least expensive. Saving a couple of dollars by going to a local fruit stand or Farmers market can cost more when you you figure in the cost of gasoline. Make a bunch of different stops and the gost goes higher.

    Don’t buy baked goods other than bread. Make them yourself. If you have children get them involved in the process so they learn to cook. Aside for the dollar savings the real payoff comes when you are greeted by a nice warm cookie when you come home from a hard day at work or maybe even a dinner you don’t have to cook. Most baking recipes are quick and easy.

    Learn to make your own pizza. Even if you buy a ready made crust you can save $10 or more each time you make your own and you can avoid hidden sugar and salt.

  • Kate

    Be careful with discount stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. While they have some great values for buying some items in bulk, other items are not. Especially if you can combine coupons with sales at other stores. The best advice if you have the time is do your homework before shopping and shop the sales and specials whenever possible.

    • Jcatz824

      I’m not sure about Costco but I’m pretty sure that Sam’s Club does not take coupons. I do know that BJ’s does accept coupons. If you are going to buy at a warehouse club, don’t forget to factor in the yearly cost of the membership. I think the BJ’s membership costs about $40-$50 a year and since I am only one person (w/3 cats) I do better by watching sales and using coupons at my local groceries, drug stores and Walmarts.

      • Kate

        That is exactly my point. Costco and other big box stores are not always cheaper. Lots of people get lulled into the idea that they are because its a bulk purchase.

  • http://WWW.EXTRA-CASH-ONLINE.COM/ Robert Connor

    Some basic but real money saving tips

  • Adele

    Buying local is not cheaper, is more excpensive. Farmers market prices are on level of Whole Foods and co ops are even worse. You do not buy local to save but to support community. Salvage and outlet grocery stores are best for savings.

  • LadyChel

    I have found that most items on sale at CVS or Walgreens are the same price as regular marked items at Walmart! However, CVS and Walgreens offer those reward bucks to spend the next time you are at that store. I’m not sure if it evens out, but I got quite a headache trying to figure in reward bucks, coupons, and comparing prices between all the stores :P. It can be worth it if there are specific things you always get at CVS or Walgreens.

  • nmtonyo

    Weighing in on suggestions 3 & 5: The big box, warehouse stores are marketing wizards that make shopping there a game for professionals. Unless you’re well versed in comparing unit prices, it’s easy to be lulled into thinking bigger sizes of things are always a better deal. When I had a Sam’s card, I compared many items I bought for a family of four, and found lower unit prices on smaller packages at a Walmart which was next door. Yes, certain things are best purchased at the warehouse store, but the store layout is intended to put many impulse items in your path as well. Stacy Johnson could have a rule that reads, “Beware of Economy Size anything!”

  • Jcatz824

    Stacy Johnson DID NOT write this article – Allison Martin did. Read the top. #3 has a “link” to click on a document to read about “dented cans”.

  • Y2KJillian

    1. BULK foods are possibly a good deal (compare unit prices as pointed out below) but NOT if you a. won’t eat them before they go stale or moldy, b. get utterly sick of them after a while (we once bought a Costco pack of frozen taquitos…we slogged through them diligently and three months later gave the last one to the dog, and have never looked at another taquito and never will, I think), c. overeat them–bulk candy and treats, for example, only encourages overeating…don’t buy large quantities unless you’re sure you can dole them out reasonably. Better to pay full price for one candy bar and eat it, than to pay half on each bar in a huge bag and eat yourself sick. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE! (Sadly, this is ME!)
    2. SALES only help if you KNOW the prices beforehand elsewhere. Walgreen’s generally is NOT a great place to buy groceries…my husband, for example, seems to have NO ability to remember prices, so the sign SALE is all he goes by.
    3. OUT OF DATE OR SHORT DATE: Big Lots here doesn’t offer out-of-date food, but The Dollar Store always did before they closed. You have to check!
    4. CHEESE. Buttering and waxing cheese might be effective, but both sound like a lot of work. Cheese can be frozen. When we buy WinCo’s mild bulk cheese and freeze it, when thawed in the fridge it can be broken up easily into chunks that are surprisingly like those “squeaky nuggets” you can buy from Tillamook Cheese and occasionally other cheese-making companies…delicious! But most cheeses can be frozen and will thaw nicely in the fridge with no changes.
    5. HI THERE FELLOW EARTHICANS! Hey, it’s wonderful to read all the comments from like-minded folks out there who aren’t ashamed or afraid to spend and live frugally! Hi, everyone! Glad to hear from you all!
    Jillian

  • Sherrie Ludwig

    Most people have a list of ten to twenty things that they buy regularly. Ann Dacyzyn (sp?) of The Tightwad Gazette (find it at your local library) has the advice that has saved me money and time since I started having to live on a tight budget: Keep a price book! On those things that you buy regularly, note the price, store and date. Compare the prices at different stores and in ads. I found out that Aldi’s is cheaper than Sam’s Club on some staples like flour and sugar! (and no yearly membership fee!) We also bake our own bread for a household of two, three loaves at a time, about once a week, which comes to about 20 cents a loaf, has no preservatives, and tastes wonderful. Bread is so easy if there is a night when you will be home watching tv or such, it takes less than twenty minutes of time over about three hours.

  • RJ

    As far as dented cans you need to watch for seepage, stains, damp spots and that the dent is not on the seam, you also need to understand the most of the “use by’ “best used by” are freeshness date guarantee not that is always “bad” by that date. Some times on fress meats you see “use by or freeze by” dates. I like hitting Walmart early Monday morns or mid week early in most cases that when they mark down their fresh meats. I’ve bought chicken, steaks, sea foods, pork at a savings of 40-70% off its just at the date door. I take it home seaperate into small packs in a vacum bag (food saver system) mark dates on them than in the freezer, then latter while some one is bbq’n a $10.00 steak I’m bbq’n the same steak but at around $4.50. IF things keep going the way we are headed you will be glad to eat some beans out of a dented can. I buy all the “dry” products I can and cook them off rice, beans, etc

  • John Beck

    Have we really become this stupid as a society? This is all stuff your parents should be teaching you. Oh, wait: It takes a village. Ok, now I get it.