Groceries seem to be one of the only monthly expenses that can be variable. So food shopping is naturally the first place to start when you’re looking to save a little money. As part 3 of the Simplifying Dinnertime Series, this post is all about grocery shopping on a budget. Because reducing the stress of dinnertime begins with not feeling stressed about overpaying for food.
Below are 7 actionable tips that you can put into place today to help you save a few precious dollars on food costs.
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If you checked out parts 1 & 2 of this series, then you’ve already got a start on building your meal plan and grocery lists. Once you’ve filled in the rest of your grocery list with the other items you’ll need for the week, you’re ready to head to the store.
Besides only purchasing items that are on sale, there are even more ways to ensure that you’re paying the cheapest price for your food.
(If you missed some posts in the series, no worries! I combined all the printables into one fun bundle that you can download by clicking here.)
I know price matching sounds scary and it definitely takes a few times to get the hang of it. But it can save you money, time and hassle if you stick with it!
Find out if your local store has a price matching policy. My current store does not, but at our previous house we did shop at a store with a price matching policy so I’ve got firsthand experience with this.
I think Walmart and No Frills both have price matching policies. But you may have to do some research in your area.
The biggest benefit to price matching is that you don’t have to drive around to different stores to get the best deals. This saves you time, money and headaches. Win!
To price match, go through the flyer of the competing store (or stores) and circle all the items that are cheaper than where you’re shopping. You will have to show the cashier the flyer, so make sure you are prepared ahead of time! You will get stressed out if you feel like you’re fumbling and holding up the line.
I used to save all my price match items till the end of the transaction and do them all at once.
Use A Price Keeper Cheatsheet
One of the best ways to keep track of pricing on the items you frequently purchase is to use a price & comparison chart. I’ve created a printable price chart just for this purpose!
Make a list of all the items you purchase on a weekly or regular basis. Jot down the regular prices for these items from the two grocery stores you most frequent. Now you can easily see which store is likely to save you the most money.
Next, enter the best sale price you’ve ever seen for those items. Now when you see that item for sale another time or at another store, you’ll know if you’re getting a good deal.
Click here to get your printable cheatsheet.
Rakuten Gift Cards
I JUST discovered this and I’m super excited about it! (Ok, I know I geek out a little about saving money on groceries, lol it’s a bit of an obsession!)
You can purchase gift cards on Rakuten (formerly Ebates) for a number of stores, including grocery stores like Sobeys, Loblaws, Walmart & No Frills! My local store is included and I can get 1.5% cash back! That would be an average of $6-$10 dollars a month for me. I know that’s not a lot, but every dollar counts especially if you’re trying to save up for something specific. (New coffee table here I come!)
(Use my Ebates link and get a bonus $5 on your first purchase of $25!)
Compare Brands & Quantities
The cost of an item per gram or ml is listed on the price labels in the store even if the item is on sale. Typically the price won’t have a dollar sign next to it, so it may look something like 0.79/100g for example.
This is the easiest way to compare pricing on two different brands when their quantities are different. If you’re unsure if something is a good deal, check the price per gram or ml.
You can also use this method to decide if it is worthwhile to purchase the larger quantity of an item from the same brand.
Sometimes it’s obvious, like peanut butter at $4.99 for 500ml or $5.99 for 1000ml, but if you’re a frazzled mom like me then doing quick math on the spot is not realistic. I rely on the price labels to do the math for me.
Watch the Numbers
Do your best to watch the cashier ring everything in. Sometimes mistakes are made that they don’t catch that can cost you $.
Find out if your store has a policy for items that are wrung in incorrectly. At my store, if you catch the error you get the item for free up to a $10 limit. We’ve gotten some great deals by catching mistakes!
If you’re feeling a little mischievous then you can take advantage of this policy. If you are very well informed on what the price of an item is advertised at but you see it priced incorrectly in the store then you can cross your fingers that it will ring in wrong and you can catch them out! It feels a little dishonest to do this though, I’ll admit. My husband loves trying it though!
Even if your store doesn’t have a policy like mine, you should still watch to catch any mistakes so that you definitely aren’t overpaying!
Produce can sometimes end up being very expensive without your realizing it. I don’t take the time to weigh the produce ahead of the checkout, sometimes the price per gram looks like a good deal but when it rings in it’s too expensive. I’ve definitely put back grapes and cherries that rang in at more than I was willing to pay. Produce is sneaky like that.
Check Your Receipt
Always look over your receipt BEFORE you leave the store.
Often I’m distracted by my little ones at the checkout and I can’t watch all the items ring through as closely as I would like. So I always scan my receipt in case any mistakes were made or if I see that an item cost more than I was willing to pay. That way I head straight to customer service to sort it all out.
If you wait until you are home to check your receipts, it is unlikely you’ll bother to go back to the store to correct the mistake or return something unless it was a really high ticket item.
Don’t Forget Your Rebates!
I LOVE using rebate apps! Currently I use two, Checkout 51 and Caddle. I check the apps as I’m making my grocery list and make a note of any rebates I want to get. When I get home from the store I submit a photo of my receipt and the amount gets credited to my account. Easy peasy.
I’ve gotten rebates on milk, berries, chocolate, dish soap, pie crust and yoghurt to name a few.
The rebates are smaller on Caddle, but they also have 1 minute surveys that you can earn with. I’ve accumulated about $13 in the last couple of months.
Checkout 51 adds up a little quicker. I just cashed out for $57. I pretty much get a rebate on at least one thing per grocery trip. And I love when I can use a coupon plus get a rebate on a single item! It feels like winning the food shopping lottery!
(Yes, I’m a crazy coupon lady! I go more into detail about my couponing habits in this post if you’re interested.)
There you have it! These are my best tips for grocery shopping on a budget. What would you add to the list?
ps. Don’t forget to grab your free bundle of printables to help make dinnertime a little easier!
pps. Pin this helpful graphic for later:
Dr. K. Lee Banks says
I make up a list ahead of time and categorize by fresh food, “shelf” food (cans, boxes, etc.), frozen food, and non-food items. I usually buy store brands rather than big name brands on many foods. I also watch those shelf labels and unit prices, because as you said, prices can look so appealing on an item until you see the same thing for only a dollar or two more, but twice as much product! I nearly always shop with a calculator, so I can keep track and not go over budget – and cross things off the list or put things back, if necessary. I feel like a true sign of prosperity some day will be when I can shop WITHOUT a calculator!
Natalie Linda says
I love your list! I agree that it’s SO important to check your receipt – I actually enjoy checking it for accuracy. My aunt saves so much money on groceries with price matching – so it’s definitely helpful!
Once you figure out an efficient strategy, price matching can save you loads!
This is a really great idea for a post. I think scanning your receipt is really useful, you don’t want to pay something you didn’t intend to buy 🙂
Ebates is totally a lifesaver! I can even get money back when I rent my college textbooks!
That’s awesome! I didn’t know it was possible to rent textbooks… then again it’s been about a decade since I’ve needed textbooks … lol
Felicia @ The Starving Chef says
I’ve caught so many mistakes on receipts – I used to be a cashier so I understand mistakes can happen!
Yup, mistakes happen. It’s a fact of life!
Amanda Preston says
These were great ideas, thanks! I had never heard of those apps either. I have 8 kids, so my grocery bills are A LOT, so every penny saved is appreciated! I haven’t tried price matching yet but I think it might be time to start 🙂
Price matching is a little intimidating at first but totally worth it. You can do it!
I loved this post! I am really trying to cut back on grocery spending! Love the tips!
Groceries can be so expensive! I hope you can use some of these tips to save some money!
Melissa Javan says
Good list of ideas Laura. I like the price and comparison sheet idea.
Thanks Melissa! I hope you find it helpful!