Whether you have a growing family to feed or you’re living on your own, a good chunk of your income tends to go toward food. I mean, we all gotta eat! With the rising costs of housing, gas prices all over the map, and kids needing an endless list of school supplies (and clothes, and sports gear, and entertainment…), we could all be more mindful of where our hard-earned dollars go.
There are countless websites, videos, and even TV shows dedicated to extreme couponing and scoring mountains of free or dirt cheap products as a means to cut down on the grocery bill. My beef (tofu?) with this coupon system is this:
- Mama ain’t got extra time to be clipping coupons or scouring the web for sales
- I don’t have the storage for the “stock pile” that is often a by-product of couponing
- 95% of the products that I buy come from the produce section or come from brands that rarely, if ever, offer coupons. I am NOT about to feed my family frozen corn dog nuggets and wash their clothes in toxic, chemically laden detergent because I can get them for pennies all thanks to a magical manufacturers coupon.
So what is a budget and health conscious person to do when it comes to keeping the grocery budget in check? Yes, you can totally follow the standard recommendations of watching for and shopping the sales, using cash only, sticking to your list, and not going to the store hungry (or with hungry kids, for that matter), but what kind of a friend would I be if I told you things that you already know?
Today I am going to let you in on my simple strategy for saving money at the grocery store; no coupon clipping and very minimal time and effort.
- Menu Plan: Taking few minutes the night before you go grocery shopping will not only help you decide what you need at the store, but also keep you from buying extras of items you already have but have forgotten about. I have a whole list of tips on how I menu plan every week if you’re not sure where to start.
- Reduce You Meat and Dairy: You had to know this one was coming… you are reading a whole food, plant-based diet and lifestyle blog after all. While meat and dairy are covered by government subsidies and tend to be price controlled, in a matter of speaking, plant based foods can be WAY more budget friendly! Dry beans, rice, pasta, potatoes, and bananas are some of the most filling, and cost-effective foods out there. If you aren’t ready to go fully plant-based, try going meat, dairy, and egg free 1 or more days a week. Watch your health and your budget improve
- Shop in Season: If you’re aware of what produce is currently in season in your area (Internet FTW!) you can take advantage of not only super fresh, ripe, and nutrient dense options, but you’ll save some money too! Currently melons are a bargain, but try buying them in the middle of December and you’ll pay a premium (and they won’t be nearly as delicious).
- Know When to Splurge: Ideally, we would all love to buy 100% organic, local, fair-trade items, but those foods can come at a hefty price! The Environmental Working Group has made a list that they call the “Dirty Dozen and Clean 15” of the fruits and vegetables that are the most important to buy organic and the ones that we can safely buy conventional. Print it out and put it in your wallet so you know which items are worth the extra cost. The list gets updated every year, so make sure to check back as farming practices change in our food supply.
- Hit the Bulk Bins: Sometimes you have a recipe that calls for only a small amount of an ingredient. Check and see if your store’s bulk bins have what you’re looking for and buy only what you need. Likewise, if you’re trying out a new grain, legume, or flour, see if the bulk bins can provide you with a smaller amount so you don’t end up with a 5 lb bag of pinto beans that doesn’t make you want to toot your horn (sorry. Couldn’t help it).
- Technology is Your Friend: Most grocery stores now have apps available for your phone that have their sales, coupons, and deals that you can save right to your phone (no scouring the newspaper for you!). I regularly use the Sprouts app to “clip” digital coupons and scan them directly from my phone at the register. Likewise, I have saved hundreds of dollars over the last 2 years using Walmart’s Savings Catcher in their app. All I do is scan the QR Code on my receipt after I go shopping and it automatically “AD matches” to dozens of other stores in my area. If an item I just purchased is advertised for lower at a competing store, the app automatically puts the difference into an account for me that I can later load to an “e-card” and spend on another trip to Walmart!By far, my favorite shopping app is called Ibotta. Before I go shopping ANYWHERE (I’m talking grocery stores, clothing stores, pharmacies, gas stations, even restaurants) I check Ibotta to see if the store I am going to has any rebates. You simply click on the rebate you want to use and they are saved for you. When I have my receipt, all I need to do is go back into the app, verify the purchases by scanning the barcode, and then take a picture of the receipt. The money you redeem is placed in an account that you can later load on to e-cards to places such as Walmart, Itunes, Express, Starbucks, Amazon, Best Buy, etc or you can link your PayPal or venmo account and transfer the money right over!Another great feature of Ibotta is the bonuses they offer. If in a given month you redeem a certain amount of rebates, use rebates from certain brands, or redeem a specific dollar amount, you get extra cash back. You can create teams with your friends and work toward even more cash bonuses together! If you’d like to join my team so we can save some money together, you can use my referral code ntxoqyd and you’ll earn $10 for free when you redeem your first rebate! Isn’t technology wonderful?
Do you have any other simple, coupon-clipping free tips for saving money at the grocery store? Share them with us in the comments below!!
*all photos are royalty-free stock photography from .com
Full disclosure: This blog post contains a referral code. Meaning, basically, if you sign up for an app or service using any of these codes it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I may make a little money. So thank you in advance for supporting my family 🙂