How I Spend Less Than Half the National Average on Groceries

According to the USDA*, a family our size (a couple with a one-year-old) should be spending $478 (thrifty plan) – $940 (liberal plan) on groceries- food only. We do not. We spend $200-250 a month on food, personal care, clothes and cleaning supplies. We live in California (not exactly a cheap state) and we like to eat! I also don’t spend hours couponing or driving to ten different stores. Would you like to cut your grocery bill with minimal effort? It can be done! Here are a dozen of my favorite ways, in no particular order.

  1. Use Coupons- But Only Sometimes. Okay, you had to know this was in here, but it’s probably the strategy I use the least. Coupons can be useful- if you use them right. But they can also be an excuse to spend extra money. If you never buy snacks (or only buy a few normally inexpensive ones), snack coupons won’t save you any money- they will cost you money because you weren’t going to buy those things in the first place. So how do you actually save money? Make your grocery list first and find coupons second. Don’t just browse the coupon pages. I love using Target’s Cartwheel App because you can search your item to see if there is a coupon for it. Want to save more? Use a Target Red Card (free debit card) for 5% off everything. You can even scan items in store as you add them to your cart. You can also search for coupons for any store at Want to save even more? Use Swagbucks for the same coupons and you’ll also earn “swagbucks” that you can use for free gift cards when you redeem the coupon.
  2. Buy in Bulk- Selectively. We have both a Sam’s Club and a Costco in our area, but since Costco only has a few items we use, we typically only have a Sam’s membership. Likewise, while we could save (price per ounce) on practically the whole store, we don’t actually use massive amounts of pens and Poptarts, so we don’t buy them there even if it looks like a good deal. Just like adding 20 items to your cart just because you have coupons spends more money than it saves, buying everything at a bulk store won’t help you out. If you tend to get sucked in to “good deals”, don’t browse. Just get in & get out. Better yet, order online & pick it up (read the next tip)- you won’t have to go down the aisles at all. I only buy a few things at Sam’s, but since we use them a lot and they are typically very expensive at another store, it is well worth the price. We like to stock up on chicken, cheese, toilet paper, granola bars and more. Your list will be totally up to you. Want to save even more buying in bulk? Here’s a couple of awesome deals to help you out!

Through 6/11 when you open a Sam’s Club account you can get a $20 gift card + rotisserie chicken ($5 value) + 12” Apple Lattice Pie ($9 value) + 36 Yeast Dinner Rolls ($6 value) with this link. Too late? Don’t worry, you can still use my referral link here for a $20 gift card (you’ll also help me buy some groceries- thanks!).

  1. Order Online & Pickup in Stores. Skip the browsing, the temptations, and the lines. Both Sam’s Club and Walmart offer grocery pickup. You can get $10 off your $50 Walmart Grocery Order with my referral link. Use the code WOWFRESH for an extra $10 off (hurry- it’s a limited time and I’m not sure when it expires). Sam’s Club Grocery Pickup is free (Walmart charges a small fee). Since we only have one car, I love using Grocery Pickup. I can order groceries online at home and Hubby can pick them up on his way home from work. No toddler to wrangle at the store, no candy bars to say no to in the line. Plus, you can save your favorites and future orders will be fast to put together.
  2. Have it Shipped Free. You can get free shipping at Target on anything with a Red Card (just need a $5 item? It still ships free- and you get 5% off). You can get free shipping at Walmart for (non-perishable) grocery orders of at least $35. Know how often you use an item? Subscribe & save an extra 5% at Target. Plus, if you order through Swagbucks (referral link), you get cash back (in the form of points toward gift cards)!
  3. Simplify Your Recipes. Audit your recipe collection. Do you have a recipe that requires a specialty ingredient? Can you substitute it for something more common? Leave it out altogether? If you don’t love the recipe, skip it (or save it for special occasions).
  4. Menu Plan. If you have a plan, it will be much easier to avoid the temptation of picking up takeout. You can read my guide to menu planning here.
  5. Shop Your Pantry. Take the time to do a pantry inventory. No really. I thought I knew what was in ours until I actually took everything off the shelf and wrote it down. I was amazed and found several meals worth of things hiding behind other food. When you make your menu plan, shop your pantry first, then shop the store.
  6. Only go to a few stores. This may be controversial. I know some people like to go for the sales at a variety of stores. If that works for you, great. For me, the fewer the stores the simpler my shopping. I make it work by knowing which stores have consistently good prices on the items I use. In case you haven’t guessed it, the stores I use are Sam’s Club (for a few bulk items), Walmart (for the bulk of our groceries) and Target (mostly for baby items).
  7. Buy Store Brand. There are a few times I deviate from this- my skin and hair are both picky, so I stick with Suave & Dove, but unless it needs to be a specific brand, I get whatever is cheapest PER OUNCE (do the math- the big box is sometimes more than the little one). Some items I know by heart what brand is cheapest. At Walmart, for example, Great Value (store) bread is always cheaper than Orowheat, and there’s a very good Great Value 100% Whole Wheat loaf. You can save even more by buying consistently low-priced store brands than you can by using occasional coupons on name brand (I know some extreme Couponers can prove me wrong, but this mama doesn’t have time for all that couponing. This is the easy way to save money).
  8. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies. I clean almost everything with vinegar water (10% vinegar) in a spray bottle. Toilets get baking soda and vinegar, and I make my own laundry soap. I haven’t yet found a good recipe for the dishwasher, but if you find one let me know. Cleaning this way is natural, safe (the laundry soap should not be ingested but if Man Cub gets ahold of the spray bottle I don’t have to worry), effective and oh-so-cheap! Plus, it goes easy on my sensitive skin.
  9. Don’t Buy Pre-Packaged. I cook from scratch most of the time, where it makes the most sense. Instead of buying frozen enchiladas, I buy tortillas, chicken, cheese and sauce. Enchiladas are super easy to make. I even on occasion make my own sushi (it’s really fun!) As you can see I do buy some things pre-made (like sauces), because I don’t have too much free time but I cook from home most of the time because it’s healthier, cheaper, and usually pretty tasty according to Hubby and Man Cub. Take the time to cook and you’ll save thousands over the years.
  10. Clothes: Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without. That is one of my favorite sayings and definitely our philosophy when it comes to clothing. Michael & I hardly ever get new clothes, and when we do we either use a combination of sales & coupons or shop thrift stores. Man Cub’s wardrobe, thankfully, has thus far been provided for between Baby Shower/Birthday/Christmas gifts and his very generous Grandmas; I’m planning a post soon on how to save on kid’s clothes. Simply put, we don’t buy a lot of clothes. We stick to a basic mix & match wardrobe and have 10 pairs of shoes between the 3 of us. The best way (for us) to save on clothes is simply not to buy them.

There you are. This is how I keep our grocery bill low while feeding my clan. What’s your favorite way to save on groceries?

P.S. Need those savings links again? Here ya go!

*Statistics are from April 2017 chart, Couple + 1-year-old.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *