5 Simple Steps To Save On Food Shopping

Ever go food shopping and think you need only a few items?

You do your shopping, thinking you didn’t buy much and then you get to the register.

The amounts on the register screen start piling up.

When your order total pops up you do a triple take saying “what?!?”

You’ve just spent way more than you wanted.  What’s worse is you get home and you don’t really have much food for meals.  Ends up you have a lot of snacks and such.


“How can I save on food shopping,” you ask? 

Here are five simple way to get you on track and help you save on your food shopping.

1. Plan out your meals before hand.

Don’t take a step out of the door without first figuring out what you are going to eat for the week.

This is crucial.

If you don’t plan what you are going to eat then you wander around the supermarket finding this and that saying “yeah, that would be nice.”  You end up buying too much and you also ending not having everything you need.

Ever get to the supermarket and wonder whether you have something like pasta sauce at home?

Here’s what happens – Either you have sauce at home, but forget, and you end up buying more (and spending too much) OR you don’t have sauce  but think you do so you don’t buy any and your meal is now incomplete.

It’s Murphy’s Law.

Plan out exactly what meals you want on what days. Calculate what ingredients you need, then see what you already have.  Now you have a clear idea of what you need to buy and you’re ready for step #2.

2. Make a shopping list.

food shopping

A grocery list can help you save when food shopping.

Now that your meals are planned out, you can figure out what you need exactly for the meals.

Make your shopping list.

Add in all the other food you need around the house.  The more precise the better (but do what works best for you).

When you have a shopping list three things happen:

a) your shopping is precise because you know exactly what you need to get;

b) you save money because you only buy what you need; and

c) you save time as you aren’t wandering around the store guessing what you might need in the house.  You also save time because you get what you need and you don’t have to go back out to buy items you missed the first time.

Here’s a tipMake a go-to list.  Create a list of basic items you know you always need when you go food shopping.  Simple stuff like milk, orange juice, bread, eggs, etc…  You can save this list as a Google Doc  or in a notepad program on your phone (or with a program like Evernote) so you can access and build your list off of it.

Bonus tip – Want to make your shopping faster?  Organize your shopping list out by the type of food.  So put all the fruits in vegetables together, all the frozen items together, you get the picture.  This way you walk down an aisle once and you don’t have to double back.  If you go shopping with kids then you know how important it is to get in and out of a store as quick as possible!

3. Plan your coupons ahead of time.

If you clip coupons then take the extra few minutes to go through them and match what you have to your shopping list.

Let me tell you, it’s so much easier to do this before-hand than looking through your pile of coupons in the supermarket with a list in one hand, the cart in the other, and the kids bugging you to buy snacks.

It’s also efficient and you can make sure you get the discounts on the items you need and adjust your shopping list to match the best coupon deals.

4. Don’t shop hungry.

Seriously, don’t shop hungry!

We’ve made this mistake too many times.

You go food shopping hungry and every good dessert and snack is something you want to try now.  You end up getting way more junk than you wanted (we went shopping at Whole Foods once and were amazed that we managed to come home with bags full of “healthier” junk rather then groceries we needed).

Grab something to eat before hand.

We like to have something like Clif Bars on hand for quick energy.

Oh, this definitely applies to the kids too!  This is a team effort and if the kids are hungry…well, things can get difficult (and expensive).

5. Don’t actually “go” food shopping

These days you can use services like Peapod or Fresh Direct to order food and have it delivered to you.

Yes, you pay extra in fees.

But for some the savings in time and effort are well worth it!  Saving isn’t always about finding the lowest price for an item.  Sometimes it’s the price you pay to get the item.

Shopping online means you aren’t passing any displays geared to inducing an impulse buy.  You also don’t have to pack the kids in the mini-van and cross your fingers, hoping they all behave.

Food shopping online isn’t for everyone but I think it can be beneficial for some.

There you have it.  Five easy steps you can take to help you save on groceries when you’re food shopping.

What tips work for you?

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Published or updated December 11, 2014.


  1. I actually did this with my 4th grader as part of his homeschool cirriculum. Each week he would sit down with Betty Crocker and plan a menu and make the shopping list. We would also use the ads to see what was in season. Then we would go to the store and he would compare the unit prices of the ingredients and make the most cost effective selection. He had to mark down how much money we were spending (I always liked using the tick marks) to make sure we would have enough cash at the register. It was a very good math lesson for him.

    • Wow, that’s a great lesson to start learning in 4th grade! We had to do similar things when I was a Scout but I was a bit older.

  2. Another way to save tons of money is to plan your meals around the sales. Then if some of those items are already sold out, you can always fall back on your “go-to” items.

  3. I so need to do the coupon thing (or convince my wife to consider it).

    I was wondering if any of those online shop for your groceries still existed. 🙂

  4. Make meals (and thus shop) in bulk. That way your evening meals can become lunches the next day and you can save money not going out to eat for lunch.

  5. I do 1,2, and 4 pretty well. With respect to avoiding shopping when hungry, I absolutely agree. It’s almost comical the things I have bought over the years when hungry, only to see them either A) go to waste, or B) be eaten right away – which is bad, because sometimes they were junk. Taking a somewhat disciplined and structured approach to food shopping can go a long way to helping your budget and your health!

    • It is comical. We’ve gotten home and looked at our food and literally realized we don’t have anything for actual meals! Pies – check! Ice Cream – check! Chips, you get the picture.

  6. Growing your own food is a good way to save money and guarantee freshness.

    With no food miles and from garden to plate in hours or minutes, it’s the best way to enjoy food.

    Another bonus is that you decide what is put on the crop. If you decide to go organic, then sun and rain water is all you need.

    Growing your own food is definitely cheaper than buying. Quality is far better and with some careful planning, you will have crops to see you through the whole year.

    You’ll also be suprised how little room you need. A good turnover of seasonal veg can be achieved with a single raised bed of no more than 4 X6 feet.

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