how to save money at the grocery store

grocery shop bagHas anyone else noticed that grocery prices have skyrocketed in the past year or two? I actually went grocery shopping today for a few necessities (milk, produce, bread) and a thing or two for a certain someone's upcoming 3rd birthday party...and ended up spending over $100!

Oh me. Oh my.

Normally, we shop with a list. And we're typically pretty thrifty. But today I bought a few extras: a green tablecloth, a number "3" candle, and chocolate frosting with rainbow-colored sprinkles.

Here are 5 things we strive to do to keep our bill manageable:

1. Shop with a list. I know you read this tip on every frugal-themed blog and website, but it really can cut down expenses (and stress). I almost always meal plan ahead of time and send my husband with a list (he does most of the grocery shopping...today was an exception).

2. Think long term, not short term. It can be tempting to buy frozen dinners and boxed snacks. Don't do it - though that $.99 price tag beckons you. Eating recklessly (processed, high-fat, high-sugar, high-fake) will result in poor health, a weakened immune system, and weight gain. In the long run, that kind of lifestyle will "cost" you more. Besides, making homemade snacks and meals actually can be cheaper if you buy in bulk and watch for sales.

3. Don't use coupons. Couponing programs and sites fascinate me. The lure of saving hundreds of dollars is promising, but coupons only save you money if you are ALREADY going to buy the item. This is the primary reason we rarely use coupons. The fact of the matter is that most coupons are for ready-made meals and convenience foods. Think about it: how often do you see coupons for fresh blueberries, organic sweet potatoes, and eggs from the local farm? Not often enough.

4. Do use coupons. Tip #3 should be taken with a grain of salt because many people can and do save money with coupons. I know that I need to get better about it - especially for home care products like toilet paper, laundry detergent, deodorant, and paper towels.

5. Try the generic brand. Some brand name foods are just plain better. Take Tillamook cheese, for example. We buy it every single time. Other foods, however, can easily be bought generic. It's good to experiment. Brand names are not always better.

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Another option is to shop at a bargain market...

grocery outlet inside of storeMy family and I recently were given the opportunity to try shopping at Grocery Outlet, an extreme value market of bargains and closeouts. The store was clean and brightly colored, but the carts were dirty and disorderly (aren't all grocery carts kind of icky though?). The aisles were filled with brand name products - Crest and Hidden Valley, Ocean Spray and Hunt's, Starbucks and Brawny.

Here's how the website describes the Grocery Outlet shopping experience: "We search the world for unique and exciting BARGAINS on everything from orchids to wine, from imported cheese to furniture, so every trip to Grocery Outlet is like a treasure hunt."

That is a fantastic description. Grocery Outlet is kind of like shopping at Ross Dress for Less or T.J. Maxx. Sometimes, you go there and look and look to no avail. Other times, you find EXACTLY what you are looking for. But it's hit-or-miss, a "scavenger hunt," if you will. It's not the kind of place that you show up with a planned list and you can find everything on it (some weeks they might have tomato sauce, other weeks they might not). But it IS a place to find deals. I think it's a good place to find gifts too - we bought a few bottles of wine, for example, and...some fancy brand name bars of dark chocolate. Be careful to check the expiration dates because we found a thing or two that had expired or that had quickly-approaching dates. I probably wouldn't buy produce or dairy items at my local Grocery Outlet, but I would buy paper products, pasta, salsa, laundry detergent, snacks, etc.

If you like the thrill of treasure hunting, of finding unexpected good buys...then say hello to Grocery Outlet.

YOUR TURN: How do YOU save money at the grocery store?

grocery outlet logoWIN IT! One winner will receive a $100 gift card to Grocery Outlet (Is there one near you?). To enter, leave any topic-related comment on this post prior to Wednesday, September 16th at 11:59 p.m. (Don’t forget to follow the rules…all generic comments like “Enter me!,” “Love it,” and “Cool stuff!” will be disqualified.).

*UPDATE* The winner is #16 Debbie. Congratulations!

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124 comments on “how to save money at the grocery store”

  1. I'm amazed at how much grocery prices have gone up. We try and buy things a little at a time so we don't have a lot of waste. If I can get some sales items that can be frozen I do that as well. Every little bit helps.

  2. I love our grocery outlet. I save so much money! It feels good not to have to pay the ridiculous prices of a regular grocery store. With the way our family eats its crazy.

  3. At any time I can get things for cheaper that makes me really happy! I'm amazed at people who shop without coupons and sales. I could never afford to do that.

  4. Rule #1 Have breakfast or lunch before you go grocery shopping.

    Every time I go shopping when I'm hungry I spend more, make spontaneous purchases that more often come under the heading of junk food and feel tired when I get done.

    Rule #2 If you can't use whatever you buy within 10 days then your probably overshopping which is ultimately overspending. Buying bulk too much of a challenge. Try shopping with a friend and you can split the cost and still benefit from the savings.

  5. Good place for nice savings!

    One of my fav tips when grocery shopping is to check out the meat dept at end of day when they give some discounts on expiring meat.

  6. I love to use coupons, but I don't find as many good ones as I used to. Usually the items are more expensive with the coupon, than a store brand without.

  7. i use coupons and match them up with the sales to save money. today i went to target and got 10 kashi items for less than $6!

  8. oh Groceries are always a big challenge in our household as having a Diabetic on board so it gets quite costly so this would help so much and thanks for the opportunity!
    wombatspurple at yahoo dot com

  9. I feel like I cannot grocery shop if I don't have a list. I wind up not getting anything that I really need, but way too much stuff that I don't need. I've wasted too much money that way, so I've became very diligent with always keeping a list on my iPod touch because I always have it with me.

  10. That sounds like a great place to shop! I love digging for bargains and finding unexpected treasures, but have never done it with groceries. Thanks so much.

  11. I agree that the most important aspects of saving money at the grocery store are.

    1) Planning Meals ahead of time
    2) Shopping only once a week.

  12. I always find great buys at Grocery Outlet. After making my grocery list, I shop there first before hitting other grocery stores. t never fails, I find alot of my items there and save a bundle.

  13. I'm amazed by how expensive groceries have gotten! Especially if you're trying to eat healthy. I try and make sure I shop off of the sales, so I plan meals around when things are on special.

  14. We buy in bulk at Costco but because it's just the two of us, we split it with my in-laws. Things like chicken breasts, fruit, stuff like that you can get a great deal in bulk, and it doesn't go to waste.

  15. I hadn't heard of this store before, but I looked and saw that there is one near us. I love the idea of getting unique gourmet food items at a discount! With the economy the way it is any way I can save money is important for me. I would be so excited to check them out with some extra money to play around with. Thanks!

  16. I've never shopped at our Grocery Outlet, but there's one across town and I'd love to try it. I do well saving money by combining coupons with sales, and I love to buy ver inexpesnive and free items to donate to our local food pantry. Even if there are things that you wouldn't eat, if you get a great deal you can donate the items and feel great about it! I do that a lot with toothpaste and deodorant brands that I don't use, for example.

  17. Thanks for the giveaway... I was unaware that they have a location in metro Phoenix; they have a unique supermarket concept:

    "[they] buy brand name products directly from their manufacturers for pennies on the dollar. When a manufacturer has surplus inventory like excess packaging or manufacturing overruns they call Grocery Outlet first...About 75% of [their] product is sourced this way. Some of [their] greatest buys are in Health and Beauty Care, Wine, Frozen Foods, Organics and Produce."

    Definitely worth a shopping trip to check it out...

  18. Yes, we have a Grocery Outlet store less than 1 mile from our home:

    15810 Se McLoughlin Blvd
    Milwaukie, OR 97267

    We shop there at least once a week if not more. They have great deals on wine and cheeses. We save money on our groceries by choosing to wait until items we buy on a regular basis go on sale then stock up. All the grocery stores including Grocery Outlet tend to put items on sale on a rotation. So if I buy cereal this week it might be on sale again in 3 weeks so I know I need to buy enough until then and get them on sale again 3 weeks later.

  19. I love Grocery Outlet-this summer ours had fruit trees for $9.99---I live in an apartment --and our deck is full--with our summer vegetables ---but man I wanted these trees!! To save money --I plan my shopping --I go through the grocery store circulars and find who's got the best deals on the things I need. I also do a good deal of my shopping at Winco---they have tons of bins of products so you can buy what you need---this is great for spices---if my recipe calls for a teaspoon of allspice I can buy a teaspoon for pennys instead of $5 for a bottle of allspice.

  20. We have a Grocery outlet here in Modesto, CA
    As someone else mentioned, they have a great selection of cheese, which I love! My favorite section is the frozen food aisle. All kinds of goodies there!
    AllMyCrazyCats @ AOL.com

  21. I love the Grocery Outlet, we've had to cut our budget down by a lot. So we've become much more aware of what we are spending and where our money is going. Sigh, its so hard being a grown up! :)

  22. I always buy store brand items if they are available! A lot of the times I even like them better than the known brand and it saves us a ton of money.

  23. I've never been to a Grocery Outlet, never realized what type of store they were. I've been much more aggressive about keeping grocery costs down. I make up my shopping list on the fly in the store, based on what's on sale that day. This sounds like it would be a great help in that department.

  24. We have a brand new Grocery Outlet not far from us. I love shopping there! I find such great things! Trouble is, they usually aren't there next time I go back! :(
    digicat{AT}sbcglobal{DOT}net

  25. I had never heard of Grocery Outlets until I visited Metropolitan Mama. Immediatley I went and looked at Grocery Oultet in the web. Having just moved to a new state, I am delighted to find that Grovery Outlet has an outlet here. It is not rela close to my home so it will make a nice day trip. If the savings are that substantial it will be a great day. Thanks for the info.

  26. I know that using coupons can be a pain in the butt some times, I also know that a lot of people cannot shop on base. But if you do shop on a base then you should know that they take any and all coupons no matter if you got the idem or not. But for the rest of us we just have to be careful on what we get. I think that we can save a little money using coupons but not much. I think that we have a grocery outlet here, I will check it out next week to make sure. Thank you for all the help. Dianna

  27. I save money a few ways when buying groceries...I usually buy my week's groceries from what's on sale and I also go to The Grocery Outlet. I have to say Costco is an awesome way to save money if you buy things you can use pretty quickly:D

  28. To save money, one of the stores we shop at is Grocery Outlet. We also watch for sales and use coupons where appropriate at other stores.

    We have two Grocery Outlets within four miles of us. Many times the buys we find at one store are not at the other. Which store we shop depends on the direction our errands take us. The one we stop in at the most (closer to home)is in the same shopping complex as the drug store, but the one we have found some of our better buys at is across town close to the other stores we visit.

  29. I also only use coupons for stuff I already plan on buying. The one exception is a free coupon. I'm willing to pay the sales tax in order to try a new product with a free coupon.

  30. Only buy what you need, don't throw anything away (eat it before it goes bad), make as much as possible from scratch. Go to Grocery Outlet! They have great deals.

  31. I have never heard of this store.. but I also moved to a new town.. I betcha I can find a store somewhere close to me!! I would love to win.. I have been broke for sooo long and even have my mom paying most of my rent for me, and I am 48!! I would love to win this!!! thank you!

  32. We used to live right across the street from Grocery Outlet. It was the best place to find gourmet Ice Creams. I haven't been back there in a number of months because we don't have it right nearby any more.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  33. I may have mentioned this on one of your other posts, but I try to make a list of all of the meals we will eat throughout the week and do one grocery shop per week. This cuts down on costs quite a bit. Another money saving tip - GO GROCERY SHOPPING MID-WEEK! The prices are SO much cheaper during the week, say on a Wednesday or Thursday, rather than the weekend. I suppose most people shop on Saturday or Sunday (I used to) for the week, but the prices are much lower mid week. We buy most of our food at Trader Joe's (which is fabulous) and the extras at our local Nob Hill (Raley's). I started buying a lot of meat and bread at Costco and freezing that which we will not use in the week. We go to Costco about every 3 weeks and save heaps.

  34. I lOVE the Grocery Outlet!!! Usually, I coupon, coupon, coupon, and buy on sale, and buy the generic products! Making a list is wonderful and I try never to go shopping when I am hungry! :-)

  35. I'm a tried and true couponer and usually do it in less than an hour a week. ... So we disagree a tad there; however, you are so right on the list ... cuts down on what you buy -- plus, you get in and out *much* faster. ... BTW years ago, I would go to the Grocery Outlet and make gift baskets taht I would see -- bath items, etc ... was a great place, like you said, for inexpensive presents.

  36. I go on double coupon day=). And I enter contests like th epace one where you can get free food products and have joined vocalpoint where you get ocassional free coupons too.

  37. One thing I've learned about shopping at Grocery Outlet is to stock up if you find something you know you will use. Often, you will never find that product there again. I once got bottles of pineapple juice for 8 cents each there-my whole family loved them and I wish I would have purchased the whole stock!
    smchester at gmail dot com

  38. I check my refrigerator and cupboards before I make my list. Sometimes I find things I've forgotten about, so I don't have to buy them this time... or they'll inspire me to make something else I hadn't considered. Thank you for the offer!

  39. we just moved to a new house and there is a grocery outlet within walking distance. i've been trying to save money in every way possible, so i'd love to be able to see how far i can stretch a $100 gift card!

  40. I am a huge fan of Grocery Outlet, I find the best organic things there for my daughter's lunchbox for 99 cents! I try to shop from a menu plan so I don't buy impulse items. I also use coupons to stockpile really good deals too.
    Thanks! foxsquirrelrabbit at gmail dot com

  41. I'm in Texas so there isn't one near my sadly but I do have a friend in Tahoe who could use this I assume it's ok to enter for a friend?
    jessica(at)fan(dot)com

  42. There is not one near me, but i would love to give this to my mother who lives in AZ. I use to love shopping at phx grocery outlet. inexspensive, and convienant

  43. We love the Grocery Outlet there is one with in 10 minutes of our house. It's been one of the main ways we've saved extra dollars of late. They're always guaranteed to have certain things (produce, milk, cheese) and it's also a great opportunity to try new things...

  44. I like our Grocery Outlet, nice selection of organic foods and good prices on the staple items.
    For all, I shop the sales and stock up on non perishables.

  45. I save money by clipping coupons and trading for ones I will use with friends, like i use all kinds of baby coupons since and my neighbor has a cat and two dogs so we trade coupons. I never buy things like baby food, wipes or diapers without it being on sale and me having a coupon for it.

  46. I save money by not shopping when I am hungry and not shopping with the kids! I'm always tired by the time I make it to the store so if I have the kids with me its much easier for them to wear me down asking for stuff!

    I used to use more coupons and still should but finding time to cut and organize them is challenging!

  47. I save tons of money with couponing and stockpiling. I do tend to buy a good number of prepackaged items, but it works for my family. Throwing a package of frozen meatballs into hamburger helper is a fast and good meal. Sometimes I add extra veggies to it. And I was able to get the hamburger helper better than free. Oh, and last week at Meijer they had a coupon deal that got me Kool Aid singles for free, and paid for the rest of my groceries too!

  48. I'm still trying to figure out how to save money at the grocery store LOL I've noticed I've been saving money just by not buying all the packaged snacks that I had been. I've been buying fruits and veggies instead and it's cut my budget down and fills us up faster!

    Alelksija at ymail dot com

  49. I have never tried a grocery outlet, but I like the idea. I am always shopping the sales and using coupons to get good deals. I also stock up on items we use regularly so I don't have to pay full price if we run out of an item.

  50. No grocery outlet here - but my biggest tip for cutting back on the grocery bill (aside from the whole list thing) is to eat before you go to the store so that you are not hungry or thirsty in any way shape or form. That always cuts back on any impulsive purchases I might make!

    The other thing I do is watch the sale bill and stock up when things - especially meat - go on a good sale.

  51. I always use coupons and save money on grocery shopping. you can try here for grocery coupon -http://printable-coupons-cmc.blogspot.com/

  52. I have never tried grocery outlet, they do have one a little ways from us but with so many others closer I never tried them. I usually shop at winco. There you have to be careful because they don't have sales but the price flucate a lot week to week sometimes. Also flavors of the same thing can have different prices. I use coupons but mostly for cereal or oatmeal. once in a while you do see coupons in the paper for fruit and veggies but not often

  53. Our daughter and son in law just moved near us with our 6 grandchildren. There is a Grocery Outlet at our biggest town in the county about 25 minutes away. You would not BELIEVE how valuable a $100 gift card to this store would be for us...

  54. This is sad to admit, but there are 2 very close to me, and I never knew it. I even drive by one (if I'm looking correctly at the G.O. store locator map correctly) often - but I've never noticed it! I'll be taking a peek tomorrow and try to stop in soon. Thanks for the review and tip! Would love to have a little shopping spree there. I'm always up for trying something new, esp if it's a good deal.

  55. I would love this gift card. We have a grocery outlet by us but i have never tried it. I would love to see if they have great prices on lunch ideas for my husbands lunch and my teenager is eating like there is no tomorrow! thanks!

  56. I checked their store finder and there isn't one even in my state. There were only a few stores listed. So if I win, I'd like you to consider awarding this to a food bank where you live, or a battered women's shelter, or a church outreach program that you know about in your community.
    I like these types of giveaways. When you free up a little of the grocery budget income, other things that need to be done or caught up on regarding a families finances can. Good luck to all. P.S. I cut out coupons, but only use them if a product is really on sale and this makes the item cheaper than the foods I would normally buy.

  57. Coupons save me so much money! I just posted how I bought $114 in groceries for less than $8 at Target and that included organic bananas, strawberries, organic cereal, orange juice, deli bread, and a ton of other stuff (some not so healthy like ice cream and I even got some pop tarts, which I tend not to do).

    If you are organized it does not take up too much time.

  58. It's always fun to shop at Grocery Outlet, you never know what bargains are there. Just make sure to check the expiration date and use the food right away. Had some potstickers recently that were pretty good and now my grocery outlets has fresh meat.

  59. One of my biggest tips on how to save money at the grocery store is to plan your meals! Plan a week or two at a time, and base your list on that. That way you don't have those nights where you're like "I don't know what to make for dinner..." so you go out to eat. Or you head to the grocery store trying to figure it out really fast, and end up buying extras. By planning ahead, you can plan around what's on sale, too, which saves even more money.

  60. I try to leave the kids and dh at home! They always "need" something that wasn't on my list, lol. In fact, last night all 5 of us went to the grocery store, and my 6yo son tried to put a salami log in the cart and then my dh tried to cover for him, lol!

  61. We don't have any near us but they sound like something I would enjoy poking around - it is a shame!

    As for saving money - I do use coupons but only for items that would normally be on my shopping list or for personal care items. I tend to look at the store flyers and try to shop the sales. I also try to run to the store on Saturday because my Kroger's puts the meat and fish that has "sell by" date of Monday or Tuesday on "Manager Special" on Saturday - usually 50 - 66% off. I bring it home and put it in the freezer. We also make a trip to the farmer's market almost every Sunday. The prices are better than the grocery stores (not super amazing bargains but better), the produce is fresher and in season, and the money supports our local farmers.

  62. The biggest thing is shop without husband- he is a junk food impulse buyer who does not bargain shop. I also use coupons on things I am going to use -or need,its not a bargain if its going to waste and also the fact I do not need more clutter at this point in life.

  63. I love the Grocery Outlet-even thought they do carry names brands-often times you will find something that is off the wall and you have to give it a try. I am a coupon clipper and find it really does help me save money.I use them every chance I can everywhere I go.

  64. We stick to a list, buy the generic brand and try to keep to the ends of the stores, not go through the middle aisles, as they are often the more processed foods and cost more.

  65. I pretty much just do the regular: shop sales, use coupons, stick to a list. I wish I was better at saving money at the grocery store but I'm learning :) And I love Grocery Outlet, they have tons of great stuff & great deals!

  66. I love coupons. I live in a very rural community so when I go shopping I hit up all the grocery outlets and stock up. Thanks for the chance!

  67. Ah, yes--coupons. I joined a coupon site about 2 years ago. I'm still a member, and I save a ton. But those first few months, I had to figure it out and NOT go nuts buying stuff just because it was on sale and I could get a great deal on it. Now I'm much smarter. I stock up on toilet paper and toothpaste and stuff we really do need when they are cheap. I keep an eye out for what produce is on sale, what lean meats, frozen veggies, etc., are on sale (and then freeze them so I have plenty later), and so on. It takes some practice (and time), but I have managed to cut our bill by about half.

    I know couponers much better at it than I am, but I'm pretty happy with my results. If I spent more time at it, I could do better, I'm sure. But you do have to be careful not to buy junk just because it's cheap!

  68. My daughter just started college in Idaho. She is also working, trying to pay for her own living expenses since we are paying for her school. The first couple times she went to the grocery store she went to one of the chain stores and called complaining how much everything cost (Welcome to my world!). This weekend she noticed a Grocery Outlet not far from her apartment, and decided to try them out. She called me all excited saying "you won't believe how much I saved on groceries"! Winning this gift card for her would be fantastic!

  69. i go to the grocery outlet weekly. I buy the non perishables that expired recently and they are marked down even more. Also buy generic over name brands

  70. I'm a coupon-clipper, sale watcher. I always make my list so I don't go way over budget. I love the Grocery Outlet for deals!

  71. I have been doing all the things you have only I have been doing it for years also I go to the bread outlet and fill the refridgator freezer with breads buns and lunch goodies, and find 10 pound meat sales and thats hard as we live in a small town so once a month we make a wide circle with 3 bigger cities to shop

  72. I've never heard of Grocery Outlet...is there one in the Tucson area? We've learned to make good with a Costco membership, I really like their produce and meat selections. We also invested in a FoodSaver so I'm constantly breaking things down into smaller portions and freezing them for use later (like certain fresh fruits, veggies, or meats). We have a deep freezer in our garage so I rotate things out by date.

  73. I'm so excited to see Grocery Outlet highlighted on your blog. My uncles owned and managed a GO in California for years, and I even worked there for a summer when I was a teenager. I have only good things to say about the store. I wish they had a Grocery Outlet closer to me, but my sister lives near a location, so I'd share the gift card with her...or maybe save it for a Christmas gift.

  74. Ah, yes, we LOVE Grocery Outlet. I don't know about yours, but ours has the BEST selection of exotic cheeses, and all at amazing prices! They also have a very good selection of organic products--frozen fruits and vegetables, and snacky stuff, too. I don't usually buy the snacky stuff, but the frozen veggies can be a real steal. It's also located next to the craft store, so it's efficient for combining stops on errands. ;)

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