Groceries can get expensive. If you do an internet search on how to save money on groceries, many sites offer the same advice – use coupons. But what if you want to know how to save money on groceries without coupons?
Is there a way to lower your grocery bill without spending hours scouring through newspapers and the internet?
Of course there is! My family of three is able to eat well on $400 a month and that’s without clipping a single coupon. That total also includes toiletries, so in reality, we only spend around $350 on food.
If you want to save money on groceries without clipping coupons, it is possible. It’s not as difficult as you might think and you can save significant money in the process.
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How to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons
The average family of four spent close to $650 per month on food in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That takes up a significant amount of your budget, especially on a limited income.
Here are a few ways to reduce that cost and keep more money in your budget.
1. Find Your Stores
For my family, the best way to save money on groceries is to know which stores we primarily shop at. For us, that means the following stores:
- Our local Asian market
We know these stores very well, and we know what they have to offer and for what prices.
Because we’ve studied and shopped at these stores so frequently, we know what we can buy, how often it goes on sale, and where the best prices are for any item we typically keep stocked in our home.
For example, I know that Aldi has the best prices for beans and pasta, but Sprouts has the best prices on fruits and bulk items like quinoa. Our local Asian market stocks our favorite hard-to-find items like fresh rice cakes, and for a steal.
How many times have you walked into an unknown store and found yourself buying items you don’t need or at a higher price than your normal store?
If you know the stores around you well, you’ll save time and energy stocking up on the items on your grocery list. This is key when trying to save money on groceries without clipping coupons.
If you don’t know the best places to shop in your city, do an internet search for cheap grocery stores near me to locate the top options.
2. Know The Sale Cycles
Along with knowing which stores you will frequent the most, you need to know their sale cycles. You can typically find the flyers of your favorite stores by looking online or grabbing their flyers when entering the building.
For my family, we know that Aldi sales start every Wednesday, Sprouts has double ad Wednesday (where you can use both weekly ads and you get double the discounts), and our Asian market discounts all the fruits and veggies on Mondays.
This works for me because I can pop in during these times and buy the items my family needs. Also, make sure you know how the sale cycles work for each store.
For example, my local Aldi has a sale on their vegan meats every six weeks. Because my family is vegan/vegetarian, we take advantage of these sales and stock up on our favorite items, and then use them for the next six weeks (when the sales start again).
3. Use Apps on Your Phone
A lot of people take their phone with them everywhere, including the grocery store. So why not put it to use and earn free money?
Digital coupons and apps provide a terrific way to reduce cost. And, you don’t have to do any extra work to enjoy the savings (besides the initial work of downloading the app).
Below are some of the best apps to save money on groceries.
Ibotta is one of my favorite grocery rebate apps. It offers you cash back on the items that you’re already buying.
To use it, simply input your ZIP code in the app, look at the offers they have for the week, and select the ones that you want to use. Once you buy those items, take a picture of your receipt, and earn your cash back. It’s really that easy.
Ibotta doesn’t just work at the grocery store. It also works at 350+ retailers, including:
Many of the offers work on both brand name and generic items. Ibotta also has a low payment threshold. You can transfer the money you earn to your PayPal or Venmo as soon as you reach $20.
The app starts you out with $5 back after making your first purchase. Read our Ibotta review for a more in-depth review of the service.
*Related: Do you like Sam’s Club? Read our review of Costco vs. Sam’s Club to see which is best for you.*
Fetch Rewards is one of the best apps to use to save money at the grocery store. This app is only for name brand products.
While buying generics are an excellent way to save money, they may not always be available, or you may prefer a name brand.
Fetch Rewards is a simple to use app. After you finish at the store, you scan your receipt. If your receipt is itemized you receive points for every product with an active discount offer.
The app gives you ten points for each dollar spent on those products.
You can redeem these points for cash, or free gift cards from hundreds of retailers. Fetch Rewards has a low redemption amount of $3, so it’s easy to quickly redeem earnings.
Use the code FETCH2K to receive a free $2 when you open an account!
Read our Fetch Rewards app review to learn more about the platform.
Checkout 51 is another grocery app I use to save money. Every Thursday morning, the app updates with new offers to use at the store.
You can browse the offers and select ones you like before going shopping. After buying the items, you use the app to take clear photos of your receipt.
*Related: Want other choices to save money shopping? Here’s our guide on the best coupon websites to use to save money.*
You also want to check off the items you purchased as you upload your receipt and indicate how many times you’re claiming each offer.
For example, if you purchased two boxes of cereal and want to receive the rebate for each of them, be sure to check those items off in the Checkout 51 app as you upload your receipt so you’ll receive credit.
Checkout 51 credits your account with cash once they process your receipt. Like Ibotta, you need to reach a $20 balance before you can request a check.
4. Go Meatless
I’m not saying to completely give up red meat or chicken. But meat is expensive. Many people in our society have grown up with meat as a focal point of the dishes they create.
However, as time has gone on, meat prices have increased, making it more difficult for many families to afford it.
Plus, with the worries of GMOs, hormones, and the treatment of animals, people are spending more to get higher-quality meat. Did you know that organic and grass-fed beef can run you anywhere from $4.99 per pound to $12.99 per pound? Yeah, that’s insane.
Instead of eating meat with every meal, every day, try to have one to three meatless meals every week. For example, one night you could make lentil sloppy joes, and for breakfast, you could make fruit parfaits.
5. Have A Menu Plan
Have you ever gone into a grocery store and bought everything under the sun, only to get home and realize you already have those items? Or worse, you buy everything and then it goes to waste in your fridge.
Food waste is real, and it increases your grocery budget. Reducing food waste is one of the best ways to save money each month instead of throwing it in the trash.
Having a meal plan helps reduce the amount of groceries you buy, plus it helps organize your meals. If you aren’t big on having a menu plan, or have never made one before, here’s a simple one to start with:
- Monday – meatless meal (spaghetti, lentil soup, etc)
- Tuesday – Mexican food (tacos, enchiladas, burrito bowls)
- Wednesday – pizza night
- Thursday – leftovers
- Friday – crockpot meal
- Saturday – breakfast for dinner (eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles, whatever your family enjoys)
- Sunday – leftovers (if any) or picnic night (sandwiches, chips, fruit salad)
While this schedule keeps it simple, it also allows room for creativity and makes it easy for you to pick meals that follow the particular themes each week.
If you don’t know where to start with meal planning, try $5 Meal Plan. The service gives you a free 14-day trial and teaches you to effectively plan meals, what to buy at the store, and save money.
6. Shop In Season
Do you know what fruits and vegetables are in season in your area? Do you know that you could save a ton of money (and get better-tasting fruits and veggies) just by shopping what’s in season?
Let’s say you live in Kansas. Corn is typically the most plentiful in the summer and early fall. Guess what happens when it’s in season? It can drop to less than one dollar for four ears of corn.
Now, if you plan your meals around corn, you could stock up on a basketful, and most likely spend less than $10.
Corn can be used for many dishes, such as:
- A side dish
- Burrito bowls
- Mashed potato bowls
All of those dishes can be created with such a simple, and cheap, ingredient because you shopped in season.
7. Buy The Store Brand
If you had a blind taste test, where you tasted the generic canned beans and the name-brand canned beans, I can almost 100 percent guarantee you that wouldn’t know the difference.
It’s one of those items where name brand doesn’t matter.
Find other items you can do the same with and you can increase your savings. The only item that I buy name brand is cereal, and that is because my child is super picky on her favorite cereals.
But other than that, if you opened up my cabinets, you’d see nothing but store brand items.
*Related: Looking for other ways to save money? Check out our guide on the best apps that give you free food you need to download today.*
Shopping generic only has saved us hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars over the years. It’s a great way to save money on groceries without coupons, and even without shopping sales.
8. Stick With Simplicity
Speaking of keeping things simple, make your meals simple, too. You don’t have to serve a full four-course dinner every night. You don’t have to make a hot breakfast for the kids every morning.
A key to help you save money on groceries without clipping coupons is to keep it simple. Spaghetti only requires three ingredients — pasta, pasta sauce, and protein of choice. Breakfast for dinner can be a few eggs and boxed pancake mix.
By keeping your meals simple, you can keep your grocery list small, thus saving you more money. Those recipes with 20+ ingredients can be saved for treats or as dining out alternatives, but you don’t have to do that every single day.
If you plan your meals wisely, they can also be a great way to get healthy on a budget.
9. Don’t Buy Snacks
One of my favorite ways to save money on groceries without clipping coupons is to not buy pre-made snacks. While my daughter has her favorites, we tend to make everything from scratch.
It’s easier than you may think.
Every week after buying groceries, I give myself an hour to prep the snacks that my family will eat throughout the week. For instance, I’ll pop some popcorn and put it in individual grab bags.
*Related: Do you like to use meal delivery services? Read our guide on the best meal delivery companies like HelloFresh to save money on meals delivered to your door.*
Or I’ll prep some yogurt and homemade granola in separate mason jars. I’ll even cut up fruits and veggies I know won’t go bad easily and put them into individual jars as well.
And for my daughter’s favorite, I cube a block of cheese, slice some veggie dogs, and add some crackers for her to create her own “Lunchables”. By buying these items and prepping them myself, I save a lot of money.
For example, store-bought Lunchables costs $1.00 each. Pre-made veggie and fruit trays can run anywhere from $10-$20 per tray. Want to know how much I spend on our weekly snacks?
Less than $10 combined. This allows my daughter to happily snack on all of her favorite foods.
It is possible to save money on groceries and get healthy food without coupons, and my family is proof. You don’t have to sacrifice time, money, and energy just to feed your family and eat a nutritious diet.
Follow the above tips and you’ll start saving money quickly and easily.
What are some other ways you save money at the store? What’s one struggle you encounter in trying to lower your grocery bill?
Kim Suazo has been a freelance writer and business owner for over four years. When she's not writing for Frugal Rules, you can find her on other publications like Chime, Discovery, and Due. She also owns her own websites The Entrepremomer and Part-Time Profit, where she teaches overworked moms how to streamline their new businesses so they can scale without a team.