Lower your grocery bill without clipping coupons

I’ve received numerous emails from people recently asking how you can
lower your grocery bill if you don’t live nearby stores which have good
coupon deals or if you don’t have time to clip coupons. While
I’m a big proponent of coupons, I understand that they don’t work for
everyone in every season of life in every area of the country. Here would be a few of my top recommendations for ways to lower your grocery
bill without clipping coupons:

1) Plan a menu and stick to it. Seriously. If this is the only thing you ever do, you’ll greatly reduce your grocery budget.

2) Shop once per week or less. The less you shop invariably means the less you spend. I recommend you have a grocery budget, plan your menu and list with your grocery budget in mind, use a calculator to tally up your running total as you shop, and only bring the allotted amount of grocery money with you in cash.

3) Stick with simple, inexpensive meals. I’m a big believer in simplicity. There’s an occasional time and place for the elaborate, six-course dinners, but for the everyday, keep it simple. We like to have a main dish, homemade bread of some sort, and then fruit or veggies of some sort to round things out. I plan our main dishes around what we already have on hand and what meats and other mainstay ingredients are on sale.

4) If you live nearby a store which does run sales, plan your menu based upon the store sales. The simple step of taking a few extra minutes each week to browse the store fliers and create your menu based upon what is on sale there will greatly enhance your savings. If you have more than one store which runs weekly sales, check both fliers and decide which store to do your shopping at based upon which store has the best sales. 

5) Shop at Aldi. I know every area doesn’t have Aldi stores, but if you do, you should be shopping there. I don’t recommend buying everything at Aldi, but there are many things there which are very comparable to name brands at the store, but which are routinely quite a bit less. Our Aldi standbys include: fruit (especially bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit, and frozen fruit), tortillas, some veggies, frozen veggies, and staple ingredients. You have to be a bit flexible since Aldi doesn’t always have everything in stock and the produce is sometimes hit and miss, but we’ve saved hundreds of dollars each year by buying 25% or so of our groceries at Aldi.

8) Cook from scratch, as much as possible. It’s a no-brainer, but cooking from scratch with simple, inexpensive ingredients is likely one of the greatest ways to save money on your grocery budget while also eating more healthfully. We enjoy some processed foods as a treat, but I attempt to have the bulk of our diet made up of fresh fruits and veggies and homemade items. With some planning ahead and cooking in bulk and freezing, you can eliminate the need for many processed foods without spending a great deal of time and thought.

One of my best tips to help one be more efficient when it comes to cooking from scratch is just to look for ways you can make extra. If you’re making waffles, make a double batch or triple batch and freeze the leftovers for breakfast later in the week. If you’re making cookies, double the recipe, bake what you’ll eat right away, and freeze the rest of the cookie dough in balls and then pull out how many you’ll need and bake them later.

Another thing which has worked well for me is to try and bake for a few hours one day per week or to take 20 minutes everyday and bake up a triple batch of something and freeze most of it. This guarantees I almost always have a few different things on hand for quick breakfasts or snacks or bread to go along with dinner.

What are your best recommendations for saving money on groceries without clipping coupons?

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Comments

  1. Patti says

    I love your web site and all the comments!!
    Here are some ideas I’ve used:

    One of my favorite cookbooks is The Use It Up Cookbook: a guide to using up perishable foods by Lois Carlson Willand. It may be out of print but you can find used copies on eBay or Amazon.com. It will help you tremendously with leftovers or when you have too much of a good thing… like summer produce.

    Another favorite cookbook is More With Less which is a Mennonite cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. Both are good to help with new ideas which is the hard part of the planning process.

    A web site recommended in Women’s Day this month is great, too, especially if you type in “Meals under $1.00″. It is receipefinder.nal.usda.gov.

    Looking forward to everyone’s ideas!

  2. says

    Hi, love love your blog!! You are amazing, and so helpful. I, too, am a baker and wonder what types of things you bake and freeze? Sorry if this has already been asked, there are a lot of comments up there!

  3. says

    Love your website and all the great ideas!

    A few things that we try to do -
    1. Don’t run to the store each time you run out of something – improvise.

    2. Meal plan – look for what you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer before you make your list.

    3. Cook once, eat twice or three times. I will cook a roast or chicken and then make the leftovers into other type dishes say for roast, I’ll make beef stroganoff or orange beef stirfry, fajitas. For chicken I might make enchiladas, chicken soup, etc.

    4. Meatless meals – twice a week we have meatless Mondays and then Wednesdays we have brinner (breakfast for dinner).

    I have just found Aldi’s recently and have been pleased with their products plus they have a double guarantee. :D

  4. says

    I’ve learned to save a lot of money on produce by learning to like new foods. That way I can buy fruits and veggies that are grown closer to home and are seasonal. These two factors cut out the shipping expense for the store, usually making these items cheaper to begin with or often on sale.

  5. Marsha says

    There’s many good tips here. I would like to add one more that saves me about $120 a year: Always check your cash register tape before leaving the store. About one time out of ten, I catch a mistake (almost always in the store’s favor). Some stores will give you the product free, or a few dollars off for finding the error, but you have to ask if they do this–most won’t offer to. To be fair, I always bring it to their attention if I’ve been undercharged, but almost always they don’t want to bother charging me the correct, higher price. It may seem to not be worth the bother, but it really adds up over the course of a year.

  6. Morgan says

    My husband and I go through about 15-20 tortillas a week. This would cost about $4-$5 to buy readymade at the store. But the ingredients are so simple and cheap! So I make a batch on the weekend and then put them in a zip-lock baggie in the fridge for use during the whole week. It also helps to invest in a tortilla press, they come out perfect everytime.

    I pretty much ask myself, “What would my grandmother do?”. She grows most of her own veggies and fruits and cans them in her pantry for selling and eating in the winter, she NEVER purchases disposible (paper towels) items or highly processed items (Pop Tarts), she makes everything from scratch, rarely goes out to eat, cleans everything with baking soda or vinegar…and this behavior was commonplace in her generation.

    -Morgan

  7. Rebekah says

    We buy 1/4 a cow for what works out to be $2.77 a pound. Of course we had to make the one time purchase a deep freeze, but even with the coast of that and running it ($12 a year) it workes out to be cheaper… and taster!
    Not to mention how much I LOVE how easy it has made meal planning! I could never go back.:)

  8. Erin says

    A good idea that was given to me to cut back is to have a potato bar night once a week or once every other week. You will literally be feeding your family for pennies for that one meal. Also saving any leftover veggies, put them in a container in the the freezer and when the container gets full over the weeks turn it into a stew. Its a good way to use the little bit of veggies that are leftover after meals that is not enough veggies for another meal but to much that you feel bad throwing the food away.

    Another way to save and have yummy salad dressings is to make your own. Its very cheap. I found some recipes of Rachel rays where she makes salad dressing in the honey bear container with the little bit of honey that you can’t get out of the container. It lets you use the last little bit of honey without wasting it and you reuse the honey bear again.

  9. Michele Helms says

    PLAN, PLAN, PLAN A good plan is always key. Know what you have in your kitchen and make a list. Make sure when you are making your list you use your calender (the goal is NOT to go back to the store) for instance if you know you are going to be at ball practice on Thursday night….you may want to plan a picnic so you do not end up in a drive thru! If you are going to Aunt Susie’s for Sunday dinner and you are responsible for the green beans…write that down as well. Be Prepared!

  10. says

    No Aldis where I live. I shop at Super Wal*Mart instead.

    I agree with menu planning.

    One thing I do at the store is look at the price per ounce when trying to decide which brand to buy.

  11. Georgia says

    We like to shop at Mennonite salvage grocery stores because they have name brand canned goods and groceries for closeout prices! They get their goods from slightly damaged shipments, although all that they stock is in good condition.

    We can find canned organic soups for 75 cents, pasta for 40 cents, or maybe Kashi cereal for around a dollar! For those who live in Georgia, there’s one in Metter called Metter Farm Market, and one in East Dublin called Tim’s Country Store.

  12. Jodi W says

    Be aware of certain times of the year for stocking up on items.For example, Memorial Day and Labor day are great times to stock up on condiments and hot dogs. Easter has great sales on baking and also pasta and cheese (this is when I freeze blocks of mozzarella). Thanksgiving also is a good time to stock up on baking items, plus cranberries and pumpkin. You get the idea.

  13. Hannelore says

    I second the ideas of discount stores (in our area- the SE it’s United Grocery Outlet), drinking water, , following the sales, buying in bulk (the freezer is your friend!), freezing anything you can’t use right away to avoid waste (these don’t freeze well: tofu, eggs, potatoes), and eating less meat. Milk does freeze well-just defrost and shake well! Also eating sufficient fiber (whole grains, veggies, fruit really fills you up more than processed foods), and eating breakfast for dinner sometimes. Thanks moneysavingmom for all you do to serve others!

  14. ottan says

    I’ve found we saves money when we don’t actually plan a full week of meals. I’ll go to the farmer’s market on Saturday and plan for a couple of meals, but then I try to be creative with the leftovers during the week. It’s hard to estimate how much of each thing we’ll still have, so then I might pick up an item or two on my way home to round out a meal.

    Also, to prevent waste, we make “clean out the fridge” dinners. I’ll make a big batch of pizza dough, and store that in the freezer. We can use veggie scraps on that for a quick dinner. Frittattas are also good for using up veggies.

    Then we save all the leftover bits of vegetables (extra celery, onion skins, etc.) in a bin in the freezer. When it’s full I make vegetable stock out of it.

  15. Bridgette says

    I use most of the tips I’ve seen here, but I also buy chicken in bulk. Generally thighs are cheaper than any other part. I buy almost all of them when they’re on Manager’s Specials and freeze them. When I want to make something that calls for chicken, or if I want to substitute chicken for another meat I thaw, remove skin, and put a whole pack in the Crock Pot at one time. Once it’s done, I then remove the chicken from the bone effortlessly and cut up the pieces. This is more flavorful than cut up chicken breast and WAY cheaper.I use the juices in the crockpot for chicken broth.Since I thaw more than I need I use freezer bags and store the cooked, cut-up chicken for later use. This meat has made quick quesadillas, homemade “chicken helper” when mixed w/boxed macaroni & cheese, or chicken and noodles.

  16. says

    My Frugal Friday post is about most of the points you’ve covered here too – and let me tell you – it REALLY works!! Thanks for a great list.

  17. Melanie says

    Crystal,

    Thank you for posting this. I enjoy reading your blogs and those of other frugal minded women but since I live in Mongolia, where there are no big store chains, much less sales, I sometimes feel a little “left out”. You covered the basics in your post and gave me a shot of confidence, too!

    Keep up the good work,
    Melanie

  18. Diana says

    Anther way to save without switching to powdered milk is to buy FULL FAT Vitamin D milk at the bulk discounted price (two for 6 instead of 1 for 4+).

    Then, take one gallon of full fat milk, and one empty, fully washed and sanitized milk jug. Pour 50% of the full fat milk into the clean empty jug and then add water to both containers.

    The results taste, cook, and work like 2% milk but now you got FOUR GALLONS for Less than the price of TWO. Freeze portions that you cannot use within a week. (yes it defrosts and tastes just fine, just make sure to shake well before the first serving) :)

  19. Sherry Summers says

    When you can find meat on sale, try canning the meat instead of freezing it. This saves freezer space and the canned meat keeps better and tastes better than freezing. Just look in a Ball blue book on canning and freezing.

  20. Liz M. says

    I find it a challenge ( at times) to save money since I live alone in an apartment with a SMALL freezer and not a lot of other space either. Most bulk buying is out and sometimes regular sizes of things are even too big. There are a very few items I almost never buy unless I have coupons (it seems to me that the coupons tend to be for the same things over and over), but mostly my best strategies have been to eat NO meat and to try to buy only sale and clearance items when I can. I do buy organic milk because for some reason it stays fresh way longer! I have been getting some organic produce but this is almost always expensive. I have not had good luck with Save-A-Lot / Aldi because they don’t carry much in lowfat, high fiber or other healthy food items. I also wonder where their produce comes from? By far the greatest savings have come from FORCING myself not to get any fast food, pizza slices, and other meals out. I am not always successful with this, but when I am I really notice a difference. Enjoying your column, Liz M.