How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

How to cut your grocery bill in half {5 tips everyone should know!}Food is expensive.  The average family spends just over 10% of their household income buying groceries–over $6,000 a year–and even while average wages have gone down, the price of food keeps going up.   When you are just trying to feed your family, that is a pretty scary prospect.

That said, as more and more people are beginning to realize, coupons can be a great way to save money on food.  If you’ve ever watched TLC’s Extreme Couponing, you probably already know that sometimes those savings can be quite dramatic.  The problem is that those dramatic savings often come from seasoned coupon users who have spent countless hours clipping & sorting coupons and searching for the very best deals.

Quite frankly, who has time for that?

A few weeks ago I was asked by the nice people at WINK News to share some tips for saving on groceries.  They tagged along as I prepared for one of my own shopping trips, and then as I shopped with Kristen, a single mom of 4 who had never used coupons before and was looking for some practical ways to cut her food budget in half.

For Kristen and probably every other average mom (or dad) who is just trying to save some money on groceries, the idea of all that time and energy on a single shopping trip was not only overwhelming, it was unrealistic.  However, as I explained to Kristen, it IS possible to cut your grocery bill in half without spending all your time clipping coupons.  In fact, even if you never clip a single coupon, you can still save significant money on your grocery bill just by changing the way that you shop.

Like anything in life, you have to find the right balance.  That balance won’t be exactly the same for everyone, but there are 5 tips I shared with both Kristen and WINK that everyone should know:

1.  It’s not about the coupons

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that the producers of TLC’s Extreme Couponing (and every food company and grocery store chain out there) don’t really want you to know:  Extreme grocery savings do NOT, for the most part, come from the coupons.  The bulk of your savings will come from the store sales.  The better the promotion, the bigger the savings, so the FIRST step in saving money on your grocery bill is to SHOP THE SALES.

Always, always, always buy food when it is on sale or at its rock bottom price.  And by this I mean really on sale, as in 30-50% off the regular price, not one of those “Surprising Low Price” items.  (The surprise is that it’s not really on sale!)  Compare the store sale ads in your area to find out which stores have the best sale prices, and keep an ongoing price list so that you KNOW when something is a good price.

This does NOT mean that you should buy food just because it is on sale, but instead be on the lookout for sale prices on the food your family normally buys, whether it be all whole foods, organic, or gluten free.  Almost everything goes on sale eventually.

Don’t assume you know which store has the best deals until you’ve actually checked–you may be surprised at what you find.  Here in Florida, for example, many people assume Publix is the “expensive” store, but when you compare sale ads you will find that Publix consistently has the best sales week after week.  Many people also automatically assume that Walmart has the best prices, but most sale prices at a traditional grocery store will beat Walmart’s “everyday low price.”  While it has not yet come to my area, I have also heard amazing things about Aldi, so if you are lucky enough to have one in your area, definitely take the time to check it out and compare prices.  Because in the end, it is all about the price you pay.

Thus, your goal from now on is to only EVER buy an item when it is at its lowest price.  Period.

2.  Stockpile, stockpile, stockpile

In order to only ever buy an item at its lowest price, you must buy enough of it while it is on sale to last until it goes on sale again.  This is key.  Most items go on sale every 6-8 weeks, which means you need to buy enough to last your family that long. If you buy only a weeks worth, you will be forced to pay more the next time you need it because you didn’t buy enough.

Let me make it more clear with an example.  Say your family eats 2 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios every week.  The regular price for Honey Nut Cheerios is $4.50 a box, but when you go to the store this week, you see it is on sale for only $1.99 a box–more than 50% off the regular price!   Instead of buying only 2 boxes like you normally would for your weekly shopping trip, you buy 12 boxes–enough to last your family for the next 6 weeks at less than half the price you would normally pay.

At first it may seem counterintuitive to be buying more than you normally would instead of less.  However, because you are shopping the sales each week, you will be buying a larger quantity of a smaller variety of items, which means your overall grocery bill will still go down.  The goal is to build up your own mini-grocery store in your pantry which you can then use to plan your family’s meals.

Remember that a well-varied stockpile does NOT have to take up a whole room of your house, and you do NOT need to accumulate a whole year’s worth of food.  Sale cycles generally run about 6-8 weeks, which means your stockpile should contain about 6-8 weeks worth of a nice variety of food.  It also means that it will take about 6-8 weeks before you’ve built up a nice varied stockpile and will start to see the most dramatic savings in your grocery bill.

Furthermore, stockpiling does not mean your family has to only eat a diet of processed food.  There are plenty of healthy options for stockpiling, including beans, rice, whole grain pastas, whole grain cereals, frozen vegetables, cheese & other dairy products, canned tomatoes, & more.

3.  Eat less meat

Going vegetarian just a couple times a week could save you as much as $1,000 a year.  Meat costs usually account for a significant portion of people’s grocery bills, so cutting out even a little will make a big difference over time.  One of the ways my own family has kept our grocery bill to around $200-300 a month is by eating very little meat and honestly I am shocked at the prices whenever I do buy meat!

I have personally been a vegetarian for almost twenty years, which makes it a little easier for me to come up with creative meat-free meals.  However, since the rest of my family is NOT vegetarian, I do make an effort to cook meatless meals that even my meat-loving husband and kids can enjoy.

Here are some of our favorite family-friendly meat-free recipes:

I realize that not everyone wants to become a vegetarian, so when you do buy your chicken, beef, or pork, remember to stick to the principles above–buy only what is on sale, and stock up if it is a great deal.  Be sure to also check out these ideas for more great ways to save on meat.

4. Change the way you meal plan

If you normally wing it when it comes to meal planning, running to the store several times a week for last-minute dinner items, this step won’t be as painful as you might think.  Instead of running to the store for your dinner supplies you’ll be able to run to your stockpile–a ready-made grocery store right in your own home.  You may even find that maintaining a nice, varied stockpile by shopping the sales once a week saves you a whole lot of time, in addition to saving you from the expensive impulse and last-minute buys.

For those of you who normally plan your meals then make your shopping list based on that plan, this adjustment may be a little harder.  However, you can still make it work if you get into the habit of planning your meals around what’s on sale and around what items you already have on hand in your stockpile.  By minimizing the number of non-sale items you need to buy each week you will find that you can plan your meals in advance and still cut your grocery bill in half.

One great meal-planning resource that I have been really impressed with E-Meals.  For as little as $5 a month you can receive a customized weekly meal plan based on your own store’s weekly sale ad.  (Use the promo code LWSL15OFF to save 15% off your order!)  The simple recipes are delicious and family friendly, and although the service isn’t free, it does take a lot of the stress out of trying to plan meals around what’s on sale.  They even have a great new app that allows you to get your shopping list, meal plan, & recipes right on your phone or tablet.

5. Learn to match coupons to store sales

It is not by accident that using coupons is the last item on this list and not the first.  Coupons can and do save you a ton of money on your grocery bill, but only if you follow these other steps first.  When and if you make these changes in the way you shop–getting into the habit of shopping for only what’s on sale, buying enough to last your family 6-8 weeks, eating less meat, and planning your meals around your stockpile and what’s on sale–you will see a dramatic drop in your grocery bill, even without clipping a single coupon.

When you begin to match coupons to the things that are already on sale you will see savings that are even more dramatic–50 to 60% off your grocery bill or more!  Doing this consistently, week after week, you can literally cut your grocery bill in half.

The Beginner's Guide to Coupons--this is seriously the BEST online guide to learning how to extreme coupon!  Breaks the whole process down into easy-to-follow baby steps that anyone can learn!

Learning to match coupons to store sales is not nearly as confusing or intimidating as it might sound.  Two years ago I wrote a very easy-to-follow 8 week series called The Beginner’s Guide to Coupons that has since taught thousands of people how to do it, from the very first step of just getting started to making your first shopping list to building a stockpile.   It breaks down the whole process into manageable “baby steps,” complete with assignments to get you going, and it is completely free.

Another great option for those of you who learn by listening, not by reading, is Grocery University.  This incredibly comprehensive coupon course includes 2 hours of downloadable audio files that walk you step by step through the process of saving money with coupons.  The course also includes a 40 page workbook and a bonus rock bottom price database.

One of the most common complaints I hear about coupons is that they are all for unhealthy processed food.  While this is to some degree true, there ARE coupons available for healthier food options too.  There are almost always coupons available for things like yogurt, cheese, soy or almond milk, frozen vegetables, oatmeal, coffee & tea, gluten-free foods, cereal, and basic pantry staples such as pasta, canned tomatoes, and rice.  There are also plenty of coupons available for non-food items such as shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and over-the-counter medicine.

The important thing to remember is that coupons come last, not first.  Don’t buy something just because you have a coupon–manufacturer’s count on that!  Wait for the sale, then use the coupon.  Changing old patterns and shopping habits is never easy, but with these simple changes you really can cut your grocery bill in half.

Just think of what you could do with an extra $75 a week!

Finally, here are the links to the WINK News segments from November 1st & 2nd:

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How do you save on groceries?  Do you use coupons regularly?  Why or why not?

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{ 168 comments… add one }

  • Michelle November 1,

    Meal planning has helped us a lot!

    Reply
  • Zoey November 1,

    I started using coupons after I found your YouTube videos & your beginner coupon guide. It helped me SOOOOO much! You are so good at explaining it in a way that makes sense. I always thought it was the coupons but now I see that it is so much more than that!

    Reply
    • SJ November 3,

      I found Ruth the same way, a little over a year ago. I have reached a point in lack of time right now that I check the coupon previews and don’t even buy the paper unless it has several coupons that I’m sure I’ll use. Following the sales cycles and planning meals ahead according to the sales flyers are what really save me money. The coupons are like the icing – fun, but not the base.

      Reply
  • Sara Houseman November 1,

    I never watched Extreme Couponing before, but now that it is on Netflix I have watched a few episodes. It is intriguing to think that people can really save that much money, but I was turned off by their huge storerooms of food. It seemed like they were buying stuff just to have it, not because they needed it. To be honest, I never really thought about it being a different way of shopping–I just thought the people on that show were crazy! When you say it like this, it makes so much sense.

    Thanks for this article, I am definitely sharing it!

    Reply
    • Julie January 11,

      I thought the same thing and then I heard a fairly common theme from the people on the show – when there has been a job loss or financial difficulty, they know they can save money immediately by using their stockpile of food. It’s not a bad idea.

      That said, anyone who does use coupons can tell you the stores on those shows are making concessions for the show. There is no store in my area that will allow you to use dozens (hundreds) of like coupons in one transaction. The most generous will allow 5 per transaction, the least generous will allow 2 (although I have had a manager bypass that for me at the checkout). Most stores have purchasing limits on sale items.

      I have found the majority of my savings in shopping sales and stockpiling. Like the article says – coupons are just icing on the cake. They may push my savings from 50% to 55% or 60%, but the biggest savings are the sales items.

      Reply
  • Gail November 1,

    I have tried to use coupons a few times but never seemed to save much. Now I finally understand why!

    Reply
  • Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom November 1,

    I shop the sales, use a few coupons – I only clip it if it’s something I usually already buy!
    I also save by cooking in bulk. I can buy higher quality meat, for lower cost if I but ten pounds at a time from my local butcher. Freezer meals are awesome, and have saved us LOTS because we don’t have to eat out when we don’t feel like cooking.

    Reply
  • Anastasia November 1,

    Thanks for the great article Ruth!

    Reply
  • Claire November 1,

    Well, you know OUR story and how we (actually The Husband) found you through your couponing videos 17 months ago. Changed our lives and we will always be thankful. I am sure to link to you again and again (as you know). :) Love seeing a new post about it and going to watch your WINK news clips. I love those!! :)
    Happy November. I semi-survived my 31 Days! lol
    – Claire

    Reply
  • Angie D. November 2,

    Thanks, Ruth! I’m so thankful that I found your site about a year and a half ago; you remain one of my all-time favorite bloggers. I love the tools you provide to empower and inspire us. :)

    Reply
  • Ruth November 5,

    Thank you for sharing these great tips. I really need to shop the sales. Living on one income is becoming much more difficult because of the high cost of everything. I am a home schoolers, too and as you know anything can become a lesson, especially these all important life lessons. my teenage daughter already shops with coupons and looks through sales.
    Ruth

    Reply
  • Catherine November 5,

    Hi! I love that you said you have to find the balance that works for you. We have found that it works best to stick to the 2 stores that have the best prices on our basics overall. We will hit another store if there is something we use regularly on sale- really on sale. As far as stockpile, it’s been difficult in our home. I have 3 kids, 2 are teenage boys that have a lot of friends coming by. Anything that is in the cabinet is at risk of being eaten as soon as it gets in the house.

    Reply
    • Marley August 23,

      Here is a suggestion… “this is not a self serve kitchen!” You will be fed, you will never “starve”. A lock on the pantry works wonders, then when you need something, look at the inventory of what you have and *go shopping* in your own pantry :) perfect. Also I don’t suggest spending as little as possible, because I noticed that it causes people to eat a little more unhealthy. What I like to do is when I go to the grocery store I usually skip certain isles. I go in the dairy section, but not the frozen section. I buy a LOT of produce and freeze it…I buy the produce for instance that is on sale because the apples are a little bruised or the banannas are too ripe, I cut them and freeze them and then later make banana bread or apple crisp/pie. Today I found 3 apples for 75 cents in a package nicely wrapped by the produce department. perfect. I also buy cheese and butter and ice cream when it is on sale and freeze it all. most of what I buy is store brand to save money also, but that is changing since I am going to start shopping sales more.

      Reply
  • Lorain January 13,

    I am so glad I found you. After watching TLC’s extreme couponing I wanted to learn how to coupon. I just don’t get it. But After reading your blog I’m sure I can start to save money. I lost my job and my daughter is in transition from graduating college and changing jobs. I am also starting college at age 51. I really need to get a handle on our food budget. To thanks again for caring enough to share.

    Reply
  • Bethany April 19,

    One thing I did that helped was to keep track for a month of what I threw out. Yikes! It helped me realize a few things. 1. I needed to cook half-batches of things – I wasn’t eating leftovers. 2. I needed to be more cognizant of the amount of produce I purchased and 3. I needed to better organize my refrigerator so that things weren’t getting lost in the back.

    Reply
  • Venassa April 23,

    These are really great tips! Although it would be hard for me to get started on this. Our grocery budget is a little strict, so in order to stockpile some stuff, we would have to go without other things. I already do it in baby steps though – I don’t buy 6-8 weeks worth of sale stuff, but I do buy at least one more than I normally would.

    Reply
  • Sharon B. April 23,

    This is really great information. I appeciate the NONemphasis on coupons since I have a hard time with keeping up with coupons sometimes. So glad I found you from Fieldstone Hill Design (looking forward to the monthly design series you all are doing!) and now following you through Pinterest. Sharon

    Reply
  • deborah May 11,

    This is fine if you can go shopping once a week and have the extra money to stockpile on just a few items each time. I don’t. I live in the country about twenty miles from the nearest grocery store so gas alone would break me! I garden and put my food up by canning, drying, and freezing. This is our big savings. I also cook completely from scratch. Much better than convenience foods made by some factory. Just the thought of what “might” be in their scares the hell out of me!

    As far as meat goes…we go shopping once a month and stock up on each stores sales. I make up menus with these meats throughout the month (or even longer)

    Eggs…I have my own chickens for those and the taste difference is amazing as well as healthier.

    I think your ideas are fine if you have a large budget for food and can afford to stock up like that, but not everyone can do this.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup May 11,

      Deborah, your country life sounds amazing! My husband and I dream of buying land far out in the country someday, and when or if we ever do, we will definitely raise our own chickens and make a lot more of our food from scratch. It sound like your money-saving tips are working great for your family, and I congratulate you on that!
      I have found that for us “city-dwellers” these strategies I shared do work really well. Surprisingly, stocking up on sale items actually ends up costing LESS than simply buying what is on your list regardless of what is on sale. In fact when I shopped with Kristen she was blown away by how much more she was able to buy for much LESS than she normally spent.

      Reply
  • Melissa Yepez May 22,

    We live in very rural Vermont and do all of our shopping in New Hampshire at BJ’s. I find buying in bulk and making most items from scratch to be a huge savings for us. Bj’s offers coupons and will accept manufactures coupons, but they don’t offer sales. Sometimes meat is marked down because it’s close to it’s sell date. Do you have any tips for a bulk once a month shoppers like me? Monthly I spend about $600. for a family of 5, plus weekly $25. for milk, bread, and bananas.

    Reply
    • Tracy Hite May 29,

      i hope you have invested in a deep freezer, buying meat in bulk and portioning out individual 1lb-5lb portions has always helped me. make sure that you date everything and rotate your inventory so that things don’t spoil. have a cooler in the back of the car/truck to keep cold items cold with ice for the long car rides, also milk and bread can be frozen for up to two weeks ( the milk will look a little funny frozen but it is 100% safe)just let the jug thaw in the fridge the night before, the bread also, this may cut down on weekly trips to just twice a month and help save on gas. :)

      Reply
  • Donna May 24,

    Here in Australia we don’t have a coupon system, we rely on specials only. I also agree that cooking from scratch saves a lot of money and I get more satisfaction from it as well. After rent and utilities are paid we have 400 a month for groceries, fuel, insurances, entertainment and clothing, So yes we all need to pinch our pennies.

    Reply
  • Connie Embleton May 28,

    The only thing I take exception to here is that if you are cutting out meat to save money, you’re losing it on the fake ground beef stuff. At least here in Canada, these products cost as much or more per pound than the ground beef it is replacing. Otherwise, you are spot on!! As a mom with 9 children, it just about kills me to pay full price for anything…..ever!!! :D

    Reply
    • Tracy Hite May 29,

      i completely understand that part of cutting meat. as a hispanic we always incorporate beans of all kinds to make-up the “meat” in recipes when we couldn’t afford it. (my mom grew up very poor with 12 brothers and sisters) also just cutting back the meat instead of cutting it completely out is another way to save some money, if a recipe calls for 1lb of beef cut it to 1/2 lb and include a bean or other protein. (beans in bulk last a long time and are much cheaper) also soups that are primarily veggies help and then the beef/chicken is just more of a flavor enhancer.

      Reply
  • Mel@TheDizzyMom May 29,

    Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Thank you so much. This was easy to understand and totally makes sense. I will definitely be following these steps and checking out the beginner coupon clipping series. I can’t thank you enough!

    Reply
  • Tracy Hite May 29,

    also a great way to cut down cost is to just cut out the “convieniece stuff. people with kids, if you bag lunch don’t buy pre-packed items, i/e buy that family size bag of godfish and portion out half-cups in ziplock bags for pennies a bag (this is great when it’s your week to bring snacks to class).
    also buy in season fruits and veggies, (out of season markup on berries is a real $ drainer) and shop farmer’s markets there are always great deals to be made when dealing with people one on one.
    buy bock cheese when it is on sale and shred it yourself, again portion out in ziplock bags. this one is a surprizing $ saver.
    buying bulk and doing portion control is a great way to save tons on a whole bunch of things.

    Reply
    • teresashineon November 13,

      I have done a lot of research on buying chips in individual bags versus the family size and I always come out cheaper on the individual. The big bags always have waste at the bottom, and also the amounts are more monitored with the individual. I am talking about when you have teenagers. I do sales and coupons, but with a family of 6 we still spend $600+ a month on grocery’s. We do a lot of social which adds to the cost. This is a great site! Thanks for all the good ideas!!

      Reply
  • Melynda June 5,

    I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned swinging by your grocer’s clearance section. The varieties are endless, but you can get good deals from meat to mascara…and use coupons on top of that. Maybe not for beginners because you can get carried away and be tempted to purchase things you don’t really need but it’s helped me. Thanks for your tips!

    Reply
  • Joelle June 6,

    These tips only work if you don’t have a budget that you have to stick to. I am a single mother with a very strict budget for groceries; I can’t afford to “stockpile” something just because it’s on sale. Coupons don’t really work because I rarely find coupons for things I actually want and need. Does any one have any useful tips for making a strict budget go further?

    Reply
    • Mal June 7,

      Hi Joelle, I find that bulk stores where you don’t have to buy huge sizes of things are really great for budgeting (like the Bulk Barn), you can get staples like beans, rice, spices, nuts & even ‘treats’, and you only need to buy the exact amount you want/need. Especially the herbs and spices, they are a fraction of the grocery store prices. After that, make your meal plan based on the best food you can get for the best price and don’t get sucked in to buying things you wouldn’t buy just because they are on sale (ie, if you don’t eat Pop Tarts, don’t buy them just because they are a dollar).

      Reply
  • Mal June 7,

    Thanks for the tips, except I don’t agree with the emphasis on eating whatever packaged foods you can get on sale. The way I see it, I can pay the farmer or I can pay the hospital, so I’m not going to buy Cheerios, regardless of how cheap they make them. When meats and vegetables I can freeze (or are already frozen) go on sale, I totally stock up, but I find that really only the packaged foods have huge margins that can be cut in half, if you’re buying whole foods, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room.

    Reply
  • ~ joey ~ June 9,

    I do all of these things to reduce our family’s food bill but I still do not see how you can eat a balanced healthy diet on $200/month. Stocking up on packaged and canned foods is only going to cost you more on health care bills later. We are a family of four, vegetarian/vegan, do not buy packaged foods, and grow as much of our own food as we can. We buy in bulk, stock pile on sales, use coupons, and u-pick from local farms but our food bill (including toiletries) is around $1000/month.
    Do you have low cost recipes or a meal plan that we could see so I can see where I’m going wrong? Many of our friends are wondering why their food bills are so high as well so we’re eager to hear more of your secrets!
    Many thanks,
    Joey

    Reply
    • Leandra Cate July 7,

      I have no relationship to this blog. This is my first time reading. But I just did a little math on some of her suggested vegetarian recipes and if that’s what she’s cooking, you can’t get the materials for that for $200 a month, not in my area, anyway. My family of 2 spends about $320 a month on groceries and we do all the things she suggests here except stock up on meat (we’re vegetarian) or buy processed foods like cereals. Also we eat about 70% organic, so maybe that inflates our budget. Fresh veggies and fruit are expensive but important for your health. Rather than obsessing about each penny spent on food I would save MUCH more money by going carless or at least carpayment-less, living in a smaller house, buying 2nd hand everything from toys to books to clothes. Just my 2 cents.

      Reply
    • Courtney June 20,

      Wonderful article not much new information for me but still very possible. Yes coupons help some but sale ads are the way to go. As a registered nurse vegetarian and mother of 6 I want my family to eat healthy at any cost. It was when the cost was 400$ a week that I reevaluated our budget. With my aid of my stockpile I spend about 125-130$ a week tops at local grocery stores. I then spend $50-60 a week at Aldis on milk and produce which is about 4 bunches of bananas strawberries watermelon, bag of apples, three things of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, and potatoes. A gallon of 2% milk 1.59$ which is usually buy 5 a week versus our local gas station at $4.99 a gallon. It is possible to save now I work part-time two nights a week because we are saving on our groceries which has also eliminated our childcare bill. Be open minded and try if you really do want to save money.

      Reply
  • Alaine June 16,

    I shop at Publix, stocking up on BOGO’s with coupons, we don’t eat much processed food, just some items. I’ve changed my laundry detergent to what’s on sale with coupons also. Also I shop at Aldi and find many great deals on the “other brands” and they also will at times have regular brands. Produce selection at Aldi is very fresh and a lot cheaper, I do try to support the local fruit stands when I can also. I’m thinking of finding a co op in my area for food savings also.
    Thanks for your article!

    Reply
  • Nisha June 17,

    Hi, I came here via Pinterest and wanted to drop by to say these are great tips!
    I follow all of these except one: meal plan – I never end up cooking what I plan, because most of my food depends on my mood. And because of that I used to buy too many vegetables, in case I felt like cooking any of those. Most of the times half of the vegetables would rot, having me throw ‘em away. That is one thing I have stopped – now I buy limited produce and variety each week, and try to get creative with the less quantities and choice (I was born a vegetarian).
    I have learned how to store the groceries well and keeping track of expiry dates, so now I shop on alternative weekends only. And my grocery bill per month is in fact less than $150 per month I’m sure!
    Also, I totally agree with # 2 … Stuff that has a long shelf life is worth stocking up on especially if bought on sales/discounts. Wish someone could make my husband understand that! :D

    Reply
  • Pamela Gammill June 19,

    Toiletries and cleaning supplies can really eat up a grocery budget. I now make my own laundry soap and I clean my house with non-chemical cleaners. I use vinegar and baking soda for most things and vinegar is amazing! My windows and floors sparkle. I also make my own deodorant from coconut oil and baking soda. I love it and it’s so cheap. You can google recipes for making all your cleaning supplies and you’ll be amazed at how much you save. (And you’ll be healthier also!)

    Reply
  • Mandy June 20,

    Eat less meat, and eat more processed garbage aka pasta, grains, and rice . Yep saving money at the expense often family and my own health. Sounds like a plan to me ! Ugh — SMH !

    Reply
    • Anonymous July 26,

      Actually there are plenty of cost effective and very healthy prepackaged foods.
      Quinoa as a rice alternative is high in fibre and protein, cooks exactly like rice.
      Depending where you live Smart Pasta carries noodles that have 11g of fibre and 9g of protein
      Per serving. I am a university student; I can either have my text books or fresh produce and good meat.

      Reply
  • Carla June 29,

    Over and over I have seen our local stores refuse to honor coupons if the item is already on sale. You can either get the coupon price or the sale price but you may NOT put them together on the same item. I’ve seen your advice many times before and it always baffles me. Who actually allows this?

    Reply
    • Laura October 6,

      I beg to differ. Major grocery store chains will always allow you to use a coupon on a sale item. Most will allow you to stack a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon on top!

      Reply
      • Anonymous January 11,

        This is not allowed in California. Even when going to the Major grocery stores they will not allow you to use a coupon on a sale item. I hear other states you can.

        Reply
  • Anonymous June 29,

    good ideas unless you trying to avoid GMO food and all things processed

    Reply
    • Janet Garces August 6,

      I agree, there is no way you can follow this and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I don’t see anywhere fresh fruits and vegetables. Stockpile?? You can’t do that with produce. I barely have anything in my pantry because I don’t use the “canned”, “packaged” “mystery” foods. How about organic tips?? $200 a month for groceries? My goodness I do well over $200 per week. Guess I’ll need to look elsewhere for tips.

      Reply
      • Laura September 12,

        Totally agree with both comments here. We too eat non-gmo and organic. We also avoid all soy like the plague… which immediately rules out like 95% of anything processed. (You’d be surprised where they slip that crap into your food!) Does anyone have tips on saving money while avoiding processed garbage and GMO’s?

        Reply
      • Anonymous October 5,

        Agreed. There is absolutely no way you can save mi eh like this if you eat healthy.

        Reply
      • Csilla Bischoff October 5,

        Agreed. There is absolutely no way you can save money like this if you eat healthy. Grass fed beef, organic fruits and vegetables barely go on sale and when you eat meals made from scratch you want the freshest produce. Raw organic nuts and seeds are also priced much higher and they do not go on sale.

        Reply
      • Tim March 28,

        When I worked at Albertson’s (I conesfs years ago) the cashiers were told if it says manufacture coupon to take it. It just meant that Target or Walmart or whoever just wanted the customer to think they had to go there instead of look for the cheapest price. At that time it was corporate that told me that, and that we want them to shop here not there so take it.

        Reply
  • Milena July 10,

    Loved the article!!! Speaking of Publix, have you figured out how often they do BOGO? I feel like I can really stock up during their buy one get one sales but I never when to expect them!

    Thank you!

    Reply
  • yolanda July 12,

    loved all the article i have not figured out everything yet i’m a new to couponing

    Reply
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  • Donna July 15,

    I am willing to spend some time searching for coupons. One of my issues with coupon sites is everything they make you download plus they do too many add-ons if you ar enot careful. I do not want to clutter up my computer. Any coupon sites that are easy to get coupons.

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  • Tini July 28,

    Hi! I found your blog via Pinterest, and I found this post super helpfull.
    We’re a little family of two (plus Cuba, our dog, but he has his own food all set up already haha), and everything you say is the pure truth regarding saving money on food.
    We live in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, and there are no cupons over here, but everything else you mention, applies: Leandro doesn’t eat meat but sparefishes, so our freezer is constantly full of fish, lobster, octopus, etc. I do eat meat and chicken, but never buy meat (I’m lazy when it comes to cook meat and cleaning after, on top of the price) and just some half chicken monthly.
    We stock as you say, and, believe me, it makes the whole difference. We do one montlhy big grocery shopping, for around R$200,00 (pretty much some… $100,00 dolars, maybe less), and it lasts the whole month. And it’s not just groceries, it’s everything: cleaning products, toiletries, etc. Sometimes lasts even more than that, but it doesn’t matter: from the 1rst to the 5th day of every month, we do our montlhy grocery shopping religiously. And to be honest, we haven’t even paid R$200,00 in quite sometime. That was the first big one we did, and then our grocery began to stock, so lately it’s been around R$150,00 or so.
    We do some shopping during the month, of course, like milk, eggs, cheese, but it tops R$50,00 at the very (VERY) most, plus tons of fruit and veggies weekly (there’s this farmers market we love), and thats may be, R$20,00, R$30,00 if we go fruit crazy, and most of the times one shopping lasts a week and a half, so by the week we buy just R$10,00 or R$15,00.
    I don’t know where your traffic comes from, but I can certify that your methods applies in economies beyond the American one. Stocking is THE way to saving.
    Nice to meet you!
    Tini.-

    Reply
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  • Melissa@stockpilingmoms.com August 8,

    I agree with you 100% – Stockpiling is the key :-)

    Reply
  • Emily @ My Love for Words August 9,

    Thank you! I need these posts. I’m horrible at meal planning and saving money when it comes to the grocery store. My poor husband has stopped at our local grocery store after work every single day this week so we can definitely benefit from these tips.

    Reply
  • Kimberley August 19,

    Also check out e-coupons if you store has them. It automatically loads the coupon(s) to your store savings card. No paper to keep up with and the savings automatically ring up at the register.
    Also, one of my local grocery stores also puts $0.05 off towards a tank of gas every $50. That’s not including some of their “bonus” buys which will add extra off towards gas.
    Last week they had a great sale. BOGO chicken and pork. My grand total before savings was $139.81. I paid $93.17. My freezer is stuffed and I saved $0.18 off per gallon of gas (up to 20 gallons)! This was without clipping any coupons, which I must say if I took the time to clip, I probably could have saved a bit more.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup August 19,

      Great tip. Thanks Kimberley!

      Reply
  • Mary August 27,

    Coupons are great to use if you can get ones of products you actually use. They use to be great with doubling if they were under $1 but many stores in my area have recently cut out the doubling. I used to use them with the sales and get great bargains. But I am not using a lot of processed products anymore and trying to cook from scratch. I also have been buying more organic which is more expensive though sometimes when it is on sale it is a better price then the regular stuff.

    Reply
  • Kimberly Wenzel September 2,

    Thank you for the great tips, although I strongly disagree with encouraging people to eat less meat! I am a cattle producer and we are proud of the healthy, nutritious product that we produce!! A great way to stockpile meat, is simply to work with your local producers and local butcher to purchase and custom process beef or pork. In our area, we have a local operation that does something similar with poultry. Yes, there is a significant cost upfront, but you will save over the long haul! Plus, if you need meat in smaller amounts, local producers will often work with you if say you only want to purchase 1/4 or 1/2 of the product. Or, you could join together with friends or relatives to split up the pounds of meat harvested, thus splitting up the cost. Do some checking around, even if you don’t know who to talk to, you likely know somebody who knows somebody. :)

    Reply
    • Anne September 3,

      I think the point is that people eat more meat than they need to generally–three times a week is usually plenty for a balanced diet. (Always best to go through local suppliers, obviously!) :)

      Reply
  • Anne September 3,

    As a born and bred Floridian (transplanted to Europe), Publix is the best supermarket, ever. Period. ;)

    Reply
  • Anonymous September 4,

    Have you ever heard of starvation? Or countries, in which people are longing for wages you mentioned in the 1st chapter?

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  • Brittany September 4,

    There’s a lot more to saving money on groceries than sales and coupons! How about shop local farmers markets or grow your own small vegetable garden? Shop at Aldi and other non-name brand grocery stores, bake your own bread, can your own produce and even garden goods with neighbors? The big secret that the producers of extreme couponing don’t want you to know if that the shoppers cheat. They use expired coupons, they match bar codes to things that aren’t actually on sale and they use more coupons than the store allows. I never saved money on groceries with coupons unless it was a special item because coupons are only good on expensive name brand items. Stop buying name brands and switch to generic and you’ll cut your grocery bill in half!

    Reply
  • Kathy September 11,

    You can buy organic fresh veggies and fruits and stockpile on a tiny budget. I also dont want processed GMO foods, but you can still do this plan. You buy them on sale ( sometimes Safeway has organics cheaper than non-organics) then chop and freeze! It will take a while to get all you need, but start small, say onions are in sale this week, but a bunch, chop and freeze in portion sized baggies. Next week it’s apples and celery, buy a bunch, make chunky applesauce ( to be used in breads, pies, or mixed in yogurt) and chop and freeze the celery for soups. Next week it’s zucchini and bell peppers, same thing, but a bunch, along with your other ” regular shopping ” and stockpiles few things at a time, it will pay off after a couple of months . You can do this with bread, milk, cheese, meat etc. you don’t HAVE to buy gross food, wait unroll what you use is on sale then stock up!

    Reply
  • Sarah Lentz September 13,

    I hate clipping–and keeping track of–coupons, so this article is a boost. I like to shop sales,
    too, but your idea of buying ONLY what’s on sale and stockpiling what you know you’ll need
    when you hit a sale will definitely help. $200 a month??? I would LOVE that! We are a family
    of six, with one still in diapers, so our monthly number will probably be bigger, but it’d be great
    just to cut our grocery expenses to no more than an average of $100 per week. Then we can
    reassess and see how we can reduce it still more (if practical). I’m going to talk to my husband
    about this (when I get the chance), and implement these ideas right away. It’ll help us pay off
    debt more quickly. We’re also downsizing the toy collection, so your other articles about that have
    been helpful, too. ;)

    Reply
  • Sue October 5,

    Planning works but stockpiling doesn’t when you eat healthy and natural. It’s hard to stockpile veggies/fruits. Do to health issues, I eat only meats, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and drink water or tea and while the meat I can freeze and the nuts and seeds will last, the rest I’d rather have fresh which also keeps some diversity in our meals with different veggies and fruits throughout the year. You CAN save money by NOT buying processed/boxed junk food and eating natural foods instead, you just need some planning.

    Reply
  • Debt Blag October 14,

    Terrific tips all around. Thanks! It’s great that you mentioned eating less meat too. While not a vegetarian, when I got serious about getting my finances in order, I found that cutting meat made such a big deal. Substitutes like beans, lentils, and tofu, are so much cheaper and maybe more important, they last longer so you can really take advantage of sales.

    Reply
  • Ivy October 31,

    I absolutely LOVE your advice! It’s simple and pro-active. Money is always a little tight in our home, but not nearly as tight as how I grew up. I used to watch my mom stretch a dollar until it bled and I could similarly do that when I was single but it always involved unhealthy choices. Now that I’m married, my husband is an active duty soldier and I’m a realtor (so my income is a little sporadic at times) and we’re looking to start a family this guide is the perfect how to on getting our food bill under control early. Thank you and please keep the hits coming!!! :)

    Reply
  • Marie November 2,

    Great article! I have one tip you should add to the “shop sales” section.
    - Shop at Walmart! They pricematch and do not require you to have the ad! So find all the best sales at all stores, write down the price, and take it to walmart!

    Reply
  • Conley November 18,

    I like your tips on stockpiling items and sale and meal planning. I’ve recently realized that I spend way too much time shopping each week looking for items that I need. A bit of planning ahead of time can really help. In addition, by mixing that approach in with buying and stockpiling items and sale, and planning meals around sale items, will definitely cut down on costs. A triple whammy!

    Reply
  • JulieSmith November 18,

    Please realize while your system is great for the person who eats out of cans and boxes the people that eat real food can’t shop this way. Eating organic whole food requires growing it, or finding it. Most companies don’t give many coupons if any at all. I drive to between 6 and 9 markets weekly to find my food in Hawaii. Almost no sales and the food is more expensive anyway due to being organic and in Hawaii. The best way to cut grocery bills is to grow and not support those food corporations. Than EVERYONE’s food bill would go way down.

    Reply
  • Keri December 2,

    I am a couponer and it is refreshing to see an article that points out other basics of couponing! If you just use coupons, even if they double, isn’t going to really help unless you shop sales. A nice, brief introduction to how it all works. Well done.

    Reply
  • Alicia December 8,

    I have read through almost all of the comments and it’s interesting to see the many responses. I guess you have to take it with a grain of salt, because quite a few people pointed out this wouldn’t work for their lifestyles- and that’s ok – but this isn’t meant to suit every single person, so be respectful. My thoughts are I really enjoyed the article for a different point of view and I’ll ponder it a bit to see what I might be able to incorporate into my lifestyle. Im with several people who mix it up with some gardening, ALDI, bulk bins and stockpiling a bit when I know for sure it’s an amazing price. I sometimes buy a huge pork tenderloin and freeze it into small sections or when chicken breast went on sale $5 for the name brand I bought 3 bags (just 2 of us here). Anyway I enjoyed reading this and seeing how other people live and make it through the comments section. Stay happy & healthy!

    Reply
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  • Lyman December 17,

    Great tips! Just wondering about how to save in natural food stores and whole foods. I don’t eat gluten or chicken so I find it difficult to save with my diet. I welcome tips for saving when eating whole foods .:-)

    Reply
  • Suzanne December 27,

    I totally agree with Tip #4- meal planning according to the sales has made a huge difference in our budget. Once you get the hang of it, it’s kind of fun, like a personal challenge to see just how much you can save. (Or that could just be me!) I also like the idea of going meatless a couple of nights per week. That’s been an issue for us, because we live in a small town a ways from a decent store. The local places and Walmart just don’t carry good produce. But we fi-nal-ly got a good co-op in the area, so I’m looking forward to trying this suggestion, too!

    Reply
  • Ashlee January 2,

    I really like your approach of sale items and your more realistic stock piling is probably great tips for a lot of people. I am curious, do you have any tips no matter how small the savings, for those of us that have no space at all to stock pile. I barely have enough space to buy 2 jars of tomato sauce let alone 6-7 to get my family through till they go on sale next. I also move every 2-3 years making it difficult to maintain a stockpile. Would you suggest couponing (I usually find very little I buy and try to only clip what I buy normally) as a better alternative for those of us with limited space and budget. Thanks any input will be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  • Vickie January 3,

    One way to save on fresh produce is to sprout you own; alfalfa, radish, wheat, etc. plus super vitamin rich!
    There are ways to save on meat as well. Ever heard of Confessions of a Butcher-eat steak on a hamburger budget and save$$$? It’s on Amazon. We get free elk from hunters who get tired of it…plus my hubby works at a grocery store so he brings home amazing deals. Love our garden and freezer. Gotta plant more raspberries for healthy smoothies this next year.

    Reply
  • Julie January 5,

    Does anyone know any food savings for Maui Hawaii? Yes I chose to live in a expensive state but I need help living on a budget.

    Reply
  • Laurel January 7,

    Oh my gosh, so many comments! I didn’t read through them all. Geat tips in your post. I am not a big coupon user as I usually forget about them. I would be interested in giving it another try. But where do you get coupons? The only place I know of is the Sunday paper and we don’t buy the paper.

    Laurel

    Reply
  • Rachel R. January 8,

    Wow; really, just over 10%? We must not make much, then. We have a pretty average-to-low per-person grocery budget (which is WAY higher than what we were spending even 2 years ago, but the prices have gone crazy…and we’ve gone gluten-free in the meantime which throws a wrench into the works). But we spend closer to 20% of our income on food than 10%.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup January 9,

      It is just an average so it can vary a lot from family to family. Gluten free definitely adds some extra cost!

      Reply
  • Alison January 10,

    I already left one comment, but I do have one more thought to add. My husband and I have just been talking about your bulk buying suggestion. Using your example of purchasing 12 boxes of Cheerios at once, as we totally get your point, it is very clear that to start this kind of bulk buying from the beginning you need to already have a chunk of money to get the ball rolling and that means spending WAY more than $200. Reason being I can’t rely on my next grocery trip consisting of only 5 different products. I would run out of food, other than Cheerios, in a week. It seems it would take a year just to get the stock pile of all the different ingredients you’d need to have a complete pantry of ready-to-make foods. Does anyone else see this as being the case?

    Reply
    • Anonymous January 11,

      I totally agree. If I am on a fixed income and a very low one at that, I cannot afford to spend what little money I have to start with on an item that is on sale like this. Also, in my area here in California a sale on an item is like fifty cents off!! lol literally it’s ridiculous.

      Reply
  • Angela Riemann January 11,

    Ruth,
    Can you tell me exactly how to get started stockpiling? Do you have to have extra money in the beginning to start this? You mention in your article that it takes 6-8 weeks to have your stockpile. Please explain how to get started or maybe you have this somewhere on your website. I’m a little slow and need the guidance! :-). Do I start Emeals along with stockpiling? Please help! I am trying to get this under control and not go to the store three and four times a week! It wears me out. We are on a tight budget and I need to do something. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  • Barbara Taylor January 11,

    I live in Walmart’s backyard (Bentonville, Ark.) and pretty much know that store inside and out after shopping there for over a decade. If you really want to save money on your grocery bill you need to consider shopping at a discount grocer like ALDI. No two ways about it.

    Reply
  • Amanda Taylor (Moming About) January 22,

    Thanks for sharing! I already follow most, if not all, of these tips AND I just started getting into freezer meals. :)

    Reply
  • Pullar, L January 27,

    I just became a member, and I am very impressed with the advice you give here. I have never understood the women on television, trying to explain the same thing but in gibberish. Thank You for such simply put well advice.

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  • Cheryl February 11,

    Yes I’m what some call an “extreme couponer”, only in Canada where it’s a little harder, but similar. We also don’t find fresh produce coupons often but saving money in every other facet of your expenses leaves a little more room for the fruits and vegetables. I also have a blog to help Canadians navigate the fun that is couponing. :) Wouldn’t change a thing!

    Reply
  • Ron Mariano March 7,

    Thanks for these tips. Whenever I go to the grocery store, I end up spending more than I intended. I’ve never collected coupons but we do get them on our local newspapers. Is it true that these “coupons” are just advertised price. Whenever a store has a clearance on packaged items (oatmeal, cereal, protein bars, rice packages) I usually grab a good amount because they aren’t as perishable and I stock them. Whenever there is “want” for oatmeal at home, well we have them. I still have oatmeal at home and I think I would never have to buy some in the near future. And I eat them!

    Thanks for these tips! I’ll make sure to be a smarter grocery shopper.

    Reply
    • Jaime March 11,

      Good tips! I’ve seen a lot of feedback from folks who think coupons = unhealthy processed etc. I would challenge that. I think the wind is a’changing and about time too. Maybe somebody’s getting the message? :) Now it’s possible that we are just fortunate in our area stores because coupons on fresh produce and vegetables are common – these are store coupons – some print out of the catalina machines by the registers and most are available online. Meijer and Kroger are the stores coming to mind that have these offers on a regular basis. It’s great! Another store that I didn’t realize until recently – had store coupons and accepts manufacturer coupons – is Whole Foods. Who knew? If eating organic, non-processed is the goal – or you have certain dietary restrictions like needing gluten free – it’s nice to save a bit here and there. http://moneysavingmom.com/ regularly posts info on Natural and Organic Deals – listing sources or links for coupons on those types of items.

      I have also seen mainstream coupons for things like clementines, watermelons, etc. They are few and far between, but if you are watching coupon blogs for your store’s sales that weeks it only takes moments to scan the sections of their list for any deals like that on produce.

      If you have an Aldi near you – use it. LOVE, love, LOVE Aldi. They run loss leader deals on produce, 5-6 diff types, every week. They also carry organic produce now and have many healthier options than they used to.

      I stockpile by spending a small amount of each trip’s budget on something I know I’ll use eventually. $5 let’s say. So maybe this week it’s an extra package of lunchmeat that goes in the freezer and a bag of lemons that I zest (freeze that) and juice (freeze that in ice cube trays). In this example I got the lunchmeat for $3 or less using sale + coupon and the lemons were on special at Aldi for $2 for a good size bag.

      I can get Kraft cheese cheaper with a sale plus coupon than even Aldi prices – but only sometimes. I buy it and freeze it until needed. These deals only come around so often – you take advantage of it when you can. If you are just getting started, it can be hard to stockpile much – but I try to remember the old tale of the tortoise vs. the hare!

      My best advice – learn, learn, learn! Read as much as you can on sites like this and find others via Pinterest or search engines. If you find a good article like this, read the comments – often times I find the best tips or tricks hidden there!

      Just because something seems out there don’t rule it out forever. Canning used to intimidate the heck out of me – but water bath canning is pretty simple and low risk if you pay attention and follow instructions. There are many, many, MANY resources for learning how to can properly. And on how to get setup with the equipment/supplies cheaply!

      Even if gardening and canning isn’t something you want to tackle – using your freezer is the next best option. What about dehydrating? I haven’t done that yet but I am SO looking into it. When fresh mushrooms go on sale I buy them to freeze but love the idea of dehydrating instead.

      I could go on and on and probably have too much already! If you’re frustrated or overwhelmed at trying to save on groceries – don’t give up. Take it slow – try for 1 deal here or 2 deals there. Gain confidence, learn what works best for you – you’ll do great!!!

      Reply
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  • Renee March 15,

    Thank you so much for the vegetarian meal ideas for families! I’ve been wanting to cut back on meat and wanting to make a meal here and there that is vegetarian, but didn’t know where to start! I’ve been a bit concerned lately at just how much meat we are eating each day. I mean, really, do you need to eat that much meat? I think we are overdoing it in Western society and need to cut back on our meat consumption. Thanks for giving me a starting point for how to do that!

    Reply
  • Alaina March 16,

    How wonderful that I found you. I read some of your post about getting rid of the kids toys. I do try to get them to donate around Christmas and before their birthday because they just do not have time to play with them. After reading your post I will definitely be going through their rooms again. As for saving on groceries, I am going to go through the sale ads before I shop tomorrow. I do have an Aldi and when you get one you are going to love it. My trouble area is the products they don’t sell that I never seem to buy on sale. I know to save money you have to try harder and that is my goal this year. Thank you.

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  • Cathy Sorrell March 17,

    Please send me info on saving money on food. Plus I like all of your tips on everything!!!!!

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  • elissa @ one stone events March 21,

    This is seriously the best article I’ve read on grocery saving tips. I will actually try this. Thank you for explaining it so well!

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  • Corey April 7,

    Excellent article. Great tips!

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  • Susan Shore April 18,

    I think I can help those with strict budgets. Here are my thoughts. It seems to me that the $200 comes after you have slowly learned to stock up from sales. I believe it takes time to get your bill down to $200, and you may only get there if you have a comparable sized family, but that said, you will most likely still make a significant dent in your grocery bill . Also, for those with strict budgets, it might take time, time, and more time. If you can some how just stock up one item per sale by using some less expensive substitutions elsewhere, I think it could be done. The substitutions don’t have to be forever. What is happening when you stock up is that you have to buy less groceries each month because part of what you are using that month was bought previously. Then since you are spending less now, you have a little more to spend on future sales. And, it carriers forward a little at a time until it levels off at some lower amount later. I hope this helps–it just my ideas. This is my first time here except earlier today! It’s a great site! Thanks for all the great info on saving.

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