50 Frugal Grocery Shopping Tips

Whether you’re a savings pro or just starting to look for ways to tighten your budget, you’ll find lots of frugal grocery shopping tips in this list. Look them over and choose two to three to focus on at first. Then when you’re comfortable with those, add a few more.

Not every tip will work for every person – focus on what you can use and take away from the list rather than what won’t work for you. You may also enjoy: Tips For Frugal Living

Frugal Grocery Shopping

Written by Leo Babauta, who writes at ZenHabits.net {with some of my own ideas thrown in!}

1. Always go with a list. If you go without a list, you may as well just throw your money away. Better yet, donate it to me — I probably need it more than you. Seriously, though, you need to prepare a list of everything you need, pulling from your weekly menu (next tip) and checking to make sure you don’t have it in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Now stick to that list.

2. Plan out a weekly menu. This is the best way to ensure that your list is complete, and that you have enough to serve your family dinner for the week. I often plan a weekly menu and then duplicate it for the next week — this way I can shop for two weeks at once. Be sure to plan a leftovers night.

3. Don’t go when you’re hungry. This is a common tip, but it’s true: when you’re hungry, you want to buy all kinds of junk. You’ll end up spending a lot more. Eat a good meal first, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your list.

4. Have a budget. This is one of the best frugal grocery shopping tips yet it’s one that most people don’t follow. When I go to the store, I know exactly how much I can spend. Then I try my best to stick within that limit. If you don’t know how much you can spend, you’ll certainly spend too much.

5. Do a rough running tally. Related to the above tip, if you want to stay within your budget, it’s best to know where you’re at. Then, when you can see you’re going to go above it, you can decide whether you really need that 10-lb. box of bon bons. I keep a running tally on my grocery list, just rounding off so I can do some quick math. An item costs $1.85? I say $2. Then I don’t need a calculator or all those complicated math skills.

6. Keep a list on your fridge, and write things down immediately. When you run out of something, don’t leave it to your memory. Jot it down immediately, and you’ll never have to run back to the store because you don’t have eggs.

7. Make a pantry checklist. Make a checklist of everything you normally stock in your pantry. Keep it posted on the pantry. Put a slash next to each item for the number of items you have (if you have two cans of stewed tomatoes, put two slashes). Then, when you use something, turn the slash into an x. This makes it much easier when it comes time to make your list.

8. Keep things stocked for quick-n-easy meals. Easy meals for us might be spaghetti or mac-n-cheese or a quick stir-fry. We’ve always got the ingredients on hand, so we can whip something up fast when we’re feeling lazy.

9. Buy in bulk when it makes sense. If you can save money, over the course of a month or two, by buying in bulk, plan to do so. But be sure that you’re going to use all of it before it gets bad — it isn’t cheaper to buy in bulk if you don’t use it.

10. Keep your receipts, then enter into a spreadsheet. This will be your price list. Use it so you know when bulk or sale items are a good deal. It’s also a great way to comparison shop between stores — buy your baking goods in Store A but your fresh fruits in Store B. The spreadsheet can also serve as a checklist to use when you’re compiling your shopping list.
Simply Saving Tip: Use all data from the spreadsheet to create a price book.

11. Buy frozen veggies. While fresh veggies are a little better, frozen veggies are almost as good, and much better than nothing. And since you can keep them in the freezer, they rarely go bad.

12. When you’re running low, write it down. Don’t wait until you run out. when you see there’s only three toilet paper rolls left, put it on your list. Because when you run out, it will be too late. :)

13. Cut back on meat. Meat is expensive. We have vegetarian meals several times a week (think pasta or chili) and for other meals, you could just use a little meat as a kind of seasoning instead of the main ingredient — think Asian, Indian and other such cultural food. Actually, I eat vegetarian all the time, but the wife and kids do a little of each.

14. Pack your own lunch snacks. Buying pre-made snacks is convenient, but a big waste of money. Buy little baggies and buy the snacks in bulk, then it will take just a few minutes to pack some snacks for lunch each day.

15. Make leftovers for lunch. Plan to cook a bit extra for each dinner, so that you’ll have leftovers for your lunch and for the kids’ lunches. Pack it right away, after dinner, so you don’t have to worry about it in the morning.

16. Cook a lot, then freeze. Alternatively, you can cook a whole mess of spaghetti (for example) and freeze it for multiple dinners. A great idea is to use one Sunday and cook a week’s (or even a month’s) worth of dinners. Plan 5-6 freezable dinners and cook them all at once. Check our site for more once a week cooking tips. Feel free to submit your own once a week cooking recipes and we’ll feature them on our site!

207888_shopping_cart_mask_17. Always have batteries, toilet tissue and light bulbs. And other necessities that you always seem to run out of — buy a whole bunch when they’re on sale, or buy in bulk. Be sure to check to see if you have these items before you go to the store.

18. Try crock pot dinners. We discovered these in the last year, and they are easy and cheap and tasty. Cut up a bunch of ingredients, throw them in the pot in the morning, and have dinner ready for you when you get home. Can anything be more perfect than that? I submit that it cannot.

19. Clip coupons. I know, sometimes they seem like too much trouble. But it’s not really that hard to clip a few coupons and toss them in a coupon envelop to take on your grocery shopping trip. And you can save 10-20% of your bottom line with coupons. Check store entrances, newspaper and flyers for coupons.
Simply Saving Tip: Check here for info on where to get coupons.

20. Only use coupons for items you were already planning to buy. Don’t let them trick you into buying something that’s not on your list, just to “save” money.

21. Look for specials. Every store has specials. Be sure to look for them in the newspaper, or when you get to the store (they often have unadvertised specials — look on the higher and lower shelves for deals). Don’t buy them unless they’re things you always use.

22. Try the store brands. Brand names are often no better than generic, and you’re paying for all the advertising they do to have a brand name. Give the store brand a try, and often you won’t notice a difference. Especially if it’s an ingredient in a dish where you can’t taste the quality of that individual ingredient.

23. Cut back on your “one-item” trips. They waste gas, and almost inevitably, you buy more than that one item. If you plan ahead, make a weekly menu, and shop with a list, this should drastically reduce the number of trips you make for a small number of items. But if you still find yourself running out for a few items, analyze the reason — are you not making a good list, are you forgetting some items from your list? Stock up on the things you frequently go out for.

24. Sugar cereals are a bad buy. Lots of money for no nutrition. Look for whole grain cereals with low sugar. Add fruit for better flavor.

25. Be watchful at the register. Keep an eye on the scanner — you’ll keep the cashier on his toes, and catch any mis-priced items.

26. When there’s a sale, stock up. Sale items can be a great deal. If it’s an item you normally use, buy a bunch of them.

27. Comparison shop. Look at the different brands for a certain type of product, including store brands. Sometimes there will be a significant difference. Be sure you’re comparing apples to apples — you need to divide the price by the amount (ounces, pounds, etc.) in order to get the comparable unit price.

28. Go during slow times. One of my favorite times to shop is late at night. But during working hours or other non-peak times is good too. Avoid right after 5 p.m., on paydays and near major holidays.

29. Know when the store stocks its fresh fruits and veggies. In my area, that makes a big difference. Fruits and veggies can go bad quickly, because they have to be shipped. So I know that the store re-stocks on Thursdays, and so I usually go on Thursdays or Fridays, otherwise I’ll be getting old items.

30. Plan one big trip a month for bulk staples. You can get fresh items at another store on other weeks, but doing a big bulk trip will cut back on the expense and amount you have to carry for the other three weeks. Avoid buying on impulse at the bulk store too — just because they sell a lot of it doesn’t mean you’re saving, if you weren’t planning on buying it in the first place.

31. Avoid trips to the corner store. Or the gas station! These are some of the most expensive stores. (Ranking right up there with airport stores.)

32. Try co-ops and dent and bent stores. You can often save a lot of money at these types of places for staples.

33. Consider shopping at two stores. There’s no store with a monopoly on savings. Each has savings on different items on different weeks. You might switch between two stores on alternate weeks.

34. Think deep freeze. If you really want to save, you’ll need a big freezer. Ask around — someone you know might have a relatively new model they don’t need anymore. You can use freezers to stock up on meat, frozen veggies, and similar staples, and to freeze big batches of pasta, casseroles, and other dinners you prepare ahead of time.

35. Use everything possible. Got a bunch of leftover ingredients (half an onion, a bit of tomato, some pasta, a few other veggies?) … combine them for a quick meal, so that these don’t go to waste before your next grocery trip. The more you can stretch the food, and the less you waste, the less you’ll spend in the long run.

36. Don’t waste leftovers. Have a list on your fridge of what leftovers are in there, so you don’t forget about them. Plan a leftover night or two, so you’re sure to eat them all. Pack them immediately for lunch, so they’re ready to take the next morning.

37. Don’t buy junk food (or buy as little as possible). Junk food not only costs a lot of money for about zero nutrition, but it makes you and your family fat and kills you. Talk about a bad deal! Opt for fruits and veggies instead.

38. Rain check. If an item is on sale but the store has run out of stock, ask for a rain check.

39. Go when the kids are in school. When you bring kids, they will pester you and pester you until you buy some kind of junk food. Even if you’re able to stick to your guns, it’s not pleasant saying no 10 million times. In most cases, you’ll save money shopping without the kids.

40. Go for whole foods. The processed kind is lacking in nutrition and will make you fat. Look for things in their least processed form — whole grain instead of white or wheat bread, fresh fruit instead of canned or juice, whole grain cereal or oatmeal instead of all other kinds of cereal. You get the idea.

41. Read labels. Look for trans fat, hydrogenated oils, high amounts of sugar, saturated fat, lots of sodium, cholesterol. Then avoid them like the plague. Look instead for fiber, good fats, protein, vitamins, calcium.

42. Clean out your fridge. You’ve got stuff growing in there and turning from solids to liquids. The leftovers have begun to organize their own political party. Toss em out and make room for the new.

43. Stick to your list. Avoid impulse buys. They are almost always bad, and even if it’s just a couple dollars, they will add up to $50-100 for a trip. Over the course of a year, that can mean thousands. Tell yourself you will not buy anything that’s not on your list unless it’s an absolute necessity (why isn’t toilet paper on my darn list?).

44. Use store savings cards. These can add up to big savings over the long run.

45. Cut back on your restaurant eating. It’s never cheaper or more nutritious than eating at home. Plan your dinners (see above tip) and bring your lunches to work and save a ton of money.

46. Avoid frozen dinners or prepared entrees. Again, these cost way more and are usually much less nutritious.

47. Drink water. If you regularly drink iced tea, Tang, sodas or other types of drinks, cut those out completely and just drink water. It’s much better for you, and much cheaper.

48. Prepare your grocery list by aisle. If you regularly shop at the same stores, organize your list so that you can easily find and check off items as you walk down the aisle. We always shop from right to left, so we’re not constantly running back and forth in the store.

49. Get cloth grocery bags. You’ll save tons of plastic over time, and help the environment tremendously.

50. Pack healthy snacks for the kids. Whole wheat crackers, popcorn, cut-up fruit, raisins, and other kid-friendly snacks are much better than the junk you often see in kids’ lunches. And cheaper.

47 Responses to “50 Frugal Grocery Shopping Tips”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. sangeeth says:

    This is a very useful post. Bookmarked!great tips!

  2. Dore' says:

    I am the worst grocery shopper in the world! Thanks so much for all the helpful hints. I’ll definitely have to keep them in mind from now on!

    Dore’s last blog post..Got a Wish?? Tell Santa about it!

  3. Lori says:

    What a great list! Thanks for sharing!

    Loris last blog post..Thirsty Thursday!

  4. Lisa Ehrman says:

    These are all great ideas! I especially need to follow the one about shopping when hungry. My son always laughs when I shop hungry, because he knows I’ll return with donuts :)

  5. Interesting list! I once read in Business Week that at least one big grocery store chain trains its cashiers to be friendly and chatty *because* they hope you’ll be distracted from doing Tip #25 and you’ll miss any mistakes, or not point them out because you like the cashier so much!

  6. On the frozen veggies – ALSO, keep an eye open for sales on fresh veggies. Stock up and freeze your own. I do that. I really want to learn how to do canning. I have done my own jams, but it’s been years.

  7. I am definitely going to have to bookmark this list. I love finding ways to be frugal. With three boys I need to save all of the money that I can.

  8. Number 1 is a huge problem for me… Even with a list I tend to go off course and that’s because number 3 usually gets in the way.

  9. I really needed to read this as i am always going over my budget. Number 1-3 really applies to me.

  10. Malia says:

    These are all great ideas, thanks! I will be trying some of these tips.

  11. WOW.. what an awesome list.. I love to safe money and this sure sums it up…. Thanks for sharing

  12. Cyndie says:

    If I make my list, I can remember the rest in my head for some reason. Must have the list and NOT shop hungry!

  13. I am looking forward to working my way down this list and doing something great with the money I save.

  14. Debra says:

    All great tips and think that the #1 tip you have listed is my own personal top tip – always go with a list…and don’t stray from it!

  15. Brett says:

    great tips! having a list and crock pot are 2 HUGE ones for me

  16. Jenny says:

    ha! don’t go when you’re hungry~

    my mom told me that once and i didn’t believe her. my wallet wasn’t happy :(

  17. christy karch says:

    def a coupon person, I live by my crockpot and am def the one who waits till last minute and runs out of everything:)

  18. Ashley says:

    These are all excellent tips. I always end up going when I am hungry and it makes for a crappy shopping trip because I want everything in sight! lol I also need to stick to my list more!

  19. Kristin says:

    What awesome tips! My biggest problem is keeping tabs on what I have in my food pantry and what I need to stock up on! lol I’ve really gotta work on that.

  20. Kristin says:

    What awesome tips! My biggest problem is keeping tabs on what I have in my food pantry and what I need to stock up on! lol I’ve really gotta work on that.

  21. Kristyn says:

    That is a GREAT list!!!!!

  22. The leftover list on the fridge is particularly brilliant. Thanks for that!

  23. Lots of great tips here! I’m going to pin this so I can come back to it for review.

  24. This is a great post. Exactly what I needed.

  25. Beth says:

    Thanks for all the tips!

  26. Taylor says:

    Wow, so many awesome tips here! I used to do a pantry checklist and it helped so much – I would have things on my list, but then when I checked the pantry, it turned out I had some hidden in the back.

  27. Wow, that was a lot of tips! Thank a bunch for this helpful and useful information.

  28. Ave says:

    Thanks for sharing gret tips! I do almost everything you mention in your list. I always shop with a list, but sometimes I buy things that are no mentioned there :D

  29. Dawn Lopez says:

    Wow, awesome and extensive list. I love #6 and need to follow it better! I am so forgetful, it drives me crazy and often messes with the flow of things as well as how much money we’re spending on groceries!

  30. Charise says:

    Excellent tips – thanks!

  31. I love #36 – using leftovers! We’ve gotten so much better at that lately. Sometimes I make an entirely new dish using the leftovers.

  32. Very sensible, thoughtful and exhaustive list. A very impressive post. Thank you.

  33. What a great list of tips. I’ve heard of a small handful of these, but not all. Thanks for sharing!

  34. Wow, these are some amazing tips! Some of them gave me a DUH moment,because I knew that & forgot about it. Thanks so much, saving on our grocery bill is a #1 priority for me!

  35. Thanks for all the great tips! I always need new ways to save money :)

  36. Emerald says:

    I’m working on only shopping with a budget but it is so difficult these days. I swear everything is more expensive now.

  37. Wow! I thought I was pretty savvy, but there are plenty here I never thought of. Thanks!

  38. Christy says:

    The one big problem I really have with this list is the one about not shopping while hungry. I have tried that, and I end up not putting anything in my cart because when I’m full, nothing looks appetizing. For me, I have to be at least semi-hungry or I force myself to make another trip.

  39. Brett says:

    Wow what a list! Must have taken a long time. Really great tips tho

  40. It is so helpful to plan ahead! Pinning this for future reference!

  41. I love all the tips they are great and very helpful. Thank You for all this great information

  42. Great tips, thanks for sharing!

  43. This is one excellent and useful post and each of the tip is so important and useful, I have shared this on my Facebook and I know all my friends would really love following these tips.

  44. I NEED to refer to this BEFORE I head to the store. I don’t think I followed a one of theme yesterday.

  45. Amazing tips! My mom used to say, never go grocery shopping when you are hungry. :) Your tips are definitely a great list to pass down to my kids. Thanks!


  1. #FrugalFriday Everyone can use some shopping tips!
    http://t.co/dlc0vWMXN8 http://t.co/y8ujp3YA96

  2. Here are 50 Frugal Grocery Tips for the post-Valentine’s and DSF spend out! http://t.co/jihnVfcb68

Leave A Comment...