11 Ways to Save on Your Grocery Bill
As 2011 comes to an end, we’re sharing helpful lists to help you save money, stay healthy, get organized, creatively repurpose, frugally gift-give, intentionally celebrate and more in our “11 Things for 2011” series throughout these holiday months.
By Contributing Writer Brandy Ferguson
As a busy wife and mother of almost eight boys, it’s been necessary through the years, to find more and more ways to save on our growing family’s grocery bill.
The list could be endless, of course, including practical tips like breastfeeding and cloth diapering your baby, and making your own baby food. Here are just a few things we’ve learned along the way.
11 Ways to Save on Your Grocery Bill
1. Make a weekly menu plan. A weekly menu plan prevents those last minute what-are-we-going-to-have-for-dinner panic moments.
2. From your weekly menu plan, make a grocery list. Stick to the list. Avoid buying anything that is not on the list. Using an organized shopping list each week helps ensure you have every ingredient you will need for making the meals on your menu plan. It also keeps you from running back to the store for any forgotten items, which almost always results in buying extra things.
3. Buy in bulk at a wholesale store when possible. Costco is great for offering a lot of organic foods, and still at a discounted price. You can often find all of these organic products at Costco: apples, other fruits, eggs, milk, salsa, chips, cereal, olive oil, unbleached flour, sugar, yogurt, meat, chicken, vegetables, and more.
4. Use coupons if you have them, but only for things you need and will really use. Shop at Walmart when you can. Over the years, we’ve repeatedly noticed how our grocery bill is drastically less if we choose to shop at Walmart. When we don’t have the extra money to spend on groceries in bulk at Costco, we know that we can still find a relatively good amount of healthy and organic options at Walmart.
5. Eat whole foods. Even if it isn’t organic, whole food is still better than processed food. Processed foods and convenience-packaged foods are often more expensive, and if not, they’re likely to cause you to spend money for health reasons later on. For a list of easy, healthy, homemade snacks, click here.
6. Eat at least one vegetarian dinner per week. There are so many options for delicious, meatless meals, you’ll never miss it. This is also a great way to help ensure your family is getting in those extra veggies. Experiment and see what your family likes. You may be surprised at how much they love loaded baked potatoes, veggie pizza, beans and cornbread, or garlic or vegetarian spaghetti with delicious, homemade sauce.
7. Plan on eating leftovers for one dinner a week, too. Even if there isn’t enough left over from one meal for the whole family, you might have leftovers from two meals, so it can work. Make it a leftover buffet night.
8. Make your own baked goods including breads, rolls, biscuits, granola bars, energy balls, cookies and cakes. Cheaper AND much healthier!
9. Don’t buy cleaning products. Instead, make your own non-toxic, all-natural cleaners with just a few very inexpensive ingredients like baking soda and vinegar. Also buy these products in bulk and keep on hand. For floors, consider switching to a steam mop, which uses only water for steam cleaning and disinfecting bare floors. Learn how to make your own simple dishwasher detergent here.
10. Make your own laundry detergent. With just a few simple ingredients, you can make a five gallon bucket of detergent for under five dollars. Considering that this should last several weeks to several months (depending on your family size), this is extremely economical.
11. Use natural remedies for skin care and minor ailments when possible. A Delightful Home is the greatest resource I am aware of for making your own body scrubs. Make your own vapor rub by following this tutorial. Instead of buying face wash, try this recipe for a natural, homemade version.
These are wonderful tips. We follow all of these examples (except we rarely use coupons). I believe making a menu plan is a huge plus in saving money and in eating healty. I love the tutorial for making your own vapo-rub…thanks so much for sharing it.
Love these ideas! We do many of the things you suggested – coupons, eating real food, making what we can from home, and we love eating leftovers. I am more apt to eat vegetarian a few nights a week but my hubby is not a fan… still working on that one! Last year for Christmas we made our family their own batch of homemade laundry detergent. It was such a fun gift and everyone loved it!
Great list! I think menu planning is definitely the key to staying on budget!
Great list Brandy! But I am totally anti-Walmart. LOL
Have you used the homemade laundry detergent w/ cloth diapering? Does it work okay?
Heather, no I haven’t personally used this detergent on cloth diapers. The two detergents that I have used in the past for that are:
I have used a homemade laundry detergent very similar to this one on cloth diapers for a long time and it has served us well. I started out using liquid homemade laundry detergent, but now use mainly powder. And now I make the powdered version with baking soda because that is all that is available in this city in China, and it still works really well. I also have a green washer ball from Amazon that cuts the amount of any detergent I have to use by a lot, even for clothes. I generally wash diapers in hot water (at least on sunny days as we have have solar water 🙂 and use a downy ball with plain white vinegar in it for the rinse cycle, but I know that some people don’t like to do these steps with diaper covers. I haven’t personally had any leak issues with our PUL covers from this though and it really helps keep them cleaner and the vinegar make line dried diapers a little softer.
What a fabulous list! I’m determined to better learn how to eat real food and on a tighter budget this year.
It’s so great to hear some more ideas for saving grocery money, any new ideas help. I have been waiting to try making my own laundry detergent and now with a baby I sure do a lot more laundry. I would also be interested in knowing if I can use it with my cloth diapers.
One thing that I do when I have the time is read through the grocery flyers before I make my menu (this means my “new week” starts on the weekend) and plan food that is on sale as part of what we will be eating for the week, then I make my grocery list from that. After a few months of reading the flyers one can get pretty good at knowing which things are actually on sale and which things the store is just trying to highlight.
And Stacy, I’m with you. No Walmart for us. 🙂
Thanks for putting this together, all good stuff! I am about to do a Daniel Fast which means all fruits, veggies and whole grains…my family will definitely be eating more vegetarian (although they will still be having dairy, etc)!
Gotta say, only red flag – Walmart. Values are just too important to sacrifice in the name of saving a few bucks!
Great stuff!!! Good reminders as we start out another year.
However, I disagree with shopping Walmart. They may have a few items that are cheaper, however, many items are not less and in fact cost more. Also, they have a poor selection. We recently moved to a new area where there are less shopping options and we have decided Walmart will still not be a good option. There are other supermarkets that help the budget. And don’t forget to shop your local natural foods store for bulk spices and teas and more. Huge savings there on those items.
I have to agree. Shop at Wal – Mart is not good advice for many, many, reasons. Wal -Mart decimates small businesses adn turns many small towns into ghost towns. We’ve just moved to a small town in NC where entire blocks stand empty where businesses used to be before the local Wal -Mart opened up. It’s been proven that for every job Wal – Mart creates, three jobs are lost. Not to mention the promotion of horrifying work practices by their suppliers. It’s just a bad idea all around.
Please support your local CSA, farmers market, etc.
i just wrote a post on this very topic. we have so many many things we do to save money on groceries, and specifically food. one specific thing that saves money is to make your own bone broth (stock). this is a great time of year to do it because lots of people have turkey carcasses left over (we just did ours over the past 36 hours!). if you save the cut tops and bottoms of onions and the cut tops and bottoms and leaves of celery and freeze them for when you next make stock, it is be virtually free to make great and healthy broth for all sorts of uses! when the organic ones are between $2-4 a box, this is a huge savings.
my recent post: 12 tips for saving money on good food
Regarding using homemade laundry detergent for cloth diapers. No problems at all. And you don’t have to purchase separate detergent as most of the recipes are gentle enough, and do not have fragrance.
Shopping at Walmart saves money that should be going towards providing Walmart employees with a living wage and health insurance. Unless you have no other options, just say no to Walmart. Great tips overall though.
I agree with everything on the list except Walmart! Walmart is NOT cheaper! I can nearly always find organic produce cheaper at Whole Foods. Whole Foods always have several produce items on sale…just buy those. Milk at Walmart?? Organic milk there is about $6 a gallon. Grass-fed, organic, non-homogenized milk (gal) is the same price at Whole Foods! I would go to Target way before I would go to Walmart…and recent studies show that Target is cheaper than Walmart.
I was going to write the same thing Wal-mart is so not cheaper, just follow the sales at your local stores, we live in a very small town 12,000 so we only have 2 grocery stores, a walmart and an aldi’s really I work at the big W and refuse to shop their inflated prices!
Great post! I do the menu planning, and it definitely helps!
To all the non-WalMart folks; I think it depends on where you live. We live in a town of about 16,000. We have a WalMart, Tom Thumb, and a couple of Affiliated food stores. WalMart beats the other prices hands-down, every time. The nearest Whole Foods is over an hour away, and other health food stores are about 40 minutes away, in towns we rarely go to. For us, WalMart IS cheaper, and they have a good selection. Our WalMart sells plenty of organic produce as well as other organic foods. Plus, they price match any sale within 30 miles. As far as milk, not many of us can afford to pay the $5 gallon prices for organic, whole, blah blah blah. I buy Braum’s milk, because it’s the healthiest, cheapest option in our area. I buy fresh eggs from my friends when they are available.
You just can’t make a blanket statement like “avoid WalMart” or “go to Whole Foods” when much of the American population lives in areas that have limited options. Last I checked, Whole Foods is only in large metropolitan cities. We don’t all live there.
And, yes, Wal Mart sells products made in China. So does almost every other store in town. Choose your products wisely in each store, and you’ll make a difference.
On a large-family budget, Walmart is a lifesaver.
I would agree that it really depends where you live. For me in Canada, I never, ever buy groceries at Walmart (although I know many families do). I personally don’t find that they have many real foods, and their prices aren’t particularly better. Instead, other than farmers and my food co-op and product market, I use a local chain called Extra Foods (Superstore) and shop on their monthly Family Days when I get an extra discount. It just really depends on what you have available and I think that everyone has to source out the best prices and options in their individual area. This is when price comparing comes in very handy!
Great tips there!
We try to grow as much food as we can and preserve it.
Just recently I saw potatoes for about $7 for 10 LB, wow, how thankful I am to have own potatoes for the whole winter!
This is a good post, the menu plan is a big one, I do a two week thou with the holidays it got a little fuzzy and we had a death in the family so had to go out of state things do come up, but having that plan saves so much money. we budget $75 a week for 5 with #6 on the way and will not add more to the budget, just using coupons and following sales is key for food, we also grow our own food in the summer, which is a great way to eat organic and not pay much except for seeds and plants. I have yet to try the home made detergent, I have all the stuff, just have not made the leap. As I stated above in a reply I do not agree with the Walmart part, the prices there are way higher than you think, unless your local stores are price gouging your community and I do work at the big W and know that the prices are way to high, I just shop weekly sales and of course use coupons.
We’ve save a lot on groceries with the Amazon Subscribe & Save program. In return for signing up for a subscription on select items (automatic delivery at a time interval you choose), you get free shipping and 15% off the price. There is no fee for signing up, rescheduling a deliver, or canceling the subscription all together. This is the best price I’ve found on organic coconut and olive oils, sardines, gluten free flours, organic coconut milk, many spices, unrefined sea salt, peanut butter, and almond butter. I’ve started a spreadsheet of where I’ve found the best price on items that we use regularly. Then if our local coop has something on sale, I can easily tell if it’s a good price or not.
Great tips Brandy!
Ladies it really depends on what stores you have available in your area. In the area in w/I live I would have to say that Wal-Mart is also the least expensive option and offers the most variety in a one stop shop–which is sometimes necessary when shopping w/ a lot of littles. Also, if we have to shop at Giants week after week to help stay in our grocery budgets perhapse we can give back to the community in other ways s/a donating to food panteries, etc.
Everyone have a Blessed Day!:)
Growing your own and buying in bulk have saved us a ton of money! As well as making our own homemade cleaners! This really is a great list of tips. Thank you for sharing:)
Great tips! Meal planning and organized grocery lists save lots of money.
I do disagree about Walmart though. Their business ethics are really poor and despite often low prices (although you have to watch out, they do lost litre on some products and then make up the difference with higher prices on others), I do not want to support companies whose business practices I do not agree with.
One thing I worry about with coupons (and I do use them), is the lack of food quality. A lot of coupons being offered are for junk food or just poor quality foods. Don’t get me wrong, I’m buying too, but thinking about things for the new year …
Really HUGE savings for your meats can be found by going to a local farmer. Check craigslist. You can buy a half (or even a 1/4 sometimes) of a cow or a hog and really $ave a TON of $$. And here, you get the health benefits, IF you make sure to ask the right questions. You want all grass fed (some will try to tell you grain at the end is OK) beef. Pork gets fed a grain mix. If it’s organic great. If not, go see where your animals are living (I recommend this anyways). If you don’t think you have room for even a 1/2, go in with family and friends. You WILL save money and get better food.
Chicken we butcher ourselves, but for those who aren’t interested in that can look for small farms who DO butcher and then buy direct. Yep, they are WAY more expensive than grocery store chicken. BUT if you think about your health and how much medicines and doctor visits are, that extra $5-10 you pay, will be well worth it in the end.
Happy New Year all!
I have one more tip for saving money at the grocery store – bring your own bags! Don’t forget – it’s earth-friendly and most stores give you a five-cent discount for each bag. I bring my own net produce bags, my own muslin bags for bulk items like flour and nuts, and of course my own canvas bags for all the groceries they give me a nickel for each and I often get two dollars off each time! Doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly – and is good environmental stewardship!
Thanks for all the great tips! I’m definitely gonna try the laundry detergent recipe!
I have to agree with the other commentators though… no Walmart for us! Not only are their business practices unethical, their prices are often higher on many items (esp. since they removed the low price guarantee). And… at least at ours their produce is terrible and organic/local choices virtually non-existant.
I agree with a lot of these tips. I rarley shop at Wal-mart because I just don’t get any good deals there in my area. I try to buy as much local as I can. Here I can buy a 10 pound bag of potatoes from a farmer for 4.00 and the store charges twice that. I also grow as much as possible and put up in season.
Great post, and comments too! I don’t shop at Walmart but now I’m curious to compare their selection to our local grocer and Whole Foods.
I find menu planning is most successful for me is by using the weekly flyer to pick up the best deals for my meat and produce. I love using the many sites out there that also show how to get great deals at Whole Foods by doubling up on sale prices with additional coupons.
Umm, no NEVER shop at Walmart. Walmart is a nice concept but it is the epitome of corporate greed. The store pays their employees lousy salaries which is part of the reason why you can never find someone to help you find anything. For instance at Publix, an employee will walk with you to find what you are looking for. Other than that, nice post.
BTW, southernsavers.com has helped me save money at gracery stores rather than a store who advertises “lower prices” but really is lower quality.
Make a notes before you go on grocery. Stick on what is write in the notes. Avoid on extra wants that can ruin your budget plan.