Cutting Grocery Costs (without clipping coupons)

cutting grocery costs

To save money on groceries, you can do lots of things besides clipping coupons (which I never do). Here are a few ideas to help you save money and add some spice to your routine.

Shop at ethnic markets: I find that a lot of really wonderful, exotic, and flavorful dishes can be recreated rather simply and cheaply at home. Visiting your local ethnic grocery stores can be a great way to indulge in a little bit of restaurant-style eating without actually having to spend money on a restaurant. Also, these stores tend to offer very affordable (and sometimes stunningly cheap) prices on things that you didn’t even realize your traditional grocery store was marking up, like tortillas and soy sauce. Finally, shopping at, for example, an Asian market when you’ve been raised on mac and cheese will give you the opportunity to try a wide variety of new foods and discover new things to enjoy.

Shop at farmers’ markets: Not only is the produce you get from the farmers’ market fresher and of better quality than the stuff you buy at the supermarket, but often it’s a lot cheaper as well. You’ll buy your fruits and vegetables from the farmers themselves, thereby cutting out the middleman (which always saves money). Best of all, you’ll be buying from people who love what they do, meaning that you’re bound to get an overall better experience at these small markets than from the big chains, including free samples and cooking tips. You may also have access to a wider variety of produce — ten kinds of apples instead of three, for example.

Start your own garden: This can wind up being more work and costing more money than you think if you aren’t careful, but if done properly, not only can you cultivate your own food and cut your grocery bill, but you can also dine with the satisfaction of eating something that you grew yourself.

Share: Buying items in bulk or wholesale quantities and splitting them up with friends, relatives, co-workers or neighbors can reduce trips to the store and save money for everyone involved.

Have coupons sent to you: Instead of clipping coupons, get companies to mail you their manufacturer’s coupons. Most of the time, a phone call, letter, or email to a business with a comment or especially a complaint about one of their products will land you a stack of valuable coupons. Make sure to give your address when you write.

Learn how to make gourmet items at home: Not only will it save you money on treats for yourself, but you can use these items as inexpensive and thoughtful gifts for others. Oftentimes, following a recipe is much simpler than you’d think. You may not have considered doing things like making your own candy or ice cream, but I find it to be both cost-effective and fun. I invested in an ice cream maker two years ago and have saved untold money on ice cream — not to mention the unique flavors I’ve been able to enjoy and the satisfaction I get from creating them. I also recently made chocolate truffles, and it was a surprisingly simple and cheap process — way better than paying $10 a pound!

So the next time you’re looking for ways to trim your monthly grocery budget, keep in mind that your taste buds don’t have to suffer. You can also check out our sister site for more ideas like these. What tips and tricks do you use to save money on food?

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16 Responses to Cutting Grocery Costs (without clipping coupons)

  1. phantomdata says:

    Making Gourmet Items at home has a downside though… restaurant or processed foods no longer taste as good! After you’ve made your own Caesar Dressing, you can never order a caesar salad at a(n affordable) restaurant again.

    Regarding the garden, I find Herbs to be super economical this way. I pay $1.50 for a pack of basil seeds that make two pots of basil that will last me an entire season AS COMPARED TO paying $2.50 for a small package of basil at the store.

    I have two other recommendations. #1: Buy fresh! Lots of fresh veggies, fruits and meats. Feeling snackie? Grab a 0.50C apple instead of a $2.50 box of crappy factory cookies.

    #2: Buy what’s in season. I’m amazed when people make a grocery list without ever considering what’s in season. You can easily pay 200% more on an out-of-season item instead of watching what’s in season (and always cheaper).

    Bonus tip; Make a dynamic list. Instead of “New York Strip Steak” – buy “meat”. Then you can figure out if the pork chops are cheaper, the strip steak or maybe some other sort of beef. I love this form of shopping, as it also encourages me to deviate from my normal purchasing habits.

  2. I shop for groceries at Walmart. I feed my family of 4 for about $10-$12 a day for all meals most weeks. Since we budget a maximum of $125 per week for food to be on the safe side, I usually come in $40-$50 under budget each week.

  3. All good suggestions. I would also offer with regards to manufacturer coupons to order them from a coupon clipping service. I’ve started ordering from The Coupon Clippers for all of the items on the CVS Extra Bucks promotions. They charge a small handling fee for each coupon (handling fee since you can’t legally sell coupons) and send them directly to you. The nice thing is you can get multiple coupons for just the stuff you use without having to buy a bunch of newspapers and search through them yourself.

  4. Amy Fontinelle says:

    BillyOceansEleven, thanks for the tip. You can also buy coupons this way on eBay.

    Nathania, I’m curious about what a typical day’s meals look like for your family since I know how easy it can be to spend that same amount per day just to feed one person. One thing that works in your favor is that most items are sold in packages that are meant to feed families your size but will go bad before a household of 1-2 people could finish them without getting sick of eating the same thing over and over.

    Phantomdata, you’re right on about the the herbs (and the cooking!). Not only is it cheaper to grow herbs yourself, but also they’re always fresh since you can cut them only when you need them, whereas the stuff you buy in a package from the store goes bad in a week. So you really save $2.50 x every week that you would normally use fresh herbs, which can add up to a lot more!

    I think that with major supermarkets providing all kinds of produce all the time, many people have lost touch with, or never learned in the first place, what is in season and when. A good way to get back in tune with nature is to shop at farmers’ markets.

  5. Angie says:

    Excellent suggestions.
    Amy–you can still shop and save for a family of one or two by buying the bigger packages and dividing and freezing what you can. I also make freezer meals on weekends when I can squeeze those in. I have a family of four and still do this. I will buy 10 pounds of ground beef and brown it with garlic, chopped onion, salt and pepper. Drain in a colander and rinse with hot water. Drain again. Package in two-cup portions to equal a pound for use in casseroles, soups, tacos, etc. Package in sandwich-size zip bags and place all bags in gallon bag, seal and freeze. This lasts up to 6 months and saves the hassle of browning beef every time I need it. I cook chicken and freeze for use in casseroles, soups, pasta with alfredo sauce, etc. Freeze it in a little broth to prevent freezer burn. This lasts up to three months and makes for fast food after a long day at work.

  6. Fern says:

    Phantomdata, good ideas…

    the only problem with wal-mart is that all food there comes in either a box or a jar. You begin to forget what realy food looks like.

  7. phantomdata says:

    Oh man, Wal-Mart. I remember my last food-product experience there… I had purchased a bottle of Dr. Thunder that one of the store clerks had apparently been vigorously shaking. I got home and opened it right away as I was thirsty. Suddenly, my entire kitchen, dining room and cat was covered in Dr. Thunder. Bad day indeed.

  8. Henry @ Binary Dollar says:

    Isn’t the farmers and ethnic markets more expensive? They don’t have the cheap manufacturing costs like Walmart might have. I haven’t checked any prices. I’m just speculating.

  9. Amy L. Fontinelle says:

    Some farmers’ markets are more expensive than grocery store produce–it really depends on the particular farmers’ market, your geographic location (i.e. all produce sold in Alaska is going to be more expensive), the particular grocery store you shop at, what kind of produce you’re buying and whether it’s in season or not. Sometimes farmers’ markets will save you a bundle because you’re cutting out the middle man along with a lot of transportation costs.

    I don’t know why, but ethnic markets are invariably cheap. My local farmers’ market sells dried persimmons at a price of one for $4. My local ethnic market sells dried persimmons at a price of ten for $2. Talk about a huge difference! Another example: many Asian markets sell containers of extremely fresh, already peeled garlic for less than a conventional grocery store charges for the same quantity of still peeled, so old that it’s sprouting and doesn’t taste good anymore garlic.

  10. sue says:

    Eat less and save money

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  12. Cindy says:

    I appreciate all your tips, Amy, and amen about not using coupons, I seldom do anymore. Because I got more serious about true frugality and saving money, I sat and thought and made lists and planned. I came up with meals that would actually be eaten because I asked for input. Then I head straight for the marked-down meat section first and fill the freezer with these because you base your meal on these, probably, if you have a family. You learn to shop the outside aisles mainly where the real food is. You own several crock pots (pick these up at thrift stores; I found several large and smaller ones, all for less than $5 each and they work great) and they’re great for desserts, read the recipe books, amazing what you already have at home or get them at the library or the net. Long story short, you can have great meals ready to be eaten when you walk in the door at night from a long hard day at work, dessert included. It smells great and everybody thinks you’re so smart and such a good cook, ha-ha. I love it even now that I’m single and even though I now work at home. I hate coupons though I’ll still use the occasional one. I don’t even take the local paper, (another frugal tip, I read local news on line). I use my PC to check the local Kroger and Cub ads ahead of time but almost always hit Aldi first. We don’t have many ethnic stores here but do have health food stores and Big Lots (spices, etc).

  13. Pam says:

    “Isn’t the farmers and ethnic markets more expensive?”

    Grocery stores have a lower mark up on stabples like milk or eggs. They GOUGE you on specialty items such as the tortillas and soy sauce mentioned. I buy soy sauce, tahini and other seasonings at a local Asian market much cheaper than the grocery store.

    Even better, I control how much fat and salt are in my meals.

  14. Beth says:

    I only have a budget of 300 a month to feed myself and my 17 year old son and 3 year old daughter. I find it hard to have enough to eat at the end of the month. Any pointers on how to eat healthy and stay on a budget that will last with so little money?

  15. Pingback: Cutting Grocery Costs (without clipping coupons) | Coupon Dude

  16. Lee says:

    What??? I save hundreds of $$$$$ using coupons. Often, I get things free; sometimes I get overage that helps pay for other things.

    Yesterday I went to the store and bought 4 tubes of Colgate toothpaste, 15 packs of Dentyne gum (think Halloween candy), three highlighters, and a pocket folder. After all my coupons, I paid only $3.91. Take that amount, subtract the $6.00 in coupons printed at the register and I came out $2.09 ahead! I will use those coupons in a week or two and save even more.

    Using coupons is totally worth the effort. Anyone can learn how. There are web sites that tell you everything you need to know, including where the sales are and where to find coupons for those sales. Once you learn the basics, it doesn’t take much time, either.

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