How to Save Money on Groceries

Cut your monthly grocery bill with these tips.


If you’re trying to cut costs and save money, food spending is a great place to do it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food is the third largest expense for most Americans1. But it’s also one of the easiest ways to save. Unlike fixed expenses, what you spend on groceries can differ month to month (even week to week), which means you have more chances to save money without making a major lifestyle change.

Whether you’re single or raising a family, there are ways to save money on groceries that don’t involve a diet of ramen noodles.

How to save money on food as a family

If you’re shopping for a family versus living on your own, your monthly grocery budget may require a bit more creativity (especially when it comes to picky eaters). The first step in taking control of your grocery budget is to understand what you currently spend. Look at past receipts or your banking app to see if you can tally up how much you’ve spent in the past few months.

Once you know how much you spend on food, you can compare your monthly total with other Americans. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that the average monthly grocery budget for a family of 4 ranges from $560 (if you’re being thrifty) to $1280 (if you’re liberal with your spending2). No matter where your family falls on that range, here are some ways to cut your average grocery bill.

  • Shop your kitchen first: Take stock of what you have on hand. There’s no need to buy Adobo sauce for Tuesday’s chipotle chicken recipe if you have some stashed in your pantry. Look at items you have and use websites like MyFridgeFood or Supercook to find recipes based on those ingredients.
     

If you use what you buy, you can lower your monthly grocery budget and have more money to put into savings. A typical family of four throws away about a quarter of the food and beverages they purchase, which adds up to about $2,275 per year.3

  • Make a list: Apps such as AnyList sync shopping lists between people, which can prevent family members from accidentally buying the same item on different trips to the store.

  • Buy at a superstore or wholesale club: Toiletries and personal items, like body wash or razors, are often marked up at supermarkets. Those products are cheaper at superstores, like Walmart® and Target®, where they often have reasonable grocery prices as well4. And for daily essentials, the best way to save is to buy in bulk. A membership to a wholesale chain, like BJ’s® or COSTCO® will cost you about $50 per year, but may provide big savings in the long run.

  • Join a loyalty program: If you tend to shop at a particular chain, sign up for their loyalty program. You’ll rack up points that may be used toward future purchases. And because the retailers may track your buying history, they’ll often email coupons for items you actually need.

  • Order online: Although some online grocery retailers charge hefty delivery fees or mark up their prices, there are cheaper options than going to a physical store. One study found that grocery prices on AmazonFresh cost 18% less than most brick-and-mortar retailers.5

Other online programs, like Kroger® ClickList® let you shop online for a small fee and then you pick up your groceries at a designated time. You’ll likely save money shopping this way, since you’ll avoid impulse purchases (like the Lucky Charms your little one put in the cart when you weren’t looking).

Here’s how to grocery shop for 1 and cut costs

The USDA estimates that a single woman may spend between $164 to $327 per month for groceries1, while a single man may spend between $185 to $369. Whether you think you’re overspending or just want to scale back, here’s how to cut your monthly grocery bill:

  • Make a meal plan: Look at your calendar for the week and account for nights you won’t be home so you don’t buy food that’ll go to waste.

  • Take stock of what you have: Before you finish your list, look in your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you have that you can make into a meal.

  • Cook for two: Even if you live alone, cook recipes for two. You’ll save money and have leftovers to eat later in the week. In fact, bringing your own lunch to work can help you save between $2,000 and $4,000 per year.6

  • Subscribe to a meal delivery service: If you tend to get takeout for dinner or just don’t have much time to grocery shop, a meal service could help you save time and money—and even help you eat healthier. All the ingredients you need to make healthy recipes are delivered to your door. Both HelloFresh™ and Blue Apron® cost about $240 per month for 3 meals per week.7 Each meal serves 2, so lunch or dinner the next day can be covered, too.

  • Split a wholesale membership: If buying a membership to a wholesale store seems excessive, why not split the $50 yearly membership with a roommate or friend? When it comes to essentials like toilet paper or bottled water, you could rack up big savings buying in bulk.

Grocery shopping tips for everyone!

Whether your grocery list is for one or a bunch, here are more ways to cut back your spending:

  • Use self-checkout: Studies show that people avoid impulse buys when they use self-checkout instead of paying at a cashier.8

  • Buy in-season produce: Buying fruits and veggies when they’re out of season adds hefty travel and shipping fees, which increases their cost.9

  • Decide when prepared foods are worth it: Foods prepped for you, like bagged salad or sliced pineapple are more expensive. If the convenience makes it easier to pack a lunch or give your kids a healthy snack, then go for it. But if you don’t mind chopping or cleaning these foods yourself, you can lower your average cost of food per month.

Use coupons strategically

This tried-and-true method can help you save money—and time.

  • Use double coupons: When you double a coupon, a store will give you twice the savings for a single coupon. For example, a $2 coupon would get you $4 off. Here’s a list of stores that accept them.

  • Keep coupon matching in mind: Shop at places that accept competitor’s coupons. This way, you can use all of the coupons you clip at one store, saving you time and money.

  • Go digital: Use store-specific apps to save money on groceries, like Target®’s Cartwheel or Publix®’s digital coupon app, to virtually “clip” coupons. You can even do it while you’re waiting in line at the checkout.

Food shopping will always be on the to-do list, but using small money-saving strategies consistently can help save money on groceries. No matter how big or small that list is, you can learn how to grocery shop smart and cut costs. Best of all, you can make room in the budget for more exciting financial goals.


This site is for educational purposes. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

  1. Consumer expenditures 2016. (2017, August 29). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cesan.pdf

  2. USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food. (n.d.). Retrieved October 08, 2017, from https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodPlansCostofFood

  3. Stanger, T. (2017, May 23). How to save time and money food shopping. Retrieved October 28, 2017, from https://www.consumerreports.org/food-shopping/how-to-save-time-and-money-at-the-grocery-store/

  4. Thimou, T. (2017, February 03). Study: Dollar General and Walmart are least expensive retailers. Retrieved August 1, 2018, from https://clark.com/deals-money-saving-advice/dollar-general-walmart-kantar-study/

  5. White, M. (2016, February 17). Here's how much extra money you spend buying groceries online. Retrieved October 28, 2017, from http://time.com/money/4227293/online-groceries-prices-comparison/

  6. Schroeder-Gardner, M. (2017, November 01). Does bringing your lunch to work actually save money?. Retrieved July 31, 2018, from https://www.makingsenseofcents.com/2017/11/does-bringing-lunch-to-work-actually-save-money.html

  7. Lappe, M. (2017, November 08). The 12 best meal-kit delivery services you need to try. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from https://www.self.com/story/the-12-best-meal-kit-delivery-services-for-easy-pre-prepped-dinners-and-smoothies

  8. Chen, Y. (2017, August 23). With fewer cash registers, Hershey tries to re-create the impulse buy online. Retrieved August 2, 2018, from https://digiday.com/marketing/hershey-invests-more-in-digital-shopping/

  9. Breed, M. (n.d.). 10 ways to save money buying fresh produce – fruits & vegetables. Retrieved October 28, 2017, from https://www.moneycrashers.com/how-to-save-money-buying-fruits-and-vegetables/

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