A while ago I published how I spend $40/week on groceries a week and it got quite popular.
So this is a follow up on how to maximize your grocery spending:).
1. Buy Items Less Than $3/lb
If you’re trying to get your grocery costs down to $40 a week, you need to remember one thing. It’s all about the cost per pound of the food you buy.
Breakfast: If you’re eating cereal + milk, or some form of eggs, bacon, bread, then it can’t cost more than $1.5 if you make it yourself. That’s $10.50 of spending on breakfast for the week, leaving you $29.50 for lunch and dinner.
Lunch + Dinner: We’re going to assume you’re bringing your lunch to work with meal prep containers. There’s 14 meals for lunch and dinner in a week. Each meal must cost less than $2.1. The below is what the CDC recommends we eat each day.
Below we’re going to discuss the cost of different kinds of food per pound. Your grocery stores might be cheaper than mine because I like in NYC, land of notoriously expensive things!
Veggies: Prices range from $.5-$3 per pound.
Meat: Chicken breasts and whole legs are around $1 per pound. Pork shoulder is $1/pd and so delicious (barbecoa tacos anyone?)! Sure, steak is expensive, but if you’re eating chicken and pork the whole week and eat steak once or twice a week it won’t kill you price wise.
Grains: Rice, couscous, and other grains start at $1.
Fruits: Anywhere from $1-$3 per pound.
Oil, salt, pepper: Let’s assume $3 per week on this.
If you spend $1-$1.5 per pound on average for your fresh food you’re going to have ~$10 left over for small luxuries: Charcuterie, gourmet cheeses, and dessert.
2. Write Down Everything You Need BEFORE Going To The Grocery Store
The world is full of marketing, and just because you’re at the grocery store that doesn’t stop.
Ever wonder why the first part of the grocery store is always fruits and veggies? So you feel less guilty deciding to buying the junk food after putting healthy things in your shopping cart.
The grocery store is not organized to help you find things quickly. It’s organized to make sure you go through the entire store so you buy random things you weren’t looking to buy when you first walked in. Have you ever been in an Ikea store? Where there was basically only one path? Have you ever wondered why that was? It wasn’t to make the store easier to shop through, it was to make sure you could see all the products they have.
Write down all the items you’ll need so you’re not tempted to buy random items. If you’re still buying things you don’t need from the grocery store, consider paying someone to go to the grocery store for you instead via Instacart.
You can also order groceries via Google Express and get $10 off your first order through this link. From May 22-June 5 2018 or until supplies last, they’re offering a free Google Home Mini, which retails for $49 if you order $125 worth of groceries.
3. Buy A Grocery Store Gift Card For An Easy Discount
What happens to all the giftcards no one wants? They get sold to a gift card company, who then sells them to you. Awesome, discounts :D! Check out Cardpool, where there are grocery store gift cards up to 8 percent off. Here’s a screenshot of a few below.
Let’s say you shop at one of these (we’ll pick the 3.5% discount to be conservative) and you have 4 people in your family (we’re going to count your kids as 1/2 a person each). That means a yearly grocery bill of $6240 based on the $40/person/week. If you bought gift cards you’d save an extra $187 a year. If you used a cash back credit card, it’d be another few hundred dollars. Got to double dip on the cash back!
This is probably conservative though as my spending is $40 a week. If you have a family, you can probably buy in bigger bulk than I.
4. Eat Seasonally
Different veggies and fruits only grow in certain seasons. If a certain fruit or veggie can only be harvested during the summer season, you can expect it to be cheaper in the summer. In the winter, grocery stores will need to get those veggies and fruits shipped from the southern hemisphere (their seasons are flipped from ours) or other tropical locales.
Try and buy produce that is in season to get the best bang for your buck.
5. Get Easy Cash Back For Grocery Stores
There are two main cashback apps for groceries.
The first is Ibotta, which gives you a $10 bonus just for signing up and scanning your first grocery receipt. It also has special coupons, but I don’t look through them because they give cashback for generic brandless purchases as well some weeks (butter, milk, eggs, etc).
The second app is Checkout51. It doesn’t have a sign-up bonus but it is also a pretty cool grocery cash back app.
6. Grow Your Own Fresh Herbs
I got tired of paying $1-$3 for a handful of fresh herbs each week. The herbs tend to go limp after the first week so I’d buy fresh ones each week. That’s $10 a week for herbs, or $520 a year. So I started growing my own instead. I live in a super tiny NYC apartment and I just put them in pots the size of a normal drinking cup. Now I have 10 kinds of fresh herbs, all for just $30 a year. I write a how-to guide on how to grow an indoor herb garden in this post.
7. Buy Spices In Bulk – It’s 10x cheaper
I buy my Himalayan Pink salt in bulk because it’s way cheaper online for $10-$15 for 16 ounces. The normal sized spice bottles at the grocery store are at most 1.5 oz for $4-$6, making 16 ounces of whatever spice you’re buying at the store $96-$144, which is insane. You’re paying for the packaging, not the actual product. You’re paying for a crazy markup on that packaging if you look at the numbers. It’s 10x more expensive to buy your spices in tiny store bottles rather than bulk order a pound online.
Buy your non-perishable spices in bulk. I also buy cumin in bulk. Rule of thumb, if you’re looking to buy spices, try not to pay more than $15/pound for them. All the tiny spice bottles in the spice aisle will not fit that rule of thumb. Buy in bulk!
8. Go With The Lowest Price Per Pound
In the US, on the left hand side of the price sticker is something that tells you the price per pound of an item (or sometimes per unit – oz, cup, etc). Take a quick look at the price per pound and go with the cheapest one if it’s a generic product like butter/milk/eggs/etc. The last time I was in a grocery store, I saw non-organic butter having a range of $4-$8. Nothing seemed actually different about the butter, just the packaging. I went with the cheapest option. I’ll admit, the $8/pd butter did look the fanciest :P.
If you want organic food, compare all the organic foods and see which is the lowest price per pound. Obviously organic foods are not going to be cheaper than non-organic.
9. Look For the Store’s Private Label
Have you ever gone into a store and noticed that it has its own brand? Whole Foods has Whole Foods 365, Target has Simply Balanced and Market Pantry, Costco has Kirkland. Private labels are when a big store goes to a manufacturer and asks them to make a product just for themselves. The big stores understand there are “brand snobs” who won’t buy anything else but a specific brand, but knows there are others who don’t care what brand their water or ketchup comes from.
Let’s take CostCo for example. Its Kirkland private label line comes from:
- Foil: Reynolds
- Batteries: Duracell
- Detergent: Tide
- Dishwasher detergent: Cascade
- Diapers: Huggies
- Formula: Similac
- Chicken Breast: Tyson
- Coffee Beans: StarBucks
- Bourbon: Jim Bean
This list isn’t confirmed by Costco as they don’t confirm where their private label comes from, but this is speculation from various places on the internet.
It’s easier for our brains to associate brands with “good” and “bad”, so that’s why brands spend so much advertising dollars every trying to sell us a certain brand. Don’t be fooled and instead consider the private label of a store, which is usually much cheaper and just as good.
10. Buy Discounted Things And Store At Home
You can freeze most kinds of meats, so if you see chicken or pork going on sale for really low prices, buy in bulk and put them in your freezer.
If you see non-perishable items that are on sale that week, stock up as well.
11. Shop At Discount Stores, Bulk Stores, or Ethnic Stores
If there’s an Aldi or Lidl in your area, try going there first. The European grocery chains are usually cheaper wherever you are due to their slashing of labor costs. Make sure your cart goes back to the same place you picked it up because you insert a quarter to get a shopping cart. You get the quarter back if you return it to it’s designated area. Instead of workers stocking the shelves, products are delivered in giant boxes so there’s less labor cost.
If you don’t have one of these near you, try CostCo instead and buy things in bulk.
You should also check out an ethnic grocery store. There are no frills there (the Japanese ones are so amazing though), but that’s why they’re cheaper! You’re not paying for the product in stores, you’re paying for the decoration and smiling employees who give great service.
Ready to slash your grocery budget to the bone? Take our no-fail no-spend challenge as well, with a free printable here.
Any other tips you guys have?