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15 ways to save on groceries without digging for coupons

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Alex Sadler |
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The average American family spends somewhere between $300 and nearly $700 per month on groceries — typically the fourth biggest budget priority behind housing, transportation and insurance. 

That's a lot of money! And the thing is, your grocery bills don't have to cost you that much. Whether it's just you or you're feeding a big family, with a little bit of effort, you can save a lot of money on the cost of food.

So try applying these strategies to your grocery shopping routine — you may find that you can cut your spending by as much as 50% — or even more!

15 tips & tricks to save money on groceries

1. Change where you shop 

You can save more than 30% on groceries simply by changing your routine. Check out non-traditional grocery stores like warehouse clubs, dollar stores, Aldi and Walmart for big savings on food and other items you frequently buy at the grocery store (at a higher price).

  • Grocery staples: Check out Aldi and Walmart
  • Organic: Try Trader Joe's instead of Whole Foods
  • Bulk items: Warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam's Club or BJ's

Read more: Here's a cost comparison of items at Aldi, Walmart & Kroger

2. Save money with store brands

Buying store brands instead of name brands can save you an average of 25%!

There are some items at stores like Trader Joe's that are actually brand-name products repackaged for half the price — no coupon needed!

When it comes to the general debate of store brands vs. name brands, depending on the store, the store brand can be just as good — or even better — than the more expensive name brand. Just test a few to figure out which store brand items you like the best.

3. Compare prices

Figure out which store has the best prices on the items you're looking for — stopping at two, or more, stores can save end up saving you a lot of cash.

And if you don't want to make multiple stops all the time, stock up the things that will last, so you can skip that store on your next trip.

Read more: Costco vs. Sam's Club vs. BJ's: Which has the cheapest prices?

4. Use a cash-back credit card

The American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card offers 6% back on groceries, up to a max of $6,000 annually. Also, make sure to check out the rewards your current card has to offer.

And don't forget to check on your rewards every so often so you can take advantage of them!

tips to save on groceries reduce spending

5. Use apps that find the best prices

  • Ibotta: Provides rebates on a number of retail items, but you’ll find the most savings opportunities at national and regional grocery stores.
  • Checkout 51: Features a new list of about 20 offers every Thursday morning. They include rebates on items you don’t normally find coupons for, such as tomatoes, strawberries, and bananas.

  • ShopmiumLike Checkout 51, the rebate offers on Shopmium can be redeemed at any store where the products are sold. 

  • Sends coupons directly to your loyalty cards. 

  • Add grocery and drugstore coupons to your store loyalty cards and automatically save when you use them at the register.

  • Aggregates sales data for your local grocery, drug, and big box stores. Compare and save up to 70% on everyday items.

  • Create and organize grocery lists quickly and easily.

  • Digitizes all your loyalty cards and stores them on a smartphone so you never have to fumble for the physical cards again.

  • (Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft) :  Barcode and QR code scanner helps you comparison shop millions of purchases.

  • Get grocery and food coupons, which convert into store savings or actual cash back.

6. Salvage stores offer cheap food  

This may be a little more extreme, but these stores sell dented cans and food that is near or past expiration date (and many foods are fine to eat well past the expiration date). 

7. Stock up when items are on sale

You can save a lot over time by stocking up on the items you buy regularly when they are on sale.

If something you buy all the time is on sale for a great price — and it will last a while (or you can freeze it) — then buy a few! Or buy a lot! And this applies to both grocery and non-grocery items. If you family goes through a lot of toilet paper, stock up on your run to Costco instead of getting stuck having to pay more for it at the grocery store around the corner.

Another great strategy is to tweak your meal plans around what's on sale. By working your weekly menu plan around what’s on sale, you can easily cut grocery spending by 30% or more.

Read more: Secret pricing hacks at the warehouse clubs

8. Make a list

And stick to it! If you have a list, you're much more likely to avoid spending extra money. And these apps make it easy for you

I always take a list with me and then I buy whatever brand is on sale — it's like a competition (with myself… but I know I'm not the only person who does it!).

9. Find coupons before you head to the store

OK, so I know I said no coupon digging involved — but there are some super easy ways to use coupons without having to dig for them.

There's one grocery store that I love, but frankly, it's overpriced. So I downloaded the app and every few days I scroll through the sales and click the ones I may use. Then when I go to check out, I just enter my phone number and voila — savings.

And there are actually tons of apps that make it super easy for you. Check out this list from Consumer Reports of the best coupon apps for grocery store shopping.

10. Use cash

If you bring a certain amount of cash to the grocery store, then that's all you'll be able to spend — avoiding the last-minute, unnecessary purchases. So make a list and budget for it before you go — then only bring enough money to cover it.

11. Price match

Many stores in today’s world have implemented a price matching policy in order to gain more of your business.  Research the different price matching programs at grocery stores in your area, and take full advantage of them in order to pay the least amount of money possible for the groceries you need.

Read more: These apps find you the best prices

12. Don't buy prepared foods

Yes, it's convenient, but it's also more expensive. These convenience items could be marked up as much as 40%. So if you want to save, avoid the packaged/pre-cut/prepared sandwiches, salads and produce. Instead, buy the ingredients (which will last you longer) separately and cut your fruits and veggies yourself at home.

13. AARP membership

If you're 50 or older, the annual $16 AARP membership is totally worth it for the savings you get throughout the year. Most AARP members know about the available savings on travel and other big expenses, but an AARP membership can also save you big bucks on everyday expenses like groceries. Here's a list of discounts available to all AARP members.

14. Save on meat products

Buying meat in bulk is a great way to help reduce your monthly spending. If your family eats a lot of meat, buy bigger quantities — which will cost you less per pound — and freeze what you don't eat immediately for later.

You can also ask the person working in the meat department to reduce the size of a certain package you want — if it's too big or too expensive!

15. Consider alternatives

If you're planning to cook something that doesn't really require the most expensive meat or other ingredients, consider buying a cheaper alternative. Different types of meats, and different types of each type of meat, can drastically vary in cost.

So take a look at a few of your old grocery receipts and highlight the most expensive items. Then you can start to look for cheaper alternatives!

16. Look up, down and around

Have you ever thought about how grocery store aisles are organized? So of course by category, but next time you're at the store, look at the prices on each shelf.

Walk down the cereal aisle and you'll probably notice that the shelf placed around eye level of a small child is full of sugary, fun, colorful, name-brand cereal boxes. The shelves right in the middle, where most adults would look, are also full of more expensive, name-brand products. 

Then look at the very bottom and the very top — that's likely where you'll find generic brands and cheaper prices.