- I have always spent too much money on food, but inflation has made things worse.
- I had to get creative to save, starting with using a cash-back card and hunting for coupons.
- I’m also splitting groceries with friends and buying in bulk, but only when it will really save money.
For the past few years, one of the biggest personal finance pain points I’ve struggled with is finding ways to cut back my spending on food. In an average month, more than 75% of my credit card transactions are from restaurant dinning, takeout orders, and frequent trips to the grocery store. Last year, in an effort to get more strategic with my spending, I crafted a budget and became stricter with how much cash I spent on food every month.
It was working well until recently, when inflation drove up the prices of items at the grocery store and menu prices at restaurants.
Over the past few months, I’ve had to become creative and even more organized with how I spend my food budget. Here are the five ways I’m saving money grocery shopping even as inflation is making prices climb higher.
1. Using a cash-back credit card
I never used to use a cash-back credit card when shopping for groceries. But my husband has a card that offers 6% cash back at supermarkets (up to $6,000 a year on purchases). So when we go shopping together, we’ll use this card to make money back on our grocery shopping bill.
The average amount we spend each week is $175, so with 6% cash back, we can get back $10 a week.
Insider’s Featured Credit Cards for Groceries
$200 cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening
Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
5x points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out. 3x points on select streaming services. 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs). 2x points on other travel. 1x point per dollar on everything else.
2. Buying in bulk
Once a month I’ll head to a store where I can buy items in bulk (like Costco or Sam’s Club). I only buy items that meet two criteria: it’s less expensive to buy the item in bulk than individually; and the items won’t expire or go bad anytime soon. I generally buy pantry goods (like bags of rice, cans of soup, or chips), frozen goods (bigger-sized bags of frozen fruits and vegetables), and household items (toothpaste, detergent, and makeup remover).
A few months ago, I was able to stock up on boxes of cereal I really enjoy. I purchased a three-pack of the cereal at the bulk store and saved $6 (the price of each box would have been $2 more if I bought it individually at my local grocery store).
3. Hunting for coupons
One big rule I have for grocery shopping is to never leave the house without a stack of coupons in my hand. To make sure I’m grabbing all the available discounts that I can, I write out all the groceries I need for the week and then search for coupons using websites like Coupons.com, BeFrugal, or Lozo. I make sure to have my list pre-written so that I don’t get tempted by offers I see on coupon sites and end up spending money on items I don’t actually need.
While the amount of money you can save by using coupons varies per week, there have been times I’ve saved more than $20 on a $175 grocery bill just by coming prepared with savings I found online ahead of time.
4. Buying more generic brands
When I started doing research to figure out how to save more money at the grocery store, I started comparing similar items on the shelf to see the price range. One thing I realized is that buying store-brand items, or generic-brand items, could save you a couple of dollars.
According to Consumer Reports, store brands are generally at least 20% to 25% cheaper than comparable brand-name products.
When I’m at the store, I pay extra attention to this. When I grab a bag of pretzels, cookies, or a jar of salsa, I’ll make sure to find the store brand, see if it’s less money, and buy that instead.
For example, I recently saved $1.25 buying store-brand popcorn over the brand I’ve been buying for five years. While it’s a small savings, it does add up if you switch the majority of your grocery items to less expensive store-brand items.
5. Splitting groceries with friends
While I try hard not to waste food by meal planning and freezing items before they go bad, I sometimes find myself buying things that I wish I could split with someone else. For example, when I buy bread, I only use 25% of the loaf for the week, and after a few bread purchases, my freezer is stuffed with too much for me to use in the distant future.
Instead, I started a spreadsheet with five of my neighborhood friends. Every Sunday, we post our grocery shopping lists and see which items we have in common. Then we mark down the items we’d like to split.
Last week, I split bread, a whole chicken, a box of ice cream bars, and a three-pack of hummus I bought in bulk. Splitting these items with a friend, or a few friends, helps me cut back on my grocery spending and save money every time I go to the store.