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6 ways to save money on groceries without coupons

It’s January and lots of people are looking for ways to save on groceries right now! So, I’m bumping this post back up to the top of the pile.

6 ways to save on groceries without using coupons

When I posted my thoughts about the Extreme Couponing tv show, I promised to share my non-couponing ideas with you.

Before I do that, I want to point out that I am not entirely anti-coupon. I use some coupons myself, and I think they can be a helpful tool.

What I am opposed to is subsisting solely on groceries that can be purchased with coupons* (think the $4/week grocery shopper).

I’m not convinced that doing so is responsible on

  • a dietary level (it’s very difficult to eat lots of raw produce and fresh meat when you only buy coupon items)
  • an earth-friendly level (it’s very difficult to buy unpackaged groceries with a coupon).

*If the choice is 100%-couponed-food or starving, obviously I’d choose the couponed food. But for most of us, this is the not the choice we face.

My belief is that you don’t have to become a coupon queen in order to get your grocery budget under control.

I want to talk about non-food grocery shopping in another post, so for today, we’re just going to focus on edible groceries.

Here are the six main strategies I use to keep our grocery budget down.

1. Buy generic/private label products

If you’ve hung around here long, you know I’m a big fan of generic groceries, and I think you should be too. Private label products have come a long way, and I’ve been more than satisfied with almost all of my purchases.

parmesan cheese wedge from Aldi

Private label products don’t require a huge marketing budget, which means that you’re paying mostly for the food itself, not for the fancy ad.

Plus, almost every private label produce I’ve ever purchased has come with a money-back guarantee. Some even come with a double money-back guarantee which means that buying these products is pretty much risk-free.

So, give them a try!

Even if you find a dud every now and then, odds are good that you’ll find some keepers, and that can help to keep your grocery budget down.

(If you have an Aldi, I’d especially encourage you to give their private label products a try. Aldi’s private label groceries are among the best I’ve ever bought)

2. Drink tap water

There’s little nutritional benefit to drinking sweetened beverages (even fruit juice isn’t particularly nourishing), so kick them to the curb, or at least reduce the amount you drink.

I’d say the same goes for diet beverages…they provide nothing in the way of nutrition and are no more hydrating than water.

Beverages are grocery budget fluff!

And if you need to get serious about reducing your budget, this is a great place to start.

If you’re drinking only water, but your water is bottled, I’d strongly encourage you to try drinking tap water.

If your water tastes icky, buy a a Brita Pitcher.

That made a huge difference for us when we lived in an apartment with odd-tasting water and it pays for itself in just a few weeks.

3. Stop wasting food

Little is said about this on money-saving blogs, which is kind of sad. There’s so much advice out there about how to obtain groceries cheaply, but little about how to actually use up all the cheaply-obtained groceries.

food waste the frugal girl

If we stopped throwing away food, though, we could save a pile of grocery money (not to mention that we’d reduce our trash output).

Read 10 Ways To Reduce Food Waste and start making some small changes. I think you’ll be amazed at how much money you can save by simply using up the food you buy.

4. Eat less

This is also not a highly publicized money saving idea (probably because it’s not a super fun one!).

Of course, I would never encourage anyone to under-nourish themselves or their children, but in at least some households in America, people are eating more food than is necessary.

If this is the case in your home, consider reducing portion sizes, and eat only until you are full.

5. Change what you eat

Looking for ways to save money on the food you currently buy will only get you so far.

If you can move beyond that and start thinking of ways to swap cheaper foods for more expensive foods, you can start to make some real progress.

For instance, looking for sales on cereal will save you some money, but if you start making pancakes or eating oatmeal from a large canister, your breakfast budget will drop significantly.

In the same way, using coupons on lunch meat will save you a few dollars, but if you start eating leftovers for lunch (that’ll help you reduce food waste too!), or start eating chicken salad sandwiches, you should see some budget savings.

6. Buy ingredients, not meals

When you buy foods that are ready to eat or almost ready to eat, you’re going to be paying for the prep work that went into the food.

So, try to cook and prepare food yourself instead of paying a factory to do it for you. This will be cheaper and likely healthier as well.

If you’re just getting acquainted with your kitchen, take it slow.

The more you cook, the better (and faster!) you’ll get at it, so hang in there.

Try some of the main dish recipes I’ve posted, and keep your meals simple. If you make this task manageable, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

And whatever you do, don’t be scared of your kitchen and don’t think that only specially gifted chefs can cook.

As my mom likes to say, if you can read, you can cook.

Get a good recipe, follow the directions carefully, and you should be able to turn out a respectable meal.


Readers, what non-couponing grocery saving strategies do you employ? Share in the comments!

P.S. If you are at a stage where you are eating out more than you are eating at home, you have my full permission to ignore pretty much everything in this post and JUST focus on eating at home.

You can worry about fine-tuning your grocery shopping later; first you should just do whatever you need to do to eat at home more.

On a related note, here are 7 reason you’re eating out so much.

And here 10 ways to guarantee you will order takeout!

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Monday 6th of April 2020

Love the list! Thanks for sharing


Tuesday 14th of January 2020

There are just 2 of us at home, grown kids gone, and many of my retired friends have simply stopped cooking and go out a lot.(and spend lotsa $$ on food!!) NOT US! COOKING is a hobby for me, and I get great pleasure out of serving good tasting meals on pretty plates,with some nice music on Pandora,almost every night. I don’t like most restaurant meals (too salty, too greasy..too MUCH..noisy restaurants..)—anyway, my best ways to save money on food:

1. EAT AT HOME,mostly.We have a lunch date very week at an affordable and tasty burrito place or a fish taco place we love. But evenings are for eating at home.

2. MEAL PLAN! Then make a grocery list,shop once a week, and cook at home.

3. Find your best grocery store in your area: We have a WINCO that can’t be beat , along with Trader Joe. I buy from the bins a lot.

4. Splurge on foods you can MAKE AT HOME ,vs. getting pricey take out. I always have some Trader joe Orange Chicken and Cioppino in my freezer. And a. Frozen pizza and bags of salad. If I feel lazy, I can toss that into pans or the oven, and have a gourmet supper quickly without gong out!

5. Eat A few meatless meals per week. good for health too.I have a batch of lentil,chickpea, rice, chili, And pasta meals, that we eat often. Cuban black beans and Cilantro rice is not sacrifice!!


Monday 13th of January 2020

I am sure everyone already knows these but it is a work in progress for me :)

1. Plan menus around sale items, what's already in the 'frig and pantry, and all the cool clearance food items in the freezer, veggie, and shelf item sections of your store -- you never know what you will find!

2. I do purchase some convenience foods like bag 'o salad, jarred tomato sauce, etc., on sale. It might cost a bit more but compared to eating out, it is still a big savings.

3. Always check the sales!

4. Sign up for your grocery store's loyalty program -- they are constantly sending me both digital and paper coupons, free items, and special deals. And usually tailored to our previous purchases.


Friday 10th of January 2020

I'm in Canada and we aren't able to use coupons like those extreme couponers do. Even if we had a ton of coupons to choose from, you're only allowed to use one per purchase. My frugal ways to save on groceries include only buying certain things on sale and I stock up on those things I use regularly. I plan my weekly menu from the sales flyers. I also live rurally so only have three stores to shop and two of those allow price matching, so I rarely go to more than one store each week and just price match the specials from the other stores. I also buy store brands whenever possible and we only drink water or milk, coffee or tea. Menu planning is huge and we rarely have any waste because of it. My youngest eats all the leftovers for breakfast (she doesn't like breakfast foods) but if there's anything left, I eat them for lunch. About once a week we have a clean out the fridge meal and try to use up anything that is left or heading to going bad. I also buy certain things in bulk, like brown rice which is much cheaper than buying packaged stuff. We are very fortunate to have the Bulk Barn in a nearby town so we can use our own containers, save money and eliminate packaging. The other things I do sometimes is get day old bread from the bakery, or the produce and meat getting close to expiry is marked at half price. Meat I will freeze right away, produce of course has to be used up. And I have quite a few recipes that are pretty frugal, using lost cost ingredients. Oh, and a big one, eat what's in season! I also dehydrate or preserve produce like tomatoes, peaches and make pickles.


Friday 10th of January 2020

We have price match where I live. I just bring the flyer from the competitor and my regular grocery store will price match up to 4 items of the same. I save 5-10$/week easily with this. We also use - and fully pay each month, so no interest - a credit card that gives money back to get free groceries. No yearly fees. We save about 500$/year with it! I will stock items on sale and try cooking with what I have on hands instead of always buying special ingredients that I end up using only once (yes, I'm looking at you, fish sauce!). We also try not wasting food. We are big on leftovers (very often esch family member has a different meal to use the various leftovers), and we freeze what we can't use in time.

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