Wondering how to save money grocery shopping? Smart habits can add up to significant savings with every trip to the store.
Our money-saving tips for grocery shopping include looking for coupons in flyers, inserts, and online.
If you qualify, SNAP can provide you with monthly financial assistance that makes filling your grocery cart more affordable.
From beef and poultry to dried beans and legumes, food prices everywhere have risen. These costs are outpacing Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), leaving many older adults struggling to stock their fridge every week.
While you can't do much about food prices, you can learn to shop smarter and make your dollars work harder. Here are some money-saving tips for grocery shopping you can put to use on your next trip.
9 Ways to Save Money When Grocery Shopping
1. Embrace the art of coupon clipping
The promotional inserts that come tucked into the Sunday newspaper can get overwhelming. But instead of tossing them, mine them for brand-name food coupons you think you'll use. Let those coupons help guide your meal planning during the week.
Below are more ideas to help you save money at the grocery store with coupons:
- Some stores may periodically double the value of any coupons you have. Keep an eye out for those promotions.
- Resist the temptation to buy items you normally wouldn't buy (like a jumbo pack of sugary cookies) even if you have a high-value coupon.
- Find out if your favorite store matches competitors’ coupons (just stop by the customer service desk and ask).
- Many stores send standalone flyers in the mail that contain valuable coupon savings. You can also perform a search for "food coupons" online and see what comes up.
- Keep your coupons organized in a plain envelope or an accordion-style organizer; this will allow you to quickly grab the ones you need while shopping. Make the most of your coupons by creating a system that’s easy and convenient for you.
Bonus money-saving tip: Look for “hidden” coupons such as those on the back of your grocery store receipt. Some products even have peel-off coupons stuck to their packaging that you can use immediately.
2. Join store loyalty programs
Many grocery stores offer loyalty or reward programs that cost nothing to join. When you sign up, you can receive generous members-only discounts and electronic coupons. In some cases, your purchases earn you points that you can redeem later for store credit. This is a good option if you tend to patronize the same store regularly.
Bonus money-saving tip: Download your store’s mobile app for an easy way to clip e-coupons and track your rewards points.
3. Give generic brands a chance
While you may have a preference for certain brand-name products, buying store-brand versions (or "house" versions) can help you save money on groceries. Generic brands are almost always cheaper than brand-name items, and in many cases the quality is comparable.
Bonus money-saving tip: For cereal, condiments, cleaning products, snack foods, and staple foods (e.g., flour and sugar) in particular, it's worth checking out the store brand.
4. Make a grocery list—and stick to it
If you're looking for the best way to save money on grocery shopping, start with a list. Visiting the store without a list makes you more likely to buy things you don't need, like unhealthy snacks and desserts. Write down all the food items you need for the week, whether on your cell phone or a piece of paper. Bring this list with you when you visit the store—and buy only what's on it.
Bonus money-saving tip: Another tip to help you spend less at the grocery store? Never shop on an empty stomach. Having a snack before you venture out—and sticking only to the grocery store aisles that have what you need—can help you avoid impulse-buying.
5. Make fewer shopping trips
The more often you visit the grocery store, the more money you're likely to spend. Plan for one weekly trip and stick to it to curb the chances of impulse purchases.
6. Pay attention to price per unit
You can usually find an item's price per unit (e.g., ounce or pound) by looking at the price ticket displayed on the shelf. Tracking this will help you ensure you're getting the most product for your money.
7. Take advantage of weekly sales and deals
It seems obvious, but in a busy supermarket, it can be easy to overlook in-store promotions. Check your store's weekly flyer or website to uncover deals (such as 2-for-1) that can help you save money on the staples you buy most often. Sale items are often prominently displayed at the ends of store aisles and at the entrance.
Bonus money-saving tip: The sales cycle for most stores repeats every six weeks. Make a point of tracking prices on the products you buy frequently. After a while, you'll be able to identify rock-bottom sale prices—and that's the prime time to stock up. Most grocery stores start running their sales promotions in the middle of the week.
8. Grocery shop online
Walmart and other retailers allow you to shop online for groceries and then pick them up or have them delivered. Doing your food shopping from the comfort of home has money-saving advantages. First, it helps cut down on impulse buys by keeping you away from tempting aisles and displays. What's more, before you place a grocery order online, you can check to see exactly what's in your fridge. This stops you from spending money on items you don't need right now.
Bonus money-saving tip: Many stores offer curbside pickup or delivery for free—as long as you meet the minimum order value. Otherwise, you may be charged a delivery fee. When it comes to saving money on groceries online, you want to avoid extra fees, since they cut into any savings.
9. Find out if you qualify for SNAP
If you’re on a tight budget and wondering how to save on groceries every month, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could offer some relief. SNAP is a government program that helps individuals and families buy the food they need to maintain good health. The average SNAP benefit for a one-person senior household is $105 per month1, which can be used to buy everything from fruits, vegetables, meat, and poultry to snack foods and soft drinks. SNAP assistance is open to anyone who meets its eligibility requirements, which differ from state to state.
If you qualify for SNAP, those extra funds can help you stretch your grocery budget further. Just ask Cora Jones. At 74, Cora was unaware of SNAP when she received a brochure from her local senior center. After learning she was eligible and getting help filling out an application, she was approved—and it's made a big difference in her life.
"I'm very happy and grateful for the help in receiving food stamps," Cora said.
Sixty-year-old Linda is another great example of food assistance in action. After having her work hours cut dramatically, she was burning up her savings. She decided to apply for SNAP—and learned she qualified for $204 in benefits each month. Linda was grateful for the support she received from one of our Benefits Enrollment Centers (BECs). “I would not have done it without everyone encouraging me and having a specialist guide me through the process,” she explained.
Learning more about SNAP and how to apply is fast and easy with NCOA's online tool. Just visit BenefitsCheckUp.org and enter your ZIP code. If necessary, you can also find someone to walk you through the SNAP application process step by step.
1. USDA. Characeristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households, Fiscal Year 2020. June 2022. Found on the internet at https://fns-prod.azureedge.us/sites/default/files/resource-files/Characteristics2020.pdf