A woman loads groceries into her car.

How to Shop for Groceries on a Budget

Published December 14, 2023
5 min read

Table of contents

Key Points About: Grocery Shopping on a Budget

  1. High food prices can make sticking to a grocery budget challenging.

  2. You should look at your income and current food expenses to see where you can cut costs and save.

  3. You can shop smart by taking advantage of sales, coupons, and using your credit card rewards to your advantage.

Are you looking to save money on your grocery bill? According to the Government Accountability Office, from 2021-2022, U.S. retail food prices rose by 11% (the largest annual increase in over 40 years). With the high cost of food, sticking to a food budget and saving money can be challenging.  But, with a few adjustments to your grocery budget, you can save money, and earn a little too with the wise use of a credit card.

10 Best Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Review your current spending

Figure out how much you’re currently spending on food to see where you can save on your grocery bill. Review some of your most recent grocery store receipts to get a rough idea of how much you’re spending. Even better, if you normally purchase groceries with a credit card, some card providers will offer a breakdown of your spending by category. For example, if you have a Discover® Card, on the Mobile App you can view the Discover Spend Analyzer—a tool which automatically groups your card purchases into categories (such as restaurants, groceries, and services, etc.) so you can see how you’re spending.

Did you know?

You can get more out of your grocery trip by using a credit card with cash back rewards, so you can earn while you shop. And with Discover, you earn cash back you can spend, not points. So, every $1 you earn is worth $1 when you redeem.1

Learn More About Discover Cards

Make a food budget

Once you’ve reviewed your current spending and have an idea of how much you spend in a month, create a food budget. A food budget is essential for helping you manage your expenses. To start, look at your monthly income and set a realistic amount aside that you can comfortably use to cover food costs. Compare that number to what you’re currently spending. Are you spending too much on groceries or do you have more wiggle room? See where you can cut back or make better choices.

Keep a food inventory

You can avoid food waste (and potentially save money) by keeping a running list of food you currently have in your fridge and pantry. You can keep this list on the fridge and update it regularly with grocery items you have on hand, items that are running out, and food that is empty or expired. A food inventory can help you save time and money on your next grocery trip.

Create a meal plan

After you’ve decided on a budget and created a food inventory, it’s helpful to create a meal plan before you do any grocery shopping. Unplanned trips to the grocery store can mean more impulse purchases and less savings. Create a meal plan for the week and double check your fridge and pantry for any ingredients that you already have.

Grocery saving hack: To cut costs, instead of choosing recipes that require all new ingredients, see if you can meal prep around the food you already have in the fridge.

Once you’ve planned all your meals for the week, you can create a grocery list. A grocery list is a simple, yet effective way to help you stick to your grocery budget and save money.

Take advantage of sales

To save money on your grocery bill, look for ways that you can fully take advantage of sales. You can plan your meals around the ingredients that are currently on sale. Some mobile apps can help you keep track of the sales at your local grocery store. You can also see if your store offers a loyalty program for frequent shoppers, these programs may offer special discounts for members.

Stock up on frozen and canned goods

Consider buying some of your grocery items in bulk (be sure to do the math first to see if it will save you money). Some items you can purchase in bulk include canned vegetables, frozen meat, frozen vegetables, and common pantry items. However, you should limit buying fresh food in bulk because they may spoil before you can use them.

Buy fresh produce, dairy, and meat carefully.

Fresh produce, meat, milk, and cheese make for healthy meals, but you should avoid purchasing more than you can use. Not only will excess fresh foods lead to food waste (due to spoilage), but it can also impact your grocery budget.

One alternative is to freeze certain perishable items before they go bad. According to Foodsafety.com, you can safely freeze some cooked leftovers for months at a time.

Purchase generic brands

We all have our favorite brands, but sometimes brand names can come at a higher price tag. If you want to save a few extra dollars at your grocery store, you can choose generic or store brand goods. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you may be able to save 20-30% on your food bill by switching to generic brands. These alternatives are usually cheaper and often offer the same flavor.

Use coupons

You should use coupons strategically and wisely. Coupons can save you money on your grocery bill, but it’s likely you’ll receive store coupons for items you don’t typically use. Before you clip a coupon, ask yourself if you’ll actually use the discounted item. If you’re not likely to use the item, avoid the coupon and the excess cost.

Coupons are a great way to get savings on your grocery bill.  But you can increase your spending power even more with a cash back credit card. With Discover, you can earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, you earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

Learn More About Cash Back Credit Cards

Pack a lunch for work

Another way that you can save money on your food budget is by packing and bringing lunch to work. The average American spends about half of their food budget eating out, according to the City of El Paso. When you add that to an already tight grocery budget, it can compromise your spending. You can get the most out of your meal planning by limiting how much you eat out.

Creating a food budget can take time and discipline. But with these tips you can stretch your budget and save money at the same time. Plus, with cash back rewards credit card, you can earn a little every time you spend. With Discover, every $1 you earn in cash back is $1 you can redeem1, so you can save even more on grocery purchases. Learn more about cash back credit cards.

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