How to Save at the Grocery Store

You probably hate to sound like your grandparents, but the cost of buying food at the grocery store won’t stop going up and prices stand to go even higher if the price of corn continues to rise. It seems like everything is so much more expensive than it once was.

It feels that way because it’s true and if your grandparents are saying that today, they, like you, are right. The price of food is going up at an alarming pace and it’s rising faster than our paychecks. This is called food inflation and experts advise that this will likely continue. Hot and dry conditions in the Midwest has led agricultural experts to predict a smaller corn crop this year and that spells trouble. Corn is in just about everything we eat all the way to your favorite soft drink that likely has corn syrup as an ingredient.

Although you’re trying to save money, you’re likely making some mistakes that are costing you more than you think. Here are a few ideas to help keep your bill under control.

Your Empty Stomach

You may have thought it was nothing more than a wives’ tale but it’s true. Shopping on an empty stomach makes everything look more appetizing. Even those rotisserie chickens that look like they’ve been cooking since last week will look like a great dinner idea if you go to the grocery store hungry. Eat something before heading out. It will make you a little more choosy once you grab your cart.

Start in the Back

Yes, it’s true. The way products are positioned in your local store is based on a lot of expensive research that tells grocers how you think and purchase.. The produce and bakery areas are at the front of the store complete with the bargain bins that are hard to pass up. Day old pastries and cans of soon-to-expire beans are placed in the front of the store to entice you to buy. Starting at the back of the store and working forward makes it easier to resist those bargain bins. Often those bins aren’t as much of a bargain as you think.

Speaking of Produce

We hear a lot about how the most nutrients are found in fresh fruits and vegetables and we take that to mean that we have to buy them fresh from the produce area. That isn’t true. Head to the frozen isle and purchase your healthy food from the freezer. All of the same nutrients are still there but you don’t have to worry about the produce spoiling like you would if it were in the fresh produce area.

Don’t Buy from the Checkout

Remember that you will always pay for convenience. Items placed in the checkout lane are there to entice you to make a few impulse buys and the store knows that if it’s an impulse buy, you aren’t concerned with how much it costs. How much could a Snickers bar really cost? If you really want some candy, head to the candy isle and see if there’s a generic equivalent.

Bottom Line

Although extreme couponing is harder and more time consuming to pull off these days, clipping those coupons and doing some old fashioned price comparisons is still one of the best strategies for saving money at the grocery store. Be wise. Use what’s at home before buying more of it at the store.


  1. I really appreciate these reminders. I have been visiting the store far too often lately, and just buying convenience items because I’m in a rush. It is draining our savings, because it’s not in the budget!

    Even though we “know” these things about being frugal shoppers, we can often get sidetracked and ignore what we know.

    We need these occasional reminders that pre-planning our errands and shopping trips is one of the most important aspects of good financial management.

    Thanks Again!

    Mrs. White
    The Legacy of Home

  2. Using frozen veggies is okay, but they are not the same as fresh produce. 95% of the time, salt and other unhealthy ingredients are added to frozen foods.

  3. If you look at food prices, inflation-adjusted, then you will realize we pay much less for food than our grandparents or great-grandparents did. This is mostly due to the fact the U.S. did a fantastic job of industrializing the food system (for better or worse – cheaper prices but a lot more unhealthy food).

    For example, inflation-adjusted prices of various staples over the last 100 years is about 1/7 of the price 100 years ago, a decline of 85%!

  4. It is ridiculous how much effort goes into getting you to spend money and the placement of products is key, everything is very thought out at grocery stories to get you to spend your money. I always start at the back of the store and move my way forward. And the store brand is almost always just as good as the name brand. I find sticking to my grocery list helps me to not over spend. I also like to Google coupons for items I need before hand to see if there are any available to print out.
    Shopping on an empty stomach gets me every time! Definitely have a snack before shopping!

    • Those are all great tips. The best one of them all is to never go grocery shopping hungry! That’s about the worst thing you can do.

  5. I couldn’t agree more about shopping on an empty stomach. I go through the isles and I think about all the meals I love and just want to buy it all. Also I would recommend going in with a PLAN. Know what you want to buy at a store and get in and get out. How many times have you gone up and down every isle just to see if there was something you might want to purchase because you weren’t sure what you needed. Know what you need and stick to it.

  6. Also, don’t shop with your children. They’ll want everything and you’ll end up spending up a lot more money.

    The more you walk around, the more stuff you’ll buy. Those marketing people know that and they strategically place the stuff you buy the most, like eggs, milk, and cheese, as far apart as possible. If you have a smart phone, you can download a grocery list app that will group everything by aisle, and you won’t walk around the store as much.

  7. Our local grocery store gives “gas points” for use at another local gas station chain. For every $50 spent on groceries or gift cards when you use your loyalty card, you get 10 gas points, good for 10 cents off per gallon up to 20 gallons. If you get a prescription filled at the pharmacy, you earn 10 gas points as well. I make sure to have a list, buy only what I need, use coupons, and try to keep the bill as close to the $50 as possible, once per week. I closely monitor the circular, print online coupons when available, and take advantage of the store’s checkout coupons as well.

    I find the best advice is: Don’t shop when you’re hungry! I’ve made that mistake, and ended up with impulse buys and stuff I wouldn’t normally get just because it looked good at the time.

  8. Thanks for the great reminders on how to keep grocery bills down. My wife & I recently starting going every 10-11 days as opposed to once a week. We were skeptical at first, but it has allowed us to save money on our grocery bill…not to mention cutting down on the waste of throwing food away

  9. Everyone should make more meals from scratch, since processed foods include the expense of manufacturing the product, plus I bet almost all processed foods contain corn in some fashion, so the price will just continue to go up on these “foods”. Make enough of a dish for several meals so you can freeze portions or eat leftovers for a few days. That way you won’t be cooking every night! Plus it is much healthier to eat real food! The only processed foods we buy are almond milk, condiments and potato chips (my vice!)…that is all that comes to mind! Oh yeah beer and wine! 😉 Everything else is an unprocessed staple or fresh produce. I do agree with FD about frozen produce…it is nice to have on hand.

  10. I want to second Liz on the store brands. Store brands have improved greatly in the last few years to compete with places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I also find that the store brand is usually still cheaper than name brand, even with a coupon.

  11. Shopping on an empty stomach is a sure way to spend more than you really need to. Try having a snack before you go shopping each time and you will see your spend come down quite a bit.