You don’t have to spend hours scouring newspapers and the internet to save a few cents. Here’s how to save on groceries without using coupons.
I used to be pretty into couponing (hence the use of “coupon” as a verb). When we lived in Oregon, it was easy for me to hit a few local stores and save a ton of money each week. I got products like shampoo, body wash, and toothpaste for next to nothing. I’d frequently save over 50 percent just by pairing coupons with sales at our local Safeway. The savings was even bigger when I drove to Rite Aid and Walgreens.
Then we moved to Mississippi. The only grocery store in town is a small Piggly Wiggly. The prices on a lot of products are pretty high, largely out of necessity, I know, because it’s locally-owned. I drive to the nearest Walmart for bigger trips, but there isn’t a Kroger or Aldi in sight. To save money on groceries, I was forced to think outside the coupon binder.
It turns out it’s totally possible to save on groceries without clipping coupons. The new strategies I use aren’t time consuming and, in some cases, they’re more convenient than a trip to the store. While using coupons is still a valid source of savings, the following are the ways I cut our grocery budget without lifting a pair of scissors.
How to Save on Groceries Without Using Coupons
Think Outside the Supermarket
The first lesson I learned was to buy groceries at places other than grocery stores. I buy several food and household items on Amazon, from baby food pouches and NutriGrain bars to toilet paper and mascara. Not only are those items cheaper on Amazon than in a store, but I can use our Prime account to get free two-day shipping. Because of our limited shopping options here in town, it’s usually faster for me to order something online than to plan a trip to Walmart.
I also buy grocery products at stores like Big Lots- pasta sauce, popcorn and crackers, snacks for travel- and Grove Collaborative– all-natural cleaning and personal care products. Depending on where you live, you may have access to a lot of non-grocery stores to buy household and food products. Consider exploring those alternatives in search of better prices.
(A note about Prime: Amazon Prime is $99 per year. In addition to free two-day shipping, you have access to a ton of different benefits like free music, TV, and movies, free Kindle books, and early access to sales. $99 is not a small amount, though, and I urge you to carefully weigh the benefits before signing up, or Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.)
Use it All Up
I’m sure I’m not the only person who has a habit of forgetting about half-used containers of sour cream or opened bags of salad mix in the back of the produce drawer. I cringe every time I discover spoiled food in the refrigerator because I know I’m throwing out money. One of the easiest ways to save on groceries is to buy less. Use up all of each product to avoid throwing something out and having to buy new.
One of the best strategies I have for making sure we use all of something is to include it in our menu plan. I talk more about that in this post, but basically I make sure I have a plan to use all of an ingredient. For example, I love to make homemade buttermilk ranch dressing, but I hate to throw away unused buttermilk that’s gone bad. To make sure that doesn’t happen, I add buttermilk pancakes or waffles to our menu plan.
Get Cash Back
Clipping coupons can be a time-consuming task. You know what isn’t time-consuming? Taking ten seconds to scan your receipt when you leave the store. If you shop at Walmart, you should absolutely be using the Savings Catcher app. All you have to do is scan your receipt and Walmart will compare the prices of the items you bought to the prices at area stores. If something is cheaper at another store, they’ll pay you the difference. I only earn a few dollars each trip because there are only 12 competitors for my local Walmart to compare with. If you live in a medium or large city with dozens of other stores, you’ll likely earn much more than that.
You don’t have to be a Walmart shopper to get cash back. Ibotta is my other favorite cash back app and it works with pretty much every grocery store chain. With Ibotta, you look through their offers to see what products you’re interested in and select anything you’re going to buy. After you purchase those items, you scan your receipt and Ibotta pays you for each of the qualifying products you bought.
(sign up for Ibotta through my link and you’ll get $10 when you redeem your first offer; if you’re going straight through the app, the code is aleyg)
Make It Yourself
So much of the money spent on products at the grocery store is just paying for convenience. Bottled dressings, cake or pancake mixes, refrigerated biscuits: homemade versions often cost a fraction of the pre-made product. Save on groceries by choosing to make from scratch rather than buy.
I’m not suggesting you start making your own bread and peanut butter and pasta. Start with a few easy recipes and go from there. To make things easier, start with things that taste even better when homemade, like ranch dressing or refried beans. It’ll be easier to skip buying the product if your whole family prefers the made-from-scratch option. Gradually add in more homemade recipes until you’ve replaced the most expensive store-bought items with do-it-yourself versions.
If you aren’t much of a cook, or if your time is in high demand, consider just giving up individually-portioned snacks and drinks first. It doesn’t take much time or effort to separate a box of crackers or chips into individual zip-top bags, but you’ll pay much less than if you bought the pre-portioned option.
The simplest way to save money on groceries is to not buy them. I’m not encouraging you to do anything drastic like give up entire food groups. What I am suggesting is that you consider skipping pricey fresh herbs or obscure ingredients in favor of economical dried varieties or less expensive pantry staples.
Fresh herbs can expensive- unless you grow your own- and while they do taste better than dried, it’s totally possible to make the switch. A bottle of dried spices can last for months, whereas the shelf life of the fresh versions is much, much shorter. They begin to cost even more if you have to throw them out before you can use the whole bunch. If you aren’t ready to completely give up fresh spices and herbs, consider making the switch a few varieties at a time.
Unique ingredients can eat up your grocery budget, too. You may buy a $4 bottle of sauce to make one specific recipe. If the sauce sits, barely used, on a shelf in the fridge, you aren’t getting your money’s worth. It may have only cost $4, but that’s $4 you could have spent on a gallon of milk or a couple loaves of bread. And if you do that a few times a month, the expense adds up. Before buying obscure ingredients, make sure there isn’t a more commonly used substitute you can get instead.
How do you save on groceries without using coupons?
(this post contains affiliate links; to learn more, see my disclosure policy)