How to Grocery Shop on the Cheap

fill your pantry with good food

Grocery shopping is one of the large expenses in the American home, and it seems to be getting larger. Most of us try to control the expense of groceries, but not everyone has the skills for frugal living.


If you are used to going to the grocery store and making any purchase you want, this may be the time to re-think your grocery shopping. You can grocery shop on the cheap and have fun, eat healthy foods, and save some money for other things in life. Your alimentary canal does not have to be paved with gold.

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Step 1

Choose the right place to grocery shop.

Shop at a large chain store for your groceries. Do not grocery shop at the corner market, the nearest quick stop, or the service station. Do not shop when you are hungry. Go grocery shopping without the kids if at all possible. They will want all the junk food at the checkout and most of the junk food in the aisles.


Step 2

Do not grocery shop every week.

Choose reasonable intervals for grocery shopping, and do not shop between those intervals except in emergencies. Do without any non-staple products until the next scheduled shopping trip. With two in the family, you should be able to shop once a month. With children, you should be able to shop every two weeks. The longer you can wait between shopping trips, the more money you can save.

Step 3

Make a permanent list of staples.


Make a grocery list of staple products you need: sugar, milk, bread, rice, oil or cooking spray, flour, eggs, salt, spices. You get the idea. Keep this list for every shopping trip to be sure you do not forget the essentials.

Step 4

Make a grocery list for specific meals you like.

Make a list of groceries you need to make entree meals that are family favorites, naming only the special products for each dish. If you like spaghetti and meat sauce, then you may need spaghetti, sauce, parmesan and meat. You may also need vegetables for meat sauce.


Step 5

Buy bargains.

Do not make out the menu for the week before you grocery shop. You are there to buy the bargain items, not based on ready-made menus.

Step 6

Shop for bargains in vegetables.

Shop in the fresh vegetable section first. Buy potatoes. Nearly everyone eats potatoes. They are nutritious and cheap, and go with almost everything. Carrots are the same. Buy other reasonably-priced fruits and vegetables that your family will eat. Apples, oranges, lemons, cabbage, celery, and tomatoes when they are reasonably priced, are usually good buys and they will KEEP in your crisper drawer for several weeks. Do not buy high-priced fruit and vegetables, and particularly the ones that will only keep a few days.


Step 7

Go to the meat aisle next, since this is where you will plan the menus.

See what is on sale. See if there are any discounted meats. You probably need ground meat for hamburgers or for meat dishes. Read the percentages, check the date and the price, and find the best deal. Do this for any other meat you buy. Chicken is usually a good buy, pork is sometimes a good buy, and shoulder roast is usually the most reasonably priced edible beef.

Make some selections based on what your family will eat and what you know how to cook. Buy boneless if you can. It saves money, even though it looks more expensive. Remember, when you buy with the bone-in, you are throwing away part of the purchase.


Consider buying canned tuna and canned chicken. These are good for casseroles, provide the protein your family needs, and are usually reasonably priced. Cheese is also high in protein and a meat substitute, and good for casseroles. Peanut butter is high in protein and will substitute for meat, too.

Step 8

Fill in for complete meals.

Using your list for entree meals your family likes and remembering what meats you have chosen, complete your grocery shopping with the products you need for the entrees, the staple products you need, and maybe a few items on sale that are economical.


Step 9

Consider baking mixes.

Consider buying cake mix, biscuit mix, cornbread mix and packets like rice sides or pasta sides. These are often cheaper than making your own, or you can add to them to make a meal. Buy dried beans instead of canned beans. A bag of dried beans will require a gumbo pot to cook. They just keep growing, so a cup of dried beans will serve your family, when a can of beans will not.

Step 10

Do not buy expensive items.


Cut down on the cold cereal, deli foods, packaged foods like helpers, canned foods like ravioli, refrigerator rolls and biscuits. Do not buy cold cuts. Look at the quantity and the price of that thin slab of fat. You can buy a boneless ham much cheaper, and have it sliced thin. There will be many sandwiches plus ham for beans or soup.

Step 11

Select drinks carefully.

Buy inexpensive drinks. You can buy a squirt or bottle container of lemon and drink lemon water, iced tea from bags or powder, even coffee, cheaper than cold drinks. If you must have cold drinks, buy the ones on sale or the cheapest ones, and when they are not on sale, do without.


You probably don't need to be told that chips and dips add significantly to your food bill. If you insist on buying them, buy a bag. If you only shop every couple of weeks or once a month, you can reduce the quantity you buy, and when they are gone, there are no more until the next scheduled shopping trip.

Step 12

Live frugally.

Practice frugal living when you grocery shop. Do not buy cleaning supplies at the grocery store, but purchase baking soda and vinegar; then buy antibacterial soap wherever it is on sale. There are some items that are cheaper at the drugstore. Spices, paper products, laundry detergent and soap are some of these. Buy these products on sale at the drugstore, and save your money. Try off brands, too. Grocery shop on the cheap and use only two stores to save money and time.


We often write about frugal living and consumer issues. See more articles like this one in Resources below. copyright 2009 Linda Richard Feel free to link to this article or send it to a friend.