How to save money on groceries- on a limited income

I don’t know about y’all, but every time I go to the store it seems as though certain foods just keep getting more and more expensive. And trying to make sure that we eat healthy (enough), or just simply have food to eat, while living off my husband’s VA disability isn’t the easiest task. Aside from our mortgage and other debt payments, groceries are the next biggest expense in our house. So I had to find ways to cut our grocery bill. We went from spending about $800/month for 3 people down to about $400/month – including toiletries, cleaning supplies and other personal care products.

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Here is what I have done so far to achieve this:
  • Use Coupons
    • This is kind of a given, if you want to save money. It is the easiest, yet hardest way to save money – in my opinion. The easiest, because there are so many different avenues to get coupons nowadays; such as e-coupons you can load onto loyalty cards, printable coupons you can search online and of course the traditional paper coupons you can get in the Sunday newspaper. It is also the hardest, in my opinion, because it can take quite a while to match the coupons to the specific item. You may also have to deal with cashiers who may not fully understand how coupons work in general; let alone the difference between a purchase and a transaction. And I haven’t even talked about the few couponers who decide to clear shelves, argue about the smallest discrepancies and then go online to brag about their massive haul. All the while you were barely able to get one bottle of laundry soap, because the two extreme couponers in your town decided to get all they could handle. Long story short, while I still use coupons on a regular basis to offset some of the high cost of groceries, I do get frustrated with it at times.
  • Budget
    • This one is kind of a given for us. Without a budget, I will spend more than I intended on in the first place. I have even gone so far as to use a cash and envelope system. I put $100 in an envelope for one week and am only able to use what ever is in the envelope. Personally, I roll whatever money I have left from the previous week over and use it only on special items we can splurge on. This way I stick to my $100/week budget, but can buy myself that jar of Nutella and not feel too bad about it!

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  • Play the Drug Store Game
    • This is where I use most of my coupons. I get some of my best deals at places like Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS. This is where I buy things such as laundry and dish soaps, body washes, shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste and toothbrushes, etc. And when I say best deals, I mean anywhere between almost free and moneymaker type deals! All three major drug store chains have their own rewards programs that basically give you money back on certain items you buy. These rewards can be coupled with sales, discounts and coupons. There are even places such as, I heart Rite Aid.com, where you can access sales ads 2-3 weeks in advance. This makes planning for shopping trips a tad bit easier.
  • Shop sales ads
    • This is probably another tip you’ve already read or heard somewhere. But I cannot stress how much this one simple change in my shopping strategy (if you can call it that) has impacted how much we spend on food. Every Sunday, I sit down at our dinner table and look through the ads in paper. Using this method to stockpile foods I have saved thousands over the last few years when buying meat! The key is to understand that sales come in cycles and seasons. Certain items, such as meats, produce, staples, cereal, etc. all go on sale at certain times throughout the year. You can easily research these cycles or seasons online. There are probably hundreds of money-saving, frugal living and coupon blogs that have addressed this topic.
  • Write up a Weekly Meal Plan
    • While I look through the sales ads, I also pull out my recipe book. In my recipe book I have a list of things my husband and son will eat- since they are both super picky eaters. From there, I can compare what’s on sale for the week with different dishes and then create a meal plan for the upcoming week. I write it on my weekly dinner plan and hang it up on the fridge for everyone to see. This makes me less likely to grab dinner while we are out – although, I must admit I’ve been doing really badly lately. 🙂 However, meal planning has made my life so much easier! Plus, it has the added benefit of avoiding the annoying “What’s for dinner?” question.
    • To help you start with your meal planning, here are some meal plan printables. They are simple, but will do the trick: Meal Plan Printable

  • Create your own Stockpile
    • I mentioned this briefly when I talked about shopping sales ads. Again, I will use meats as an example here. As I look for weekly deals in the ads, I also look for rock-bottom meat prices. For example, in our area $1.69/lb for chicken breast, $2.69/lb for 93% lean ground beef and $3.99/lb for steaks are amazing prices! I will literally buy 20-30 lbs of chicken and 15-20 lbs of ground beef at a time when prices dip that low. I buy most of our meat at Safeway or Albertson’s. Safeway in particular releases dollar-off e-coupons ($5 off a $25 purchase, for example). This way, I can buy my 20 lbs of chicken on sale AND get $5 off!  We have a big stand-up freezer we bought with hunting season and meat stockpile in mind. I portion the meat in Ziploc bags, label it with type of meat and the date I packaged it and put it in the freezer. This way, I don’t have to pay full price for meat, because I ran out of chicken and really want some BBQ Chicken. 🙂
  • Consider buying a whole cow
    • OK, hear me out on this! We live in a relatively rural area. This means that we are surrounded by farms and ranches. Many of these farms sell meat to the public as well. We have options such as buying a whole cow, half a cow, or just certain portions. The same goes for pigs, chickens and turkeys. Just beware, going this route may cost a lot up front!
  • Go hunting
    • Alternatively, you could go hunting. Or, have your vet go out on a trip by himself or with some buddies. This serves three purposes: 1) Your vet gets out of the house. For those of us whose vet is not employed, this may come as a relief. 🙂 2) You get some me-time! and 3) You can stock your freezer with meat with just the cost of a tag and license. Many states seem to also have accommodations for veterans with certain disability percentage. hunting, stockpile, freezer, coupons
  • Start Canning
    • OK, y’all. This can be a massive pain in the rear! I am not even going to lie. But when your husband loves Apple Butter and a jar of that costs about $7 at the store, you may want to find a way to make your own. 🙂 It takes a small fortune to get all the utensils, but if you are lucky and time it right, you can get some great deals on those as well. But once you have everything you need, and you find a good deal on fruits or veggies, the possibilities are virtually endless- so are the savings.
  • Go to Farmer’s Markets
    • Believe it or not, farmer’s markets and fruit stands have some great deals. Especially towards the beginning and end of the season. I have gotten apples for as low as 69cents/lb, strawberries for 50cents/lb and peaches for right around 80cents/lb! In our area, these are some amazing prices. You can use these fruits to increase your stockpile by either canning or freezing them! The USDA, and quite a few blogs, have information about how long you can store produce in the freezer or jars.
  • Use Military Discounts
    • I love this one. While there are many theme parks, zoos, museums, restaurants, etc that give military discounts; I have noticed that some grocery stores are starting to give military discounts as well. My local Fred Meyer- a Kroger affiliate- gives a 10% on store brand food items every third Thursday of the month. This is when I buy things like canned beans, tomatoes, beans, cereal, etc. I also buy bigger items that may be on sale as well and use the military discount to add more savings. Some stores will only do this on veteran’s day or memorial day. But others may have scheduled days throughout the month with such a discount. 10% isn’t much when you buy a can of beans for 50cents, but it really adds up over time.
  • Don’t neglect Amazon
    • Amazon not only has great deals on books, toys, and just about anything your heart desires. They also have deals on things like toilet paper, paper towels and food items. Be sure to figure out what your rock-bottom price is and if you buy things on Amazon quite frequently. Free 2-day shipping plus good deals on food items? (Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial) There are plenty of blogs out there that share Amazon deals. One of my favorite is Hip2Save! Definitely worth checking out.
  • Shop at Discount Grocery Stores
    • Places like Aldi and Grocery Outlet have always been a favorite of mine. I can find organic food there for a fraction of the price at regular grocery stores. Added bonus: Grocery Outlet give a 3cent discount per reusable bag you bring in for your groceries! The downside: They don’t accept manufacturers coupons. However, I am not sure about Aldi, but Grocery Outlet releases store coupons on a regular basis.
  • Sign up for Newsletters
    • Yes, the pesky things that can clog your email and be super frustrating at times. Some grocery stores encourage you to sign up for their newsletters. I have set up a separate email account just for store newsletters. Places like Grocery Outlet will send out store coupons you can use and save more money.

Saving money and living off a limited income isn’t always easy. It’s exhausting, worrisome, and at times down right frustrating. But I hope some of these tips help you save money and reduce some of the frustrations that may be associated with grocery shopping.


Disclaimer: Everything I share is solely based on my personal experience and is for informational purposes only. This page contains affiliate links. For more information, please view my disclosure policy.


 

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