I dunno about you, but with these climbing grocery prices, even amidst supposed cooling inflation, I've had to totally re-haul my process for grocery shopping in 2023. As a result, I've adopted some new cost-saving strategies to keep my food budget under control, and I've gotta say, they've made a world of difference.
I shared some of those budget-conscious grocery shopping tips in a post earlier this year, and lucky for me, budget shoppers of the BuzzFeed Community came through with their own favorite tricks in the comments. These are some of their best pieces of advice, and I can't wait to try them out myself during my next grocery run or meal prep session.
1. "If something is on sale but sold out in store, ask for a rain check. I did that last week when butter (good butter, too!) was dropped down to $4.49 and shelves were empty for the entire duration of the sale. I’ll go back next week and get that sale price! Let’s all remember our moms' original life hacks."
2. "I noticed the biggest change to my grocery budget when I stopped shopping for recipes and just started shopping for what's on sale, and figuring out in real time what I can make with it (or frantically Googling for ideas while I wander the aisles). It's honestly made me a better cook, too."
4. "We started buying a whole chicken for sandwich meat; it runs between $5–6 at our grocery store, and we can get a couple of pounds of meat from it, not to mention making stock from the bones. Way cheaper than lunch meat!"
5. "As someone who lives in a big city, I searched online for meat processors in the area and realized that one of them has a retail section. I only buy my meat from this spot now; two pounds of chicken breasts at my local grocery store were $9, but it only cost me $4 at the processor."
—Anonymous, 37, Missouri
6. "I started adding lentils and barley to my stews when I started cutting back on meat. The taste is just as good, the food is healthier, and costs are lowered. I make lots of one-pan meals, and the addition of grains and legumes has also helped with weight loss and cholesterol control. It's a win whichever way you look at it."
7. "I stick to shopping at one main grocery store and use either their app or physical circular to check out coupons before I go. Recently, I got coupons in the mail from that same store that were personalized — including $15 off my next total order!"
"Awesome! This is what I do, too! Average savings 20% to 40% per order, if you game it right. People who did not grow up poor don't seem to know this trick, but I promise anyone can learn it!"
8. "My hack for cheaper coffee creamer is to buy real whipped cream cans from Costco and stir it in with a little bit of milk so it incorporates. It's cheaper AND doesn't go bad nearly as fast as a regular carton of half and half.
9. "It seems like common knowledge to me, but most young people don't realize there are price 'books' online or via apps that can help you to determine 'fair' prices for everyday purchases, like groceries. Sometimes you just have to pay an above-market price for specific foods, but sometimes this method saves me lots of money."
10. "If you're only signed up for your grocery store's rewards program to get the sales they have listed, ask your cashier next time if you have any 'points' or 'store credit' from your purchases. I did this the other day when I heard the person in front of me ask about their 'points,' and I felt like the biggest idiot in the world for not realizing my store card was for more than just getting sale prices."
11. "If you have any room in your freezer, buy yourself a vacuum sealer so you can buy meat only when it's on sale and keep a treasure trove of frozen meats in your home at all times. Mine definitely paid for itself in a matter of months."
"And if you don't have any room in your freezer but have a spare corner in your basement or garage, a chest freezer is worth its weight in gold...and not as expensive as you'd think."
—Anonymous, 49, Georgia
12. "Check the price per unit of large quantities of something vs. their smaller counterparts. You would be surprised how many times it can actually be cheaper to buy multiple smaller items than it is to get one larger one. This goes for everything from meat portions to canned and dried goods."
13. "If you find that you're always leaning on unplanned meals out or takeout runs, I find that the easiest way to minimize those expenses is to keep a handful of easy-cooking frozen dinners in the freezer. These can certainly be store-bought frozen foods, like frozen pizzas and pasta dishes, but you can even freeze homemade dishes if you have lots of leftovers. In winter months, we always have at least four quarter containers of leftover soup in our freezer!"
—Anonymous, 41, North Carolina
14. "While there's an investment upfront, if you love beef, buy a sous vide immersion stick and you can make your cheaper cuts of beef taste as good as the prime cuts."
15. "Consider buying pork shoulder roasts when they are on sale. Yes, it's a bit of a pain to cut up, but you can make some great stews and meat sauces, as well as slow cooker pulled pork."
16. "In recipes like soups or sauces that call for heavy cream, I always try substituting canned coconut milk. It works a lot of the time, and it’s a good deal cheaper than heavy cream. If you're making dessert, though, stick with heavy cream."
17. "If your grocery store has a credit card offer that gets you cash back or points to use for groceries in the future, open an account now! I think most store cards are a scam unless you get one for a grocery store you're constantly shopping at. Mine gives me 5% back on every grocery purchase and shopping for a family of five, I feel like it saves me thousands every year."
—Anonymous, 40, California
18. "This probably sounds sadder than it actually is, but I always include what I call an 'Infinity Meal' in my meal plan for each week, especially if it's close to the end of the month."
"Basically, Infinity Meals are straightforward dishes you can make for yourself with only a couple really cheap ingredients over and over again if you have to, for sustenance. In my case, they keep me from ordering takeout or going out to eat if I'm not yet ready to shop for another week of groceries, or if I want to stretch my budget further.
This week, it was cheese quesadillas (tortillas, shredded cheese, hot sauce, and I made a little slaw with cabbage and lime juice), but the week before I did broccoli cheddar pasta (elbow pasta, shredded cheese, frozen broccoli). My rule of thumb is that they're never more than five ingredients, and those ingredients need to cost $2 or less each."
—Anonymous, 30, Texas
19. "If you're cooking salmon, buy huge filets and cut them into portions. $27 for five meals of fresh salmon isn't bad at all."
20. "Hate to admit it, but instant noodles like Top Ramen and Maruchan have become a standard purchase during my grocery runs since I live alone, and they're definitely the most cost-effective base for a meal. Sometimes they're as little as 10 packs for $1! To make it healthier, I've stopped using the soup packets that come with them, and instead, I'll substitute with other ingredients to add flavor, like hot sauces and chicken broth. Sriracha and mayo noodles with garlic, sliced scallions, and a fried egg have become my almost daily lunch. So cheap!"
21. "I've started grocery shopping on Sundays only so I can leave my kids at home with the husband, even if it means dealing with weekend crowds. If you're a parent, you know how impossible it is to avoid impulse shopping when kids are with you. Even though Sunday shopping is less ideal for my schedule and way more crowded, I've saved a lot of money ever since making this switch."
—Anonymous, 29, Ohio
22. "If you can grow your own herbs or foods anywhere in your house, garden, or balcony, please consider it. For at least a few months of the year, I can have fresh herbs, sorrel, cucumbers, beans, and tomatoes from just a few pots outside. I’m super fortunate to be able to grow veggies on some friends' land, too, so I have carrots, onions, potatoes, and beets for months — and most things last in storage until December. It cuts down costs like you wouldn’t believe."
23. "I buy frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts and roast them directly from frozen in the oven. They are a little softer than roasting fresh, but if you give them enough time in the oven and really coat everything in olive oil and salt and pepper, they will develop a nice char on the outside and taste totally acceptable."
24. "Making your own deli meat is definitely legit. Turkey and chicken for sure, but also a cheap-ish eye of round can make great deli-style roast beef. It's fun to experiment with different herbs and seasonings as well. The end result is also higher quality than the packed stuff, plus no added chemicals and preservatives."
25. "I buy TONS of rice in bulk. When I need an easy side for a meal, or the base to a dish, it feels like I'm cooking free food. There are also a million ways of cooking rice, so I'd encourage you to find the method that works for you and DON'T change it!"
26. "I used to be a cheesemonger, and I wholeheartedly endorse domestic Parmesan cheeses instead of splurging for Parmigiano Reggiano. For most pasta dishes, they'll taste just fine. Of course, if you're already making a more expensive dish that needs a higher quality cheese, cost probably isn't much of a concern for you. Even if you don't want to 'stoop' to Kraft shaker cheese (no shade, I use it all the time), check your cheese counter for a block of domestic Parmesan or other Italian-style cheese."
Calling all budget shoppers: What's the money-saving grocery tip or hack that you (and your wallet) swear by? Drop yours in the comments below, or through this anonymous form, and your tip could be featured in a future post.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.