How to Save Money on Groceries

Like a crock of good sauerkraut or a jar of homemade sourdough starter, thoughts about how to save money on food bubble away in the back of my brain. With food prices up, with unemployment up, with more mouths at home to feed, many of us are tightening our belts, some for the first time.

How to Save Money on Groceries ♥ KitchenParade.com, a multi-part series packed with practical tips and ideas.

Money-Saving Tips & Ideas. Detailed & Thoughtful. Hard-Hitting & Direct. Creative & Practical.

Please Know ...

  • The core of this series was first published during the Great Recession in 2008 when the U.S. financial crisis dragged the country and the world into a long period of job losses.
  • Some of these money-saving ideas were published at BlogHer.com (acquired by SheKnows), where it was the #1 post on an enormous site for a long, long time.
  • I took a long break (ummmmm ... 12 years) to finish this series. But in 2020, as so many of us face financial hardship, I've been re-inspired to both bring it up to date and expand its resources.

And before we dig in, I'd like to offer some straight talk, just to make sure we stay in synch, to ensure I'm not misunderstood.


Please Know #1 I do not intend to tell someone how to live her life, nor do I pretend to understand the challenges and circumstances that guide each person's decisions. Even so, some of my ideas that follow, even to me, sound a little more than preachy. I use stark "do this" language in order to challenge the conventional wisdom, to get us all to think, myself included. My own practices are far from perfect, I have much to learn myself. When one idea doesn't fit you? Just move on. The next idea might be life-changing.


Please Know #2 I think the modern food distribution system is a marvel, one that delivers fresh, safe food 99.999% of the time, mitigates the risk of regional food shortages, and provides consumers with many food choices. In many of the money-saving tips that follow, supermarkets sound like the enemy. They're not. But as consumers, we must vote with our dollars and our feet – and yes, as here, with our voices – what we want from our stores. Grocers are good marketers, they'll adjust.


Please Know #3 There are many reasons to shop/not to shop at certain stores and certain kinds of stores. I'm concentrating on just three: cost, value and nutrition for the individual household. I recognize that others may well build in other factors: proximity; ownership; selection; labor practices; fair trade; environment; organic; geography; online ordering; etc.

I applaud these personal choices! Still, know that for the purposes of this series, I've elected to not pass judgment on such trade-offs.


Please Know #4 All that aside, if we really want to save money on food, we've got to change our habits. It's that whole rat-in-a-maze business: when the rat follows the same path, it ends up blocked in the same corner, again and again. But when it tries new routes – or hey, jumps the maze entirely – it finds the cheese. Not that I'm calling any of us, you know, rats ;-) ...

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Why Me? What Makes Me Qualified to Write About This Topic?

Truth is, I've spent my life watching food prices.


  • In my 20s, I calculated that a sack of groceries cost about $10.
  • In my 30s, I realized that my morning coffee 'n' bagel ritual was a $1000 a year habit.
  • In my 40s, I watched in horror as the price of a dozen eggs jumped from $.99 to $2.79 and my favorite cottage cheese from $1.78 to $3.35 even if it goes on sale occasionally for $1.99.
  • In my 50s, I built and expanded two remarkable resources to help people cook with what's on hand and to use up leftovers. Regular readers know them well: Recipes by Ingredient from Kitchen Parade and the famous Alphabet of Vegetables from A Veggie Venture. Take a look. Do any of your other favorite sites do this?
  • In my 60s, I honed a pantry inventory system that simplifies shopping, reduces grocery-store trips and makes it easier to eat well every single day with little-to-no meal-planning.

But really, I can't take all the credit because I inherited thrifty genes.

My English-born Canadian grandfather was disabled by the effects of WWI mustard gas and when he died too young, he left my grandmother a widow at age 35 with three children to raise on her own. So my mom grew up poor and remained frugal to her core even in later life when finances were comfortable. She stretched milk with dried milk powder. (Oh how I despised that milk.) She could make a meal out of air. (Sadly, I missed this skill set.)

How to Save Money on Groceries reflects the direction that my internal shopping compass points week in and week out.

Okay. Here We Go.

Take a deep breath and let's settle in for some hard talk about how to save money on groceries. The tips are broken up in several posts over a few weeks.



How to Save Money on Groceries: The Series

The Introduction (you're here)
Part One – Frugal Eating Starts in Our Heads (read this next)
Part Two – Frugal Food Shopping Requires a Plan (coming next week)
Part Three – How to Shop Wisely for Groceries (coming in two weeks)
Part Four – Investing in the Future (coming in three weeks)
Part Five – Reader Tips & More Resources (coming in four weeks)
How to Save Money on Groceries ♥ KitchenParade.com, a multi-part series packed with practical tips and ideas.

"How to Save Money on Groceries" is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg, author of the recipe column Kitchen Parade which features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a money-saving tip that other Kitchen Parade readers might find useful? Leave a comment below or just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2008 & 2020 (repub)

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.

Comments

  1. Anonymous7/13/2008

    Promises to be interesting!
    80KD

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  2. Thanks for doing this series! I'm really interested to read your tips. We could all benefit from taking a second look at our spending habits and making some adjustments. Loved the first installment.

    And it just so happens that in response to a reader's comments on the expense of eating healthy, I just published a post of strategies for eating healthy on a budget at Feed the Soul.

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  3. When I was newly married, I had a cookbook called "The Penny Pincher's Cookbook" put out by the USDA. It was the best cookbook for frugal shopping/eating! Of course, it was slanted toward using commodities (which I also took advantage of). Do they even still offer "commodities" anymore?

    GREAT idea, Alanna! I'm looking forward to this series.

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  4. Great idea! Your series just happened to coincide with a new store that I tried and a post. I'm going to link to this post, so that my readers can check out your series.

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  5. What a timely series! Thanks for writing this. I just featured it on my blog.

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  6. Anonymous9/27/2008

    I have a question about dried beans. I have taken your advice to buy them in order to cut back expenses. But when I cook them, they seem to never fully cook through. They are never completely soft. Any advice? (I have cooked them longer than it said to, by the way.)

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  7. I've had just the same issue with dried beans! My favorite recipe is to cook them in the slow cooker, I call them Creamy Slow-Cooker Beans. You can tell from the name, they're not dry or fibrous at all - they're 'creamy'. Try this and let me know, alright?

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  8. You have some great ideas. You could also check out www.hotcouponworld.com for more great ideas using coupons each week. I have saved thousands of dollars in just a year since I joined (which is free). Stockpiling the food you use is the way to go.

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  9. I just discovered this series. I have never looked past the recipe. This is so great. A side benefit to this is that you're eating healthier! That being said, you forgot to mention the #1 way to save money when buying food: DON'T SHOP WHEN YOU'RE HUNGRY!! Can't wait for the rest of the series.

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  10. I've been enjoying your site for its recipes for a few months now. But just today, I scrolled down far enough to see a blurb about how to save money on groceries, which is SO pertinent to my life right now. Looking forward to spending time reading it all. Thanks, Alanna!

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  11. Elizabeth ~ Why thank you! Glad you found this at the right time for you, timing’s not everything but some times it makes all the difference. Thanks so much for taking the time to write!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna