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One of the biggest impacts you can have on your budget is to cut your grocery spending, but how do you do that without relying on processed foods? It’s easier than you think to eat real, unprocessed food even on a tight budget. These 11 grocery hacks helped us cut our grocery spending in half without sacrificing quality foods.

One of our biggest budgeting challenges was how to save money on food. Our grocery spending was out of control, but we didn't want to sacrifice healthy, real foods. These 11 grocery hacks helped us eat healthy on a tight budget and avoid processed foods. #grocerybudget #mealplan #savemoney

If you’re anything like us, it’s easy for grocery spending to get completely out of control. With five people in our family, three of whom are growing, it’s easy for us to blow our budget. 

When we created our very first family budget, we reviewed our grocery spending for the previous three months and were shocked at what we found. We were spending around $1600-1800 per month on food! That is HUGE.

We knew we needed to change some things, but we did not want to default to processed food. We’re big foodies and try our best to eat healthy, real foods. So I got to work coming up with different strategies for how to save big at the grocery store.

11 Best Hacks to Eat Healthy on a Tight Budget

Tip 1- Comparison Shop Between Stores

The first time I really prioritized eating healthy was after our first child was ready to start eating solid foods. I wanted to give him organic, whole foods, but our budget was TIGHT. One of the first things that I did was create a price list for my favorite stores based on our most commonly purchased food items.

I created a list of the things that we typically buy during any given week like milk, bread, various fruits and vegetables, canned items, and meat. Over a 2-3 week period as I visited stores I would record what these items cost per pound or per ounce.

It gave me a really great idea of which stores I could get the biggest bang for my buck. There were things that I thought were an amazing deal at Costco, but it turned out I could find them for less at a different store.

Tip 2- Check the Sales at Your Favorite Stores

I tend to do most of my shopping at Costco and Sprouts, so I pay attention when we get the sales papers in the mail. I will scan through these to see if there’s anything at an amazing price that I can integrate it into my meal plan for the week. If there’s something that I know I purchase regularly, I use this as an opportunity to stock up.

I try to do my shopping at Sprouts on Wednesdays since it is the day where their sales cross over. Sprouts runs sales on items from Sunday to Wednesday and Wednesday to Saturday, so you will find the greatest number of deals on a Wednesday.  There are times where they will run a special Friday to Sunday sale, so I just make note of it when they advertise at the store.

Tip 3- Have a Calculator Ready as You Walk Through the Store

Have you ever gotten to the checkout line thinking that you got everything you needed within your budget only to find out you spent way more than expected? This happened to me all the time.

This tip seems a little bit tedious, but it can be insanely helpful so that you can prioritize what you purchase. If you realize you’re coming close to your budget, you’re able to remove non-necessities from your cart before getting up to the checkout line.

I started doing this because I remembered seeing my mom do it when I was a kid. My mom would walk through the store mumbling numbers under her breathe adding things up as she walked through the store. It worked well for her, so I figured it could work well for me too!

Tip 4- Know the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen

The Environmental Working Group came out with a list of produce items that have the highest level of pesticides versus lowest levels so that we can prioritize what to buy organic if we have to make a choice. This is a great resource for you to bring to the store.

It would be amazing if we could afford all organic produce, but if you’re not there yet, use this list to guide your choices in the produce section.

Click the picture below to download a copy of the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen:

You want to eat healthy but can't spend thousands on groceries every month. You don't have to. Read the 11 best tips (many you haven't heard before) for eating healthy on a tight budget. These tips will save you hundreds every month while still eating healthy meals that aren't processed. #healthyeating #budgetfood #mealplanning #groceryshoppingtips

Tip 5- Stock Up But Don’t Go Beyond Your Budget

You have your comparison shopping list on hand from tip 1 and you see an amazing deal on diced tomatoes. Now’s your chance to stock up, right?! Yes and no.

My strategy for stockpiling food items is to buy as many as I can WITHIN my two week grocery budget. It’s tempting to clear the shelves and take every available item home when it’s on sale, but if you can’t afford to do it within your budget, walk away.

If you’re constantly overspending to create stockpiles, you’re not truly staying within your budget. It may feel counterintuitive to walk away from a deal, but it’s necessary or else you’ll find yourself going over budget far too often.

Tip 6- Stockpile When You Go Under Budget

This is related to tip 5 but a little bit different. If you find that you have come in under budget on groceries, use this as an opportunity to stockpile your most commonly used grocery or household items (ie paper towels, toilet paper, glass cleaner, etc).

Related: 10 Tips for Saving Money on Common Household Products

This is a great opportunity to build your freezer and pantry stash in preparation for times in the future where you don’t have wiggle room in your budget. I recommend getting canned goods, shelf stable items, frozen goods, and meat.

I ran into an example of this the other day when I fell about $20 below my grocery budget. I stocked up on things like chicken stock, canned diced tomatoes, and the Kind bars my husband eats for breakfast every morning. Now I have a bit of a stash going!

Tip 7- Download and Use the Ibotta App

I don’t do coupons, but I do LOVE the Ibotta app. Ibotta gives cash back on the purchase of items they list within the app when you upload a copy of your receipt.

Before I go grocery shopping, I look through the items in Ibotta to see if there is anything on my list. If there is, I make a little note on my shopping list of the brand and max quantity that I can purchase.

My biggest tip when using Ibotta is NOT to buy something JUST because you see it in the Ibotta app. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “I know how to save even more…just don’t buy it.” This is my attitude when using this app. Even if something is cheaper with the app, if I wouldn’t have purchased it before, I’ll save more by not buying it.

I use it primarily as a way to choose the cheapest brand and stockpile when appropriate. You get $5 just for signing up through my link HERE.

Tip 8- Buy from Thrive Market

Thrive Market is my favorite place to get specialty pantry staples and personal care products. Thrive Market is 25-50% cheaper than other retail stores, and they have free shipping over $49.

I keep a running list of items that I need from Thrive Market on their app, and I complete my order once I hit the $49 threshold for free shipping.

I like to get items like:

  • Avocado oil
  • Mayo using healthier oils like avocado or safflower oils
  • Non-toxic skincare items
  • Snacks for kids lunches
  • Maple Syrup
  • Pre-made sauces and marinades
  • Noodles

You can sign up through my link HERE to try Thrive Market for 30 days and an additional 25% off your first order.

Tip 9- Go to the Store One Time Per Week

One thing that has a HUGE impact on our grocery budget is only going to the store once per week. Why? Well, have you ever run into the store for one thing and ended up walking out with $50 dollars worth of groceries? It happens to everybody.

We stray from our list and find things that we think we “need,” and we quickly fall outside of our grocery budget.

If you run out of an essential like milk or bread, I recommend either going without or sending the person with the most self-control to the store.

Tip 10- Take a Food Inventory

Once you’ve put together your meal plan for the week, take a look at what you have inside your pantry, fridge, and freezer. I like to keep a running inventory of what is in my kitchen so that I don’t buy something that I already have on hand.

If you’re doing this for the first time, I recommend pulling everything out of your pantry and freezer and putting it on the counter. Go through the pile item by item adding it to your food inventory list. Not only are you tracking what you have, it’s a good chance to wipe down shelves and reorganize what you have.

Tip 11- Cook with What You Already Have

The best way to save money on groceries is to eat what you already have at home. You would probably be shocked what you can come up with when you get a little bit creative with your meals. Some ways that I do this are:

  • Eating leftovers- I always tell my husband that leftovers are my love language, because it is the best feeling to me to eat all of what I worked so hard to make over the past few days. I hate food waste.
  • Piece together random items- An example of this could be baking the last few tortillas from a pack and putting them into a chicken tortilla soup. You could use the heel of your loaf of bread to make garlic bread to go with your spaghetti. Get creative!
  • Use allrecipes.com- Allrecipes.com allows you to search for recipes based off of ingredients. So if you have canned pumpkin, ground beef, and onions, you can type it in to the search bar to get a list of the recipes on the site that include these ingredients.

Eating healthy on a budget is very possible, it just takes more intentional planning. There is a little bit of work on the front end for a few of these tips, but it will be worth it to reduce your grocery spending.

What tips do you have for saving money on groceries? Do you already do any of these things?

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Resources I Love

Walmart Grocery Pick-Up: Walmart grocery pick-up is seriously a game-changer, especially when you have kids! You order fresh groceries, Walmart does the shopping and loads your car for FREE. Use my link and get $10 just for trying it.

Thrive Market: I order most of my pantry staples from Thrive Market. Think Costco meets Whole Foods with thousands of healthy food and personal care items. Get 1 month free PLUS 25% off your first order when you go through my link.

Rakuten:Rakuten (formerly Ebates) is a total no-brainer for saving money when shopping online.  Every time you shop online, click on a store through Ebates to receive cash back on all of your purchases. Get $10 after your first $25 purchase when you use my link.

Ibotta: Ibotta is my favorite app for saving money on groceries without clipping coupons. Get cash back on your groceries just by uploading your receipts. Get $5 just for signing up when you click on my link.

$5 Dollar Dinners:If you love the idea of a meal plan but hate actually creating one, I highly recommend $5 Dollar Dinners. Erin outlines amazing meal plans on a budget.

MyFreezEasy:If you love freezer cooking or are interested in using it as part of your meal planning system, the MyFreezEasy shop is the place to start. Erin lists out all of her favorite tools, freezer meals plans, and more for making it as simple and budget-friendly as possible.

Real Plans:Real plans is an amazing meal planning resource, particularly for families with special diets. Real Plans helps you quickly create a meal plan based on the types of foods your family likes to eat and/or dietary restrictions.

Learn how to save money on groceries with these 11 hacks for eating well on a budget. Create a meal planning and grocery shopping strategy that helps you save money on food while making quick and healthy dinners for your family every night. #easydinners #groceryshopping #mealplan #mealplanning #budgettips

You want to eat healthy but can't spend thousands on groceries every month. You don't have to. Read the 11 best tips (many you haven't heard before) for eating healthy on a tight budget. These tips will save you hundreds every month while still eating healthy meals that aren't processed. #healthyeating #budgetfood #mealplanning #groceryshoppingtips

Sarah Nichols

Sarah Nichols, founder and CEO of Let's Talk Mom Business, has a background in business, research, advocacy, and family finances. LetsTalkMomBusiness.com combines her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and her love for budgeting and frugal living to help others take their family finances into their own hands by teaching budget basics, how to earn income from home as a mom, DIY tutorials, and frugal fun.

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