20 Frugal Grocery Shopping Tips
Things can get rather generic with frugal grocery shopping tips. I found a lot of the info available to be pretty general. In practice, it never really worked out for me. So, I dug a little deeper to try and uncover some frugal grocery shopping tips that actually work. Here are 20 of them I’ve managed to come up with…
Even if it’s just shopping for groceries, it helps to take your time, look around and compare prices. That’s how you uncover the best prices. This is also how you learn all about the true retail market value of the grocery items you purchase.
Hit the farmers’ market
Farmers’ markets are becoming more than just a place to source fresh produce at a great price. More and more of these are incorporating the full complement of grocery items. If there’s a farmers’ market nearby, take full advantage of the opportunity to stock up on groceries, cheaply.
Join a bulk buyers’ club
Some of us can’t regularly make it to a farmers’ market. In that case, I ask a neighbour who attends regularly to bring me back some produce found through great deals. You can formalise this arrangement by joining an official bulk buyers’ club. Bulk buyers’ clubs don’t just buy from farmers’ markets. You can get great bulk deals from wholesalers and even regular retailers.
Start a bulk buyers club
If I wasn’t pursuing the cooking niche specifically, this is what I’d be doing. You can start and manage a bulk buyers’ club. The bored housewife’s dream career. Not only will you be in on the inherent savings, you can also charge a commission for managing the club. So that’s a great way to ‘extend’ your savings.
We’re now entering into regular frugal grocery shopping territory, but there’s a trick to making it pay-off. Coupons specific to grocery stores you regularly shop at often offer the biggest savings. Don’t be afraid to use them. 3% off here and 9% off there, adds up in the end. They don’t print them and distribute them in-store for nothing. Use them.
Search for online coupons
Going beyond the in-store coupons, I’ve learned to find store-specific coupons online. I could tell you about specific sites that list discount coupons, but these are usually dynamic. A better way to search for these is to Google discount coupons. Be specific. For example, you can type in ‘Sainsbury’s coupons.’ You might have to subscribe to some newsletter, but it’s worth flooding a dedicated email inbox with these special offers.
Discounts and sales
As a regular shopper, I’ve become in-tune with the discount sales patterns implemented at specific retailers. By the time news of a sale hits the masses, it’s already too late to cash-in on the biggest deals. I know how one grocer hikes up prices, ever so slightly, as the weekend begins. During the working week the regular prices are listed as having those items being ‘on sale.’ Otherwise we probably all know that discounts and sales periodically come around.
Daily freshly-made policies
I’ve noticed this of Tesco Lotus stores here and in all foreign countries I’ve visited. What happens is they want to maintain a reputation of selling the freshest food. As a result, the price of grocery items such as bread can drop by over 50%, just before closing time. This is not the case with all branches though. The idea is that such deals are available to those who seek them out. I didn’t know about this of Tesco Lotus until a backpackers’ owner told me about it.
Join discounts and coupons exchanges
Searching online for discount coupons will likely lead you to centralised platforms. In the discussion forums of those platforms is where the magic happens! Connect with other forum members, who likely share reviews and their experiences. You can then exchange coupon codes. For instance, there might not be anything I want to buy from a specific retailer. If I have a coupon for that retailer, I can exchange for one of equal value. This would be for a retailer I do want to buy from.
Start a discounts and coupons exchange programme
Established discounts and coupons exchanges are often formal and commercialised. I find building personal relationships with other shoppers makes for a great option. This way there’s no third-party platform involved. If I have a discount coupon for Morrisons and you have one for Aldi, we can switch, for example. The value doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly the same. You can also formalise this practice in the same way that you would, starting your own bulk buyers’ club.
If you can by-pass your local grocer, particularly your chain grocer, you will get the item cheaper. Although, it’s not often that original manufacturers or producers are located in close proximity. It would have to make financial sense for you to drive or walk the extra mile to save a few pennies.
Locally produced goods will always be cheaper. There are basically no additional costs for shipping and the likes. Besides, I find that buying local produce and other goods ensures I go home with the freshest there is.
For me, shopping online is more a matter of convenience. It sometimes works out cheaper if I’m stocking up on a full week’s grocery. Above a certain total, the delivery service is free, so I save on fuel. Usually there are exclusive, online-only deals to take advantage of as well. Many grocery outlets are pushing their online shopping portals hard, so they’re enticing shoppers with all sorts of specials. Sure, for them it’s a matter of being able to collect consumer data, such as shopping habits. No matter – this usually results in a better shopping experience, with great savings.
Shopper loyalty and rewards programmes
We’re once again entering into regular frugal grocery shopping tips territory. Shopper loyalty and rewards programmes are worth mentioning though. These make for the bread-and-butter of frugal shopping tips. If they offer you the equivalent of a ‘smart shopper’ card – take it. You’ll accumulate points which can come in handy. You can then redeem them by making purchases equal to their cash-value. Each grocer has its own name for their loyalty and rewards programmes.
Pre-order some of your groceries
The savings are usually marginal, but once again, they all add up in the end. Some retailers will let you pre-order certain grocery items you shop for regularly. The price at which you pre-order them is almost always lower than the shelf-price. You can then take up delivery as soon as the goods arrive in-store. However, this does mean that you’ll be paying in advance.
Cook simple meals
One of the biggest cost-consumers when grocery shopping is planning very specific, complicated meals. A lot of people will find a recipe and follow it to the letter. Usually, this results in buying several spices and specialty ingredients that double the price of the meal. Try using simple recipes that you can mix up according to what you already have stock of at home. One of my favourite examples is my homemade bibimbap. The ingredients are so interchangeable that often you can make a batch without hitting the supermarket. Don’t be afraid to diverge from the cookbook a bit if it saves cash!
SAVE the money you save
Resist the urge to buy more stuff or bigger quantities as a result of the savings you amass. Rather, what I do is put away the money I save. I have a jar which I keep in the safe where all the saved notes and coins go. Every so often it adds up to a sum equal to an entire month’s groceries.
Thinking outside the frugal grocery shopping box
I’ve spoken a bit about discount coupons exchanges. Both over exchange platforms and directly, with other bargain-hunting shoppers. You can expand on this by thinking beyond grocery discounts and coupons. For example, you might have a discount coupon for a pair of trainers. That can still be exchanged with someone who has one for groceries. I’ve had some Uber Eats and Foodpanda discount codes that are valid in other countries. I exchanged those for vouchers I can use locally, with people abroad.
The pumpkin-patch concept
Basically the best frugal grocery shopping tip you can implement is growing your own produce. Some of the produce is very easy to grow, like pumpkins. This is naturally not an option for everybody, but one worth trying nevertheless. Trade or sell the surplus at the farmers’ market or anywhere else you can.
Once a certain frugal shopping ‘golden’ pattern has been detected and developed, you can shop a lot smarter. For example, I know for sure that at a certain outlet I’m definitely going to get the discounts I’m counting on. So I start with those stores first. I then leave those which may or may not have some savings available for last. This of course only if their regular pricing is generally the cheapest around.
There are plenty of other ways to simply shop smarter for your groceries, to enjoy some great savings.
The ultimate takeaway – finding the right balance
It would be impossible to implement each and every last one of these. Too many of them overlap, or even contradict each other. E.g. buying online versus buying direct – particularly for the savings each option affords you. You have to find the perfect balance. Aim for a net effect which helps you consistently save a bundle on your grocery shopping. So that means my combination of these tips will probably be different to yours.