Top 7 Grocery Hacks To Trim Down Your Food Budget

by Hank Coleman

The Best Food Budget HacksWith food prices on the rise and wages relatively stagnant so far for 2016, many families are looking for new ways to save money on their food budget. If you fall into this category, then read on to discover useful grocery hacks that will cut back your food budget at the grocery store.

Grocery Hacks To Trim Down Your Food Budget

Don’t Shop While You’re Hungry

You’ve probably heard the generic advice that you shouldn’t shop while you’re hungry, but did you know that there are actual neurobiological studies proving that shopping on an empty stomach makes you spend more money on groceries?

In this experiment, participants were either injected with ghrelin (a hormone that controls hunger) or saline (basically a placebo) and then they were asked to bid on both food and nonfood items in a lab. The participants with elevated hunger hormones were much more willing to spend more money on food, showing that humans are more prone to impulsive purchases in the grocery market when we’re hungry. To avoid this pitfall, either schedule your shopping trips after meals or eat a snack before you go.

Become a Couponing Ninja 

Have you ever seen that TLC show, Extreme Couponers? Although the idea of getting tons of stuff for pennies may be alluring, it’s probably not worth all the hours of coupon clipping and discount hunting on the web.

However, you can still save quite a bit of money on groceries and everyday household items if you just add coupons to your shopping repertoire.

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Here are some fantastic couponing websites to check out:

There are also handy couponing apps for smartphone-savvy shoppers who want to become couponing ninjas without having to go through paper ads every Sunday:

Skip the Organic

According to Consumer Reports, the cost of organic food, on average, is 47% higher than conventional food. This doesn’t mean that organic food is always more expensive, but in many cases, your food budget would be better off with traditionally grown produce.

There are few nutritional differences between the two options and the Scientific American reported in its article, “Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture” that organic pesticides might be even worse than conventional agriculture pesticides.

The verdict? Save yourself the expense and opt out of organic produce.

Almost-Expired Food Discounts

Did you know that many stores offer steep discounts on perishable items when they’re about to expire? Whether it’s prepackaged mushrooms, chicken with a “Sell By” date within 1-2 days, or any number of perishable items, the store would rather unload them at a discount instead of throwing it in the garbage and getting nothing out of it (not to mention contributing the massive food waste problem in the US).

Shop at Discount Grocery Markets

Grocery discount chains such as Aldi and Grocery Outlet are currently expanding in the US. These discount grocers offer all types of quality food items, which they get from producers with excess inventory and then pass along the savings from the manufacturers to their customers. They even have vegan options. Here, you can shave tens – if not hundreds – of dollars each month on your grocery bill without having to change your buying habits.

Discount markets often have special coupons and offers for customers who sign up for email lists and “like” their local grocery stores on Facebook. If you do not have any discount grocers near you, then be sure to sign up for major grocery stores’ rewards programs so you can get member-only discounts and in some cases, even discounts on gas.

Switch to Canned or Frozen Produce

Another option for reducing your grocery bill while still managing to eat your daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables is to buy canned or frozen produce. NPR reported in 2014 that the BPA content in canned food isn’t dangerous, which means there are few downsides to buying canned fruit and vegetables as an alternative to buying expensive, fresh produce that has a quickly-approaching expiration date.

Frozen produce is also a viable option for someone with a cash-strapped grocery budget, and although people argue that it’s not as nutritious, it’s still preferable to forgoing fruits and vegetables altogether out of financial necessity. 

As you can see, there are many different ways to save money on groceries beyond the obvious advice of “buy in bulk” and “buy generic instead of brand name foods.” If you’re on a tight food budget, every dollar saved really matters, especially when the potential to waste food (and subsequently, money) is there.

What about you? Do you have any unique ways that you save money on your food budget and grocery bill?

About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and a graduate certificate in personal financial planning. Email him directly at Hank[at]MoneyQandA.com.


Hank Coleman has written 589 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Amber Masters

I think not shopping hungry is the best financial advice I have ever received in my life. In fact, not doing anything while I’m hungry is probably more like it. Haha. We blog about paying off our $550k in student loans and are always looking for hacks like these! Great post. — I had no idea about “organic” pesticides– yipes!

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