Four Ways To Save Money At The Grocery Store

by Hank Coleman

Buying groceries are expensive. I can remember hearing horror stories from my aunt about how much food and milk her family of five burned through in a month. I never appreciated the cost of food until I grew up and now have a family of my own to feed. Now, I want to ration my eight year-old’s milk consumption like it’s the 1940s all over again.

I know that it is good for him, but a couple of cups per day at today’s gallon milk prices will drive me to the poor house! But, there are a few ways to save some money at the grocery store on your food bill. Here are a few of my favorites…

Four Easy Ways To Save Money At The Grocery Store

Stay On The Outside Loop

Like a race car driver, you should stay on the outside track of the grocery store and away from the middle. Not only will your wallet be appreciative, but your midsection will as well.

Think about it where are all the sugary, sweet treats? Where are the most expensive foods in the supermarket? Where are all the foods that are staples that you desperately need to feed your family? They are on the outside lanes of the store like a loop.

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Don’t go down the middle isles if you can help it. The meat, milk, dairy, vegetables, and breads are all on the outside lane. Stay on the outside to save money. Don’t go down the aisle.
Save money at the grocery store by using the loop.

Never Forget Your Loyalty Card

Buy Groceries Today, Pay For College Tomorrow!
I am always blown away by how many people tend to forget their loyalty card and miss out on tons of savings and coupons. Do not let it go if you do. Forgetting even just once can cost you a few dollars.

You should ask your fellow shoppers to your front and back to swipe theirs in a pinch. They get the credit for your purchases especially if they have linked their loyalty card to a program like uPromise to earn rewards and money for their children’s college education.

Sometimes you can ask the cashier to use their cards but many grocery chains frown upon this practice. In the worst case scenario, you should consider just signing up and grabbing a new card. You can always just throw it away, but it is better to have five cards from the same grocery chain than miss the savings.

Don’t Shop For Groceries Hungry

I think that almost everyone has heard this tip at some point in our lives, but we still fail to follow it. It is almost as bad as going to Wal-Mart or the grocery store on a payday.

I swear every time I make this mistake, like a rookie shopper, that I’ll never do it again. But, I always find myself heading to the store on an empty stomach. And, to make matters worse…I’ve gone to the grocery store hungry on an empty stomach on payday more than once. It is just asking for trouble…double trouble!

Stay Away From Impulse Purchases

Originally, studies came out in the 1990s that said that almost 70% of all our purchases at the grocery store were impulse purchases. Now, a new study conducted by Professor David R. Bell from the Wharton School of Business has found that the number might be closer to 20%.

That’s a relief but still very troubling. My family may spend several hundred dollars to feed our family every month. So, over $50 could quite possibly be pure needless impulse purchases. It can really add up when you stop to put real numbers against your bad habits.

There are many ways that you can save money on your groceries. Most people only consider clipping coupons and hitting the weekly sales though. This is a mistake to only focus on those tactics. You also need to address your spending habits as well in order to save money at the grocery store.

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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]

Hank Coleman has written 574 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Edward Antrobus

There are a lot of staples in the middle of the store. Cereal is always in an isle. Canned goods are always in an isle. At the store my wife works at, bread is in an isle, and ice cream is on the far end of the store. Meanwhile, a lot of expensive items are often put on end-caps to make them more visible (like the candy bars, soda, and magazines at the registers!) Hot foods are always on the edge and they have the highest margin of any item sold in a grocery store.

As far as milk goes, you could always move to Colorado! lol When I moved from the East Coast to Colorado, I received a huge price shock when it came to milk…it’s less than HALF the price I was spending in NJ.




Thanks for adding to the discussion. I think that you understand the general idea of shopping around the edges of the store to save money and save on your midsection as well. While there are some great items in the middle, that is also were 99% of all the bad ones are as well. I don’t count the impulse spending at the counter as part of the outside loop. That’s a whole other beast along with end caps.



I agree with Edward. One of the big ways my family saves on groceries is by eating less meat; most meat, especially healthier cuts, is very expensive compared to beans and rice, which are in the middle aisles. Rice also is a thrifty food found in the middle. Ingredients for home baking, which saves a lot of money, are in the middle.

In my area, the dominant supermarket chain (Giant Eagle) arranges every store differently, and a lot of them have strange quirks. In the store I shop most often, the back wall offers “fruit snacks”, candy, cookies, crackers, the bakery department (white flour, high sugar, and trans fat + high prices!), and the ready-to-eat potato salads and such (very expensive and mostly unhealthy).

So whether “the outside loop” is a useful concept or not really depends on which store you’re in.



I think that it is very few stores have the “strange quirks” as you mentioned. So, for a majority of shoppers, staying on the outside loop would be beneficial.


Shaun @ Smart Family Finance

My family’s method is to price out servings in every meal and then try and make foods that are $1 a serving or less. It also helps us to manage our leftovers better. But the best part is, you start learning what items make a meal expensive.

Meals heavy in meat servings generally go over the $1 a serving. Milk often makes cereal far more expensive than none prepackaged oatmeal. Cheese also tends to make a meal more expensive.



Shaun, that’s an interesting way to look at it. I never thought of breaking it down like that before by the serving. I often do think about how much similar meals that I make at home would cost in a restaurant when I’m grocery shopping.


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