Finding groceries on a budget for one person and striking the balance between getting the best price and buying nutritious food can be difficult, especially if you shop for just yourself.
With the right tips and hacks, you can save money while enjoying healthy and delicious meals. From meal planning to saavy shopping, thinking ahead and a little planning can help you make the most of your grocery shopping trips — and your budget.
- You can shop for healthy groceries while saving on your bills.
- Prepared meals or convenience foods often have hidden health costs while being pricier.
- The tips with the most impact include making and sticking to a food budget, shopping locally, buying store brands, and using rewards credit cards.
10 Budgeting & Shopping Hacks
1) Have a Grocery Budget, Make a List, and Meal Plan
The first and most important step is to have a separate food budget as part of your larger household budget. Having a limit will encourage you to track your food spend and stay within your means. Your food budget should include all your food purchases, such as your groceries, or when you order takeout.
Making a list will help you be a mindful shopper by cutting back on impulse shopping. Stores are designed to put tempting items at eye level to spur shopping on a whim. A fun fact I learned recently was that grocery stores make a lot of money from the candy and sodas next to checkout lanes because of impulse shopping.
Also, plan your meals around what’s on sale. For instance, if you see that chicken breasts are on sale this week, make dishes that include chicken. Chains like Costco offer $5 rotisserie chicken to draw in customers by offering them a solid deal.
2) Compare Prices
One of the best ways to save money on your groceries is to compare prices and shop online. Create a spreadsheet of different items that you regularly buy and compare prices across different grocery stores to see which one has the best price. For example, a 16 oz bag of frozen broccoli may cost $1.50 at Aldi and be $2.69 at Whole Foods, while a 10 oz bag costs $2.29 at Trader Joe’s and $2 at Sprouts.
Price comparison is one the best ways to stay within your monthly grocery budget.
3) Use Coupons & Look for Sales
Using coupons is a great way to save time and money on your shopping list. Coupons.com is a great website for both printable and digital coupons. There are also a number of apps that offer coupons, including Ibotta. Also, check your mail for local coupon books or local newspaper for deals, especially for weekly deals.
To make the most of your coupons, be smart about how you use them. Some things may go on sale for a larger discount after you’ve bought with a coupon.
4) Try Store Brands
To cut costs, opt for store-branded (generic) items. Many grocerers offer comparable products to a name brand, but at a lower price. Oftentimes, the same product can be branded differently to sell at a higher price point.
For instance, because I often shop at stores like Costco, Ralphs, or Trader Joe’s I will look at the prices of their store brands (generic) vs name brands. I’ve used several Kroger brand products including chili, beans, salads, and wipes. I’m also a fan of Trader Joe’s salads.
5) Make Use of Leftovers
Stretch your food budget by using leftovers. One way to make higher restaurant prices worth it is to save leftovers, especially if you dine out regularly. Your leftovers can be used as a new meal, a side dish, or freezed for later use.
This approach also works if you like to batch cook, as you can store or freeze a few days worth of food at a time. It’s more budget-friendly than premade frozen meals and dining out regularly — plus its more nutritious than most frozen meals.
6) Buy in Bulk When You Can
If you have roommates, consider bulk buying and splitting the bill with them. Some items are good to buy in bulk include grains, legumes, and spices. You can buy grains, quinoa, brown rice or white rice, beans, or lentils as bulk items in large quantities.
Some stores also offer bulk discounts, like Aldi and Winco. Stores like Costco or Walmart offer good prices for groceries in bulk.
7) Make Groceries on a Budget for One Last Longer
To make your groceries last longer, store them properly. Follow the instructions on the packaging to determine if the items you buy should be refrigerated or kept at room temperature and use them shortly after opening. You can also freeze foods that you know you won’t finish before they go bad, such as berries or vegetables.
Buying foods with a longer shelf life is a good idea for creating emergency food supplies or for shopping on a (very) tight budget. Recipes can be basic and include items like canned fish, canned meats or vegetables, pasta sauce, or dried fruits.
You can also use items before they go bad. Use old vegetables as compost. Share your food with friends and family or donate to your local food pantry — giving it a new home before it becomes food waste.
8) Avoid Convenience Foods
Saving money is good for your health, especially when you avoid convenience foods. These foods are often high in calories, saturated fats, or cholesterol while not providing key nutrients.
Buy whole-ingredient foods and cook at home instead of prepared ones, which are usually pricier. Additionally, buying cheaper cuts of meat can introduce you to new and flavorful recipes while satisfying your protein fix in the midst of food inflation.
In 2020, I was learning how to cook and used a meal-prep service called Hello Fresh. It was not good for my health as the ingredients were very carb-heavy (e.g., lots of white rice) and high in cholesterol (lots of pork). Nor was it budget-friendly, as I received low-quality ingredients while overpaying for a monthly subscription.
I only used the service briefly before canceling, as I returned to food shopping at the local grocery store, such as Safeway and Trader Joe’s. After making this move, I felt healthier and had my energy return, while reducing my grocery bill.
9) Shop Local for the Best Food
When I was younger, I went often to buy fresh fruit at a good price.
Checking out your local farmers market should be a part of anyone’s grocery shop habits as they offer affordable access to fresh and specialty foods while supporting their local farmers. Their prices are often lower than grocery stores and offer better quality produce.
If you don’t know where to start, do a quick Google search. Your local market may also have flyers around your area.
10) Use Rewards Credit Cards
Using a cashback rewards card like the Citi Double Cash or Chase Freedom Flex will get you cashback for all your groceries purchases, working like a discount. Though it does not seem like much, the cash back adds up over time.
You can explore other credit cards or store-branded cards with better rates on your grocery spend — sometimes 5%+. But these cards come with more conditions, such as only shopping at certain stores.
The Bottom Line
Finding and buying groceries on a budget for one doesn’t have to be a struggle, you can find healthy, filling, and affordable options. By following these tips you can save money while eating healthy, flavorful, and delicious meals. Ultimately, your health is wealth.