LIFESTYLE

Groceries are expensive, but they don’t have to break the bank. Here are some tips to save

Jul 11, 2024, 9:06 AM

File - A shopper peruses cheese offerings at a Target store on Oct. 4, 2023, in Sheridan, Colo. Inf...

File - A shopper peruses cheese offerings at a Target store on Oct. 4, 2023, in Sheridan, Colo. Inflation is easing slightly, but grocery prices are still high. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — If you’ve noticed that you’re paying more than before for the same amount of groceries, you’re not the only one. Inflation is easing slightly, but grocery prices are still high — up 21% on average since inflation started to surge more than three years ago.

“When inflation rises, it reduces people’s ability to afford groceries by increasing the overall cost of goods,” said Cassandra Happe, analyst for WalletHub.

Unlike some other items, you can’t just stop buying groceries when they get pricey. There’s nothing you can do about inflation, but you can find ways to save on groceries so they don’t heavily impact your wallet or your eating habits. These include using coupons, budgeting, and buying in bulk.

Here’s are some expert recommendations for saving on groceries:

Try coupons

Kiersten Torok started using coupons back when she was in high school, after her parents lost their jobs during the 2008 recession. She began relying on them even more in 2020, when she lost her own job during the pandemic. Now she’s using her social media platform to help others learn how to save.

“When times like these come up, coupons are a necessity for so many Americans,” said Torok, known on Instagram and TikTok as Torok Coupon Hunter.

Many might think that using coupons means cutting them out of a magazine. While you can certainly still do that, there are now easier ways to get the discounts. Many stores, like Walmart and Target, have coupons available on their apps.

“All you have to do is scan an item in a store, the coupons pop up on your app and then they automatically apply in the register,” Torok said. “It’s become much more streamlined.”

One of Torok’s coupon golden rules is: never pay for toothpaste — there’s always a combination of coupons and offers available. For anyone who wants to try couponing, Torok recommends that you first start using them at your favorite store and never buy things you don’t need, even if there’s a big discount.

Apps like Flipp, which lets you browse for coupons from all major grocery stores, and Ibotta, an app that gives you cashback for using coupons, can make your journey with couponing easier.

Track current spending

Making a budget is a key to keeping grocery spending under control, and the first step is to track how much you’re already spending. Start by reviewing how much you have spent on the last few times you’ve gone grocery shopping, recommended David Brindley, deputy editor for AARP Bulletin.

If you don’t keep receipts from past grocery runs, try looking at your bank account statement and adding up the grocery charges. Once you know how much you spend on groceries, set a goal, for example, staying within a specific budget or reducing your spending.

Review what you already have

You need a plan, but before you make one, ensure you know what you currently have in your fridge and your pantry. Sarah Schweisthal, personal finance expert and social media manager at budgeting app YNAB, recommends taking everything out and making an inventory so you don’t buy duplicates of things you already have on hand.

Brindley also recommends planning to cook multiple meals with similar ingredients, which saves money and also cuts down on food waste.

Make a plan

Once you’ve tracked your spending and inventoried what you already have, the next step is to make a plan. Write down the items you’re looking to buy and your estimated cost, making sure you stay on budget. Meal planning for the week or month can be a good way to stay on top of your spending, Schweisthal said.

Going up and down the aisles can sometimes make you crave things that you haven’t planned for, like a snack or a new dish. If you foresee that it’ll be hard for you to stick to your list, include some flexibility in your plan, such as allotting a specific amount to buy snacks or a random item you see at the checkout line.

“I think having flexibility in a plan actually helps you stick to it more,” Schweisthal said.

Making a plan can be as simple as writing down a list on paper or in your phone’s notes app. Or, you can use apps that specifically help you with meal planning such as AnyList or Mealime.

Shop online

If you tend to wander off your grocery list because every time you go to the store you buy things you don’t need, shopping online and picking up curbside is a good workaround.

“I 100% recommend sitting down Sunday morning and just looking at the stores and comparing the items you need for the week, especially with things you can get for curbside pickup,” Torok said.

If you buy your groceries from multiple stores because each has better prices on some items, ordering ahead of time can also save time.

Involve your family in saving

If you are in charge of buying groceries for your entire family, it can be beneficial to include them in your grocery budgeting routine. For Torok, this has meant teaching her children how to scan coupons while they shop.

Since buying in bulk can be very cost-effective. Brindley also recommends that you team up with a friend or a family member to buy specific items in bulk and share the discount.

Food sharing apps

Lastly, you can save money by using food-sharing apps such as Olio, which connects people around their community to share extra grocery items, and Too Good to Go, where you can buy surplus food at a discount.

___

The Associated Press receives support from Charles Schwab Foundation for educational and explanatory reporting to improve financial literacy. The independent foundation is separate from Charles Schwab and Co. Inc. The AP is solely responsible for its journalism.

Lifestyle

A second-floor balcony at the Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West, Florida, on Wednesday, July 17, ...

Associated Press

Ernest Hemingway fans celebrate the author’s 125th birthday in his beloved Key West

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Ernest Hemingway spent the 1930s in Key West, Florida, and more than six decades after his death, fans, scholars and relatives continue to congregate on the island city to celebrate the author’s award-winning novels and adventure-filled life. Hemingway Days started in 1981 with a short-story competition and a look-alike contest. […]

2 hours ago

This photo provided by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows the Bissell Steam Shot Handhel...

Associated Press

Over 3 million steam cleaners are under recall because they can spew hot water and cause burns

NEW YORK (AP) — Some 3.3 million steam cleaners are being recalled across North America due to a burn hazard that has resulted in consumers reporting more than 150 injuries. Select models of Bissell-branded “Steam Shot Handheld Steam Cleaners” can spew hot water or steam while the products are in use or being heated up, […]

3 days ago

FILE - In this image provided by KFOR-TV, a heavily damaged vehicle is seen off a road in Tishoming...

Associated Press

After crash that killed 6 teens, NTSB chief says people underestimate marijuana’s impact on drivers

DETROIT (AP) — A horrific crash that killed six high school girls in Oklahoma two years ago has the head of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board urging parents to warn teenagers about the risk of driving after using marijuana. Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy made the appeal to parents Thursday as her agency released the final […]

3 days ago

Residents walk through the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. (AP P...

Associated Press

The uncertainty that plagues life in crisis-ridden Venezuela is also wreaking havoc on relationships

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Victoria Estevez finally met someone who saw past her shyness. They spent two months learning about their likes and dislikes, texting about their families and friends, and walking around their hometowns on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast. On a trip to the capital in December, they held each other for the first time. […]

3 days ago

Gracie Wiener poses for a photo with some of her tote bags in Washington Square Park in New York, W...

Associated Press

Historic utility AND high fashion. 80-year-old LL Bean staple finds a new audience as a trendy bag

FREEPORT, Maine (AP) — L.L. Bean created it 80 years ago to haul heavy blocks of ice. Now it’s a must-have summer fashion accessory. The simple, sturdy canvas bag called the Boat and Tote is having an extended moment 80 years after its introduction, thanks to a social media trend in which they’re monogrammed with […]

3 days ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Servic...

Associated Press

Trump’s escape from disaster by mere inches reveals a tiny margin with seismic impact

NEW YORK (AP) — Jarring, chaotic and sudden, the bullet whizzed toward the stage where former President Donald Trump stood behind a podium speaking. In its wake: the potential for a horrifying and tragic chapter in American history. But the Republican presidential candidate had a narrow escape — mere inches, possibly less — in Saturday’s […]

5 days ago

Groceries are expensive, but they don’t have to break the bank. Here are some tips to save