How to Save Money as a Single Person at the Grocery Store

Debt Repayment, shopping, singleness

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store as a Single Person

Something a few of my friends have been asking me to write about is how I save money as a single person.  It has taken a lot of practice (I’m 27 and most of my friends got married 7 years ago), research and trial and error. Hopefully the next four tips are helpful, and I’d love to hear your tips, no matter how many people live in your home!

1. Make a Meal Plan and a Shopping List

The best way to avoid buying everything the grocery store sells is to go in with a plan (and make sure you’re not hungry!). If you create a meal plan in advance you will make sure you’re not buying unnecessary food, plus you can try to make meals that use similar ingredients.

Sometimes I type my meal plan into the “Notes” app on my iPhone, other times I use paper. If  you love pretty lists, there are a ton of free meal plan printables out there. A new printable I like can be found here. This one has a spot for your meals AND a shopping list.  Very efficient!

2. Coupons

I have a love-hate relationship with coupons. I think they lead to people buying a bunch of processed foods they probably don’t need, but they also save me a ton of money when I shop. I get coupons from a couple places: Swagbucks (you earn “bucks” every time you redeem a coupon), the paper, junk mail and store specific iPhone apps.

savingsreceipt

3. Buy Meat in “Bulk.”

Meat and produce are of the most expensive parts of my shopping budget. What I like about store apps is they often have coupons for these items, which you don’t normally see printed.

To save money on meat I buy the “family size” packs. After I get home and put away the groceries, the first thing I do is separate these packs into meal-sized portions. I have learned that I really only need half a pound of ground beef for spaghetti/tacos so I will break a 3 pound pack of ground beef into 4-6 portions and put them all in the freezer. For chicken there are usually 7 chicken breasts in a pack. I will separate this into 2-3 breasts per bag and put it in the freezer.

I rotate the type of meat during shopping trips so that I’m not spending $20 in one swoop. Sometimes I can go three weeks without buying any protein! This saves me money because there’s often a discount when you buy the larger packs PLUS the meat can be up to $1 cheaper per pound!

4. Do your Store Research

Some stores in my area are known to be cheaper than others – but they also don’t carry the products I like best. I’m not an extreme couponer – I just like to save money. I try to support Union based or locally owned stores as much as possible, and I never shop at Walmart. I am sure I could save a lot more there, but instead I chose to shop at stores where I know I will get a good value, I am supporting businesses I like to support and that carry the products I want. (For example, I shop at Safeway a lot, and there’s one directly across the street from Metropolitan Markets. I can’t afford all my groceries from Met Markets but every once in awhile I head over for rare, ethnic or delicious baked goods when I’m done at SW.)

Being single means that I work full time and am fully responsible for every area of my life. I simply don’t have time to go to stores all over town to get the best deal. Therefore, after a couple months of trying different stores, I found the two that work for me and I almost exclusively stick to them.

How do you keep your budget in order (or have more cash for shoes) at the grocery store? Where is your favorite place to find coupons? Do you have a big family and yet are able to save at the store?

I’d love for you to share your wisdom here! 

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53 Comments

  • Reply
    makingsenseofcents
    September 9, 2013 at 5:08 am

    Menu panning definitely helps us. We buy only what we need this way and have less food waste.

  • Reply
    bybreenah
    September 9, 2013 at 5:22 am

    I love talking about coupons! I shop at Dillon’s (owned by Kroger) for the most part and use their plus card which I can load coupons onto AND for every 100 points (1 point per dollar) I save $0.10/gallon on gas. We have a Dillon’s Marketplace which means I can get a lot of stuff I’d get at Wal-Mart so we shop there VERY rarely. My other store is Aldi because they have some stuff that’s cheaper than Dillon’s. And their milk is always $1.99/gallon where sometimes it’s $3 at Dillon’s.

  • Reply
    Juliette
    September 9, 2013 at 9:21 am

    When I move out I will be coming to you for meal planning/couponing/budgeting tips. Really, you’re awesome at this PLUS you were the inspiration for my no spend/budget month!

  • Reply
    Stacy
    September 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    We just started meal planning last month and it is GLORIOUS. We are saving a ton on groceries, because we only go to the store once a week now (instead of almost every day like we used to, where we’d inevitably buy random things every trip too). But I think my favorite part of the meal planning is never having to get off work and think “What do I do for dinner?” anymore. I always hated that. Now I just know what’s coming, it’s so much less stress. :)

    We also buy certain things at Costco, primarily chicken and certain vegetables that last a long time (like bell peppers and broccoli). Those huge bags of frozen chicken tenders are SO much cheaper than buying it fresh at Smith’s or wherever, and honestly the chicken is really good! A couple of times recently we’ve cooked with fresh chicken instead, and actually thought it tasted worse than the frozen Costco chicken. Totally weird. But you’re right, proteins are the bulk of the spending I think, so saving on that goes a long way.

  • Reply
    Rachel G
    September 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I’ve got two people at home, but we’ve learned to buy paper products in bulk as well as most meats! Meat can always be frozen so it’s okay that we might not be able to eat it for a while! Meal planning is definitely a good idea to discourage sudden attacks of laziness to cook! :P

    • Reply
      Brittany
      September 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      Paper products is definitely a money saver! I have totally gone through a drive through due to last minute laziness. It will get you!

  • Reply
    Megan - FireWifey
    September 10, 2013 at 9:06 am

    I almost always shop at Fresh & Easy. For me it is just easier that way. I used to love Safeway (it’s called Vons here), but find some of their stuff expensive. So I go where I can find most of the things (meat & veggies) at a good price. It actually helps that the packaged things are really expensive at F&E, because it keeps me away. Sometimes I run into Vons thought o see their clearance meat — do you ever shop that section? Stuff that will expire that day is marked down, and then extra marked down for card carriers. I got a nice steak and four sausages for under $5. Whoa.

    • Reply
      Brittany
      September 10, 2013 at 11:10 pm

      I will check out the clearance section! Great tips!

  • Reply
    Mama in Montana
    September 10, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Your ideas are great for families of any size. I use them all with my family if 4 (and I used to run a day care too!). Love that you put meal planning first bc I thinks it’s most important. Keep up the good ideas!

    • Reply
      Brittany
      September 10, 2013 at 11:09 pm

      This is awesome to hear! Thanks! I was shocked at how much of a difference meal planning made. Thanks for stoping by :)

  • Reply
    4sch
    September 10, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    I’m not up to that stage in my life yet, but am keeping your ideas in mind for when I am.

    • Reply
      Brittany
      September 10, 2013 at 11:09 pm

      I’m glad! I wish I had learned them sooner!

  • Reply
    Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo
    September 11, 2013 at 5:20 am

    Meal planning can be key to saving money at the grocery! But only if you plan around what’s on sale and in season. I’ve been guilty of making a meal plan that cost a ton of money because I didn’t “plan” properly. Great tips – especially swagbucks. I love me some swagbucks.

  • Reply
    Nailderella
    September 11, 2013 at 6:18 am

    I’ll come back to your list again because that’s so true we can really save a lot if we think about it. Thanks for sharing all your tips!

  • Reply
    Jean
    September 11, 2013 at 7:22 am

    I keep our budget (there are 4 of us) in order at the store by only taking the amount of cash I intend to spend (I don’t use the envelope system or anything like that though. I simply swing by the atm on the way to the store). Menu planning does help so much. I have that same love-hate relationship with the coupons.

    • Reply
      Brittany
      September 11, 2013 at 7:29 am

      Ohh that cash system is such a good idea!!

  • Reply
    Tristan
    September 11, 2013 at 7:52 am

    I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum – I’m mother to eight children shopping on my husband’s single income (and no, he doesn’t make a lot of money, less than $40,000 and year). So I skip coupons and stick with whole foods, cook many things from scratch, etc. I found, like you, that many coupons are for processed junky foods or things we would never buy. Besides, it’s tons cheaper to make homemade soup (for example) than to buy eight cans of soup to feed my family a single meal.

    Other ways we save:
    Eat less meat in meals. We use beans and meat in taco meat for example. Or extra pancakes with one sausage link instead of two or three.

    Buy at local farms. We pick apples by the bushel at the apple orchard. Cheaper by far.

    Garden – we are trying to do better at this. It’s not something I grew up learning how to do so it’s all new.

  • Reply
    RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book
    September 11, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Making a meal plan and using the store coupon apps are my two go-tos when it comes to saving money doing the grocery shopping. I also buy meat in bulk, especially when it’s on sale. I try not to clip coupons unless it’s a normally bought item though, because I agree that a lot of coupons make people spend money on things they don’t normally purchase. I also think that coupons are mainly on junk food, processed crap, and we should be eating more fruits and veggies. I’ve noticed that store apps have some of those fruits and veggie coupons, which I love!

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

  • Reply
    rochellebarlow
    September 11, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Definitely meal plan here — there’s 6 of us at home — buy in bulk and freeze freeze freeze. If something is on sale I’ll try to buy a few more (as my budget allows) so that I’ve got it in stock later when the prices go up. I second never go shopping when you’re hungry, but don’t go if you’re painfully stuffed or you’ll walk out with a bottle of water. I haven’t really tried many coupons and such, I can’t ever find the ones I’d actually use. We shop at the two locally based grocery stores, but there are a few nicer stores I go to that have better produce or a better selection of natural foods. The Safeway out here is a store I typically avoid, it always seems to be 2x as expensive as the other stores I go to. Great tips no matter how many people you’re feeding.

  • Reply
    The Sun Will Rise
    September 11, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    This is such a good post. I am a college student who only cooks for herself when I have to cook lol… but I am trying so so hard to not by everything in site at the store and I have found that menu planning is helping out a lot and I also do love me some coupons :)

  • Reply
    Kate
    September 12, 2013 at 3:32 am

    I love shopping CVS. With coupons, sales, and Extra Care Bucks you can get a lot of free items. It’s really helpful for those expensive, but necessary purchases (like toilet paper). I can usually make a $20 bill get $100 worth of stuff. And it is stuff I needs. Also,shop for produce that is in season.

  • Reply
    Spoon Feast
    September 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Great tips, esp. with buying meat in bulk. We do that all the time. I like how you support your local businesses and not Walmart!

  • Reply
    Erica at ButeauFull Chaos
    September 12, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Such excellent tips! I buy my meat in bulk as well. We have a SAMs club membership that we travel two hours two use and I find that buying in bulk saves us money on top of the gas and membership costs. We have a Walmart or an overpriced small local grocery store in my town. Sadly limited choice and the added costs to haul goods in off the beaten path to our stores makes it difficult to save a ton all the time locally.

  • Reply
    Jana
    September 12, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    I love that you are so thrifty and so young!!!! I buy in bulk, cook from scratch, have a large garden, and coupon myself. I wish I had been as wise as you at your age.

    • Reply
      Brittany
      September 12, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      Aww!! Thank you so much, Jana! That just made my night :). My next step is a garden. It’s really miraculous to me that you can plant seeds and food grows!

  • Reply
    homemoreorg
    September 12, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    You hit all the right tips. Also make sure you don’t forget that shopping list (I’ve done that more than I care to remember). And if you can shop with a calculator that is also great.

  • Reply
    donabumgarner
    September 13, 2013 at 1:08 am

    These are great tips for singles as well as families. I can’t generally be bothered with coupons, but I’ve found that researching and finding the stores that best fit how I eat (rather than running all over town for the best deal) helps my budget a lot. I also meal plan a week at a time. I cycle a lot of the same recipes through, though they shift seasonally. Oh, buying produce and fruit that is in season helps save money, too!

  • Reply
    Brittany @ The Pistachio Project
    September 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Coupons do not work for us as we buy natural and organic (usually coupons don’t apply) but we save money buy shopping once a month (with a grocery list/meal plans), using what I call “roll over” ingredients, buying most of our natural products through sites like Vitacost, and only buying what we need (aka not a lot of junk food) .

  • Reply
    Dara
    September 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Of course your tips are good for anyone in any size family! Thanks for sharing.

    Stopping by from the Blogelina Commentathon!

    ~ Dara

  • Reply
    Vita @ EcceVita
    September 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I definitely agree with the point you made about buying meat in bulk – that’s what I always do too. I generally buy all kinds of meat and fish at the beginning of the month, and then don’t have to worry about it until next month. It saves a lot of money too. I also find that buying fruit and vegetables in a local farmers’ market is much cheaper than buying the same things in the supermarket. At least it is like that in Europe. :-)

  • Reply
    stacey
    September 13, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    These are all great tips! I seriously need to get my butt in gear again and make a list/grab coupons. After my husband deployed I slacked majorly and the food bill shows it. Time to get back on the grind. Thanks for the tips!

  • Reply
    jaimeweis
    September 14, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I don’t even think I really gave thought to a budget until after I got married (4 years ago). I didn’t think I was terrible with money, but looking back – I could have saved SO much! I ate out sooooo much and bought tons of convenience foods. Hopefully I can teach my little ones more budgeting skills than I started out with!

  • Reply
    Shauna
    September 14, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Very good tips! We are a family of four and still go over budget. I find that the coupons that are out there arent for brands I want. Buying meat in bulk is smart.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth L
    September 15, 2013 at 7:28 am

    I definitely use coupons when shopping paired up with sales. To avoid buying processed crap I trade all the coupons for things I wouldn’t normally buy.(processed foods, dog food etc,,,) You can get a ton of coupons for staples like milk, eggs, cheese and bread so its definitely worth the effort!

  • Reply
    RealCouponDiva (@RealCouponDiva)
    September 15, 2013 at 10:53 am

    one suggestion – since you are single, stockpiling (stocking up) on the things you need WHEN you can get them on sale may be another great option for you…. :D

  • Reply
    tsosmmn
    September 15, 2013 at 10:57 am

    There are some things we are not willing to compromise for coupons for. But most of the time, we are very flexible with our brands and the coupons are extremely helpful.

  • Reply
    Cherise
    September 15, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    I love the Safeway App!

  • Reply
    jackiekka
    September 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I subsrcibe to a lot of couponing blogs…that way I have someone to find the deals for me! All I have to do is print the coupons

  • Reply
    emily
    September 15, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    great tips! I SO wish I live in a country where stores had coupons… here there aren’t even sales. the US is very lucky to have the chance to save money on groceries… in many parts of the world you either pay the price of you don’t eat… I know a lot of people can benefit from these tips though. Stopping by from the comment-a-thon…. Emily

  • Reply
    mztmitch
    September 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I have got to start using coupons! lol

  • Reply
    Maura
    September 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Great tips! Are you loyal to just one store, or do you have time to shop around and get all the deals?

  • Reply
    Katrina
    September 16, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Amazing post. I have a small family and it is very true — It is easier to cook for an army then for one or two.

  • Reply
    Cat @ TOTS
    September 16, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    This is great. I Will be sharing it with other single people. I have 5 kids, so bulk is the only way we buy (and eat it all in 1 meal!) But these tips are great!

  • Reply
    Angi
    September 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Living in the country and over 20 minutes to the nearest grocery store, planning our meals is our biggest way to save. We, also, buy in bulk and check coupons for items we regularly buy. Most of the coupon or local deal apps don’t work for us because most of the stores here are non-chain, local stores.

  • Reply
    Kristin
    September 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I love this blog! Let me know if you’d like to be a featured blogger on my site. I’m due with baby #2 in the winter so it would be a great thing for both of us!

  • Reply
    Amy Boyington
    September 17, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Making a meal plan is something I’ve started doing more recently and it has helped so much. I used to go spend so much money at the store only to realize I barely have anything needed to make a meal. No “important, main” ingredients. So now I make a plan for 2 weeks and get what I need in a bulk shopping trip. This way I have the majority of what I need and just have to go to the store for quick trips every few days to get fresh ingredients that don’t last long.

  • Reply
    Marissa (@PracticalMommy2)
    September 17, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    For my family of five, I like to buy in bulk, use coupons, and use apps like Ibotta. I also like to collect all of the loose change in the house, bring it to our grocery store and get cash from their coin machine. It’s like ‘free’ money since I don’t need to use the checking account/debit card! I can then use that cash in the store for my grocery order.

  • Reply
    Tokende
    September 18, 2013 at 8:32 am

    I completely agree with your list. I print a list of item with quantity/cost (with and without coupons) before I head to the store :-)

  • Reply
    Lily Seymour
    September 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I have been learning so much about coupons from reading all the Blogs on the list. Your article really hits home because I know I need to be more cost effective… thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Kasey Bandy Shuler (@wellofhealth)
    September 18, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I try to have a plan to make at least 1 or 2 new recipes, and then stay flexible. I plan on buying the staples like produce, dairy, meat, etc, but try and look for what is on sale that week and incorporate it into the meal plan!

  • Reply
    Jessica T
    September 20, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    This is great! I’m also a single young female attorney. I like to cook and eat healthy, but it can get expensive. Cooking for one can be challenging and I don’t want to throw food out that I spent my hard earned money on. I buy a lot of frozen veggies and fruits because I know they were picked and frozen at their peak, can be less expensive and last longer. I also follow e-meals which has recipes for 2 with a grocery list. I try to eat up all the fresh produce and meat before going shopping for more. It’s definitely a challenge!

  • Reply
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