Grocery Geek Q&A: Where to Start?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

When you’re trying to get a handle on grocery expenses, where do you start?

Grocery Geek Q&A: Where do you start? When you're trying to get a handle on grocery expenses, where do you start?

Recently a reader wrote me an email with these words:

I just do not know where to start [in cutting my grocery bill]. I see that you are big on making your own basic things. What does one start off with? bread? please help! 

There are so many different philosophies about how to reduce grocery spending. Some would say, “Use coupons!” while others would encourage shopping at many different stores. I think it starts with a little housekeeping.

1. Do a food spending audit.

How much are you spending every month and what in the world are you buying? Do a grocery audit, but, be sure to look at your restaurants and coffee receipts, too. Where are you spending money?

2. Take inventory.

What are you using up and what’s going to waste? If you pantry is chock full, consider holding a pantry challenge to eat down your storage and give yourself some breathing room. Too much stuff can make it hard to see straight.

Grab the FREE inventory printable.

3. Start making at home the thing you spend the most money on.

Your audit should tell you where your biggest expenses are. See what you can do to trim the bill. If you’ve got a pizza habit, start having an at-home pizza night. If coffee is your addiction, learn to make coffee drinks at home. If you go out to lunch every day, start brown bagging it.

There are tons of other ways that you can go to battle against high prices, but these are three of my favorites.

What’s YOUR best line of defense in keeping your bills low?

I’d love to hear YOUR tricks for shopping for budget-friendly food. See you in the comments!

Grocery Geek Q&A: Where do you start? When you're trying to get a handle on grocery expenses, where do you start?

Save Money on Groceries

This is part of the How to Save Money on Groceries series. Scroll through the archives to get tips and tricks for reducing your grocery total at the checkout stand.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

Subscribe to Good Cheap Eats
Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. June Combs says

    My best line of defense is meal planning. Although I still will buy the meat on sale at the store? Its hard right now because food prices continue to rise plus attempting organic ??? Its more complicated then ever? I read that you should make your dinner meal small like a sandwich or a salad or an omlette? Don’t make a big meal? Lunch and breakfast should be bigger? I’m going to try that especially with practice atdinner time ???

  2. Stephanie M. says

    I also do meal planning which saves me from having to run to the store so often and making impulse purchases. Sometimes, I’ll purchase a few loaves of Italian bread or rolls from the “day old” shopping cart in the bakery section of the store and either use some right away or freeze it to make garlic bread out of. I also purchase meat that is marked “manager’s special”, simply because it has reached it’s “sell by” date. If I am not using it that day, I’ll freeze it for another. I make my husband’s breakfast and lunch and pack it for him to take to work everyday and we make coffee at home. I never purchase baked good; I make them myself. I always try to make enough for dinner to last two nights which helps in not having to buy as much because each meal lasts about 2 days and when there’s even more left, I’ll freeze that for another day. When I make a turkey or a ham or any kind of roast, most of the time after we’ve had it for two nights, I’ll turn the leftover meat into a completely different meal which will leave us with yet even more meals like soups or casseroles. Once when I made a ham, from start to finish, it turned into 17 meals. I know that’s unbelievable, but it happened, everything from the original two nights of ham with sides, to casseroles, to chowder, to omelets, to sammies. But my best line of defense for keeping my shopping bill real is to not go to the store hungry! 🙂

  3. Jayne says

    Focus on cutting spending for one part of the day at a time. For example, if breakfast at your house generally comes out of a box in the form of cereal, pop tarts, cereal bars, etc., you might be spending a huge chunk of change on that meal alone. If you can spend a little time making muffins or quick breads or a big batch of pancakes or waffles that can be reheated, it can feed everyone for the week. And will hopefully have a lower price tag for very little effort! Once you feel like you have that meal in good shape, you can move on to the next one. Good luck!

  4. I think you gave the perfect answer to the reader’s question, Jessica. Another tip I would add is to start with the things that are the simplest to implement. If we start with something that is complicated, we’re more apt to throw in the towel and head to the grocery store. So, yes, start with the things you are spending the most money on, but also with the easy things. It will snowball from there and you will be encouraged to tackle more and more. Great post – thanks!

    • I agree completely, Heather! It’s all about baby steps. Any progress is good progress, so don’t jump in too ambitiously to make changes! Great advice from Jessica, as always.

    • Thanks for pointing that out. Baby steps should be the easiest so we gain confidence.

  5. susan says

    Our family doesn’t go out to eat much but what was huge for us was to cut out soda/drinks and desserts or snack foods. We drink water and coffee/tea at home and make our own desserts. Also, we buy as much generic as we can.

  6. Lisa says

    My suggestion is developing a well stocked pantry and then maintaining it by purchasing items while they are onsale. To initially get control of the grocery budget I would take stock of what I have and menu plan after the weekly grocery ads have come out. Making your meals or stocking your pantry and freezer with items that are on sale is a great way to save money.

  7. Janet says

    Reducing our grocery spending is certainly a work in progress. I started with our snack/dessert budget by replacing most of these items with home made substitutes. I can purchase one package of cookies or make four dozen cookies at home for the same price. Next I went to work on our beverage costs. I have just recently started to attack our non-food budget – laundry supplies, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc. To help get everyone in the family get on board we let each person develop a short must have list. My husband’s must have list includes coffee and a couple bags of potato chips each month. My list includes one 12-pack of diet Coke each month and good quality cheese. My youngest daughter’s list includes rice, apples and peanut butter. My oldest daughter’s list includes ham (I buy a ham every few months and freeze the leftovers to make this affordable) and skim milk for breakfast. I thought my girls would pick snacks and candy and instead they both picked real food — yeah!

  8. Leslie says

    To me, “grocery spending” also includes non-edibles like tissue, napkins, paper towels, etc. One way I cut costs is to use simple cloth napkins that I made out of scrap cotton fabric. It is easy to do, but even buying cloth napkins on sale will save you money over a period of time. I keep them in a bowl on the table and when one is dirty it goes in the laundry room and gets thrown in with the next load of wash. I’ve also recently bought a bunch of fabric panty liners that are machine washable ( I put the dirty ones in a mesh laundry bag in my closet until wash day. I try to use more cloth towels but when I do need paper towels I buy select-a-size ones for the times I only need a small piece. Doing this will save me money over time and it’s better for the environment to use fewer paper goods.

  9. Donna says

    Biggest way we save is by meal planning and using up leftovers. I hate to throw food away. I also have learned to make just about everything we love… pizza, coffee drinks, etc. Saves TONS of money!

  10. Patsey Manning says

    I’m a couponner. I only buy major brands with coupons, and only if it brings the prices lower than store brands. I shop for staples, make from scratch or mixes (for breads, cookies, etc.) I’m vegetarian, no meat, fish or fowl, so never have those expenses. I
    m not vegan, do consume milk and eggs. I usually spend about $150 to $160 a month, I am happy with that.

Share Your Thoughts