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Personal Finance

11 tips for saving money at the grocery store

Grocery shopping can be expensive, especially if you have a lot of mouths to feed. Here are eleven tips you can follow to save money on your next grocery run.

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Americans spend an average of $5,703 a year, or roughly $475 a month, on groceries, according to consumer expenditure data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in September 2023. And even as inflation begins to show signs of cooling, food prices remain high compared to a year ago.

Of course, the amount you spend on groceries depends on where you shop, what you buy and the number of people in your household. But regardless of how much you spend, there are simple actions you can take to save money — whether it’s using the right form of payment or clipping coupons. The savings can add up each trip and help offset the increased cost of groceries.

Here are 11 tips you can follow to save money on your next grocery run.

1. Pay with a grocery rewards card

Using the right credit card at checkout can help you earn rewards that can be used to offset your bill. While a generic cash-back card like the Citi Double Cash® Card can earn you 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. Plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24; see rates and fees), there are specific grocery rewards cards that can earn you up to 6% back.

Best cards for grocery stores

CNBC Select ranked the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express as the best overall card for grocery shopping. The card offers 6% cash back in the form of statement credits at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%. Terms apply.

With an average annual grocery spend of $5,703, you can earn about $342 per year in cash back. If you factor in the $95 annual fee, that's $247 in annual value. (See rates and fees)

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more) and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit or at Amazon.com checkout.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months. 

  • Annual fee

    $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

  • Intro APR

    0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening

  • Regular APR

    19.24% - 29.99% variable. Variable APRs will not exceed 29.99%.

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

If you'd rather avoid annual fees, look into the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express which earns 3% cash back in the form of statement credits at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%. (See rates and fees) Terms apply. Using the example above, you'd earn $171 per year with this card.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, up to $6,000 per year, then 1%, 3% cash back on U.S. online retail purchases, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits or at Amazon.com checkout.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, from the date of account opening

  • Regular APR

    19.24% - 29.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

If you buy groceries online, the Chase Sapphire Preferred may be a great option. It offers 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target®, Walmart® and wholesale clubs), along with discounts and credits on Instacart.

Even better, if you redeem your rewards for travel through Chase's portal, they're worth 25% more. This means you'll effectively earn 3.75% back on your online grocery purchases. With the $5,703 annual spend, that's $213 to spend on travel — or $118 if you subtract the $95 annual fee. You could potentially get even greater value if you take advantage of Chase's various airline and hotel transfer partners to book trips.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, and $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, plus more.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.49% - 28.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

 

2. Sign up for the loyalty program

Most grocery stores offer loyalty programs that are free to join. By signing up, you can benefit from member-only discounts that automatically deduct at checkout — without the need to clip coupons.

3. Clip coupons

After you've signed up for your favorite grocery store's loyalty program, maximize your savings by clipping coupons for additional discounts. Look out for the weekly circular in the mail and sift through the pages for deals that matter to you. Cut out any coupons and save them for your next grocery run.

There are also digital options that are just as easy to use, if not easier. Download your favorite grocery store's mobile app, browse available discounts and click to load coupons onto your digital loyalty card. Then when you checkout in-store, the discounts will automatically be applied.

4. Join a wholesale club

Wholesale clubs like Costco can help you rack up savings for buying in bulk. If you have a large family, joining a wholesale club can be a good idea. But remember that buying in bulk isn’t for everyone since you’ll have to spend more money upfront, even though you’re saving overall. This may not be an option depending on your cash flow.

Also, note that clubs come with membership fees. Currently, the cost for Costco membership starts at $60 for Gold Star and doubles to $120 for Gold Star Executive. The cost can be worthwhile if you frequently stock up on items. Plus you can optimize savings by using the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi (which has no annual fee, but requires an active Costco membership). (Read our review of the Costco Anywhere Visa Card.)

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases for the first $7,000 per year (then 1%); 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases; 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com; 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    No current offer

  • Annual fee

    $0, Costco membership required

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    20.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

See rates and fees. Terms apply.

5. Go in with a list and stick to it

If you go to the supermarket without a list, it can be easy to grab things that aren’t needed. And even if you have a list, it can be hard to follow it if you bring your kids and/or shop on an empty stomach.  The next time you go to the grocery store, make sure you have a list and stick to it so you don’t wind up raising your bill. You may also want to consider eating first or leaving the kids at home to avoid spur-of-the-moment items.

6. Buy items on sale

Supermarkets are always running various promotions that can help you save on everything from staples, like milk and eggs, to sweets, like ice cream and cookies. Consider buying items on sale whenever possible, especially if the cost is normally high. Sale items are often displayed in prominent locations throughout the store, such as at the entrance and ends of the aisles. 

7. Avoid pre-packaged items

While buying pre-cut veggies or pre-shredded cheese can save you time while cooking, stores often charge more for the convenience. Opt for whole items, like fresh or frozen veggies and block cheese, to save money.

8. Compare prices between stores

If you live near various grocery stores, consider shopping at a few and comparing prices. You can learn which store has the items you need for less and also look at the sales they run. If it’s not too much of a hassle, you may want to grocery shop at two stores to optimize savings.

If you currently shop at a high-end grocery store, consider switching to a store that's known for more affordable food prices like Walmart, Aldi or Trader Joe's.

9. Buy generic brands

Supermarkets put costly, name-brand items at eye level, which can tempt you to spend more money on high-cost items. But if you look at the top or bottom of the shelves, you’ll often find generic brands, like the store’s own brand, that are cheaper and often taste just as good. Next time you go shopping, opt for a generic brand to save money.

10. Bring your own bag

If you bring reusable shopping bags to the store, you can often receive a discount on your order total. Depending on your city and state, stores like Target and Whole Foods Market can give you up to a 10-cent discount per bag you bring.

11. Use a rebate app

There are a handful of rebate apps, such as Ibotta and Rakuten, that give you cash back for buying groceries. You can register for free with one of these services to save more on top of loyalty benefits and credit card rewards. Depending on the app, you may need to link a loyalty card or submit receipts to receive a rebate.

Ibotta

On Ibotta's secure site
  • Cost

    Free

  • How to save

    Activate cash-back offers and clip digital coupons to get cash back on purchases.

  • How to use it

    Download the Ibotta app or the browser extension.

  • How to receive your savings

    Redeem cash back once you reach $20 as a deposit into your bank account, PayPal account or for gift cards.

Terms apply.

FAQs

While inflation is slowing down, grocery prices continue to be high as a result of supply chain shortages and post-pandemic consumer demand.

Aldi is the most budget-friendly grocery store in America, according to a February 2023 study by Marketforce. Aldi is in 39 states and will be the country's 3rd largest grocery retailer by the end of 2023.

For frugal spenders, the USDA recommends spending about $170 per child, about $300 per adult male and about $260 per adult female per month on groceries. Check out the USDA's Official Food Plans for more tailored information.

Traditional Medicare does not offer a grocery allowance. However, some Medicare Advantage plans, like some Special Needs Plans (SNPs), do. Reach out to your provider to understand your benefits.

Bottom line

Groceries can take up a sizeable portion of your budget, especially in times of high inflation. Fortunately, by maximizing discounts and other opportunities to save, you can offset these costs. It also helps if you have a credit card that earns a high rewards rate on grocery purchases.

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Why trust CNBC Select?

At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every personal finance guide is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of personal finance products. While CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics.

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For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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