In the past few months, Americans found themselves facing an uncertain economy due to the coronavirus, and many have been cutting discretionary expenses as a result. But there’s one item that’s especially difficult to cut: spending on groceries.
A household earning an average gross income of $78,635 a year spent $4,464 on food at home throughout the year, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s $372 a month, one of the biggest expense items for the average family—and it includes only food made at home, not spending in restaurants.
While it may be tough to cut down on food at home, there are ways to spend less on regular grocery-store purchases. We’ve rounded up some of our favorites below.
Shopping at the Store
Look for savings in the frozen aisle.
“A pro tip when you’re buying frozen is stock up when the deals are on,” says Farnoosh Torabi, contributing editor at NextAdvisor. “Because you can just store them, you don’t have to worry about waste.” Frozen food prices have also stayed relatively stable compared to other products that have fluctuated during the pandemic.
When you can, buy generic. These store-brand labels can save you anywhere between 30% to 50% off name-brand prices, Torabi adds.
Be mindful of the fact that many of the more expensive items are at eye level, Torabi also suggests. Look at the top and bottom shelves before you add anything to your cart.
The most important thing of all, though, might be to have a budget before you even step foot in the store, or shop online. This will prevent you from spending on items you don’t need.
Amazon and Whole Foods
Amazon Prime members can save money on grocery purchases in several ways. (They must have subscribed to Prime first, at a cost of $119 per year, or $59 for students.)
For example, they receive free delivery on orders over $50 from Amazon Fresh, the retailer’s grocery delivery platform. Items can be delivered in as little as two hours. Amazon Fresh also features regular coupons and deals on some popular household items.
People shopping at Whole Foods — the supermarket chain owned by Amazon — also get exclusive Prime discounts and deals. Deals change regularly and vary depending on whether you’re ordering online or buying in a store.
You can also save $10 on your first order of $50 at Whole Foods with the code SAVE10WF.
Instacart is a food delivery platform that says it has experienced a surge in customer demand during the pandemic. However, its delivery fees and tips can add up quickly.
Delivery fees for Instacart start at $3.99 for orders over $35, and vary for orders under that price. If you’re an Instacart Express member, though — which costs $99 annually — you’ll get free delivery on orders over $35. Your order also must be over $10 to be eligible for delivery, no matter which type of membership you have.
To offset that cost, it’s a good idea to start your shopping in the “Savings” section, which shows all of the ongoing deals and coupons available to you. This is a quick and effective way to save a few cents, or dollars, here and there.
Another smart Instacart tactic is to refer your friends to use the service. Every friend you refer will get $10, and you’ll get $10 towards your account as well. You can do this up to five times, so you can save up to $50 on groceries by telling your friends about it.
FreshDirect — a grocery delivery service currently available in select areas of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware plus Washington, D.C. — also has a flat-fee delivery membership program; you can pay $79 for a six-month membership or $129 for the year. With it, you’ll get no-fee deliveries, among other perks. You can sign up for a 60-day free trial, as well as get $5 off Tuesday through Friday orders, here.
If you choose not to sign up for a membership, you’ll have to pay a delivery fee, whose exact amount depends on your area. Fees start at $5.99 per order.
You can also use code WELCOME25OFF to get $25 off your first order of $99 or more.
No matter where you’re shopping online, it’s also a good idea to install the Rakuten browser plug-in, which lets you earn cash back on online orders.