We all know that coupons are a great way to save money, but you can also save money on groceries without coupons.
Coupons definitely have their place, but every now and again, even the most seasoned couponer experiences coupon burnout. Or, maybe you’re not a couponer at all. Luckily, there are additional ways to keep a healthy grocery budget without clipping a thing. Read below to learn how I save money on groceries without coupons.
My grocery hauls used to look like this…
And this (There is a 16 lb turkey in that picture)…
But, they no longer look that way.
I have been a dedicated couponer for a few years now and I’m good at it. Every now and then, however, I go through a period of not even wanting to look at coupons –I’ve couponed so hard, I’ve burned myself out. That’s where I am right now.
My breaks have never lasted this long. They’re usually maybe 1 month to 2 months tops. Since it’s been going on for so long this time, I honestly couldn’t tell you whether this is just a long break or a for-good break up with couponing. Only time will tell. But for now, I have to find a way to keep my grocery budget down until I feel the urge to coupon again.
I’ve been doing some meal planning which REALLY helps to give me direction when going to the store and giving every dollar a name.
Below you’ll find everything I know about how to save money on groceries without coupons
Meal Planning Quick Tips
1. Write down what you have.
When I see it’s time to go food shopping, I’ll grab a notepad and a pen and head to my kitchen. I start by writing everything down in my pantry even if it’s only a few items. I then move on to the fridge and freezer. On a separate page I write down my condiments and seasonings too, so I know what my options are for seasoning my meals with what I have on hand.
Update: I now use these. Get your own free 5 Sheet Printable Set by signing up for the mailing list.
2. Match items to make meals.
Even though I usually feel like I have NOTHING left in the house, I can usually pair together about three dinners just from what I have in the fridge, pantry and freezer. If there are several “almost meals” like potatoes and frozen veggies, I’ll pair those together and make a note to buy meat or fish to complete the meal.
3. Check store ads for sales.
After writing it all down, I go online to check the weekly circulars for every store in my area. I make note of the items that are a good deal and seem like I can pair with some of my unmatched food items I have in the house. An awesome way to save even more money is to find the best deals in the grocery ads and then price-match the items at Walmart. I plan on price-matching but haven’t yet. Publix is usually my favorite store. But lately without coupons, their BOGOs aren’t the best deals for me. Now I’m splitting up my grocery trips between Winn Dixie because of their meat prices and Aldi for their seafood and produce (I got lucky – my store is one of the few with a nice selection of un-yucky produce). Not all of the ingredients you need will be on sale or featured in the weekly ad.
- Tip: I use apps like Checkout 51 to earn cash-back on produce, dairy and other groceries.
This picture is from a Winn Dixie trip.
I spent a total of $13 for $25 worth of chicken and fish. Because it’s just two of us, that’s five nights worth of meals if the chicken is used in ways that can stretch it out a bit. I stretch my chicken by only using two pieces to top salads or to go into pasta dishes so it isn’t the main focus of the meal and I can get away with using less.
Tip: If you have a chest freezer, or are able to split your order with a friend or family member, I highly recommend ordering chicken from Zaycon foods. I was able to purchase a 40-lb case of chicken breasts for $67, or $1.69 per lb.
At this point my dinner menu plan is done. I don’t menu-plan breakfasts or lunches, but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I usually do for these meals anyway.
I don’t eat breakfast every day. I do occasionally boil and peel a few eggs ahead of time and stick them in a tupperware container to account for the mornings I do want a little something. I eat two at a time. Whatever I don’t use is just sliced and placed over a salad.
On our weekends (which is never actually a Saturday or Sunday), we eat omelets. We just throw in whatever extra veggies, lunch meat and cheese we have in the fridge. Neither of us are big breakfast people, so we just split one omelet and have toast and sausage. On a VERY rare occasion, I’ll make my own Nutella stuffed crepes or I’ll premake a batch of homemade strawberry breakfast muffins and pop them in a storage container for the week or some other fancy thing. But seriously, this is rare. We know what we like and we stick to it.
My husband eats lunch at work and I work from home. So I’ll usually just eat a salad, wrap or leftovers. Because I can count on leftovers to account for most of my lunches, I’m not too rigid with this category. But I do always have something easy on hand like ingredients for wraps or salads. When I’m busy working, ready in under-five-minutes beats healthy-and-balanced meal every time. That’s just the way it is.
Update: My husband experienced a layoff (you can read our story here) since the writing of this post. Now that he’s found a new job, I prepare his lunches and include those in the cost of our meal plan.
So all in all, this week’s menu plan looks like this:
- Chicken fettuccine alfredo
- Homemade Chili served over macaroni
- Loaded mashed potatoes with steamed veggies and dijon chicken
- Asian rice with tilapia
- Spinach lasagna rolls (recipe here)
- Beef and bean tacos
- Spinach fettuccine
I only spent $19.90 on the ingredients for a week’s worth of dinners. Remember, I started out with a few ingredients because I directed my meal plan to be based mainly on what we still had left in the kitchen.
* I typically serve most meals with a side salad or some kind of veggie.
To be perfectly precise, I had to purchase these items to complete my meal plan.
- Alfredo sauce (for chicken fettuccine and spinach fettuccine)
- 1 lb. ground beef (for chili and beef and bean tacos)
- 2 boxes of frozen veggies (one to go with potatoes and dijon chicken, the other for Asian rice and tilapia)
- Frozen chopped spinach (for spinach lasagna rolls and spinach fettuccine)
- Shredded mozzarella cheese (for spinach lasagna rolls and beef and bean tacos)
- tortillas (for beef and bean tacos)
- 1 can Diced tomatoes (for chili)
- Riccotta cheese (for spinach lasagna rolls)
As you can see, almost all of the ingredients are being used in at least two meals. That’s my secret for saving big. Reusing as many ingredients as possible without making the meals too similar will help you save so much money.
If you think I had a bunch of things in my kitchen, think again. I just used a little creativity. The ingredients I had were pretty random.
My Final Tips on How to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons
1. Try to use as much of what you already have as possible.
You’ve already purchased the food… no sense in throwing it away. Use it or lose it.
2. Buy ingredients that can be used in more than one meal.
You will see a significant difference in your budget if you can reuse many of the ingredients in other meals throughout the week.
3. Get creative.
You’re going to feel like you have nothing in the house, but trust me, you probably have enough to make a few meals or at least plan a few side dishes to go with what you’ll have to buy.
4. You don’t need as much meat as you think you do.
Almost every recipe I’ve seen for chili requires 2 lbs of ground beef. I only used 1/2 a pound and it turned out amazing. And we have tons of leftovers.
5. Cut your beef costs by incorporating beans.
This is easy to do in tacos and chili. If the recipe calls for 1 lb of ground beef, use 1/2 lb of beef and 1/2 lb of beans.
6. Stretch chicken by making it part of the meal rather than the star.
Use chicken in a stir fry, in pasta or in a salad. I never use more than 2 chicken breasts for these meals. And often, I can get away with just using 1 large piece of chicken. Another thing I do to make it *feel* like we’re eating more chicken is to cut the strips width-wise (is that even a term?) instead of length-wise. We still have chunky strips, they’re just shorter.
7. Cook for the amount of people you’re serving.
I waste TONS of food by cooking too much of it. Of course, we can have leftovers, and we usually do. But often times, we have too many leftovers to feed two people. I can have leftovers for lunch the next day, but after that… I don’t want to eat it again. It gets repetitive. I find that I often have to halve recipes just to get the amount of food to a comfortable serve-two-people-and-have-one-serving-of-leftovers amount.
Well that’s it, folks. That’s how I save money on groceries without coupons. Meal planning does wonders for the grocery budget. You could go a lot more in detail and plan out every single meal including breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. But I find that’s a little too hardcore for me. Just do what works for you and your family.