You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to save money on your groceries. Here are nine things you can do to save your family about $200 a month.

  1. Make a list and stick to it. Plan meals in advance and write your grocery list before you go shopping to avoid making impulse purchases. Research shows that unplanned purchases can add an extra 20 percent to your grocery bill. Monthly savings = $50
  2. Paper or plastic? This is in reference to cash or credit, not which type of bags to use. Cash is preferable (see tip No. 3), but if you are going to pay with credit, be sure to use a card that offers incentives like cash back, rewards and instant discounts. However, if you rack up interest charges by not paying it off each month, you lose any savings it provided you. Monthly savings = $15
  3. Cash incentive. Research has shown that consumers who pay with cash spend 12 to 18 percent less than those who pay with credit cards. So leave the cards at home and take only enough cash to cover what you have budgeted for that trip. Monthly savings = $40
  4. Snip and save. Coupons can save you money, but spend no more than 10-15 minutes a week thumbing through weekly ads or checking out coupon websites. Only use coupons for items your family needs. Buying an item just because you have the coupon doesn’t save you anything. Monthly savings = $15
  5. Shop around. While looking for coupons in the weekly ads, be sure to check the prices for the items on your grocery list. Or better yet, use the grocery ads to plan your meals in order to take advantage of grocery sales. Avoid driving around to 10 different stores as that may end up costing you more in time and gas. Monthly savings = $25
  6. Try generic. Generic or store brand products have improved. In many cases, generic products are made by brand-name manufacturers and may cost 20 percent less. Give generics a try the next time you go to the store. Monthly savings = $20
  7. Avoid gimmick pricing. Don’t fall for the “10 for $10” sales. Be a smart consumer and check the prices on similar products, as they may be cheaper. You also want to consider whether or not you will use all of the items before they expire. Monthly savings = $5
  8. Pricey things come in small packages. Tiny bags are cute, but you are almost always better off purchasing the larger package sizes and divvying them up yourself. Use the nutrition label for correct portion sizes. Monthly savings = $20
  9. Time is money. Convenience foods may save you time, but they also cost you more money than buying fresh, unprepared items. For example, buying a bag of pre-cut salad will likely cost more than a head of lettuce and your choice of veggies. Plus, the fresh lettuce and veggies will feed more family members over a longer period. Monthly savings = $10

Apply all nine tips to reduce your grocery bill and keep $200 each month in your pocket to use for your family’s financial goals.

For more information on ways to save money on your groceries and other household expenses, see:

Adapted from Dr. Rebecca Travnichek, "Grocery Savings," MU Office for Financial Success, 2015