Unless you’re a freegan or an entirely self-sustaining farmer, you have to go to the grocery store. Paying money for food and common household staples is just a way of life. But it’s easy to waste money at the supermarket, and not in the obvious ways like picking up items on the aisle caps or walking in hungry. You can throw away your hard-earned dollars just by paying retail price for basic groceries and home goods. There are some items you should just never pay full price for.
If you shop seasonally and know how to optimize coupons and sales, you can seriously reduce the price of your grocery bill. Kitchen staples like milk, eggs, and butter rarely — if ever — go on sale. But shelf-stable products, freezer aisle favorites, and common household items are almost always available at a discount.
You need ketchup and mustard in your fridge, toothpaste to brush your teeth, and pasta sauce for a 30-minute meal. But you absolutely should not blow your budget on these staples. Don’t believe us? Read through for the 35 grocery store items you should always buy with coupons and/or on sale.
You won’t necessarily see pantry staples like flour and sugar on sale much, but if you’re looking for convenience products, stock up around the holidays. Canned pumpkin, frozen pie crusts, cake mixes and whipped cream will go on sale around the holiday season. These items will make baking those Thanksgiving pies so much easier!
Bottled water is always going on sale, especially around major summer holidays (such as Memorial Day and Fourth of July) and events like the Super Bowl. Stock up when this item is at a discount; bottled water will keep for up to two years, but you definitely don’t want to drink it after its expiration date.
Thanksgiving and Christmastime aren’t just about an abundance of food on the table, they’re also about an abundance of food sales at the grocery store. Common Thanksgiving side dishes like stuffing and gravy require lots of broth, so you’ll find this on sale throughout the holiday season. The great thing? Boxed broth can keep up to a year unopened, so you can make soups for all seasons.
Picnic season and summertime is a great time to grill outdoors, and no hot dog or hamburger is complete without a bun. Luckily, buns go on deep, deep sales during this time, so be sure to stock up. And while you may not think that soft, packaged bread products will keep, if stored properly in a freezer-safe bag, buns will keep up to six months.
Everyone knows that candies go on deep sales after Easter and Halloween, so be sure to hit up the holiday aisles in the days following those celebrations. If you have coupons, you can basically get candy for free. Also, as candy companies announce new products, they’ll go on sale to lure new customers. So be sure to pick up those limited-edition M&M's when you can!
Canned soups go on sale with some regularity, but you’re going to see bigger discounts at the beginning of fall and winter. Check for coupons for these items too, and you can get them dirt cheap! The best part about canned soup? Other than being an easy meal, they’ll stay good for years.
When you need to get dinner on the table fast, canned goods like vegetables can be a real life saver. They may have more sodium than their fresh counterparts, but canned veggies will last for up to two years in your pantry. Like many items on this list, canned corn, peas, beans and other vegetables go on sale during the holiday season. And everyone knows the best casseroles come from cans!
Cereal is a pretty constant coupon item; you can get 50 cents or $1 off boxes of the most popular breakfast cereals. Cereal also tends to go on deep sale during the back-to-school season, so if you double up, the savings can be immense.
If you’re paying full price for chips, you’re basically a chump. This party-time staple goes on sale for every major party and holiday. Super Bowl? Chips are on sale. Summertime three-day weekend? Chips are on sale. Thanksgiving? Chips are on sale. If you time it right, you can also get coupons for potato chips and double your savings.
You can find coffee coupons for $1 or $2 off, and when a bag of coffee retails for around $5, that’s a significant percentage. Coffee and other hot beverages like tea and cocoa also tend to go on sale in the late fall and early winter, and bags of coffee are good for six months when stored in a cold, dark place.
Summertime is the perfect time to stock up on one very common pantry staple: condiments. Ketchup, mustard, hot sauce and barbecue sauces will go on sale frequently from May to August, anticipating backyard burgers and grilled chicken. Condiments such as ketchup also make plenty of appearances
The same coupons that apply to cookies often apply to crackers, but unlike cookies, it seems like every time you walk down the grocery aisles you see them on sale. So you can get your Ritz and Wheat Thins at a deep discount, which makes your cheese board a whole lot more affordable.
Frozen dinners aren’t always the tastiest option, but hey! They’re convenient when you need an easy meal. You won’t often find coupons for frozen dinners like Lean Cuisine or Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese, but they do go on sale with some frequency. Just know what the healthiest frozen dinners are before you shop.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, stock up on your jars of gravy. This convenience item is not only easier to buy than to make from scratch, but it's cheap. Keep your eyes peeled for coupons and then you can literally get your gravy for free. Gravy is insanely shelf-stable too; when left unopened, it’ll keep good for three years.
Another staple of summertime, you can find hot dogs at a discount during grilling season. If you pair them with a coupon — which there frequently are for hot dogs — you can get this quick and easy dinner for practically free! The best news? Hot dogs will keep in the freezer for pretty much ever. Just know which brands are the healthiest and unhealthiest!
If you have a sweet tooth, then you know just how necessary it can be to keep ice cream on hand at all times. Unfortunately, ice cream, in all its limited-edition varieties and fun flavors, can be expensive. So be sure to always buy this product on sale. If you scan the freezer aisles, there’s always at least one brand available at a discount. Double up with coupons, which often have $1 or more off, and you can be snacking happily all year long.
Even the most casual couponer will tell you to never pay full price for laundry detergent. Not only do all brands and varieties of this household must-have go on sale all the time, but there are also almost always sales on detergent of some kind. If you combine a sale with a good coupon, you can get detergent for insanely low prices.
Oatmeal, a staple of healthy breakfasts, is almost always on sale. For the New Year, it’s bulked in with other healthy groceries people stock up on for their resolutions. For back-to-school season, it’s lumped in with quick and easy breakfast dishes. Oatmeal also lasts forever in your pantry. Unopened, it can be good for up to three years.
We love a homemade tomato sauce as much as the next person, but when you’re busy, the jarred stuff can make dinner a breeze. It can also be insanely cost-effective! The best pasta sauces are always going on sale for as low as $1 a jar. If you pair that with coupons (and there are oftentimes coupons), you can have a cheap yet delicious meal. Bulk up on these too; oil- and tomato-based sauces will last about one year in your pantry, while cream-based sauces have a shelf life of about six months.
When grilling season hits, keep your eyes peeled for deep sales on marinades; they are always featured in coupon books. If left unopened, they can stay in your pantry all summer long and for next summer, too. And a marinade can make even your cheap cuts of steak tender and delicious.
Wander down the convenience section of your grocery store, and you’ll find a selection of shampoos and conditioners that rival any Walmart. These hygiene items oftentimes have coupons that range from 50 cents off to $2. If you pair that with a sale, you can get these items for free with ease.
Shredded cheese isn’t as shelf-stable as most of the items on this list, but if you find yourself sprinkling cheese on your tacos and salads on the regular, pick up this convenient (and delicious) product. It’s almost always on sale. Shredded cheese won’t have coupons as frequently as many other items, but if you find one, definitely nab it for ultimate savings.
You can almost always find one brand of soda on sale, and unless you’re a die-hard fan of Pepsi or Coca-Cola, this is a great way to cut down on your party planning budget. If you search through papers, you can also find coupons for buy-one-get-one-free 2-liters or a certain percentage off soda cans.
It’s important to wash your hands; everyone knows that. But your healthy kitchen and bathroom habit doesn’t have to cost you a darn thing. You can get 50 cents or a $1 off coupons for name-brand soaps almost every week. Pair that with a sale, and your hands are clean for free.
While most of these items allow you to save money through coupons or sales, getting spices at a discount is all about shopping smart. Skip jarred spices and go straight for the bulk bins. You can get pantry staples like garlic powder, dried oregano and paprika for just cents. Shopping the bins is one of the easiest ways to cut your grocery bill in half.
Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are full of electrolytes and can be just as hydrating as water. Like bottled water and soda, these beverages are often on sale during the summertime, so stock up then and dish out to your kids during soccer season.
Paper towels, toilet paper, and paper napkins are absolute must-haves in every household. Unlike other staples, these goods will go on sale and will have coupons almost every week. The best thing about these products? Unlike food, they never go bad. So if you have the storage space, you can seriously stock up when the sales and coupons combine.
Sure, you can get a free toothbrush when you go to the dentist, but did you know you need to swap out your brush every three months? It’s true! But you can still get your toothbrush for free. Just wait for this must-have health item to go on sale and pair it with a coupon (and there’s almost always a coupon). Bam! You have a fresh, new and free toothbrush.
A couponer will tell you never to pay for one thing: toothpaste. Keep your eyes peeled for 10-for-10 sales, combine it with a toothpaste coupon, and you’ll get this must-have item for free.
Yogurt is a seriously healthy breakfast or snack, and it frequently goes on sale. Not only will this be another 10-for-10 item, but you can get coupons for popular yogurt brands like Yoplait, Chobani, and Siggi’s, seriously cutting down on your grocery bill. And while these 20 popular items often go on sale and have coupons, there are many more ways to cut your grocery bill.
More From The Daily Meal:
Ways You’re Wasting Money at the Supermarket