21 Programs and Tips to Help You Save Money on Food and Groceries
Are you trying to feed your family on a tight monthly budget and looking for ways to save money on food and groceries? With the yearly rise of food and grocery costs, millions of families are forced to choose between paying rent and utility bills over buying food and hot meals.
When money is limited, many don’t know when they will be able to get their next meal. Unfortunately, poor nutrition and limited resources mean lower your health and immunities. It can also lead to lower work productivity, and even stunt your children’s school learning and milestone development.
Even with limiting small resources to your food and grocery budget, you may still be struggling to get in proper nutrition for you and your family. It may feel like you just simply cannot pay for both your household bills and a steady food source.
You’re not alone. If a tight budget makes food and grocery shopping hard to do, know that help is out there in several types of money saving programs programs and tips to help you save money on food and groceries. There are even government assistance programs to help you buy food for your family. You may find you meet one or more of the situations below:
Government Assistance Programs
Get Grocery Help with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Formerly Known as Food Stamps
One of the most commonly known government assistance program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is formerly called food stamps. If you qualify, SNAP will help you buy the food and groceries you need for proper nutrition and good health.
Benefits are loaded monthly on a debit-like card you use as payment at stores. You could save money on food and groceries by using your monthly SNAP benefits to buy:
You could use your benefits at grocery, specialty grocery stores, and convenience stores. Some stores allow you to save even more money on food and groceries because they give extra discounts when buying vegetables and fruits using your SNAP benefits.
The government assistance program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service, and also state and local agencies. To see if you qualify, contact your local SNAP office, or visit The USDA Food and Nutrition Service website.
If You Have Children Aged 5 and Under, Learn About WIC
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants and Children, or WIC, is a government assistance program that helps low-income women that are either pregnant, breast-feeding, or postpartum receive the proper nutrition they need to survive. The program can also help you if you do not fit the previously mentioned criteria, however you have infants and children who are 5-years-old and under.
If you are eligible for WIC, you will receive an eWIC card loaded with your benefits, which you can use to purchase food and groceries to help meet the nutrition needs of you and your children. You could buy:
- peanut butter
- canned goods
- fruit juice
- and more
You could also buy infant formulas, baby cereals, and baby food. To see if you qualify, visit your local WIC office, or visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website.
Buy Your Groceries and Food Supplies in Bulk
In order to cut costs with your food and groceries, you could purchase a membership at one of the various wholesale retailers, and buy in bulk. Retailers such as Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale, Costco, and more let you buy at their store if you have a membership with them. Membership costs vary by store, but with that fee, you can buy in bulk at their store.
Is it worth buying a membership fee in order to buy in bulk? Try looking up what you spend monthly on a certain food staple such as bread and pasta. If you are a family of 5, you could be spending quite a bit on simple food staples. Then, look up how much that item would cost you at any of these membership’s website. If several of these items’ savings would at least pay for the cost of membership fees, then it is probably worth it to look into buying in bulk.
Learn How to Do Strategic Couponing
You probably have seen or at least heard of people do “extreme couponing”, where they use dozens of coupons to get home and food supplies for very little or even free. You don’t have to go to such extremes to save a little money on your food and groceries.
While “extreme couponing” is a huge effort, simply perusing the Sunday newspaper for weekly store coupons, or looking for printable coupons on the Internet will help you save money. You could also ask your friends and family for their Sunday newspaper coupons so you can take advantage of sales. Sometimes stores put out coupons on their weekly in-store flyers, and often you can get exclusive coupons through a store’s smartphone app.
Even if you don’t use dozens of coupons at a time, if you arrange your food and groceries based on weekly coupons and sales, you can definitely save money in the long run.
Shop at Aldi’s
Aldi’s is a chain grocery store that famously offers lower prices on their food and groceries than many other stores. The store often carries lower-priced fruits and vegetables, snacks, coffee, chocolate, milk, and more. How can the chain grocery store offer such lower prices? Like Trader Joe’s, Aldi’s carries their own name brand, which cuts costs on foods for consumers like yourself.
While shopping at Aldi’s, look for the following name brands:
- Fit & Active
- Little Journey
- Mama Cozzi’s
- and more
You’ll save money just by shopping at Aldi’s over other grocery stores.
Using Cashback Apps
If you’re looking for a super easy way to save money on your groceries and food, simply look into a grocery store rebate app. Many stores such as Publix, Harris Teeter, Target and more have their own app, but there are off-brand apps that help you save money every shopping trip!
If you don’t like cutting out or saving physical coupons, then cashback apps are the easiest way for you to save money on food and groceries. All you have to do is download the app, and buy the items that the app lists, then take a photo and upload your receipt to the app, and you’ll get paid. Some examples of cashback apps are:
- Checkout 51
- and more
Community Based Tips
Visit Your Local Food Banks
Almost every small or large city has a community food bank. Whether the food bank is funded by a church, or is held in a community center, these helpful resources will allow you to receive food and groceries such as rice, canned fish, vegetables, or fruits, beans, pasta, and more.
Food banks often receive excess food from national government sources, or they may get donations from people that live in the area, churches, and private sources. While some food banks give out already prepared boxes with foods, others may allow you to walk through their center and fill up an individualized box yourself. Check out your local food bank by looking one up online, or ask your city counsel for more information.
Shop at Your Local Farmers Market
Some neighborhoods may only have a farmers’ market instead of a large grocery store. These markets often serve these smaller neighborhoods with high-quality local produce that you may even be able to purchase with your SNAP benefits. Even if you have a large supermarket in your area, it may be useful to check out your famers’ market; there’s nowhere else you can get fresh delicious produce at rock-bottom prices. Plus, some states give double SNAP dollars for purchasing at a farmers’ market. You can find your local farmers market by looking it up in the National Farmers Market Directory online.
Participate in Food Sharing
Food sharing isn’t a new concept—people have been “giving back” to their community and neighbors by coordinating food and meal sharing. While many food sharing is quite informal, there are several communities that have set up programs allowing interested residents to set up a food sharing “pot luck”.
You could also exchange crops with other neighborhood gardeners, or you can split the cost of foods purchased at a bulk store as mentioned above.
Learn About Your Child’s School’s “Kids Café”
Many states have implemented something called a Kids Café, which provides underserved kids at risk for poor nutrition a healthy meal and snack at their after-school program. Kids Café provides these meals and snacks by using a community kitchen, and serve them family-style at after-school programs. Several of these Kids Cafés work with regional schools and other organizations to serve these kids with nourishment needed to properly learn and grow. To see if your child’s school participates in a Kids Café program, visit your child’s school website, or ask the school’s superintendent for more information.
Visit a Mobile Pantry Program
The Mobile Pantry Program delivers truckloads of food and distributes them to communities of people who are in need of proper nutrition. Food is given out either in prepackaged boxes, or a farmers’ market where you can create your own box and just take what is needed. The Mobile Pantry Program differs from food banks because they can distribute food to more underserved areas such as homeless communities and areas far from local food pantries.
Your city may have a Mobile Pantry Program. Use this Food Bank locater to contact your closest food bank to find out whether there is also a Mobile Food Pantry that serves your area.
Child Nutrition Programs
Learn About Head Start
Head Start is a local government-based program for preschool-aged children. It serves as a pre-kindergarten for children aged 4 years and older to help them get ready for school. Typically, children are given free breakfast and lunch during their preschool program. These meals strictly follow guidelines established by the USDA. While in school, your child will have at least two highly-nutritious meals, which will help you save money on food and meals for your children and family. To find out if you are eligible for Head Start, visit your county’s dedicated Head Start website for submission deadlines, forms, and eligibility requirements.
Start Your Child’s Day Right with the National School Breakfast Program
The National School Breakfast Program is a federally-assisted meal program that distributes breakfast reimbursement funds to public and non-profit private schools. The Food and Nutrition Service administers the School Breakfast Program to state education agencies, which then gives these funds to the schools. Your child may benefit and receive a free breakfast if your school participates in the program. Visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website, or ask your child’s school superintendent for more information.
Ensure Your Child Gets a Nutritious Lunch with the National School Lunch Program
The National School Lunch Program is very similar to the national School Breakfast Program. It is also a federally-assisted meal program that distributes reimbursement funds to public and non-profit private schools, except this program helps with lunch instead of breakfast. The Food and Nutrition Service also administers the School Lunch Program to state education agencies, which then gives these funds to the schools. Your child will receive a nutritionally-balanced, very low-cost or even free lunch every day. Visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website, or ask your child’s school superintendent for more information and see if your child qualifies.
Give Your Child a Snack with the After School Meal Program
The After School Meal Program provides a free or low-cost meal or snack to children and teenagers 18 years or under who participate in an after school program. Even when school is out, many parents still have to work. After school programs provides safe space for children to be with their friends while being supervised by adults. Many after school programs provide meals and snacks for children. This food often fills in the gaps of proper nutrition for your child until they come home. Like the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs, the After School Meal Program is a federally-assisted program that provides reimbursement funds to after school programs. See if your child can receive a free meal or snack by asking your child’s after school program. You can also visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website for more information.
Look Into the Summer Food Service Program
The Summer Food Service Program is another federally-funded, state-administered program. This specific program provides free nutritious meals and snacks to children and teens aged 18 and under to low-income areas and neighborhoods. When school isn’t in session, kids can be the most vulnerable to having poor nutrition. You can ensure your kid receives healthy meals and snacks with this program. The Summer Food Service Program gives reimbursements to summer school program operators. You can find information about the program in your neighborhood by visiting your community center, or visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s website.
Learn About the BackPack Program
According to Feeding America, more than 22 million children across America receive free or reduced-price meals and snacks through the various school food programs. What about when your child is home on the weekend? How can you provide a proper meal to your child when they are not in school during the week?
The BackPack Program is administered by Feeding America, and it helps your children get healthy food they need to eat on the weekends. The program gives bags or boxes of food to local food banks, who then distributes the food to hundreds of thousands of children in need. To learn whether you have a BackPack Program in your area, contact your local food bank or use this Food Bank Locator.
Look Into the Special Milk Program
If your child already meets the requirements for any of the National School Breakfast or Lunch Programs, or the Summer Food Service Programs, then they could get free milk through the Special Milk Program. This program provides milk to low-income children in schools and other places that may not participate in other meal service programs, such as half-day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten programs. This program provides a reimbursement to schools and other institutions like childcare for any milk served while your child is in attendance. You may contact your state agency to learn more about the program, or visit the Food and Nutrition Service’s contact page.
Military Based Help
Seasonal Food Banks
During the holidays, it is tradition to gather around, eat, and join your family around a big feast. But many military families may not be able to afford the food necessary to make a special holiday meal. In order to ensure all military members are given access to the ingredients needed to cook a holiday meal, many military instillations hold yearly food drives and food pantries for soldiers and their families. Soldiers generally have to be in rank E-5 and below to participate, and they are given either a prepared box of food, or the chance to create their own holiday food box. Ask your chain of command whether this is a program offered at your division.
Food Help for Seniors
Ask About the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)
The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, or SFMNP, is a federally-funded government benefit program that gives food-based grants on a state level. These grants are then distributed as coupons that are given to low-income or seniors at risk for poor nutrition. These coupons are used to purchase a variety of healthy and nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats, honey, and herbs. The program develops a bridge between seniors and local farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community-based food programs. Look at the Food and Nutrition Service website to see if you qualify.
Home-Delivered Nutrition Services for Homebound Seniors
The Home-Delivered Nutrition Services is a federally-funded government benefit program that provides grants to states to provide nutritious meals for low-income seniors. This program delivers meals to homebound, frail, or often isolated Americans who are age 60 years and older. Sometimes the meals are served to the seniors’ spouses, caregivers, and other persons who may have disabilities. This program allows older seniors to save money on food and access food when they otherwise may not be able to. Visit the Administration for Community Living website for eligibility requirements.
Other Ways to Save Money on Food, and Applying for Other Government Programs
Being able to provide meals and food to your family can be one of the most worrisome things for millions of Americans. Take advantage of one or more of the above programs, or look into other government assistance to help free up some extra money so you can ensure your family’s next meal.
One of the most recommended programs is the government Lifeline Assistance Program. This program is a federally-funded government assistance program that provides a free cell phone with free monthly service. Signing up for the program is easy, and doesn’t run a credit check on you, or make you sign a contract. You may automatically qualify for the Lifeline Assistance Program if you participate in another government program such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Section 8. You may also qualify based on your income. Learn more about Q Link Wireless’ free phone and free service, by clicking here!