Updated: Dec 3, 2021
This week on the blog, we’re exploring some tried and true methods to save money on your next food shopping trip. There are many ways to get more bang for your buck while still buying enough nutritious food and staying healthy.
Make a budget. The first tip to save money on anything is to make a budget, and grocery shopping is no exception to this rule. If you’re not sure where to start, the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases monthly food reports that outline a recommended budget depending on who is in your household and how much you want to spend on food. The four options they have are thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal.
Make a list. This may seem a little obvious, but with our busy lives, it is easy to forget to sit down and write out a list before running to the grocery store after work or school. Lists are helpful because they prevent making impulse purchases of things you don’t really need and possibly going over budget.
Plan ahead. Decide what meals you want to eat that week before going to the store. An even better way to do this is to plan those meals based on things you already have in your pantry. For example, if you have a bag of lentils you’ve been meaning to eat, find a recipe that includes lentils.
Plan meals that have similar ingredients. Take the previous tip a step further and choose meals that have some of the same ingredients. So, if you’re going to make a lentil soup that includes collard greens, plan to make another meal with collard greens, perhaps as a side dish. If you have trouble coming up with meals to cook every week, this method can also help with that.
Buy in season. Another thing you can do is plan meals based on the produce that is in season. The easiest way to do this is to simply take note of the cheapest fruits and vegetables in the produce section and plan your meals accordingly. Fruit, in particular, is a great thing to have in the house to snack on, and buying in season is a great way to save money and eat a variety of fruits throughout the year.
Buy generic. Instead of going with name brand items, choose the generic or store-brand version. Many grocery stores like Kroger offer their own brand of nearly every type of food, and you are essentially buying the exact same thing.
Shop bottom shelf. The term “bottom shelf” may have a negative connation to it, but stores tend to deliberately place higher-priced items at eye-level so people are more likely to grab them. Take a couple minutes to look around and see if there’s a better deal on a lower shelf.
Add while you go. Pull up your phone’s calculator or take one with you and keep track of everything you put in your cart. This way there will be no surprises when you get to the check-out line. It’s a good idea to round up with every item (if something costs $3.76, round up to $4) to make the math easier and account for sales tax.
Only buy in bulk when it makes sense. Bulk-buying is often touted as a way to save money on food. However, only do this if you really think you’re going to eat all of it, and if the price-per-unit is actually cheaper when buying in bulk. Stick to non-perishable items like rice and canned goods.
Freeze food. You can safely freeze anything from meat to bread to fruits and vegetables, especially if you’re not sure when you’re going to eat them. This is a great way to cut down on food waste too. Freezing items, like hamburgers and hot dog buns, is a convenient way to store them and you know you’ll always have them without having to worry they’ve gone bad.
Go meatless for a meal (or two). Try a vegetarian recipe once or twice a week to save some money on buying meat. Meat can be expensive, especially if it’s not on sale. Plus, if you don’t eat vegetarian very often, you might find some new recipes you really enjoy!
Don’t shop on an empty stomach. You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s a good way to avoid impulse purchases. Think twice about loading up on unhealthy snacks that may seem tempting in the moment.
If you need further assistance, go here to find pantry locations, view our distribution calendar, and learn about our other programs.
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