The holidays have finally passed, and many of us are looking to save rather than spend.
You’ll see that it’s possible to eat healthy – even if your grocery budget is tight. Check out how you can save money at the grocery store and how you can make your food go further at home. Then, we’ll compare the cost of a few staple items at different types of grocery stores so you can see where to get the best bang for your buck.
Sign up for your grocery store’s valued customer program. Keep your valued customer card in your wallet or on your keychain. Have the cashier scan it every time you shop. This will ensure that you receive automatic discounts. You might also receive additional coupons or other benefits as part of the program.
Shop from a list. We’ll talk more about making a plan and a list in the next section.
This is a big one – don’t shop hungry. You’ll be more likely to splurge on less healthy choices that are not on your list if your stomach is rumbling. If you shop on a full stomach, cravings are less likely to occur, which will help you stick to your plan to spend less.
Use the unit price to compare similar foods. The unit price is usually on the shelf price sticker. It tells you how much you are paying per pound, ounce, pint, etc. Use this unit price sticker to compare the cost of different brands and different size containers.
Avoid buying diabetic and dietetic foods. These foods can be very pricey and you don’t need them to follow a healthy meal plan. You can eat healthy foods at lower prices and still manage your diabetes.
Opt to buy store brands. Maybe their label isn’t as attractive as the name brand items, but they often taste the same. These items could potentially save you more than 50%.
Buy in bulk, but only if you’ll finish it before it goes bad. Often the unit price of an item goes down as the size of the container goes up. However, remember that wasted food is also wasted money. You know what your family will and will not eat. You should also have an idea of what foods you will need to make meals over the next week when you visit the store. Don’t spend extra money on the larger container if you know you won’t use it.
Avoid buying individually packaged foods that have been pre-cut or prepared. The more packaging and preparation, the higher the cost of the food item. For example, individually packaged yogurt costs more per ounce than a large 32-ounce container. Fresh, precut produce such as apples, pineapple, etc. will also cost more than buying the whole fruit or vegetable and cutting it yourself.
Buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Not only are they at their peak in terms of quality at that time, but they typically cost less. When you want to buy produce that is out of season, check the price of canned and frozen varieties. They may be cheaper than buying fresh, out-of-season produce.
Note: Canned and frozen produce also keep longer than fresh. Buy fruit that has been canned or frozen without added sugars. Fruit should be canned in water or juice, not syrup. Opt for no-salt added or low-sodium varieties of canned vegetables. And always drain and rinse your canned vegetables before using.
Cut out sugar-sweetened beverages and buy less alcohol. You’ll be surprised by how much you can save. These items have very little nutritional value and can run up your bill quickly.
Consider the discount grocery store if there is one near you. A few discount grocery chains that you may have heard of are Save-A-Lot, ALDI, and Grocery Outlet. Some say these stores could save you 40% of what you would spend at a regular supermarket. They usually have great deals on fruits and vegetables – especially canned items! You can also find lower prices on dairy and whole grains as well.
Plan ahead as much as possible. Before going to the store, jot down the meals that you want to serve that week. You may want to plan around the coupons you’ve collected or the sales you know about. To find out about sales before going to the store, keep an eye out for store ads or check online. Also, consider what foods you currently have that need to be used soon. Factor those foods into your meals for the next few days. From there, make a list of what you need to buy.
Save leftovers for later. Homemade casseroles, soups, and chili recipes usually make a lot of servings. For recipes that result in leftovers, freeze what you don’t eat. You can even portion out leftovers in individual containers or baggies. When you don’t have time to cook, you’ll have a pre-portioned meal that you can simply reheat in the microwave.
Use leftovers to make a totally different meal. Many of us don’t enjoy leftovers because we don’t want to eat the same thing over and over. The answer? Get creative with your leftovers and use them to make something totally different. Let’s say you made our Oven-Barbecued Chicken for dinner. You could use the leftovers to as a topping on a chopped salad or to make a southwest chicken wrap for lunch the next day.
Plan for 1-2 meatless meals each week. Pork, beef, fish, chicken, and other meats are usually some of the most expensive items in the grocery cart. The more vegetarian meals you plan, the more likely you are to save since you’ll be buying less of these high-cost items. Good sources of plant-based protein include beans, peas, lentils, and legumes. You also get protein from nuts, seeds low-fat dairy, and eggs.