We explored two different types of grocery stores – one local grocery chain and a big superstore. Both stores were located in the Washington D.C. Metro area. Below is a price comparison of just a few staple items so you can see where certain foods are cheaper. We've also provided additional healthy tips and advice for the foods we looked at.
TIP: If you can afford the chicken breasts, they are certainly a great option. You can also use chicken thighs – a cheaper substitute. At the grocery store, thighs were about a dollar cheaper per pound than chicken breasts.
Chicken thighs have twice the fat and cholesterol as chicken breasts, but they have about the same amount of calories per serving. If you opt for chicken thighs, be sure to remove the skin and any other visible fat before cooking.
TIP: Non-fat dry milk is even cheaper than buying fresh milk. It also lasts longer and does not need to be refrigerated. If your family prefers fresh milk, buy it in gallon-size containers rather than smaller ½ gallons or quarts – you&'ll get more for your money.
TIP: Apples are usually at their peak during the fall season but are also available during the winter months. Buying in bulk will help cut costs any time of year, and apples usually stay good for several weeks after you buy them. The apples you buy in bags are also usually smaller in size, which can help with portion control.
TIP: Canned beans are also fairly low-cost but dried beans typically win on the money-saving end. They also don't have the sodium that canned varieties have. A one-pound bag usually contains about 2 cups of dried beans, which yields about 5 cups of cooked beans. (If a serving of beans is 1/2 cup, that means you get 10 servings from just one bag!) Learn more about using canned beans and dried beans in the kitchen from Michael Marks, Your Produce Man.
TIP: Opt for generic rather than name brands when it comes to cereal. According to our search, this could save you up to 30%. You can also purchase some cereals in bags rather than boxes. But don't sacrifice nutrition for cost – look for cereals that are made with whole grains and are not sweetened with added sugars.
TIP: Nuts are packed with nutrients and are a good source of healthy fats. Before buying nuts in pre-packaged containers like the ones we found, check to see if your grocery store has bulk bins where you can buy them instead. Buying from bulk bins usually costs less because you don't pay for all of the packaging and processing. You can also buy the exact amount that you need.
According to what we found, there are some advantages to shopping at a big superstore like Target or Walmart for low-cost groceries. However, some items do not differ in price at all between the two types of stores.
In addition, superstores do not always have as much variety as a regular supermarket. Our advice? Choose what is most convenient and works with your budget and lifestyle. Perhaps you can go to the superstore once a month to stock up on non-perishable staple items and visit the regular supermarket for week-to-week grocery shopping.
Want even more tips on how you can be a budget-savvy cook and grocery shopper? You may be interested in our book, Diabetes Meals on $7 a Day – Or Less! by Patty B Geil and Tami A Ross. Not only does this book contain low-cost recipes and meal plans, but it is a complete guide to budget-friendly grocery shopping and menu planning!