Grocery shopping on a budget doesn't have to be difficult or time consuming. There are healthy and economical choices in every aisle of a grocery store.
Here are some tips on how to save money on groceries and prepare tasty, healthy meals your family will love.
- Eat before you shop – grocery shopping on an empty stomach tempts you to buy things you want right now because you are hungry.
- Check the stores sales flyers. Sales flyers are usually put out mid-week and can be found at the store’s entrance, in the newspaper, or on their website.
- Check for store brands. Most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands and are usually of at least equal quality.
- Look up and down for savings. Check out the higher and lower shelves to find the less expensive generic or store brands, often very similar to higher-priced brand names though packaged under different labels. Stores often stock the most expensive items at eye level. You can save money by looking at the items on the other shelves as well.
- Use Coupons – but only for items you know you'll use. Check the coupon expiration date to see if you can put off buying the item until you have a need for it.
- Grab from the back. Stores usually stock shelves from back to front, placing the newest items behind the older ones. Reach in the back for the freshest items, especially in the produce, dairy, and meat aisles.
- Ask for a rain check. If a sale item has run out, ask the store for a rain check. This allows you to pay the sale price after the item is back in stock.
- Join your store’s loyalty program. Most stores offer a free loyalty program. You can get special offers and discounts that non-members do not. If the store has a service station attached you may get a discount on fuel as well.
- When to shop. Consider the time of day, day of the week, and even the week in the month that you grocery shop. Grocery stores are usually the least busy early in the morning and in the middle of the week. Try to avoid the 1st and the 15th of the month as these are often days when people receive pay or pension checks.
- Try not to shop on pay day – you may feel as though you have more money to spend than you realy should.
- Buy in bulk. It is almost always less expensive and you can freeze perishable items such as meat and bread in smaller portions to use as needed. It’s always a good idea to buy non-perishable items like canned foods, dried beans and grains, and cereals in bulk.
- Buy less expensive cuts of meat. Find some recipes that use the less popular, and usually less expenive, cuts of meat. You can add extra vegetables and beans to make the meal go further.
- Shop alone. Leave the kids at home if you can. This will keep you from being distracted and buying items that aren't on your list. If leaving them at home is not an option, many grocery stores have supervised play areas for small children. Take advantage of this free play time for them.
- Save your vegetable trimmings. Use them to make your own vegetable stock. Not only do you save money, but vegetable stock also makes a nutritious base for casseroles, soups, and crockpot cooking.
Navigating The Grocery Store
|Fruits and vegetables are found in the produce area, frozen foods aisles, and in the canned food aisles. Compare prices between fresh and canned or frozen items to find the best deal.|
Buy produce in season when it is usually less expensive and at peak flavor. Make sure you buy only what you can use before it spoils. Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are a good, healthy choice when fresh produce is not available. Choose fruit canned in 100% fruit juice and vegetables with “low-sodium” or “no salt added” on the label. Buy frozen vegetables without added sauces or butter, and frozen fruit without added sugars, because they add calories and cost.
Grains can be found in many areas of the store, including the bread, cereal, snack, pasta and rice aisles. Try to make at least half of your grains whole grains. Check ingredient lists and pick the items that have a whole grain listed first. Whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain cornmeal, whole oats, and whole rye. Choose hot cereals like plain oatmeal or whole grain dry cereal. Switch to whole grain snacks, like whole-wheat crackers or air popped popcorn.
|Proteins can be found throughout the entire store. They are in the fresh meat case, frozen foods section, dairy case, and canned & pantry food aisles. Some great low cost choices include kidney beans, split peas, and lentils.|
To keep your meat costs down, buy the family sized or value packs and freeze what you don’t use. Choose lean meats like chicken or turkey. When buying ground beef, make sure it’s lean (90% lean 10% fat) ground beef. Seafood doesn’t have to be expensive either. Canned or pouch packed tuna and salmon store well and are a low cost option.
Dairy foods are in the refrigerated and pantry aisles. Choose low-fat or fat-free milk. They both provide just as much calcium as whole or 2%, but have fewer calories. Buy a larger container of plain yogurt instead of individual flavored yogurts and mix in fruit for flavor. When it comes to cheese, look for “reduced fat,” or “low-fat” on the label. Don’t forget the eggs! They are easy to prepare and are a great source of protein. Always check the sell by date to make sure you’re buying the freshest dairy products.
There is no magic formula for how to save money on groceries. Like anything else, it takes a little planning, creativity, and work. But if you think of the rewards—better health and saving money on groceries—you’ll find it’s worth the effort.