Cut Your Grocery Bill With These Grocery Shopping Tips
Eating healthy food can be expensive. You can get 10 piece chicken nuggets from a fast food restaurant for $1.99. It would be impossible to replicate that meal at home, cheaply. It really unfortunate that buying healthy, fresh groceries is more expensive than eating processed, unhealthy food.
I try to feed my family a healthy diet and have found ways to incorporate low-cost healthy foods into our grocery budget. We tend to eat organic protein, produce and dairy, which increases our grocery bill. Even so, there are still ways to cut costs. I save money on groceries by shopping at Target with my Red Card, saving 5% on everything. I also buy items at the Dollar Store and shop Sprouts and Trader Joe’s instead of Whole Foods. And finally, I use some of the tricks below to save money on groceries.
I still spend quite a bit more money on groceries than families who eat conventionally grown food. To make up for it, we cut back in other areas. This doesn’t mean my family eats only organic food or that we are the picture of perfect health.
We eat out, eat on-the-run and go to birthday parties where we eat our share of pizza, chips and cake. I believe in balance and doing everything in moderation. We eat healthy at home so that we can enjoy dining out without being overly concerned about the nutritional value of the restaurant nuggets or mac and cheese.
Cheap and Healthy Grocery Shopping
Frozen Fruits and Vegetables:
My mom used to only serve frozen vegetables and would overcook them into a mushy pile, so I’m not a huge fan. However, they definitely have their place in a healthy affordable diet and there are items that I stock up on to make cheap, healthy meals.
You can use frozen fruit in breakfast for smoothies, yogurt parfaits or add them to pancakes. Try sneaking frozen spinach into pasta sauce and vegetable mixes into pot pies, casseroles or stir fry. You’ll up your veggie intake without spending a fortune on produce that may get bad before you get to it. I always have these items in my freezer.
Shopping in-season can save you a lot of money on groceries. I have seen everything from buy one, get one free deals to really low prices per pound. If you check your store flyer, you can figure out what produce is on sale and work your meals around that. Just yesterday, I bought organic Jazz apples at Trader Joe’s for $.79 a pound. That is a steal for fresh organic fruit!
Dried Beans and Rice:
While it is way quicker and easier to buy instant boxed rice or rice mixes, it is cheaper and healthier to buy a bag of rice and prepare it yourself. Dried beans are also cheaper, however, you can sometimes find canned beans on sale and stock up. A vegetarian burrito bowl is a really easy way to eat cheaply, and it’s healthy. Just layer brown rice, black beans, a bit of cheese and whatever veggies you like with salsa and you are set.
I will be honest here and say that while it is way cheaper to buy a bag of uncooked rice, I opt for the pricier, frozen pre-cooked brown rice. My 3 year old eats rice and beans every day at daycare and we just don’t have the time to make rice a few times a week. Sometimes you have to balance grocery savings with time savings.
Sale and Clearance Items:
I am a sale junkie so I stock up on our favorites when they go on sale. Recently, I started shopping the end caps when I grocery shop at Target. A lot of times they’ll clearance out perfectly good food that had a holiday theme or seasonal theme.
For example, I bought granola bars that had wrappers featuring a movie that has been out for a while. The expiration date is still far into the future, but they aren’t promoting the movie anymore. I normally pay $2.50 for those granola bars when they are on sale. I got the clearance boxes for $1.80 each. Before you buy the sale or clearance items, be sure you can eat or freeze it before it goes bad. If you can, go to town and stock up on what you can afford.
Generic or Bulk Shop:
There are many times when the generic option is just as good, if not better, than the name brand and it is usually quite a bit cheaper. You may need to go through a bit of trial and error, but it is worth it in the long term if the item is cheaper and just as good. Many store brands are made by national manufacturers and are just re-labeled.
You’ll also save money buying single serve items in bulk and dividing them into individual servings yourself. My husband and I buy a quart of yogurt for smoothies and yogurt parfaits rather than buying individual yogurt. I also buy a bag of almonds and a bag of dried cranberries to make my own trail mix. Just do a price check because sometimes the individual item can cost more. However, sometimes the pre-made item has more sugar or salt so you’ll need to decide what is more important to you.
Go Meatless or Fill Up on Produce First:
Pick at least one day a week to go meatless and have vegetarian dinners or even breakfast food for dinner to cut costs. If you can’t bear to go meatless, fill up on a salad before dinner so that you’ll eat less protein. I also make casseroles that have two breasts of chicken cut into cubes and double the required vegetables to bulk it up. We can get two dinners out of a meal like that with only two chicken breasts. Tacos are also a great way to use less protein. By the time all the vegetables and toppings are added, there isn’t room for much chicken or beef.
More Cost-Cutting Grocery Tips
Shop the Flyer: Before going to the grocery store, check the weekly flyer for deals and plan your menu around it. It can be hard to go from grocery shopping for what you feel like eating to shopping for what is on sale and working your menu around it, but it can definitely save money. You can also stock up on favorites when they are cheap so you can eat chicken on the week where pork is on sale. As I’ve mentioned, I have stopped doing this because I just didn’t want to spend the time on it when I have limited time with my boys. While I don’t do it, it is still a great way to save money.
Know the Prices: You don’t need to keep a fancy price book or formal tracking method, but if there are items you regularly buy, know the pricing so you can shop for them where it is cheapest. For example, my 7 year old eats a peanut butter sandwich on raisin bread five days a week. That bread is $4.99 at our local grocery store, but it is $2.99 at Target (before our Red Card savings). It only makes sense to buy it at Target and given how much we go through, if I know I won’t be able to get back to Target the following week, I buy two loaves and freeze one. I now get angry if I run out and have to buy it at the regular store. $2 is $2!
Meal Plan: I’m not the best at meal planning, but I find when I have a vague idea of what we will be eating during the week it saves extra trips to the grocery store, which usually cost more money and time. If you meal plan around what is on sale, you can really impact your budget. You can also save on groceries by meal planning around what is in your pantry and freezer. If you do it right, you may be able to only shop for produce and milk some weeks. I just stocked up on a few proteins that are cheaper at Trader Joe’s since I don’t go there regularly. Now, for the next few weeks, I can just worry about produce and dairy, which significantly lowers our grocery bill.
I have seen many tips to saving money on groceries but a lot of them center on eating a lot of packaged or pre-made food. Most coupons tend to be for pre-made food. I have rarely come across a coupon for produce or dairy, so I have to find ways to get creative without changing our diet.
Do you have grocery shopping secrets that save your family money?