How to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill

Grocery ShoppingIn this economy, we’re all looking to save money where we can. Some expenses are here to stay, such as the mortgage, car payment or phone bill. But some–like your grocery bill–have the potential to be tightened. There are many ways you can slash grocery store expenses; it just takes a little planning and a little creativity. Here are 13 ways to get the most bang for your buck.

1. Coupons
They’re a classic money-saver. But no longer do you have to rely on the Sunday paper for your coupon-clipping. There are many websites that provide printable grocery coupons. Try these sites, for example:

  • Couponmom.com
  • Coupons.com
  • Valpak.com

2. Shelf Tags
Compare prices between items by checking the cost per ounce, located on the shelf tag. That way you’ll know for sure if buying a different brand or different size really saves you any dough.

3. Shopping in Bulk
Buying larger packages or shopping at stores like Sam’s or Costco can save you money–but only if you’re prepared to use what you buy before it spoils. If you have the storage space, buy frequently used items or shelf-stable items in larger quantities. Buying meat in bulk can also help you save money, but if you can’t eat it by the expiration date, make sure you freeze it. Be cautious when buying produce or dairy in bulk since it spoils more readily.

4. Buy Whole
Buying pre-cut produce, shredded cheese and products in portion-sized packages may be convenient, but you’re paying more for it.  To save money, perform these tasks at home yourself. Here are some tips:

  • When you get home from the grocery, wash and cut your produce. Most produce can be prepared ahead of time, such as berries, apples, cucumber and bell peppers. A little citric acid in water can prolong the life of fruits that have a tendency to turn brown when exposed to air. Certain fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be cut ahead of time, like potatoes, tomatoes and bananas–they just won’t last. Store cut produce in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Not only did you just save yourself money, but when it comes time to cook, you’ve also saved yourself prep time!
  • Buy a block of cheese and shred it yourself, rather than pre-shredded cheese.
  • Buy crackers, cereals and chips in a full package, rather than pre-portioned packages. When you get home, portion it out yourself by dividing it into smaller, snack-sized bags.

5. Store Discount Cards
Some supermarkets (like Kroger) offer instant discounts if you carry their store discount card. Just ask, then scan and save.

6. Join a Co-op.
Many cities have locally run co-ops. Local farmers may offer a co-op too. Check your area! It’s a great way to save on produce throughout the year. I belong to Community Helpings Co-op in St. Louis (run all over St. Louis and Western Illinois) and I love it! This co-op is unique because you don’t have to join for an entire season. Your co-op basket is delivered every two weeks and you can opt in for only $23.50 whenever you choose. You’ll get enough produce for two weeks (for a family of 2 to 4)!

7. Substitutions
Are you buying expensive ingredients for those healthy new recipes you’re trying? Are you buying a prepared product that would be easy to make yourself? Look for less expensive alternatives. If a recipe calls for more expensive nuts or a specialty cheese, is there a substitution that would contribute to a similar product with a lesser cost? Could you make pesto, sauce or soup for a fraction of the cost with just a little time? Do some research and get creative.

8. Plan Meals
It’s my motto: plan, plan, plan. Of course there are times when one must be flexible, but planning meals ahead of time can actually save you a lot of time, headache and money. Try a kitchen calendar to plan dinners for the week. Then make your grocery list so that you have all the ingredients you need.

9. Seasonal Produce
Buying produce that’s out of season costs more. It has longer to travel since it may be grown in a warmer region or abroad. It also may not taste as fresh because it could be picked before fully ripe. More varieties are in season during warmer months, but there’s plenty that’s in season during colder weather too. Check this website to find out what’s in season and when depending on your area of the country.

10. Visit Your Local Farmers Market
You’ve got a better chance of finding locally grown, less expensive produce at your local farmers market. Ask the booth owners where produce was grown before purchasing. Compare prices to your normal grocery store to make sure you’re getting a deal. Check this website for local St. Louis farmers markets (I didn’t even know there were this many!).

**Also, join us for our next TalkDiabetes LIVE meeting this Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. Read more here.**

11. Plant a Garden
Especially if you start your plants from seeds, planting your own garden is a great way to save money. You can get tens to hundreds of seeds for only a couple bucks! Even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can probably plant something. Choose from in-ground planting beds, raised beds or deck containers for plants such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, lettuce and beets.

12. Go Meatless More Often
One of the most expensive areas of the grocery store is the meat department. Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish and deli meats can really run up your grocery bill! Incorporating some meatless meals into your weekly menu can not only save you some money, but contribute to good health as well. Try using beans as an alternative to meat. For example, make stuffed peppers with brown rice, black beans, corn and tomatoes. You won’t even realize the meat is missing! Pasta dishes and stir-frys that are loaded with veggies are also a good place to start.

13. Shop Multiple Stores
Branching out beyond a single grocer can also save you money. Shop weekly store ads for deals and plan to stop by two stores to fulfill your grocery list.

As you can see, there are many ways to trim down your grocery bill. Try one or two of these ideas at a time and soon you’ll become a savings-pro!

Download this tip sheet from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for tips on stretching your fruits and vegetables budget.

How do you save money at the grocery?

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