Saving money on healthy groceries can be a challenge. It’s something that often discourages people from eating as healthy as they’d like. When you see commercials for the dollar menu or the crazy low prices on items at the grocery store, it can be difficult to fork over the extra cash for the healthier option. I want to eat quality food that is going to nourish my body and provide me with energy. And, I’m willing to spend more to purchase high-quality food. When you are considering the cost of your food, ponder this quote, “Maybe we should stop asking why real food is so expensive and start asking why processed food is so cheap.” Understandably, we all have a budget that we need to stick to and I hope these 10 tips will help you do just that.
1. Meal Plan
Meal planning helps you stay focused at the grocery store. Do you ever go to the grocery store with no plan and when you get home you realize you have a bunch of random snacks and the ingredients for only one dinner meal? That is what we want to avoid. Meal planning is simple. Here are my steps to make it efficient and effective.
Check your grocery store’s flyer to see what is on sale that week.
Clean out your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Throw away all of the items that are expired and take inventory of what you have.
Base meals on what you already have and what you know is on sale.
Consider your schedule. For example if you know you will be busy on one particular night, plan for an easy-to-make meal. If you are planning a fun Friday movie night, consider getting ingredients for yummy appetizers.
Assign a breakfast, lunch and dinner to each day. Tip: Consider repeating meals. For example if you bought all of the ingredients for smoothies, schedule smoothies for breakfast for a few days, so you don’t waste any of the ingredients. Also, consider having a leftovers night.
2. Compare Grocery Store Ads
A great way to maximize savings is to build a plan around items that are on sale. Each week before I go grocery shopping, I look at the weekly flyers for the various grocery stores in my area. I usually look at three different store’s ads and pick the store that has the best deals. However, sometimes two stores are having great deals, so I go to both that week to optimize savings. Sometimes it isn’t practical or worth it to go to multiple grocery stores. I only go to a second grocery store if they have an amazing deal or more than three decent deals.
3. Make a Grocery List
Making a list keeps you on track to buy only the things that you really need. When making your list, check your fridge, freezer, and pantry to make sure that you haven’t run out of any staple items. This takes the guess work out of wondering whether you should add a basic ingredient to your shopping cart. Tip: Leave a pad of paper in your kitchen or pantry to make notes throughout the week of items that need restocking.
4. Make Freezer Meals
Buying in bulk and making freezer meals can save you a lot of money and time. If a favorite food goes on sale, stock up and make freezer meals. I’ve recently started experimenting with freezer meals and love the convenience! On a busy night, it’s so nice to pull something out of the freezer and throw it in the oven. Voila! This is also a great way to stay on track with eating healthy when you’re busy. I don’t know about you, but when I’m busy I tend to reach for prepared foods that may not be the healthiest option. But, with freezer meals, you have something quick, homemade and healthy. You can also save a lot of money with freezer meals. Let’s use pancakes as an example. Usually, a $5 box of frozen gluten-free pancakes is $4-5 and yields 6-10 pancakes. But if you buy pancake mix for $6-7, you can make 20+ pancakes and freeze them. Tip: When freezing pancakes, put parchment paper between them. Otherwise, they stick!
5. Stock Up When There Are Sales
When there is a sale on an item you use frequently, stock up. It might be more out of your grocery budget for that week, but then the next week you won’t have to buy that item and you can stock up on a new item that goes on sale. You’ll start to build a stock of your most used items and by the time you use them up, you may see them on sale again.
6. Clean Out The Fridge, Freezer and Pantry
Wasted food is wasted money. Stay on top of the food in your pantry, freezer and especially your refrigerator. I would recommend not only cleaning out these areas before you go grocery shopping, but also throughout the week. This way you are staying on top of food that is going to expire soon. TIP: Organize food by category. For example, when I clean out the refrigerator I make a shelf of that items that are expiring soon. This way, people know which food to eat first.
7. Bring Cash and a Calculator
Go with cash and add up everything you buy with a calculator. If I DON’T do this, it’s just a free-for-all and I end up adding random things to my shopping cart. If you really want to stick strictly to your budget, this will allow you to see exactly what your total will add up to. If you bring cash, you are literally limited to a certain budget. Tip: Reward yourself for staying under budget. If you don’t spend all of your budget, put the extra cash into a “fun” or “vacation” account. This is a great incentive to stick with your plan/budget.
8. Buy Seasonally
Not only does produce taste better when it is in season, but it is often less expensive. Stock up on the produce items that that are on sale and seasonal for optimal savings. Tip: Search your favorite recipe web sites for a variety of recipes you can make with the seasonal items.
9. Stay Away From Packaged Food
I’ve noticed in the past that a lot of my budget went to the expense of packaged food. You get more bang for your buck with produce and protein. Rather than buying a bunch of packaged food, try to make your own snacks or only buy the packaged food when it’s on sale. Tip: If you do want some packaged foods for convenience, consider purchasing from Thrive Market. This online retailer features organic brands at wholesale prices. See Tip #10 for more!
10. Thrive Market
Thrive Market is like Costco meets Whole Foods. Thrive Market’s savings are 15 – 25% lower compared to other online retailers, and the membership cost supports a strong social mission to make healthy living accessible to everyone regardless of geography, income level or any other barrier. Click here to see my full review.