As an avid grocery shopper, I’ve developed quite a few tips for buying healthy foods while trying to stay within my budget. Cooking your own meals is always cheaper (and healthier) than anything you can order at a restaurant. To help keep your grocery budget happy, here are my 8 ways to grocery shop on a budget.
1. Buy what’s on sale
Take advantage of your store’s weekly sales. Look at them before heading to the grocery store and make your meal plan for the week with those ingredients in mind. When a frequently used ingredient goes on sale, stock up! I love to buy extra meat and keep them in the freezer.
Shopping what is on sale at the store also helps to keep variety in your diet. When you are building a menu that incorporates sale items, it will be different every week. Not to mention that most produce that goes on sale is what’s in season, so you’ll be eating a range of fruits and vegetables.
2. Buy in bulk
The cheapest section of the grocery store is the bulk bins. If your grocery store doesn’t have them, make a trip to one that does once a month to stock up on grains, nuts, beans, and seeds that you use regularly. You can also buy larger containers of these staples, which also cost less per weight than smaller packages.
These items are usually a bit cheaper than produce and meats, so they are great options to bulk up meals that have more expensive ingredients. Healthwise, these are your fiber powerhouses that will keep you full for hours and keep that metabolism rolling.
3. Shop Seasonally
Season fruits and vegetables are cheaper than those out of season because they are in abundance! They are usually what you will find on sale since stores are able to purchase and sell a lot of them. Things that are in season also are more likely to come from your area, which means less travel time and less associated costs.
A bonus is that seasonal, fresh produce is much fresher than produce that’s out of season. If it’s out of season in the grocery store, it’s traveled from another hemisphere or was stored for months before showing up on the shelves. All that travel and storage decreases the nutrient content of fresh fruits and vegetables. Stick to what’s plentiful!
4. Stock your pantry
A stocked pantry is one of my top tips for making more meals in your home. It’s an investment up front, but it will provide you tens or hundreds of meals! Your dried bulk grains, canned beans, canned tuna, sauces, spices, and freezer goods (vegetables and proteins) are all staples. Not only will these items make your weekly grocery haul cheaper, but you’ll save money when you can whip up a quick meal instead of ordering takeout.
Need some help stocking your pantry? Grab my free Pantry Guide here.
5. Include vegetable proteins
The meat counter is the most expensive section of the grocery store. Even when you are buying on sale, the price of meat is much higher than other forms of protein. And rightfully so, it takes a lot more resources to raise an animal than it does a soybean. Adding in one or two vegetarian meals or recipes each week is a guaranteed way to save money at the grocery store.
Keeping ample protein in your diet is important, however, so focus on adding in good sources of vegetarian protein like edamame, tofu, hemp seeds, Greek yogurt, mozzarella cheese, beans, quinoa, and soba noodles.
6. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables
Stock that freezer with frozen produce! Frozen fruits and vegetables are cheaper than fresh because there is less waste. Fruits and vegetables are usually frozen within hours of being picked, which reduces the likelihood of spoiling while being transported to the store. They are also higher in many nutrients than fresh produce since some nutrients degrade once the produce is picked. Freezing the fruits and vegetables right away preserves the nutrients at their highest point.
Frozen fruits and vegetables can be used as part of your meal plan or as part of your pantry stash. They are essential for quick lunches and dinner when you haven’t made it to the store. Frozen berry smoothies are one of my favorite cheap breakfast options
7. Stay away from prepared foods
If you are trying to save money, steer clear of the prepared foods section. Slice your own vegetables, marinate your own meats, and cook your own rice. When you are buying prepared foods you are buying someone else’s labor. Put your own sweat equity into your health and do the heavy lifting.
If cutting vegetables seems overwhelming, cut back on the number of recipes that require your arm muscles per week. Work on those knife skills and get to cutting!
8. Shop with a list and a plan
Lastly, go into the grocery store with a plan! Shopping on a whim is a good way to buy things that you don’t need, end up with food waste, and not make any tasty recipes. Set aside a few minutes before heading to the store to find some recipes you like and write up a grocery list.
Organize it by grocery store sections so you know exactly what you need in each area of the store. This also helps if you aren’t the biggest fan of grocery shopping because it will get you in and out fast. If you can’t help but allow your eyes to wander down the snack aisle, order your groceries online! Instacart is awesome and available in most major cities.
Use these 8 ways to grocery shop on a budget the next time you head to the store and watch the savings add up. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out these meal planning tips. New to cooking? Check out my essential tools for beginners. If you need a bit more guidance, let’s work together! Happy shopping and happy saving!