Wednesday, June 29, 2011

12 Ways to Slash your Grocery Bill

I strive to eat healthy most of the time mainly because I feel so much better when I put good, wholesome things into my body as opposed to junk. However, eating healthy can be expensive; let's face it, a bag of Doritos is much cheaper than a bag of organic, whole-grain tortilla chips.

After developing a lifestyle of healthy eats over the past few years, I've discovered ways to stock up on healthy items without going broke. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Buy items in season. What does this mean? Stock up on fresh fruit in the summer when it is on sale and at its peak of freshness. If you were to try to buy that same watermelon in January in the Midwest, chances are, it won't taste as good and you're going to shell out a lot more for it than you would in July.

2. Purchase items that you consume on a regular basis in bulk. If you're an oatmeal, pasta, or popcorn fanatic, don't buy the individual-serving packages--instead purchase the whopping containers to reduce the unit price and reduce excess packaging. Need to take oatmeal to work and love the convenience of instant packets? Make your own: fill a small, washable container with a scoop of oats and just add water/milk when you get to the office. It's the exact same thing but much cheaper in the long run.

Even though I'm a family of one, buying in bulk saves me some serious cash. Basically for single-serve items, you're paying for the convenience and packaging. If you're always on the go or traveling, these items can be great. However, for everyday use, they usually are not necessary.

3. Your freezer is your friend. Stash items away before they expire. Items such as flour, bread, bananas (freeze and use in smoothies!), and leftovers freeze extremely well. By freezing rather than tossing out expired food, you are saving money and time since you won't be rushing to the grocery store all of the time.

4. Don't be afraid to shop around. Certain items are cheaper at some stores as opposed to others. This technique is something that will come with time and soon you will know which stores carry which items cheapest. It is important to not stress over this too much though--don't drive to 7 stores just to get a week's worth of groceries--it's not worth it in the end.

5. Off brands won't bite, but don't skimp on the good stuff. Essentials such as cooking spray, raw oats, popcorn kernels, etc. are pretty basic items and it is hard to mess them up. Do yourself a favor and try the off-brands for a fraction of the price on items that you don't have a huge preference on. Chances are, you won't even miss the big brands. When it comes to specific items, I don't skip due to quality. Some of the items that I'm willing to pay more for include:
  • Organic items
  • Natural chicken and fish
  • Coffee
  • Condiments
  • Cheese
I'm willing to spend more on these things because in the past I've tried off-brands and it just was not the same--resulting in wasted food and money.

6. "On Sale" doesn't always equal savings. A sale is not useful to you unless it involves something that you like or were planning on purchasing. Why buy it if it's just going to take up space in your fridge or pantry? That leads me to my next point--coupons.

7. Your mom was right when it comes to coupons. However, like sale items, they are only good if you're actually going to use the product. Your best bet is to use a coupon for an item that is on sale--double whammy of savings!

8. Do the prep work yourself. I set aside time each week--usually on Sundays to do all of my prep work for healthy eating during the workweek. I bake chicken breasts, prep salads in single-serve containers, cut veggies and fruits, and fill tiny tupperwares with bulk goods such as yogurt, cottage cheese, and applesauce. By taking an hour or so each week to do the prep work, healthy snacks and meals are easy to grab--helping me stick to my healthy eating regimen. Each morning, I simply grab containers and toss them into my lunch box before heading out the door.

9. Only purchase items that you will actually use. Sometimes we feel the pressure to get something simply because it is healthy or because it is on sale. If you purchase something only to toss it before you use it, or take one bite and spit it out, it wasn't really worth buying in the first place, was it?

10. Know your prices. This is crucial if you shop at multiple stores or if you like to take advantage of wholesale stores such as Sam's Club or Costco. By knowing the basic prices of most items, you'll be able to spot a deal a mile away.

11. The more uses for a product, the better. Buying chicken? Think of how many meals you can get out of it:
  • Salad with grilled chicken
  • Chicken parmesean
  • Chicken and rice
  • Stir fry with veggies
  • Sandwich wrap
  • Tacos
  • Alfredo pasta with chicken + broccoli
  • Using one item for multiple meals is a great way to stretch your dollar at the supermarket.
12. Keep an eye on unit prices. Unit prices are often listed on the price sticker below the item on the shelf. It will list the cost per unit--allowing you to compare brands and sizes of items to ensure you're getting the best deal. Here's a hint: buying the larger size of a product is usually the better deal!

Those are the majority of the tips I use when it comes to loading up on healthy foods. I try to shop every other week or so to keep my grocery bill down as well; however, some weeks I find myself rushing to the store a couple of times due to picking up random items that I forgot.

Do you use any of these techniques while grocery shopping? 
What are some of the ways you save money on food?
Are you willing to shell out more for organic or healthy options?


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