Keeping the grocery bill down always seems attainable in writing, yet it's a whole different story once your put you go to put that "master plan" into practice (i.e. left the shopping list on the kitchen counter again). That said, with a little willpower, preparation, and know-how, being an exceptionally savvy shopper can become second nature in no time. Here we've gathered our staff's top strategies to keep from blowing the budget by the time you roll around to aisle 12.
To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of MyRecipes's existence this week, our staff is sharing round-ups (by the 10's, obviously)—including some of our most useful tidbits of wisdom, favorite recipes, and amusing tidbits—every day. Today, we're kicking off with our most helpful money-saving tips for your next trip to the grocery store. Whether you love it or not, the grocery store is a place where we all find ourselves on a refular basis, often slightly crestfallen at the end of the experience because of how much money it ended up costing us. But hey—it doesn't have to be like this. Here's the gameplan for your cheapest, most productive trip to the supermarket yet.
1. Make a list and stick to it.
Put some thoughtful energy into constructing your shopping list on the front—whether that means keeping a running list on your phone or fridge (so the whole family can contribute) or intentionally sitting down and taking full stock of what you have/what you need before heading out the door—so that you know it's complete. And once you're at the grocery store... if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t go in the cart. End of story.
2. Expand the ol' “stick to the perimeter” rule.
Yes, stick to the perimeter, but don’t get sucked in by prepared fruit salads, dressed up deli items, and 15 varieties of artisanal yogurt. Just because it’s on the outside of the perimeter doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile, healthy, or necessary.
3. Know the bulk bin aisle is your BFF.
If you only need 1/2 cup of pecans for a recipe you're planning to make this week, there's no sense in paying for the 2-cup bag... then looking for another way to use the rest of the bag and "get your money's worth." Head to the bulk bins, get as little or as much as you need, and be done with it.
4. Save a few bucks by buying the "off-brand."
Most store brands produce identical versions of many of your favorite brand-name food items (even if your kids say they can taste a difference). We won't judge, and neither will anybody else.
5. Aim to buy less meat.
And put a stronger emphasis on produce, beans, and grains. This will have a positive impact on your body as well as your wallet.
6. Keep in mind that it's just as important to know what you do have, versus what you don't.
This goes back to point #1 about being intentional and thoughtful with your shopping list. Let the food that you already have waiting for you at home be the base of inspiration for your future meals—thus, the driving factor for what you buy at the store. This way all of your food at home is used up at some point.
7. Remember this: It’s only a deal IF you need it.
Finding a 2-for-1 sale on lobster is great, but only if you were already planning on having a seafood bake, or looking for something special for dinner.
8. Play the “use it up” challenge at the store.
If something that wasn't on your list catches your eye at the grocery store, try to think of two or three ways you'll use the item. If you can't, put it back on the shelf.
9. Remember, you don’t need a different protein for every night of the week.
Start with 1-2 animal proteins per week (maybe a couple pounds of a ground meat and then, one of your family's favorite cuts), knowing that you’ll use leftovers creatively and go meatless at least once a week. Keep in mind that a few scraps of leftover meat can be stretched into something delicious tomorrow, so challange yourself not to toss what seems like just a few bites at the end of dinner.
10. Coupons exist, so use them!
This doesn't have to turn into an extreme sport or an obsessive hobby. However, if you spot one that fits your needs, don't lose it. If your frequent the same stores for routine shopping, see what couponing apps might be able to help you save a few dollars there.