Cooking on a Budget Part 2: Shopping for Savings

Rather than spend time clipping coupons and running store to store for the best deals, we have 5 tips on how to shop for savings so you get the most bang for your buck without sacrificing too much time.

I think of my late grandma every single time I walk into a grocery store – it’s probably why I enjoy grocery shopping so much. My grandma lived through two wars, which made her incredibly frugal. She took immense pleasure in saving and made her children and grandchildren drive her all over the county to get the best deal on groceries.

Most of us don’t have the time that she did, so I’m not going to suggest that you hunt through multiple stores every week to make sure you’re getting the best deal on everything. Nor am I going to suggest that you spend hours clipping manufacture coupons. While these are obvious ways to save money, they can take a lot of time and are more sport than pragmatic.

Most of us want to save money without sacrificing a lot of time, and if you fall into this category, I have 5 not-as-obvious tips to be able to do both.

5 Tips on How to Shop for Savings

1. Go where the immigrants go

My grandma never walked into a “Western” grocery store without commenting on the prices: “$2 for a head of lettuce! You know we can buy 5 heads of lettuce for $1 at the Chinese store!” She’s right, so my first tip is to find a store where my grandma would have shopped.

In my ‘hood it’s the Milk Pail Market. Most of the customer base is Eastern European (the pierogi selection is out of this world!), Latino, or Asian. You’re not going to find large pristine aisles where the produce is misted by machines. Instead you’ll find character and amazing prices. If you shop during off-peak times – Friday nights or Tuesday days – you won’t feel like you’re visiting a developing country unless that’s the experience you’re going for.

2. Buddy up and split it in half

I am a huge fan of Costco for great deals. However, buying in bulk doesn’t make sense for every family and spending $15 on peanut butter can feel like a big hit in one go.

One way my family solved this was by buddying up. When we were younger, my mom and her best friend would get together once every few weeks for a Costco date night. They purchased everything together and then split everything between the two families back at someone’s house.

Clearly you can’t do that with everything, but they found items that split easily – meats, pasta, condiments that came in two – you get the idea. This tip kills two birds with one stone – see a friend, get your bulk buy on without a huge hit.

3. Don’t let a sale price tempt you

Most of us throw a lot of money into the trash through bad grocery shopping habits – shopping without a list, shopping while hungry (yes, we buy more when we’re hungry!), or being tricked by a deal. Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it. In some cases you’ll see the larger size on sale and the smaller size not.

Unless you’re throwing a football party and making a huge 7 layer dip for the NFL, do not buy the gallon container of sour cream because “it seems like a better deal.” Whenever you throw something away, pretend it’s cold hard cash, and I’m sure you’ll be less tempted at the store.

4.Find a store’s unique specials

It doesn’t make sense for me to clip manufacture coupons because most of the stuff I buy is not “manufactured” by a company. Instead, I take advantage of store level discounts. My local Sprouts has double sales days on Wednesdays where twice the amount of items are on sale. This increases the likelihood that some pantry item I need will be on sale and then I will buy no more than a month’s worth (remember tip #3).

Your grocery store might also offer store coupons which is way less painful than managing hundreds of item-specific coupons. My local Fresh and Easy has a weekly coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase. If I am buying $50 worth of items, I will self-checkout twice so that I can scan my coupon twice. Yes, I am that cheapo, but it takes just 10 seconds to swipe my card one more time for another $5. Take a little time to research your grocery store to see what store level specials they run.

5. Buy organic where it matters

While I love the idea of organic and fully support the cause, I can’t buy everything organic. I just don’t have that kind of budget. Instead, I buy organic where it matters. The infographic below tells you what you should buy organic because the non-organic variety has tested very high for pesticides and what items you don’t have to buy organic.

In addition to this produce list, I do try to buy all my dairy and meats organic because who the heck knows what kind of chemicals they’ve given to those poor animals. To manage this in my budget, I’ve just cut back on my meat consumption. I know my grandmother would roll over in her grave if she knew I was spending more than $2 on a pound of chicken but she did not grow up in the world of factory farming.


Guide on What to Buy Organic

Cook Smarts' Guide on What to Buy Organic

So there you have it, my 5 tips for saving money at the grocery store! How do you try to save and make sure you keep to your grocery budget? Share your tips with the rest of the Cook Smarts community in the comments below.

And of course, if you’d like to stay up-to-date with all our newest cooking tips and resources, sign up for our newsletter below and we’ll send all the good stuff to your inbox.

Join our community

Enjoy free tips in your inbox

Tags: ,
  • Your article post is very helpful to me because you give me tips how to save money for the shopping. Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

  • Pingback: » Easy Organic Shopping Guide: The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15()

  • Pingback: Money Matters: How To Save Money At Whole Foods - Davis Apartments - Tandem Properties()

  • sandy

    Your picture above shows a basket of tomatoes, but not whether they belong in the “dirty dozen” or the “clean fifteen” group.

  • Staniel

    Well the “dirty dozen” already has 12 items in it and the “clean 15” has 15 items in it, so I would say it doesn’t belong in either group, but in between where it is up to the shoppers discretion. Anything not found on those 2 lists you would just have to use your discretion, but did you notice that most things on the “clean 15” are items that you would peel/not eat the outer skin, while the most of the “dirty dozen” are items that you would just rinse off and eat without peeling? That’s the major difference in whether to buy organic or not.

    The picture above appears to have basil, dill? and peppers that are not sweet bell peppers, so I think it’s just supposed to be a nice background for the “chart” that was made, and nothing more.

  • If you consider gmo’s corn and many other gmo’s produce something you don’t have to worry about, then don’t buy organic; I personally prefer mother nature’s principles than Monsanto’s.

  • cruellamad

    Although I’m a little late in responding, here is what I think about when buying food. Farmers markets, Our bodies were not made to process man-made items in our food, aka, GMO, chemicals, preservatives, HFCS, hydrogenated oils, growth hormones, antibiotics ( this is why it’s no longer working when we really need them). I keep hearing about how there’s no time to cook anymore. BULLS–T. Cook in bulk, canning, hell even the crock pot can save time.

Recommended Reads

Discover a smarter and happier way to cook

Get Started

Sign up for the Cook Smarts Newsletter


Privacy Policy: We hate SPAM & promise to keep your email address safe.