Shopping for Savings Will Help You Cook on a Budget

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.

  • By Jess Dang
  • October 19, 2013

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


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.

Do a search to see if you have any ethnic markets around you, since they are more likely to carry a wider inventory of ethnic ingredients at a cheaper price. It’s also a great opportunity to discover and learn about new ingredients too.

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.

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