Implement a significant grocery bill cut while still enjoying healthy, homemade meals with our tips on how to shop for savings.
We all would love to spend a little bit less, and one easy way to do that is to cook more meals at home. If you learn to cook with fresh ingredients, you’ll spend less on your meals than an average of $12.75 per person when eating out. And a bonus to saving more money with home-cooked meals? You’ll also be living a healthier life!
Below we have tips on how to shop for savings so you can make your cooking budget the happiest it’s ever been – and they do not include spending hours clipping coupons and driving to multiple grocery stores to get the absolute best deal. Because that’s not always the best use of your time. So we put together 7 not-so-obvious tips on how to shop for savings that won’t take hours out of your week!
1. Always Make a List
This may sound super simple and, therefore, like a nonessential step in your shopping routine. But we cannot stress how important it is! We’ve all gone to the grocery store and came out with products we didn’t intend to buy and extra food that goes bad before we get around to using it. When you have a grocery list of only the items you need for the week, you’ll know exactly what you should buy, and you’ll get in and out of the store in a flash.
While you make your shopping list, make sure to check your pantry, fridge, and freezer to avoid buying duplicates. Lists help you only buy the necessities – just make sure to stick them! With less food tossed and duplicated, you’ll find your grocery bill is a bit lower every month.
2. Scout Out Local Ethnic Markets
All you have to do is go online and search for Latin, Asian, African, or Eastern European markets and it’s likely that one or more will pop up in your area. Since these markets will specialize in their specific cuisine, they’ll have a wide inventory of ethnic ingredients and usually be much more affordable. Need some garam masala? Hit up your local Indian grocery store and you’re bound to find it for way cheaper. Need a cumin refill? Try a Latino market and pick up some cheap chili peppers while you’re at it.
Visiting local ethnic markets is a great opportunity to discover and learn about new ingredients and find out more about your community, too!
3. Share Bulk Items with a Friend
Bulk discount stores like Costco have so many good deals, but buying in such large quantities doesn’t always make sense for every family. Buying in bulk saves money in the long run, but spending $15 on peanut butter can be too much in one go, especially if you don’t get around to consuming all of it before the expiration date.
A great work-around is to buddy up. If you go to shopping with a friend and purchase things together, you can can split the bill and divide everything between the two of you. For some items that come in one package or jar, you can easily bring along some Tupperware. Seeing a friend and getting your bulk buy on without making a huge dent in your wallet? It’s a win-win situation!
4. Be Realistic about Sale Prices
Bad grocery shopping habits lead us to throw a lot of money away, like shopping without a list, shopping while hungry (yes, we do buy more when we’re hungry!), or being enticed by a tempting sale. Just because there’s a deal doesn’t mean you should jump on it. Often times, you’ll see a larger size on sale and a smaller size at a regular price. Unless you’re throwing a party and making a huge 7-layer dip, do not buy the gallon container of sour cream because “it’s a better deal.”
Whenever you throw food away, you’re throwing away money. So next time you toss something you bought on sale, squint your eyes and envision it is cold hard cash. You’ll probably be less tempted to buy any perishable item at next week’s sale.
5. Discover Your Store’s Unique Sales
We know what we just said about not getting tempted by sale prices, but hear us out! Discounts and some sales can be great, so take advantage of the specials that are unique to a store when it makes sense. For example, our local Sprouts has Double Sales Days on Wednesdays where twice the amount of items are on sale. This increases the likelihood that some pantry items we need will be on sale, so make sure to make a list of what you actually need and buy no more than a month’s worth (yep, put Tips #1 and #3 to good use here!). Your grocery store might also offer store coupons, which is way less painful than managing fistfuls of item-specific coupons.
6. Buy Organic When It Matters
Of course we love the idea of organic and fully support the cause for our bodies and the environment, but we also know that most people simply can’t afford to buy everything organic. Instead, it’s easy to learn what to buy organic. Some items are much more important to buy organic because the non-organic variety has tested very high in pesticides. Here is a handy list of what foods to buy organic:
Guide on What to Buy Organic
Cook Smarts' Guide on What to Buy Organic
7. Swap Pricey Ingredients for Budget-Friendly Items
Ultimately, grocery store prices can fluctuate even when you’ve made your list and planned everything out. There will also be times when you need to head to the nearest grocery store that may not have sales promotions going on. That’s when knowing how to substitute ingredients comes in handy. Just because a recipe calls for lamb chops, doesn’t mean you have to buy lamb if the price is too high. Instead, opt for chicken thighs, pork chops, or even tofu for a more budget-friendly choice. For a list of our top 10 budget-friendly ingredients, check out this article here.
If you need a little help figuring out which ingredients can be substituted, download and print our Ingredient Substitution Guide for free below. Our meal plan service also makes it easier for you to cook on a budget, because we offer substitution suggestions for ingredients that may be hard to find or not very budget-friendly, so sign up here to try out 3 free meal plans and start saving money!
Cooking Ingredient Substitutions Guide
When you can't find an ingredient or want to use what you have in your kitchen, our substitution guide will help you make an easy and tasty swap!
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