I’ve been guilty of splurging on food at the grocery store – mostly stuff I don’t need, but think that I really might need at that point in time (Like, who doesn’t need a random assortment of olives from the olive bar? Me. That’s who.)
Now that I’m back in school, I’ve really had to pinch my pennies – which has totally cut into my
wine food budget. I’m the organic-food buyer at the grocery store and plan to stay that way, especially when it comes to produce. I’ve become more aware of bargains and deals, as well as what’s in season to help save where I can. It’s also amazing how creative I can get in the kitchen with pantry items, spices, and perishables that need to be used up – very little goes to waste.
Here are some additional tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way (mostly out of necessity):
- Become a coupon-er and a deal-seeker. I never thought I would be one of those people cutting out coupons or printing them from online. But I am. I will often see what’s on sale and then come up with recipes based on those items. It may not seem like a lot, but little savings here and there will add up in the long run.
- Don’t go crazy with your recipes. I prefer minimal ingredient, easy recipes. These also tend to take less time to make, which is a bonus between working and going to class. Look for recipes that don’t take a ton of specialty ingredients. Also, the right combination of spices can keep simple foods interesting – and spices tend to last quite a while.
- Buy in bulk-ish. I don’t personally have a membership to any of the bulk stores, but at the regular stores, I’ll buy larger bags of spinach, or bundles of apples, etc. Also, if it’s available, I’ll shop their bulk section for things like rice and flour. The packaging doesn’t need to be fancy – I transfer it to another container when I get home anyway.
- Produce doesn’t have to be pretty. Go crazy. Buy the unwashed, uncut, un-portioned produce. It will really take you very little extra time at home to wash it and cut it up. Compare pre-cut and portioned containers of fruit or veggies to what you could get for the same money and minimal effort. It’s really astounding, and there’s no difference in quality. This can also apply to items like pre-shredded or cubed cheese, for example. You can get more for the same amount of money if you’re willing to do it yourself.
- Know your limits. If you’re like me, you have your go-to’s at the store. While I MUCH prefer to buy all organic when I can, sometimes it’s just not feasible. That’s when I have to make executive decisions, such as buying non-organic if it’s not on the dirty dozen list. Being familiar with substitutes for certain ingredients can also be helpful in making a less expensive purchase.
- Plan out your meals. Honestly, it’s sometimes a pain. What if I decide I don’t actually want tacos on Wednesday (then again, they’re tacos, which are always delicious)? This can save time in the long-run. And, if you’re using coupons and shopping deals, those can be helpful in deciding what to make during the week.
- Don’t be afraid of leftovers. I have zero qualms with leftovers. Oftentimes, meals can be even better the next day after the flavors have really come together. If it’s going to be an exceptionally busy week that I know of, I will make meals that I know I won’t mind eating for a few days. If you’re not a leftover fan, repurpose them! Use leftovers in omelets, quiche, on salads, over rice, make a sandwich – get creative!
- Freeze what you don’t use. If you can. I freeze at least one portion of the majority of the meals I make. Not only does it cut down on food going to waste, those freezer meals come in handy when I’m in a pinch, or when I’m tired of other leftovers, or when I just reeeeeaaaaaallllllyyyyyy don’t want to go to the grocery store. Browning bananas? Peel them, seal them in a baggie and put them in the freezer. When you have a sweet tooth craving, grab one, add some cocoa powder, a little almond or peanut butter, a splash of almond milk, and blend – homemade soft serve! Ice cream is a major weakness – and this is a way to make mock, healthy ice cream at home. Also check out strawberry banana sorbet from the Shrinking Kitchen.
- Store brand vs. name brand. Store brand items are often cheaper than name brand. If you’re unsure of the quality or the flavor of something, compare the ingredients. Anything that is labeled organic is subject to specific FDA regulations, whether it’s the store brand or another brand. If you’re unsure, try the store brand once – if you don’t like it, you can always switch back to your go-to.
- Make a list. This ties in to planning your meals and shopping coupons and deals. But seriously. Make a grocery list. Making a list helps me cut down on the things I don’t ‘need’ at the store. If I stick to it, I know I’m getting everything I’ll need for meals for the week and have less of an urge to splurge on things like
Farmers market season is upon us – shop around your local farmers market for deals on fresh produce. Not only are you supporting local farmers and businesses, you know what you’re getting didn’t travel hundreds of miles in a refrigerated truck. It’s fresh. Also, produce can oftentimes cost less. If you can, grow your own! Lastly, if you can, make it. For example, granola at the store can be expensive. Making it is easy (there are SO many granola recipes out there), and will most likely give you more than what you would’ve bought in the first place.
Do you have any tips on saving at the store? Share them with us in the comments!