Today’s post wraps up the final segment in my Eat In: Save Dough series and is all about helping you save money and shop smart at the grocery store! If you missed the first two posts on food budgeting and meal planning/prep, be sure to check them out!
So I love to grocery shop.
There’s nothing I like more on a Sunday morning than sitting down at the kitchen table with a mug of warm tea, pouring over the grocery ads from the Sunday paper (yes, my family is old school and we still have a print subscription to the local newspaper), and writing out my shopping list for the week.
When I am at school there are no print ads to look at, but I still make sure to check out the circulars on store websites to get an idea of where the deals are at this week.
At home, my dad is usually my partner in crime and we will head out to the store and farmers’ market together to pick up what we need.
At school it’s usually me and my bike making voyages to Trader Joe’s and the Capital Square Farmers’ Market or else me mooching a ride to the nearest supermarket from friends (Thanks Nate and Mitch!).
And yes, that is the most gigantic head of cauliflower you’ve ever seen wedged in my bicycle basket. Best part is…it only cost me $2.00.
I love wandering the aisles, checking out what’s new, and searching out good deals – but I also know that I’m kinda weird and that most people just aren’t that into grocery shopping as me.
So no worries, I won’t bore you with anymore of my grocery shopping adventures, but instead will share some tips and tricks to buying wholesome, healthy food, getting the most bang for your buck, and not spending an eternity inside the grocery store – we are all busy people!
My Top 10 Tips & Tricks for Smart Grocery Shopping
- Make a List
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but if you know exactly what you need to buy, you can just make a beeline to the areas of the store you need to visit and can quickly pick up the items on your list. No more wandering the aisles, trying to remember what you needed besides milk, throwing impulse buys into the cart, or wondering what you are going to make to dinner (thanks to your meal plan!).
- Seek Out Sales
We are all strapped for time I know, but it is totally worth it to take 10 minutes before making your list to check out the sales circulars for the store(s) you shop at. I like to check out the sales first, and then make my meal plan based on what’s on sale that week. If there’s a sale on a favorite product or food of yours, don’t be afraid to stock up if you know you’ll use it and can throw it in the freezer or store it in the pantry for a while. For example, chicken breasts were on sale a few weeks ago, so I made sure to pick up a few for dinners that week and an extra pack to keep in the freezer.
- Shop the Perimeter
In case you haven’t noticed, the freshest (and usually healthiest) foods span the perimeter of most grocery stores. Stick to these areas to get the essentials for the week (i.e. produce, meat, poultry, dairy, bakery) to ensure for a speedy shopping trip. Only delve into the endless aisles, which can be a time suck, to pick up the pantry items that are on your list!
- Pay Attention to Coupons
Couponing can be time consuming, and I know I definitely don’t have time to scour the web like those extreme couponers I sometimes watch on TLC on Friday nights hear about, but I make sure to take advantage of coupons that are right in front of me. Many products have coupons attached or printed right on their packaging. Keep a look out for coupons on products that you can peel off and instantly redeem right away at the checkout. Also look for coupons printed on the backs or insides of packages that you can quickly clip before recycling the empty container or box.
- Take Advantage of Freebies
Many supermarkets offer complimentary services. The butcher at the meat counter can tenderize your cut for you, the gal at the bakery counter can slice your loaf of bread, and the deli lady can core your pineapple. Often times these free services aren’t necessarily advertised, so make sure to ask – the worse they can say is no! I also know of some stores, like Whole Foods, allow you to only buy what you need. Only want half a loaf of bread? No problem.
Oh and another tidbit that fits in here – don’t be afraid to ask to try something before you buy it.
- Eat Before You Shop
Again, a no-brainer, but all too easily forgot. Shopping on an empty stomach will make everything look delicious and leave you with a cart full of impulse buys that will send you over your budget, by the time you reach the checkout.
- Choose Store Brands
Store brands are often just as good (or better!) than big name brands and are priced more affordably. I’ll be the first to admit that for one, I am a cottage cheese junkie, and two, that I prefer the Our Family brand of cottage cheese to the Kemps version! Oh and if you buy a brand and are dissatisfied – complain, as you are almost always guaranteed your money back, plus who knows, maybe more (I speak from experience 😉 )!
- Buy in Bulk – but only when it makes sense
Shopping in bulk at club stores like Sam’s Club and Costco can make it seem like you are getting a great deal, but often times, especially if you shop the sales, it can actually be more expensive – especially once you factor in the yearly membership fee. Be smart when it comes to bulk buys and take the time to punch in a few numbers on your iPhone to see if buying big is really the better deal. Another tip – store typical food prices of a few favorites or staples in your phone so you can easily make price comparisons between product brands and stores.
- Pick Plants
Try making plant foods like vegetables, beans, legumes, and other plant-based proteins the star of your meals as plant-based foods are generally less expensive than their meat-based counterparts, and not to mention packed with fiber and the many vitamins and minerals your body needs.
- Shop Seasonally
Pay attention to what foods are in season. Whether you find them at your local farmers’ market, roadside stand, or supermarket, they are bound to be priced affordably and taste delicious since they are plentiful and in the prime of their harvest!
Try to hit up the store during non-peak hours. In other words, do you best to avoid the after-work rush from 5pm to 7pm and weekend afternoons. Instead, try to plan your trip for earlier in the day or, for you night owls, later in the evenings.
Keep all of these tips in mind before heading out to the store and you’ll be set for a smooth-sailing, money-saving grocery trip!
Questions of the Day:
When do you usually do your grocery shopping?
At home, my dad and I like to hit the aisles late, around 9 or 10pm on Sunday night. We always feel like we have the store to ourselves then! When I am in Madison, I usually make a TJ’s run early Friday afternoon, but sometimes have to battle the weekend crowds at Copp’s although I try to go early in the morning.
Where do you do most of your grocery shopping?
Trader Joe’s and Copp’s when I am at school. Aldi and Marketplace when I am back at home.
Any tips to share with me?!