We spend a big portion of our expenses on food. Buying regularly from the grocery store is certainly more cost-effective than eating out all the time, and you can save even more by using a few common sense strategies when you go shopping. Here are a few of our favorites.
While buying big quantities tends to be much cheaper than buying smaller amounts, it’s not always easy. I live in an apartment, and I don’t have much extra room for bulk purchases. Plus, you don’t want to buy so much of something that it spoils before you get to it—that’s the opposite of what we want to achieve. The key here is knowing what you use a lot of, and leaning towards items that don’t go bad quickly. See a great deal on toilet paper? Stock up. Pearl barley on a major discount? Go for it. Lettuce on sale? I’m going to skip that one. If you’re headed to Costco be sure to read this first.
Make a list
Everyone knows that making a grocery list is the golden rule of saving at the store. And for good reason. It has been noted time and again that if you make a list and stick to it you are less likely to make spontaneous, unproductive and expensive purchases. Make it a habit. Check out this sample list from dietitian Rachael Hartley.
Use a calculator
I have literally spent 15 minutes standing in front of the paper towels trying to figure out which configuration was most cost-effective. Don’t be afraid to pull out your phone and do a quick calculation, the best deal could be right in front of you.
Plan your meals
Just like making a list, creating a plan for your week of meals is a great way to avoid buying things you aren’t going to use. Start by picking three dinners to have this week, then map out the ingredients. If you know what you’re going to eat, you’re more likely to stick to your plan. And don’t worry if you don’t execute it exactly as expected—an imperfect plan is always better than none at all. Don’t know where to start? Read this 3-step guide from dietitian Alissa Rumsey and have a few Luvo bowls delivered for those nights where cooking isn’t possible.
Make more than enough
Instead of making a single dose of the recipe, why not make 1.5 times, or even double? That way you’ll have more than enough for dinner, leaving you with lots for leftovers for tomorrow night’s dinner and maybe a lunch or two as well. Not only will you save on food money, avoiding costly restaurant takeout purchases, but you’ll save time as well, since your meal is good to go after a quick re-heat.
Get good reusable containers
Speaking of leftovers—a surprisingly simple way to make eating them easier is to invest in several good quality reusable containers. You want to always have a few on hand, for packing up leftovers in meal-sized containers that can easily be placed in work bags or school backpacks. This makes it easier to have meals ready to go, so you don’t have to make emergency trips to the grocery store or restaurant to buy expensive prepared foods.
Buy fruits and veggies in season
This makes a lot of sense, but it’s surprising how little thought we give it. The beauty is that you don’t even really need to know what’s in season right now. You just need to pay attention to the prices. For instance, right now at my grocery store, grapes are $5.00 per pound and oranges are $1.50 per. Guess which I’m going home with? Doing a bit of simple, common sense analysis of what’s in season and what’s not can save you big bucks. Be sure to get the most out of your produce by following these tips. Don’t be afraid to expand your horizons, check out these lists of what fruits and vegetables in season:
Don’t forget to make grocery shopping fun! Share your best cost saving tips in the comments section.