Groceries are becoming more expensive every year, with no relief in sight, making it more important than ever to stretch every dollar. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimated average cost to feed a family of 4 runs between $146 to $289 per week, so if you’d like to stick to the lower end of that average, you’ll have to learn to be a smart shopper and find ways to be frugal.
Below are 10 tips to make meals your family will love while spending less money at the grocery store:
1. Timing Matters—
Studies have shown that because stores start sales mid-week, this is the best time to grocery shop for items marked down because of impending expiration dates.
Food close to expiry that can be frozen will save your family big bucks if you have freezer space in which to store it.
2. Frozen is Frugal—
Frozen vegetables will often have more vitamins than fresh vegetables because they are fresh when frozen, and haven’t journeyed from their original destination to sit losing nutrition in a produce section.
Meat can also be bought in bulk, separated into smaller portions, and then frozen to save money.
3. Buy Dry—
There are many dry goods that offer nutritious meal options with endless seasoning possibilities that can make meals delicious as well as affordable.
Rice is a great high-fiber grain that fills people up for less, and is gluten-free for those who are intolerant.
Beans bought dry, rather than canned, are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Beans also create a complete protein when combined with rice, allowing diners to skip expensive meat dishes.
4. You Say Potato, I Say Big Savings—
Potatoes are consistently one of the cheapest fresh foods offered, and the most versatile. A big bag of these vitamin C and potassium rich vegetables can be made into healthy baked potatoes and fries, or mashed with butter, garlic, sour cream and anything else you’d like to add.
Side dishes, casseroles, crock pot soups and stews can all benefit from these spuds, and fill up the hungriest growing children in a nutritious way. So skip the processed foods full of preservatives and get back to these basic staples.
5. Don’t Obey the List—
While making a shopping list can help us save money by eliminating gasoline-wasting trips to the store for 1 or 2 items, don’t be afraid to skip the non-necessities written down if the price isn’t right.
Try to find these foods cheaper later if a price is higher than you’re used to seeing. You tend to know the prices of items you regularly purchase, so if it seems expensive, your instinct is probably correct.
6. Price Match, Please—
Many stores now offer price matching, which means that if you have a flyer with a cheaper price on any item they carry, they will match that price to keep your business (money) in-store.
The bigger grocery chains are known for starting this program, but many other grocery stores are also offering price matching in order to stay competitive. It never hurts to ask, right?
7. Sale Stock Ups—
When foods you’re sure your family will eat with longer expiration dates go on sale, stock up on them to save money later.
If you have a decent-sized or extra freezer, this is a great way to save money on meat and other frozen goods when they go down in price as well.
8. Slow Cook the Savings—
The secret weapon of creative cooks on a budget is the slow cooker. Offering a high improvisation factor, a crock pot can be a great way to use up the vegetables or other leftovers in your refrigerator before they go bad to stretch food even further.
A bigger batch of stew or soup means ingredients can be bought in bulk, saving money, and there will be plenty of leftovers to cover lunches, too.
9. Online is Fine—
If you’re an impulsive shopper and tend to come home with multiple items that weren’t on the list, you might consider grocery shopping online.
This may sound strange, but actually many larger chains are exploring this option and offering free shipping after a certain amount.
Obviously, you will still have to go to the store to purchase perishables like produce and meat or frozen foods, but if you buy all the dry goods online, you’ll at least lessen the time spent near potentially tempting impulse items.
10. Minimize Monetary Contact—
The less you shop, the less you’ll spend in a week, so resolve to only shop on one day and stay away from the stores unless absolutely necessary.
Shopping solo is also highly recommended, because having more people to grab impulse items around is a quick way to fill up a shopping cart with things you don’t need.
Plus, if you’re alone you can concentrate better, and maybe you’ll actually remember those coupons you keep forgetting to use.
Shopping on a tight budget can be a challenge, but with a good grocery plan involving the useful tips above, you can save money and feed your family affordable meals that still taste expensively delicious.