Shop smart to save money on groceries even without clipping coupons. You’ll probably save even more on medical bills, because the thriftiest food can be the healthiest. Here are my top ten tips for getting the best value while grocery shopping.
Choose High-Value Ingredients
- Base your meals on dried beans and whole grains. These nutritional powerhouses store well and are light to ship, so you pay less for spoilage and transportation. (See how to save money on bulk and packaged beans and how I reworked a recipe to cut expensive eggs and oil but not flavor).
- Add plenty of sturdy fruits and vegetables. Focus on kale, carrots, and apples instead of asparagus and raspberries. (See how to buy carrots for the best cost, flavor, and health.)
- Shop with the seasons for the best value, flavor, and nutrition. Buy strawberries in the spring, apples in the fall, cocoa near Mother’s Day, and mustard near the grilling holidays.
- Avoid processed foods. Why pay extra to have someone make your food less healthy?
- Reduce or skip meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Why pay extra to have animals process your food and make it less healthy?
Use Your Shopping Savvy
- Buy in bulk. I mean from the serve-yourself bulk bins and by buying larger quantities of food at a time, such as a case of canned tomatoes. For double savings, buy in bulk during sales. The receipts above show I paid just $1.99 for a 32-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes, saving $1 a can plus the 10% off for buying in bulk. For some families, joining a membership club can pay off, but I get more of what I really need at the best overall price without them.
- Compare unit prices, not package prices. (Look at the price per ounce, for example, not the price of the package.) Some states require that the store labels show the unit price, but it can still be confusing. Often the best bargain is in the middle-sized package.
- Stock up during sales. It’s like getting a guaranteed return on your investment. But don’t get carried away. Only stock up on food you will use, that will keep, and that doesn’t tempt you to overeat. We don’t stock up on chocolate bars.
- Cook from scratch. A head of lettuce is usually a better value than a bag of salad mix. Salad mix beat the salad bar, which is often the last stop for food about to spoil. Buy flour, sugar, and cocoa instead of brownie mix. You’ll save money, get fresher food, and avoid additives. Even when I travel, I try to “cook” two meals a day, whether that means renting an Airbnb flat with a kitchen or making peanut butter and banana sandwiches on a picnic table.
- Watch the taxes. Here in North Carolina, there is no food tax for ingredients bought directly from the farmer. As in many states, prepared food is taxed at a higher rate too.
- News report: Best Supermarkets for Local and Organic Food in NC. Whether you live in North Carolina or not, this study may inspire you to take a fresh look at your store and have an informed discussion with the management.