Five Ways to Stretch Your Dollar at the Grocery Store
, Meal Planning
, School Lunch/Nutrition
Stay within your grocery budget while feeding your family right with these five tips:
- Buy in bulk when items go on sale. Browse your grocery aisles for sale items and stock up on foods you can store in the pantry and freezer. Load your cart with non-perishables like canned and bottled goods, dried beans and peas, whole-grain pastas, crackers and cereals, brown rice, tomato sauces, and nut butters; plan to fill your freezer with frozen fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry. If you’re thinking of bulk buying perishables that are on sale, such as fresh produce, dairy products, or raw beef, chicken and seafood, “Check the expiration date and if you don’t think your family can realistically consume that food before then, or you don’t have the freezer space to store it, give it a pass,” says Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, LD, CDE, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Try canned and frozen products. Canned and frozen foods can be less expensive than fresh. They’re great to have on hand when you run out of food in your refrigerator. Don’t worry about compromising on nutrition; fruits and vegetables are canned or frozen at their peak of nutrition and quality. Do watch out for high-sodium content in canned goods. Dobbins suggests looking for brands with “no salt added” or that are listed as having “reduced sodium.” Canned food is safe as long as the container isn’t swollen, damaged, rusted or dented. Although many canned foods are coded with "use by" dates, you should rotate your supply at least every other year.
- Use a slow-cooker. This handy piece of kitchen equipment uses a moist heat method of cooking which helps tenderize less expensive but tougher cuts of meat. Dobbins says you can stretch that meat dollar further by adding frozen vegetables or beans to your slow-cooker recipes. Meals from a slow-cooker are hearty and filling, and they make the house smell good.
- Cook meals in large batches then freeze for later. “I always double or triple a recipe so I don’t have to cook again during the week,” says Dobbins. Batch cook and freeze meals over the weekend when you have more time. On weekdays all you have to do is take a meal out of the freezer and simply reheat. You can also use leftovers from a roast or chicken to make a stir fry, tacos, or soup other days of the week. The more meals you make at home instead of going out, the more money you save.
- Take advantage of store loyalty cards, store brands, coupons and in-store specials. If you haven’t signed up yet for your grocery store’s loyalty card, do it now. Often sale prices are only valid with the loyalty card and you could miss out on big savings. Consider purchasing the store brand version of packaged foods—they are usually a better buy than commercially branded items. Scan your newspaper and weekly store circulars for sales and coupons of items you regularly purchase. Also try company websites for coupons. Check for in-store deals like “manager’s specials” of day-old baked goods or foods close to their expiration date.
Reviewed April 2013