A trip to the grocery store may cost you a bit more these days. With rising prices and falling budgets, it's more challenging than ever to bring home the fixings for balanced meals. But, saving money at the supermarket doesn't mean giving up nutritious foods. Here are some tips to save you money while nourishing your family.
Get into a Frugal Frame of Mind
- Be healthier to be wealthier. Consider the money you'll save down the road by eating well today and teaching your family to make wise food choices. Good nutrition could mean fewer days missed from work and school and fewer medical bills now and in the future.
- Expect to spend a little extra time buying groceries — at least at first. Making lists, checking store flyers and comparing unit prices on packages take time. Give it a few weeks, and you'll get faster.
- Make your mantra: Raw, whole and bulk. Raw and whole foods are not prepared or processed so these items usually cost less than buying their precooked and ready-to-eat counterparts. Buying staples in bulk also can mean some huge savings on those family favorites. Look for items such as breakfast cereals, which can really put a dent in your budget.
- Fall in love with your freezer. When you prepare a recipe, double it and put the extra portions in the freezer. You’ll be glad it’s there on that night when nothing goes as planned. Instead of calling for home delivery, you can zap a delicious meal that you know your family loves. When freezing, add a date to the outside package and eat the items with the earlier dates first.
- Keep a running grocery list. Each trip to the supermarket will cost you extra time and gas money. By keeping a list, you won't have to run out for single items. Plus, fewer trips to the grocery store means fewer impulse buys.
- Plan your menus around the sales. Planning is key. Review several supermarket flyers or look for their specials online. You'll save the most money on sales for meats. When creating your menus, have a plan for leftovers such as making sandwiches with extra servings of chicken or pot roast.
- Keep up with your favorite brands on social media. You'll find some great bargains and coupons this way.
- Grow your own. Plant tomatoes, peppers, carrots, lettuce and more. Save money, have fun and get better flavor at the same time.
- Cook more meals at home. You get to control the ingredients, and you won't have the labor costs involved with restaurant meals.
- Identify the foods you can prepare more cheaply at home. There's no need to buy prepared gelatin, pudding and tea when they're simple and inexpensive to make yourself.
- Do a 5-minute inventory of your refrigerator at least twice a week. Find a use for everything before it goes bad. Toss wilting vegetables into a pot of soup or spaghetti sauce. Freeze leftovers for another day and ripe bananas for banana bread or smoothies.
At the Grocery Store
- Use coupons only for foods you normally buy. Find stores that host double- and triple-coupon days and shop during that time.
- Invite the kids. Shop with your kids and show them how to choose healthy fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry — or when the kids are hungry. Have snacks before heading out to help you resist those impulse buys.
- Don't reward with candy. Don't use candy as a reward for your kids' good behavior while shopping.
- Stock up. Buy extra canned and frozen goods, cereals and even meats and fish when they're on sale. Wrap meats in a freezer bag before freezing. Limit the use of pre-packaged foods, chips, cookies, candy, and soft drinks or sugary beverages.
- Buy generic. Store brands often are as good or better than the pricier name brand. Compare ingredients lists and Nutrition Facts panels.
- Check unit prices or prices per serving. Search high and low because often the least expensive items are on the top and bottom shelves.
- Use these high-nutrition, low-cost foods. Instead of expensive meats, try beans lentils, eggs, peanut butter, tofu and canned fish (salmon, tuna or crabmeat). You also can usually find good prices on grains including oats, brown rice and barley. Sweet and white potatoes are low-cost filling options. And, frozen fruit and vegetables are rich in nutrients and less expensive than some fresh counterparts.