Read and remember these tips, then take them with you on your next grocery shopping adventure. Soon they’ll become second nature while you enjoy a little more cash in that pocketbook.
When buying meat, consider the amount of cooked lean meat or the number of servings obtained for the price. The cuts with a low price per pound are not always the best buys. A relatively high-priced cut of meat with little or no waste may provide more meat for the money than a low-priced cut with a great deal of bone, gristle, or fat.
Consider less expensive lean cuts of meat such as chuck or bottom round instead of sirloin. They are just as nutritious as the more expensive cuts but need to be cooked longer at a lower temperature to make the meat tender. It’s not one of the best buys if you have to spend more to cook it properly.
Use dry beans and peas occasionally instead of meat, poultry, or fish to vary meals and reduce cost. These foods provide protein and many of the same nutrients found in meat.
Buy fresh fluid milk in large containers that generally cost less than milk in quart containers. Fluid milk sold at 24-hour convenience stores usually costs more than that sold at supermarket food stores. Nonfat dry milk is the least expensive way to buy milk. It may not seem that way when you see the price on the box, but it truly goes much, much further and it takes a long time to spoil. Definitely considered on of your best buys.
Try store brands and generic brands. They are usually less costly than name brands and are equally nutritious.
Buy bulk foods (when available). They are lower in price than similar foods sold in packages in the store. Also, buy the exact amount needed to control food waste. And be sure you buy bulk products you know your family will use up — buying something in bulk just because it’s a better deal, then winding up tossing out some of it defeats the purpose. If it’s wasted, it can’t be one of your best buys.
Foods at salad bars can be costly. Basic food items — lettuce, cabbage, and carrots – usually cost less in the produce section of the store than at the salad bar. But for some families, buying a smaller amount of food items at the salad bar may reduce waste and save dollars. You have to assess your families needs and implement accordingly.
Prevent food waste. Buy the types of food that family members like and the amount that they will eat before the food spoils.
A great list of 125 ways to save on food. Tips cover everything from buying fruits to meats, using coupons and getting back into the kitchen to do your own cooking.
Friday Freebie: We’ve made this into a nice PDF document for you to download. Feel free to share – but leave intact, please! We’ve also posted the list because we know some just don’t care to download. We hope you find the tips useful!
Save on Food: Plan
1. Take time to plan your meals and make a grocery list. This usually takes less time than the time spent going back to the store for a forgotten item.
2. Keep paper and pencil in the kitchen to list foods you need.
3. Check kitchen cabinets and refrigerator when making your grocery list.
4. Before going to the grocery store, plan a weekly menu of favorite dishes using healthy foods.
5. Plan some meals without meat. Use dried beans, eggs, or peanut butter as a main dish.
6. Read the weekly food section and check the Sunday newspaper to see what is on sale.
7. Plan your meals to use seasonal foods such as oranges in the winter and peaches in the summer.
8. Finish your grocery list before going shopping. The best memory does not substitute for a well planned list.
9. Use a grocery list to help manage your stress. For example, do you really like to strain your coffee through a paper towel when you are out of filters?
Save on Food When You Shop
10. Shop only once a week. The more trips to the store, the more money you spend. It is hard to purchase only a few items on any trip to the grocery store.
11. Keep in mind that items from convenience stores often cost more.
12. Pick the grocery store with the best prices for foods you buy.
13. Think of mileage. Shopping at many stores may not be worth the extra time and gasoline cost.
14. Check out dollar stores. Canned fruit and snack crackers can be purchased here cheaply.
15. Find a local farmers’ market. Fruits and vegetables tend to be fresher and cheaper.
16. Purchase foods at discount stores such as food cooperatives or warehouse food stores.
17. Look for grocery stores that offer extra savings on “Seniors Day.”
18. Find stores with super food sales during special times such as “Friday and Saturday Blow-out Sales” or “10 Items for $10.”
19. Know when to stick to the shopping list. The only time to go off the list is when you can get a good buy such as store sales and double coupon offers.
20. Know when not to use the list. Take the farmers’ market approach with fruits and vegetables. Buy what is fresh, cheap, and in season. Adjust your menu to fit these finds.
21. Don’t go down every aisle when you shop.
22. Do not shop when you are hungry because you will buy extra food. Better yet, have a small snack before shopping so you won’t buy a candy bar at checkout.
23. Shop without your children. Unwanted items can creep into the cart with too many “helping hands.” Take turns with a friend for child care. It’s kinder to fellow shoppers, too.
24. Shop early when the store is not crowded. You will get through the store faster and spend less.
25. Shop when you are not in a hurry. Take the time to compare the price of similar foods and purchase the cheapest. For example, which is cheaper, fruit cocktail or pears? Would it be cheaper to buy an item fresh, frozen, or dried? Here’s an example:
Lite Fruit Cocktail
3 cans fruit cocktail, lite syrup (12 to 13 ounces)
1 can pineapple chunks, lite syrup (12 to 13 ounces)
1 can sliced peaches in lite syrup(12 to 13 ounces)
1 package (16 ounces) fat free, sugar free vanilla pudding mix
Open all the cans of fruit, drain liquid. Pour into large serving bowl, mix in pudding mix. Stir well, chill several hours
26. Bring only the cash you have budgeted to the store. Decide how much you can spend weekly. Bring only that amount with you so you will
not be tempted to spend more money.
27. Avoid buying sample foods. Some stores offer “try something new” samples to get you to buy the food. If the food is not on your list, do not buy it. Think about it for a future list when you can use the food in your menus.
28. Upon entering the grocery store, check store ï¬‚yer for sale items and stock up!
29. In place of national brands, buy store brands when the taste and quality suit your needs. Compare brands!
30. Compare the unit price of food items. The cost per ounce or per pound helps find the best value.
31. Check the unit price of different size containers of the same food. The largest container is not always the cheapest.
32. Buy items by-the-case to save a lot of money. Make sure you have storage space for the food items. You can save on food a LOT this way.
33. When buying large amounts of food, split the food and cost with a friend. You both will save on food money.
34. When available, buy bulk foods for about 2 weeks at a time.
35. Avoid buying large amounts of foods that will go bad quickly. Spoiled food is a waste of money.
36. Buy family packs of meats, cheese, poultry, and luncheon meats. Divide into servings, freeze, and use as needed.
37. Buy foods in season to save on food money. When fruits and vegetables ripen, grocery stores are loaded with these low-cost fruits and vegetables. You will find something year-round that is in season, which makes it affordable.
38. Smaller-sized fruits and vegetables may be cheaper than larger ones.
39. Instead of buying canned fruits and vegetables in large pieces, buy these foods canned in smaller pieces.For example, pineapple chunks and diced tomatoes usually cost less than pineapple rings and whole tomatoes.
40. For best buys of healthy foods, stock up on fruit juices, milk, grits, peanut butter cookies, and popcorn for snacks. Avoid junk foods.
41. Avoid buying single servings of such foods as snack crackers, vegetable juice, and ice cream.
42. Avoid buying foods packaged together, such as cheese and crackers, meat and cheese trays, and frozen garlic cheese bread, when you can buy the items separately for less.
43. When shopping for food, buy non-food items only if you have extra money for them.
44. Check sell by and use by dates to be sure you buy fresh foods.
Use Coupons Carefully to Save on Food
45. Be careful when using coupons.
46. If you can save on food 25 or 50 cents off the price of something you already use, go for it.
47. To use coupons, you usually have to go to a common supermarket, so watch your prices carefully.
48. You can usually buy a food item cheaper at a discount store than you can buy it with a coupon at a big supermarket.
49. If you use a coupon to buy an item you do not need and would not have bought otherwise, you will be spending money you could have spent somewhere else.
50. In the store, use point-of-purchase coupons if the food item fits into your meal plan.
51. Take advantage of manufacturer’s rebates by mailing in coupons.
52. Bottom line? Use coupons when they will help you save on food, but do not become a coupon junkie.
53. Know the regular prices of items you usually buy. A sale will then be easy to spot.
54. Make a cheat sheet so you will know what you usually pay for an item that you use a lot.
55. Remember the trick is to buy on the markdowns. You don’t have to change your habits. Just buy when items are at low cost.
56. Sometimes, “buy one, get one free” is not a lot cheaper because the cost of the ï¬rst item is too much.
57. Make sure all purchases are rung up correctly.
58. Use itemized food receipts when checking out to help track food costs.
59. Divide grocery bill into food and nonfood items to get the cost of food. To make it easy, separate food items and nonfood items when checking out.
60. Compare prices of nonfood items at the grocery store with the same item at a discount store.
Choose Bargains to Save on Food
61. Give those grocery shelves the once-over. Grocery stores put items they most want to sell on the shelves between knee and shoulder height. The highest markup items are the ones about chest level. These are easy to grab and toss in the cart.
62. Stick to the edges. In general, the healthier, less processed foods are at the edges of the grocery store. These foods –Â fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat — are healthy and also save on food by going further in the kitchen.
63. Check the clearance section of the grocery store for items such as soap, cereal, and household products. These
items may be piled in shopping carts throughout the store. Only buy if you know it is a good deal. Do not buy cans with dents.
64. Shop when the store opens to find the marked down meats. You must come early because the meats get snapped up quickly. Either cook the meat and eat it the same day or freeze it for later use.
65. Shop for meats carefully. Bones and fat on meat cost a lot of money. It is hard to compare prices of meats with bones and extra fat.
66. Use leftover meats for sandwiches instead of buying packaged sandwich meats.
67. Buy day old bread from the quick sale table or, if available, a bakery outlet. Toast or freeze it for good eating.
68. Buy plain breads and cereals. They are usually better buys than fancy breads and cereals.
69. Buy regular rice. It is usually a better buy than quick cooking rice or fancy rice blends.
70. Quick cooking oatmeal and grits are less expensive and almost as fast as the single serving instant cereals.
71. Buy a head of lettuce and wash it instead of buying lettuce in a bag.
72. Look over all fresh fruits and vegetables. If you are paying full price, make sure all perishable foods are in top shape.
73. Ignore the checkout display. This is the store’s last attempt to take your money. Consider checking out magazines at the library. If you ate a snack before shopping, you will be able to resist buying a candy bar.
Keep Food Safe
74. In the grocery store, shop for cold items last. These are frozen vegetables, meats, dairy products, and salad bar ingredients.
75. Try to get cold foods packed together in a bag when checking out. To make it easy, place all meats together, all frozen foods together, and all dairy foods together. When these foods are sacked together, they are easy to spot when you get home.
76. Lessen the time foods are in the car. Keep perishables out of direct sunlight or out of a hot trunk.
77. Put foods away quickly when you get home. Find grocery sacks with the cold items that need to be refrigerated first.
78. Examine bags of potatoes, onions, and fruits. Throw out bad ones. Store potatoes and onions in a cool, dry place. Store fruits and other vegetables in the refrigerator.
79. Go through kitchen cabinets regularly to make sure canned and packaged foods are used before expiration dates. Save on food by not wasting it!
Prepare at Home
80. Make large amounts of recipes that freeze well such as spaghetti sauce, chili, and soups. Label and freeze them for later use.
81. Recycle the roast! Purchase a large roast on sale. Cook and eat some of it the first night. Freeze the rest for later. You not only save on food, you save on gas or electricity for cooking!
82. Cook a whole chicken and use for more than one meal.
83. Stretch ground meat with bread crumbs, oatmeal, or tomato sauce.
84. Bake more than one item while the oven is hot. Your can cook the main dish, dessert, vegetables, quick breads, or other foods at the same time if they are to be cooked at the same temperature.
85. Do not leave food in the oven overnight. Cooked foods, such as meats, could make you very sick when left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
86. For drinking, use nutritious, low cost instant nonfat dry milk. Thoroughly chill it before drinking for better taste.
87. For cooking, use dry milk in place of the more expensive regular milk. Store the box of powdered milk in a large baggie in the freezer. Keep a measuring cup in the plastic bag to make mixing easy.
88. To make milk go twice as far, mix an equal part of instant nonfat dry milk made by the directions with an equal amount of regular milk.
89. Make your own mixes for biscuits, pancakes, and other prepared foods. Already prepared mixes sometimes cost a lot more than homemade mixes.
90. If you are unable to eat ripe bananas right away, use them in a muffin recipe. Or freeze the entire banana in the peel for later use. A frozen banana turns black and looks gross but it is safe. You can also peel and mash the bananas prior to freezing.
91. Make extra pancakes. Wrap separately, freeze, and reheat in a toaster or microwave.
92. Save bread ends and crusts. Toast them when baking something else. Crush to make bread crumbs; store in the freezer.
93. Make desserts from scratch. You can save on food BIG. They are usually cheaper than store-bought ones.
94. Make iced tea from scratch. Pre-made iced tea in jugs is expensive; iced tea in bottles is even more expensive.
95. Use a toaster oven, if you have one, when only a small amount is to be baked.
96. Use an electric skillet, if you have one, to bake a chicken or roast or to make spaghetti sauce. It is easy to drain the fat from meat — just tilt the skillet slightly.
97. Choose home popped popcorn for a snack. It is less expensive than microwave popcorn and much cheaper than chips. Hint: Use an electric skillet for popping. Store leftover popcorn in an airtight plastic bag.
98. Make tasty salads using leftover vegetables, fruit, meat, or cereal.
99. Keep a “soup container” in the freezer. Add all vegetable liquids as well as leftover meats and vegetables to create a delicious soup or stew for next to nothing.
100. Make casseroles to use leftovers and to offer new foods to your family.
101. Make foods from scratch (homemade). It can be cheaper (and healthier) than store bought, convenience items. We have tons of recipes to get you started.
102. Make sure convenience foods are good buys. Some good buys are canned vegetables and frozen juice. Others, such as ready made pudding, may cost a lot more.
Be Creative to Save on Food
103. Grow your own fruits and vegetables.
104. Grow herbs in a flowerpot or in a windowsill container.
105. Pick fruits and vegetables at U-pick farms.
106. Can or freeze fruits and vegetables in the summer when they are plentiful. Use them in the winter.
Be Smart to Save on Food
107. Waste less. Use all food before it spoils.
108. Store foods correctly. Poor storage can cause dried out, stale, or molded food.
109. Plan for using leftovers.
110. Brown Bag your lunch at work instead of buying it.
111. Avoid vending machines. Pack similar items at home in small bags and bring drinks bought by the case.
112. Put together a snack bag of easy-to-eat items to enjoy in the car or at games.
113. Plan snacks for kids. Carrot sticks are cheaper than candy bars.
114. Entertain with potlucks or inexpensive buffets, such as lasagna and salads.
115. Limit eating out. Regardless of the fast food advertisements, it does cost a lot of money.
116. To save gas money, park the car and walk inside to order. You get a little exercise too!
117. Do not upgrade or super size your order. You are only super sizing your bill and your waistline.
118. When ordering, think smaller. It is not a value meal if you are paying for more than you want.
119. Do not load up on side dishes. Share the fries and you will save money and calories too.
120. Order ice water. It is usually free. To make it tastier, order it with lemon.
121. Eat dessert at home. Dessert is one of the most marked-up items on the menu.
122. If eating in, order the smallest size beverage or even a kid size cup. Most fast food places offer free refills.
123. Look between the buns. The patties are usually very small and the vegetables look limp. Your homemade burgers will look better and, even with the vegetables, be cheaper.
124. Cooking extra and freezing the remainder at home is just as convenient as going to the drive through.
125. Do not forget your pet. The Styrofoam containers that burgers and entrees are packed in make excellent pet dishes. Just wipe out and take home. Cut the top and bottom apart for two dishes -one for the cat and one for the dog. Toss them out when the edges get worn.
When money gets tight, it is time to be creative. Think positively. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your shopping skills — to show how competent you are!
Know How Much You Have to Spend
The first step in stretching grocery dollars is to know how much money you have to spend. The next step is to develop a spending plan and establish a maximum amount to spend in each category. How much do you have to spend for groceries for one month? Divide your money into four parts. Now you know how much is available to spend each week.
Know What You Must Purchase for Stretching Grocery Dollars
Your supermarket bill will include various food and non-food items.
Non-food purchases include things such as cleaning and laundry products (soaps, detergent), paper products (napkins, toilet tissue), grooming supplies (toothpaste, shampoo), and household supplies (light bulbs, waxes, polishes).
Know Your Needs
Before going supermarket shopping, check to see what you have on hand available for use. Then, make a list of items you will need for the week.
There is a difference in what you want and what you need. You may want steak, but your need is meat — and there are meats that cost less than steak!
For example, try a fruit crisp instead of a fruit pie with a double crust to reduce fat and calories.
Make a Shopping List
To organize your shopping, make a list. A shopping list helps make sure that you get the things you need and helps you avoid overlooking a product that would require an extra trip to the store.
Keep the list handy in the kitchen; write down the items needed as supplies run low.
Include basic staples when they need replacement.
List the weekly-advertised specials that fit into your menu. Include staples that are on special if you have storage space and you can use them before the quality deteriorates.
Look for Bargains
Check newspaper ads for special prices. Stores often sell some merchandise at reduced prices to attract customers who will usually buy other merchandise. Note the price and store on your shopping list. Before going shopping, plan a menu for a week so you will know which foods to buy. This will be of great help in stretching grocery dollars.
Use Coupons, Rebates, and Cents-Off when Advantageous
Manufacturers and stores issue discount coupons. Most stores that sell the product accept the manufacturers’ coupons. You can only use store coupons at the specified store.
Most coupons offer savings on name brand products. Coupons can help in stretching grocery dollars if you normally buy that specific product at its regular price. If a store brand (or another brand) sells for less, the coupon may not save you money.
Mail-in refund coupons are popular. But remember to receive a rebate you must mail in proof of purchase and usually the sales receipt. It is easy to neglect mailing the request. View rebates with caution. Remember you must follow through to receive the rebate. You also pay the postage when requesting the rebate. Rebates are not always paid.
Know When and Where to Shop
Try to shop when the stores are not crowded. Shop alone if possible (children and mates often add to the bill). Take advantage of farmers’ markets and roadside stands to buy less expensive, locally-grown produce. Compare prices at competing supermarkets. Choose the one that has the best prices for items you buy. Put these tips into practice and you’ll find your stretching grocery dollars a lot!
Some bakeries and stores have day-old outlets that sell bakery products for about half price or less. These products are leftover from a day or so earlier. Some super markets also sell day-old products.
Do Comparison Shopping
Compare the cost of food products in different forms (for example, canned, fresh, and frozen). Compare competing brands including store brands. Many of the store brands are from the same processors as the national brands but usually sell for a lower price. This is a great practice for stretching grocery dollars.
Compare cost per unit of competing products. The unit price is marked on the supermarket shelves beneath the products.
Consider the Packaging
Packaging is important in keeping foods and other products fresh and protecting them from soil and contamination during handling. It is important to select products that are not over-packaged.
Think about how the product is to be used. When and under what conditions do you use the product.
For example, individually-wrapped slices of cheese are great for children who will “build” their own sandwiches on a picnic table. It is excess packaging of cheese if the cheese is for general home use.
Consider buying concentrated forms of products. The smaller container reduces waste. Others sell refills in more environmentally-friendly packages. Remember, “Just a few packages” discarded by many people has resulted in overflowing landfills. Every discarded package counts.
Read the Label
Some call the label the window to the product. Federal regulations require certain label information, including the:
Common name of the product
Amount of product, and
Name and address of manufacturer, processor
Food product labels include:
Net weight including solid and liquid content
(for example, peas and juice).
Ingredients that make up the product (listed in
decreasing amounts by weight).
The nutrition information tells the shopper:
How many servings are in the container.
How many calories it contains.
The amount of sugar, fat, vitamins, minerals.
Information needed to make nutritious choices.
Use Open Dating Information
Dairy products and some other products are required to carry an open, shelf removal date. Other products (for example, cereals) voluntarily use a shelf-removal date to ensure quality.
When shopping, think about the length of time you will store the item before using it. Look for a date that is as distant as possible unless you plan to use immediately. Shelf removal dates are quality assurance dates. They are not a “do not use after” date. Products are usually still usable for some time following their shelf-removal date.
Buy and Prepare Foods in Usable Quantities
Do not waste food. For those living alone, divide food into serving sizes after preparing. Label and freeze the individual servings. If you do this for several foods, it is easy to select a varied menu and you reduce preparation time. Another great means of stretching grocery dollars.
Source: The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS)
Some tips to help you plan and prepare nutritious meals on a limited budget:
Build time saving meals for main dishes around pasta or grains. Use noodles or rice, and combine them with a smaller amount of meat, poultry, fish, or meat alternates such as eggs. For example, prepare a main dish by combining rice, vegetables, and ham.
Involve family members in planning and preparing your time saving meals. This creates interest, teaches the kids basic food preparation skills, and lessens the workload for the food preparer.
Make time saving meals easier to prepare by varying the methods used to cook foods. For example, if a slow cooker or pressure cooker is available, use either of these appliances to cook dry beans. The slow cooker does not require constant watching, and the pressure cooker requires much less time than the conventional stove top method.
Go easy on fat, sugars, and sodium in preparing food items. For example, bake rather than deep-fry chicken or fish. This does not mean eliminating all fat, sugars, and sodium, only limiting the amount.
Take advantage of planned leftovers for time saving meals that also save food dollars. For example, prepare a roast, serve half of it, and freeze the remaining half to use later with vegetables for a quick soup.
Do “batch cooking” when the food budget and time allow. Cook a large batch of spaghetti sauce, divide it into family-size portions, and freeze promptly for meals later in the month.
Make one pot meals such as stews or hearty soups. These type of meals reduce the number of pots, pans, and other utensils that have to be washed.
Save with powdered milk. Use powdered milk either in part or whole to save money. When powdered milk is cold, you hardly notice a difference, especially on cereal or in recipes.
Plan snacks that give your family the nutrients they need. For example, buy fresh fruits in season like apples or peaches. Dried fruits like raisins or prunes, raw vegetables, crackers, and whole wheat bread are also good ideas for snacks. Make your own smart snacks – and don’t forget, Popcorn is a Whole Grain Snack!