Every weekend, my wife, two daughters, and I head to the grocery store. We need to maximize the healthy foods we buy to feed our family within our budget. Over the past 10 years, I learned a few things about how to shop smarter! Here are my top 11 tips:
1.) Shop digital and paper coupons! (Yes, paper coupons still exist LOL!) Many people think if they have a shoppers club card the discounts automatically apply, but that’s not always the case. Before you head to the store, download the store’s app and “clip” the coupons directly to your shoppers club card. Then grab the store’s flyer on your way in and rip out what coupons you will use. You can often combine paper coupons with the savings from your shoppers club card! Additionally, by using the online coupon approach, technology tracks what you’re interested in and typically buy and lets you know when those items (or similar ones) are on sale.
2.) Shop seasonally and shop local! Local farmers markets often have incredible deals. If you’re willing to adjust your diet based on seasonality and you have a good farmers market nearby, you can often get food at seriously discounted prices. And you’re supporting the local economy – it is a win-win. Just a note, these are often cash-only deals, but more and more markets are accepting credit cards with the use of smartphones. Or search your local area to find a CSA (that stands for Community Supported Agriculture). Basically you “subscribe” to a farm. You pay in advance and they provide you with a box filled with whatever fruits and veggies they picked that week. It is a great way to incorporate variety into your diet, eat seasonal produce, support your local farmers, and helps you spend less time at the grocery store! Go to localharvest.org to search for farmers markets and CSAs in your area.
3.) Buy in bulk and consider a wholesale store. Places like Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, etc. often will have high-quality food in bulk you may be pleasantly surprised with all the options they have – including natural and organic products. While the initial upfront cost may be high, or higher than you usually pay, the price per unit is usually super economical! Even if there is a membership fee to join, you typically make it up because of the discounted prices – especially if you really check the prices.
4.) Be flexible where you get your food. Sometimes to be frugal, you need to be adaptable. Shopping at multiple stores is sometimes the best way to really maximize your savings. Different places will offer different deals at different times. Having the ability to shop at multiple places can equate to big savings in the long run. Additionally, be flexible/adaptable with what you eat. This isn’t only good for finding excellent prices, but diversity is good for your overall health. Don’t ALWAYS eat chicken, rice, and broccoli, for example.
5.) Do not be afraid to shop online! Yes, it’s a newer concept and foreign to some, but it is convenient and often times cheaper! You can find fantastic deals but also you might make less impulsive purchases that you might make if you are walking around the supermarket. Also, if it’s your first time online shopping with a certain retailer they will often give really good discounts or promotions. Online shopping can either mean you get a box delivered right to your door or you can order online and go pick it up through those curb-side programs at your local store. Figure out which would work best for your lifestyle and location.
6.) Freeze it. Buying in bulk and buying seasonal fruits and veggies means your freezer will be packed! Make sure to label everything with what it is and the date because you think you’ll remember but in a couple months you’ll forget what you put in there. Also, make a point to actually use the stuff you jammed in there. Plan a meal made with items from the freezer once a week or so to make sure it isn’t forgotten about and getting covered in freezer-burn.
7.) Plan ahead and don’t waste. Healthy foods are often fresh foods (think fruits, veggies, meats, dairy) so they can spoil rather quickly. If you plan your meals before you head to the market then you can buy exactly what you need for the week and it will have a better chance of being eaten, not wasted. Another way to avoid wasting food (and therefore money!) is to keep some masking tape and a marker next to your fridge so that you can label your leftover with the date. It makes it much easier to see what needs to be eaten.
8.) Find the best price. When comparing prices, make sure they are priced for the same unit. For example, pre-cut bags of broccoli are $5 per bag while heads of broccoli are $1.59 per pound. At a glance you might think the $1.59 per pound broccoli heads are cheaper but they aren’t! Do the math and you see that the bag of broccoli is only $1.25 per pound because it is a 4 pound bag. Not excited to do math? Look closely at the little price tags on the shelves. Usually in the corner it does the math for you by listing the price per pound or ounce or whatever. Check it out!
9.) Mix it up! I can eat a ton of food so I like to mix some cheaper things in with the more expensive stuff. Cabbage is super cheap (and delicious) so I like to make it along with asparagus which tends to be more expensive. That way, half of my dinner plate is still covered in green veggies but it doesn’t break my budget.
10.) Check your receipts. After your weekly shopping trip, take a look at your receipt. What did you spend the most money on? Is it something that will feed your family a significant amount of high quality, healthy food? Is it something you absolutely love? Is it a necessity? Then that seems like money well spent. But if you look at your receipt and you spent the most money on something that you typically don’t finish and throw out, something that you impulsively bought, or something unhealthy then maybe you should think about if that purchase was worth it.
11.) Lastly, don’t forget to account for your protein supplements – they are food! When budgeting, remember that maybe your post workout meal is NutraBio’s Classic Whey and your before bed meal consists of NutraBio’s Muscle Matrix. Therefore, you don’t have to buy protein at the market for these meals. It’s important to remember this when planning your food/grocery budget!
So there you have it. Eleven simple, effective tools you can utilize to save big while eating and living healthy. I’ve had over a decade of experience shopping and utilizing these tools. And to this day, I still use them. My family and I manage to live a frugal lifestyle while still living a healthy and fit one – give these tips a try!
If you have questions for Zane you can find his social media here: