Grocery shopping is a stress factor, whether you’re shopping for yourself, or your family of six. Not only do you need to figure out what you’re going to make for the week to come, but also… how to stay at least somewhat healthy or full.
That’s not even touching on the budgeting involved, which is likely the biggest issue for anyone given the state of the world.
So what would you say if we told you that it’s possible to save big at just about any grocery store? Without the need for crazy couponing habits like moms did in the ’80s and ’90s?
Tip #1: Use grocery store apps to track sales and discount opportunities
Fancier grocery stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts offer apps in which you can shop, schedule grocery pickup, or opt in for a delivery subscription. These apps let you see what’s in-store at each location, prices, and any sales or discounted items.
It’s not just fancier grocery stores though. Target, Safeway, Albertson’s and QFC do too. So does Central Market. If your favorite grocery store doesn’t have an app, they should at least have a website, which you can use to plan things out — unless of course your favorite grocery store is Trader Joe’s, which has built its brand without tech.
Tip #2: Make a list and stick to it
The biggest splurge of money? All the things that you weren’t planning on buying. The odds and ends you get on the way to checkout, the sweets and treats that your family sneaks into the cart, etc. That’s money you likely weren’t planning on spending, which adds up quickly. A $60 bill could easily turn into $90-plus if you’re not careful.
The solution? Make a list of the things you truly need and stick to it.
Be realistic with it too: which items will you add to cart once you’re there that aren’t already on your list? What exactly can’t you change (kids sneaking treats), and what can you do about it?
A solid idea here — budget for the things you can’t change, so you’re prepared ahead of time. If you need to cut corners to save further, do it from other categories, swap for cheaper (more versatile) ingredients, or have a realistic chat with the family about finances.
Tip #3: Cross-check to ensure you don’t have anything on your list already
Before heading off to the store or ordering digitally, cross-check your list. That can of beans you need, do you already have four forgotten ones in the pantry? The roast you’re planning for, do you have steak in the freezer that needs to be used up first?
Tip #4: Prioritize all whole foods first (it’s boxed and processed food that hits your wallet harder)
No, really. Bell peppers you can get for $1-1.50 each. Potatoes for $2-3 a bag. Oranges for about 88 cents. For reference, these are typical Sprouts sale prices, no less. You can get these items even cheaper at stores like Bargain Mart if you’re willing to buy lesser-quality goods, or don’t mind a smaller selection.
Compare that to $4 for a box of cereal, $5 for processed sandwich meat, $5 for each TV dinner, and $2-3 for each flavored yogurt container (compared to the same price for a big container of plain yogurt you can use in place of sour cream, cream cheese, or even creamy pasta sauce).
Essentially, it’s all about selection. Even a $50 budget can stretch further when you’re doing most of the prep work. The price of convenience is what’s expensive.
Tip #5: Only buy what you can realistically eat
This is a huge one. Most people, regardless of their living situation, tend to overestimate their food intake and then throw away most of their hard-earned food by the end of the week. An estimated 80 billion pounds of food get thrown out each year in the U.S. alone.
That’s why it’s important to look at your food intake from a very honest, realistic view. Will you actually eat all those potatoes, or do you really just need one to two big ones? Will you use up all those salad mixes, or are you going to let them rot away in the drawer and forget all about them for two weeks?
Spend one week looking at the foods you naturally gravitate toward, what you use up, and what you toss. Then, plan accordingly.
— By Jennifer Mendez
Jennifer Mendez is a content creator and Lynnwood resident who specializes in copy, graphic design and photography for her clients. Whenever she’s not creating something, she’s exploring new places to eat in the area.