In case you haven’t heard, I’m a bit of a grocery shopping fanatic.
It’s one of my favorite past times.
So to make you love grocery shopping as much as I do, I broke down my top hacks for how to make grocery shopping easier.
In part 1 of our grocery shopping series, we dove in to how to make grocery shopping easier. If you haven’t already, give it a read and share your favorite grocery shopping hacks in the comments – I’m always looking for new tips and tricks.
Now that we’ve gone through how to make grocery shopping feel like less of a chore, we’re going to explore how to score some big savings on your weekly shopping trip.
Keep reading to hear how you can stretch your dollar at the grocery store.
Shop for frozen
Frozen food is one of my favorite healthy eating on a budget hacks. I think frozen food gets a bad rap because of our preconceived notions about what frozen food is, which is fresh food that’s…well…not fresh anymore.
While we seem to be okay with some frozen food (ice cream anyone?), the idea of eating nothing but frozen vegetables is not appealing to most.
Well, it’s time to challenge your beliefs about frozen food because it’s actually just as, and sometimes more, nutritious than it’s fresh counterparts.
Plus, it’s almost always less expensive.
I can get a 2 kg (about 4 lbs) bag of frozen berries in the winter for $11.99. Compared to 900 g (2 lbs) of strawberries for $10 and not nearly as delicious (remember out of season fruit often doesn’t taste that great).
Buying frozen food also helps ensure less food goes to waste, which can also be a big money drainer. The average family throws away $1,500 in food every single year. You don’t think about that when you throw a few rotting apples in to the compost, but the cost can really add up.
Try frozen produce, meat, and fish for big savings, and reduce the stress of having to use everything in a specific amount of time. Just be sure to avoid the frozen ready-made-meals which are not only more expensive, but almost always a less than healthy choice.
Choose generic brands
I’ll be honest, I’m super brand loyal. I guess I’m just a sucker for nice packaging and familiar company names. Sure it may be $2 more, but that means it must be better, right?
For some products, generic brands are practically identical to their name brand counterparts. They’re manufactured in the same facility and produced in the same way. This especially holds true for staple food items and dry goods like flour, sugar, and spices.
That may be why chefs are more likely to buy generic brand food, especially things like flour, sugar, tea, and spreads and dips. I don’t know about you, but I trust chefs’ opinions of quality food ingredients (our own foodie Tris agrees—no one will be able to tell the difference).
Here are some of my favorite generic brands to buy:
- Kirkland: There is nothing about Costco I don’t love, including their Kirkland products. Word on the street is Kirkland vodka is produced in the same facility as Grey Goose. I’ll take that with a squeeze of lemon please.
- 365: Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand is a great option if you’re looking for organic food at a fraction of the cost. My favorite buy is their organic German mustard for $1.99. Free of weird ingredients and utterly delicious, you really can’t beat it.
- Trader Joe’s: Trader Joe’s has a bit of a cult following, and for good reason. Their products are high quality, inexpensive, and wildly creative. Plus almost everything at Trader Joe’s is generic – that’s how they keep their costs so low. If you’re lucky enough to live near one, run don’t walk.
- No Name: If you’ve ever been in to a No Frills or Superstore, then you’ve seen No Name products in their iconic yellow packaging with bold black font. While they may not be the prettiest, they pack a huge savings punch. I like to buy No Name baking supplies when I need to save a few extra bucks.
Step outside your comfort zone and explore some generic brand products. You may be surprised at just how good they can be. Plus…the savings are outrageous.
Avoid pre-packaged food
Pre-packaged food is a dream come true after a busy day of work. It’s hard to muster up the energy to go home and make lasagna when there’s a ready to go lasagna in the cooler at Whole Foods staring you in the face.
While it may be easy to choose convenience in the short-term, you’re definitely going to pay for it. Pre-packaged food can cost two to three times as much as if you were to go home and make it yourself.
If you’re relying on ready-made sandwiches and salads for your lunches every day, that really adds up. One solution? Meal prepping and leftovers.
Take the time on Sunday to plan out all your meals for the week and shop for them accordingly. Make sure you have everything you need to feed yourself and prep as much as you can ahead of time. I like to batch cook things like lentils and quinoa to keep in the fridge, as well as cut up veggies ready to go.
Once you have those big meals cooked, take leftovers for lunch. With a little practice and a few good recipes you’ll soon find your leftovers are better than a lot of people’s “firstovers”.
With plenty of options at hand there’s no excuse not to eat at home or pack your lunch.
Know the difference between the “sell by”, “best by”, and “use by” dates
Here’s another confession – I’m very wary of food expiration dates. I’m that person that throws away a tub of yogurt the day after it’s expiry date, as if all of a sudden at midnight it transformed from an edible delicacy to a cesspool of disease.
A little irrational, I know.
The first step to avoiding unnecessary food waste, and saving some money in the process, is to understand what all those different dates on your food means. Doing so can keep you from throwing your money and your yogurt down the drain.
These are the dates most commonly found on food and exactly what they mean:
- Sell by: This date is for retailers, not the consumer. It’s the date by which the product should be taken off the shelf or sold by. This is more a matter of quality and less about whether or not the food is safe to eat. In fact, food still has up to a third of its shelf life left after the sell-by date. The exception to this rule is if you’re buying meat discounted for quick sale because it’s close to its sell by date. Make sure you cook those right away.
- Best by: This is the date by which you should eat food to make sure it still tastes as best as it could. Food isn’t necessarily unsafe to eat after the best by date, it just make not taste as good.
- Use by: This is the closest thing to an expiry date, but even this one is mostly based around quality. Do your best to eat food before the use by date and be mindful that I may become unsafe to eat quickly thereafter.
Understanding exactly what these dates mean can help you in your money saving journey by limiting the amount of food you throw away. I once ate hummus that was a month after its use by date and was fine. Use your eyes and nose as the definitive test—if it looks or smells bad, it is.
But of course, I would not recommend that.
Check out the clearance section
The first thing I do when I walk into a clothing store is go to the clearance rack. In fact, I almost exclusively shop on the clearance rack and I’m not afraid to admit it. It’s the best way for fast savings.
If you haven’t checked out the clearance rack at your local grocery store, or if you didn’t even know you had one, it’s time to give it a look. You can find some great deals on day-old bread and bakery items (hello homemade croutons, bread pudding, and bread crumbs), food that’s about to expire (or is it?), and miscellaneous home products.
It’s a good way to explore some new products and perhaps find a great discount on something you were already going to buy.
My mom’s grocery store hack? She always bought her bread from the clearance section of the grocery store. It was yesterday’s bread that they baked in house, and it was always just as delicious. Then she would bring it home, cut it up, and stick it in the freezer to maintain its freshness.
I never even know it was “old” bread until she told me her secret.
Freshness tip: store bread at room temperature on the counter or in the freezer. Bread in the fridge goes stale super fast.
Sign up for rewards programs
Have you ever seen an item marked on sale at the grocery store, only to find out that price only applies to rewards members?
Lucky for you, many grocery stores have rewards programs that are free to sign up for and come with cool perks. These are some of the biggest advantages of signing up for a rewards program:
- Collect points on purchases: With a lot of rewards programs, you’ll collect points every time you make a purchase. You can then redeem these points for discounts, free groceries, and even gift cards and travel.
- Exclusive access to sale prices: Sometimes sale prices will be offered only to rewards members. Considering it’s free to sign up, there’s no reason not to take advantage of these exclusive offers.
- Chances to win bigger prizes: Rewards members will often be automatically entered for a chance to win bigger prizes like vacations or large sums of money. Someone has to win those things, right?
Next time you’re at the store, see if they have a rewards program you can sign up for. You’re going to shop there anyways, why not get something back for it when you do?
Make a list
I like making grocery lists. It’s kind of my thing.
I went pretty deep into detail on the art of making and organizing a grocery shopping list already, so I won’t bore you with the details.
What I will say is that having a list and sticking to it is going to really help your savings in the long run. Without a list, you’re far more likely to throw things in your cart without really thinking about it.
Make a commitment to yourself to only buy what’s on your list for one month – no impulse buys, just things that you absolutely need.
I’m sure you’ll find it’s a lot easier than you think.
Use gift cards
What if I told you, you could save $20 on your grocery bill this month without doing anything?
With gift cards, you can.
Self-purchasing gift cards to the grocery store is an easy way to get big savings on the things you buy. With Moola, you can get deals and bonuses on gift cards to grocery stores like Superstore and No Frills to help you save.
You’re going to spend $200 on groceries this month anyway. Why not buy a gift card and get an extra $20 as well?
Go ahead and download Moola now to stretch that grocery budget a bit further. Maybe now you can splurge on that dairy-free Ben and Jerry’s half-baked ice cream.
Stick to the perimeter of the store
Imagine the layout of a grocery store. On the outside you have your produce, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy. In the middle you have…everything else.
I try my best to venture into the aisles of grocery stores as little as possible.
Sticking to the perimeter of the store as much as possible will help you to avoid getting trapped in impulsive, processed food purchases. It’s also a good rule to live by if you’re trying to eat a bit healthier, as cocoa puffs and strawberry jam aren’t necessarily part of a healthy diet.
Of course there are always exceptions to the rule (like cans of beans and bags of rice), but do your best to shop outside the aisles if you’re trying to keep to a strict budget.
And the stuff on at the ends of the aisles? Those endcaps are there to tempt you to buy things you might not need. Sometimes they are a good deal…sometimes a trap into buying fudge-dipped double stuff Oreos.
Time to score some serious savings
Buying groceries isn’t going away anytime soon. But with a few tips and tricks, you can save more on the that thing you can’t avoid.
Make a list.
Don’t be afraid to be generic.
You’ll be balling on a budget in no time.
PS. Have you downloaded Moola yet?