Adopting a healthy diet doesn’t have to mean taking out a second mortgage, and you don’t have to sacrifice good nutrition for a reasonable grocery bill, either. I’ve collected a few smart strategies to help keep your receipt within reason. Here’s how to beat inflation, one aisle at a time.
1. Wonders on the Web. Log into websites such as www.mygrocerydeals.com or your local grocery stores to find sales and coupons that you can use to plan your menu.
2. It’s Better in Bulk. From lean meat to whole grain cereal, buy larger portions of healthy foods on sale. Portion it out when you get home, then freeze or store for later use. When is bulk buying not an economical choice? There’s no savings in food that spoils before it is used.
3. Double Check Your Receipt. Grocery store workers are only human, and we all make mistakes. Before you leave the parking lot, look at your receipt to make sure you didn’t get overcharged or double charged for anything. It happens more often than you’d think, and grocery store managers or customer service clerks are always happy to reimburse you.
4. Go Meatless. Sub beans, tofu, eggs, nuts, or peanut butter for meat 2-3 times a week, and you’ll likely see a downward trend in your grocery bill. Meatless protein substitutes are often less expensive, and they’re good for your health, too.
5. Once and Done. Go more than once a week to the grocery store, and you’ll end up with expensive and empty-calorie extras you don’t need. On the other hand, if you shop every other week, you won’t be able to stock up on healthy fresh foods like milk and produce. Once a week is just right.
6. Go Alone. Whether it’s your sweetie or your toddler, bringing more people to the store makes it hard for you to stick to your list and can add up to extra bucks at checkout.
7. Commit to the Basics. If you’re filling your cart with mostly processed, empty-calorie foods, your grocery bill will be outrageous. Instead, commit to a cart full of healthy foods and leave the rest on the shelf—it’s a mindset that will save you money and keep your health on track.
8. Frrrrrrozen is Fabulous. When fresh produce isn’t in your budget, frozen fruit and vegetables are a great nutritious alternative. Frozen produce is just as healthy, since the fruits and veggies are flash-frozen shortly after harvest, preserving the nutrients. Same goes for canned vegetables without added salt, and fruit canned in their own juice.
9. Make a Menu. Build a weekly menu, then construct a grocery list based on the foods you need for your menu. Shopping from a strategic list ensures avoiding extra trips to the store for forgotten items, and it also keeps your goals in clear view, cutting the temptation to buy extras not on your list.
10. Crazy for Coupons! Clipping coupons can add up to big savings. A savings of $10 per week adds up to a savings of $80 over two months. Just think what you can buy with your “found” $80! Just be sure you need what you buy with coupons. For double savings, pair your coupons with a weekly store sale and bag serious bargains.
11. Be Loyal. Most grocery stores have loyalty programs—join and receive personalized savings on the things you buy the most. Some stores even offer discounts on gas, free movie tickets, airline miles, and beyond!
12.Plan for Leftovers. Leftovers that are planned can be recycled into another meal, saving you from purchasing ingredients for another menu. For example, leftovers from tonight’s grilled chicken can top your salad tomorrow.
13. Be a Windowsill Gardener. Fresh herbs add flavor without fat and sodium, so use them generously. Buying fresh herbs in the grocery store can add up and tend to go bad faster than you can use them. Why not buy a potted version and cultivate your own healthy garden?
14. Stock a Stash. When you have time, like on a weekend afternoon, cook up a batch of healthy soups, casseroles, or chili and load up your freezer. Later, when you’re in a time pinch, you’ll avoid diet- and budget- busting convenience foods and have a homemade meal in minutes.
15. Look High, Look Low. Some grocery stores stock their most expensive items at eye level, so scope the shelves up and down where you’re likely to find the less expensive store brands and sale items. Store brand secret: Generic replicas are often made by the “name brand” companies.
Remember, what you put in your cart is like making a smart investment. While junk food is risky, healthy foods are a safe bet for the long term (i.e. your life). That extra dollar you spend on good-for-you foods is money well spent. In the end, filling your cart with healthy picks is a much better bargain then filling it with junk.