Slash Your Grocery Bills: A Dozen Smart and Simple Tips from Food BloggersExperts Share How They Eat Well and Save Money
-- By Caitlin Boyle, SparkSavings Contributor
A self-described foodie, Ashley goes weak in the knees for pricey items like avocados, coconut oil, fresh mozzarella, raw nuts, and Nutella. "We love to eat. What can I say?" admits Ashley, who blogs at (Never Home)maker with her husband, Stephen.
Several grocery bills in the $75 to $110 range – "And we typically visit the grocery store more than once a week!"– forced the couple to re-evaluate their spending habits. By sticking to a budget, baking their own bread, and planning meals, they were able to save more than $120 in a month.
Their biggest money saver was enacting a "treats" allowance. "We tended to stash pretty much everything we could ever want into our cart," remembers Ashley. Instead giving into multiple impulse purchases, Ashley and Stephen select two or three pricey splurge foods each week. "By choosing only a couple items, we savor the flavor. Ultimately, it makes the fancy stuff that much more divine. We can look forward to getting our next ‘treats’ the following week."
As Ashley, Stephen, and the following food bloggers demonstrate, it’s possible to spend less on groceries without sacrificing taste or quality. All that’s required is a little planning, knowledge, and creativity. Sink your teeth into these great tips:
Scour the Discount Produce Bins: "Shop the reduced produce area to find deals of fresh produce. I buy almost-brown bananas and freeze them. They work great in smoothies!" (Tina from Carrots ‘N Cake)
Buy Seeds: "Grow your own herbs! A plant that lasts all summer (or year) costs the same as a single herb package." (Matt from No Meat Athlete)
Enjoy Meatless Meals: "I buy a lot of canned beans and use them as my main protein because they are cheap, healthy, and delicious! I use beans in place of meat in all sorts of ways. For example, you can use cannellini beans to bulk up a pasta dish, top your salads with kidney or black beans to add flavor and texture, and mix beans in with brown rice and veggies and top with marinara sauce for an economical and delicious meal. You can even make a spread for a sandwich by mashing chickpeas and adding a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice!" (Anne from fANNEtastic Food)
Avoid Temptation by Having Your Groceries Delivered: "I make weekly meal plans, so I know exactly what food I need for the week. However, my money downfall is picking up all the ‘special offers’ and sweet treats I see on the shelves around me. So, I looked into getting what I need delivered. There is a small delivery charge, but I save more than that by avoiding the store. I order online on Sunday, and every Thursday, my box of fresh organic veggies, cupboard necessities, and everything else I need arrives. Over time, I've noticed that our food bills are definitely down because I'm buying what we need, not random stuff I want. There's a lot less waste, too." (Rachel from Suburban Yogini)
Cost Per Serving: "When I'm scanning the price tags on the shelf, I try not to pay attention to the overall price, but rather focus on the fine print that is cost per serving. There are two yogurt brands in particular where one tub is cheaper than the other, but if you compare how much the yogurt is per ounce, the larger, ‘more expensive’ tub is actually cheaper overall." (Meghann from The Inner Workings of a College Graduate)
$ocial Media: "Follow your favorite companies on Twitter and Facebook – you'll be alerted to sales and giveaways! This past week, So Delicious let me know where So Delicious Kefir was on sale!" (Molly from Fuel Her Up)
Shop at Farmers Markets: "They offer a wide variety of produce at prices less expensive than the grocery stores. Many of the fruits and veggies are organically grown, and you usually get to meet the farmers themselves. The markets foster a great sense of community. Also, Chinatown neighborhoods are a great place for less expensive produce, and they can also introduce you to an unusual variety of veggies, such as bok choy." (Liane from Running for Wine)
Compare Frozen vs. Fresh Prices: "Buy fresh, in-season fruit. It’s often cheaper than frozen fruits. I just bought four pounds of fresh strawberries from a local market. I chopped up the entire thing and put it in the freezer to add to smoothies. They taste so fresh!" (SparkPeople member *Amber512)
Avoid Convenience Produce: "Sure, it’s easier to buy the cut celery, carrot sticks, or fruit. But those items can be close to double the price of the unwashed or uncut items. Taking the ten minutes to wash and cut up your own fruit and veggies can save you so much. Plus, the uncut stuff is usually fresher, tastier, and more nutritious! (Ali from Food Fitness Fashion)
Ask for Rainchecks: "If you find a great sale at the store, but discover that the store is out of the item, ask the clerk or manager for a rain check! Almost all stores will honor the advertised prices when they are back in stock. Plus, these rain checks are usually good for thirty days from the time they are issued." (Dottie from Food Cents)
Use Your Arms: "Don't get a cart or basket when going into the grocery for a few things. If you have to carry what you are buying, you can only get what you need!" (Megan from Eat Scrap Run)
Online Coupons: "An easier and more manageable approach to printing coupons is to load them up on your grocery store card. You can do this via Shortcuts.com, which I found through CouponMom.com." To see if your grocery store participates in the Shortcuts program, check out this link. (Melinda from Melinda Hinson Neely)