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Nutrition Articles  ›  Meals and Food

15 Ways to Save Big Bucks on Healthy Groceries

Beyond Clipping Coupons: Real-World Strategies that Work

-- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
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Make smart substitutions.
This one may be hard for some of us, but it has the potential to save you a great deal. Think about what you eat, and then think about what may be a cheaper—at equally healthy—substitute. Like breakfast cereal? Oatmeal is usually cheaper. Love soda? Try sparkling water with a little fruit juice mixed in. Snack on chips? Pop some popcorn kernels on your stovetop instead. Be willing to make substitutions on brands and specific ingredients based on sales, too. You may find that a different brand or flavor of yogurt, for example, is a better deal one week. Snag it!

Buy whole foods.
Sometimes, the less processed a food is, the cheaper it is per serving. Apples may cost less than applesauce or apple juice. Canned black beans will be cheaper than refried beans. A block of cheese costs less than shredded cheese. Whole grains like brown rice and oats will be cheaper than processed cereals. Think about the original, whole food that a product is made from and decide if you can eat that whole food as-is or use it to make your own sauce, cereal or juice—instead of paying food manufacturers to do it for you.

Buy in bulk.
Long a staple of natural food stores, bulk or “bag and weigh” sections are now appearing in traditional supermarkets. Items like flour, beans, rice, nuts, and dried fruits are available for less than prepackaged versions of the same foods.

Don’t get stuck in the middle (of the grocery store).
Packaged foods have been condensed, salted, refined, sweetened, or otherwise processed. They may seem like a good deal, providing more calories for less money, but those calories usually aren't very nutritious. Resist the lure of the middle aisles and stick to the perimeter of the grocery store; you’ll save money and wind up with bags full of whole foods. When you do find yourself in the middle aisles, aim your gaze toward the top or bottom of the shelves, where the prices are usually lower. Grocers strategically place higher-priced products at eye level.

Eat your protein without the meat.
Try substituting one meat meal per week with a vegetarian meal to save money and benefit your health. Beans, eggs, and tofu all provide high-quality protein for a fraction of the cost of meat. Find more meat-free protein ideas and inexpensive meatless meal ideas.

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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • I can walk into a store hungry and it's not an issue. I walk into a grocery store thirsty and there is an issue. I will go quickly and grab foods without thinking, so that I can get out and get water. For me water is my trigger and fortunately the main store I shop at has water cooler for the public. It's knowing your own personal triggers. I know others who do fine until they see a sale especially if it's chocolate bars up at the till. Know your own triggers and then set up a plan to move through those triggers.

    In my community (northern) meat is cheaper than eggs, cheese is out of reach it's so expensive and tofu - that would break the bank account. It's knowing what is and isn't economical in your community.

    Buying generic, it is not equal at all times to brand names. In my community many will not buy a specific generic brand because the food is inferior. Example: tuna fish, all is not created equal with canned tuna.

    Despite the article stating "it's easy" container gardening is an "art unto itself" and not possible for many of us that live in apts that either do not have balconies or where it's not safe - not everyone has the privelage of living in safe neighbourhoods. Stating that, if your area has a community garden, take advantage of that as those are usually secured and safe, so that you can grow vegestables through the summer.

    I wish articles would stop telling folks to shop only the outside of the grocery store. The interior of the store holds all the items for baking, holds items for making soups and stews and has all the canned goods, rice and crackers that one needs. When you live in northern rural areas, canned food is a necessity in the winter. Plus the interior holds the cleaning supplies and coffee. It's simply shopping smart rather than avoiding.

    Last I used to use a calculator when I was first learning budgeting and it's very effective. My roommate and I would put in the amount we had to spend, then minus as we filled the cart. It kept us on budget and when combined with a list, it was v... - 10/18/2013 12:51:40 PM
  • This falls within the "clipping coupons" category: USE YOUR REWARDS CARD! Some stores reward you with savings on other things you buy that might have nothing to do with your groceries - like GASOLINE for your car!!

    Every two weeks, I do my big grocery shopping at one store, collect the rewards points, then go fill my tank (using the points I just earned). I have saved 10-20 cents off PER GALLON when I fill up after a grocery shopping spree. Pairing these two bi-weekly errands together has probably saved me up to $100 per month!! :) - 10/18/2013 12:01:20 PM
  • THEBGB
    Under the 'buy in bulk' section the first sentence starts "Long a staple of natural food stores..." Think you were going for 'Lots of staples of natural food stores'
    Pro-editing!!! - 10/18/2013 10:07:24 AM
  • Growing a garden is hard work, there's getting the ground ready, planting (getting the right plants for your climate) watering, weeding and hoping the pests do not come and ruin everything you have tried so hard grow. With the time and cost of everything you need I'm about to give up my gardening, just have not had any good pay back out of it for the last 2 years. - 8/2/2013 10:57:50 AM
  • If you shop at a major store, make sure you sign up for whatever savings cards they offer. My store has all sorts of deals that I can view online and add to my list. A lot of times there are personalized deals on things that I buy all the time, like bananas. It's worth it to check the site once a week to see what there is. - 8/1/2013 6:46:44 AM
  • Good article, especially for newbies; and some good reminders for some of us who know better, but slip now and then. - 4/29/2013 1:04:12 PM
  • My fiance loves to look at the price lables on the shelves. Where we are they list the cost of each item per 100g. So sometimes that sale item is actually not such a great deal and we go for the regular price item because, in the end, we're actually saving. We're huge on no name generic brands as well and grab the discount meats and breads and shove them in the deep freeze. (i don't eat much bread anymore myself but it's good for the kids to have around).
    - 3/12/2013 12:29:45 PM
  • SJWEBB
    I do once a month big shopping with a list organized by the layout of each store and a time schedule to get done and then fresh foods weekly the rest of the month. Being on a schedule helps me not stray. I'm willing to shop at several stores and break my list out based on what I buy at each store. I've switched my vegi and fruit shopping away from the local chain stores and to a smaller place and am always pleased with how much I get for my money. I don't always shop the sales since we live out of town. Often times buying in bulk and re-packaging things at home saves me enough money to balance out more gas to shop the sales. - 3/12/2013 12:19:39 PM
  • When you are gluten free, everything triples in price. Hard to save. ; ( - 3/12/2013 12:10:17 PM
  • I agree with Bluekitty. Nothing I don't already do here. The suggestion on checking clearance can be a setback too. I recently was looking at a package of close to date ground chuck that was discounted from $3.99 lb to $3.59 lb, yet it was on sale for $3.49 lb. I started checking other "discounts" and found this practice was quite common! - 1/31/2013 9:16:39 AM
  • I have yet to read one of these articles that teaches me something new. I keep hoping for it. - 12/1/2012 5:49:57 AM
  • TRUELIFEDIVA
    Another money saving tip is to peruse the clearance section of the bakery, meat, and seafood counters of your local grocery store. Items that are near the experation date are often 1/2 off or better. I just repack in single servings (ziplock bags) and freeze. I save tons of money this way :-) - 12/1/2012 12:01:43 AM
  • Have always shopped like this. Keep whole wheat flour, oatmeal, steel cut oats, etc. in freezer so can buy in larger quantities. Freezers and cupboards are full because I buy when on sale. And I don't leave food there too long, just keep rotating. - 11/30/2012 7:59:59 PM
  • Also! My local Asian grocery has fruits and vegetables, many unique and tasty, for cheaper than the chain grocery store. - 11/30/2012 10:25:51 AM
  • The Kroger stores I shop at always list price per ounce on the shelf tag...it helps me decide when bulk is cheaper or if the "on sale" product is going to save me any cashola! - 11/30/2012 10:24:16 AM