If you’re looking for ways to make your money count more at the supermarket these days, then take down a few of these tips. They’ll make such a difference to your grocery bill, and your waistline too. You can eat healthy without couponing away at unhealthy products like sugary cereals and boxed juice drinks - I promise! Say no to Cheerios, and say yes to whole foods! Got it? Great! Now, let’s see how we can make your money count more at the supermarket next time you head out. Healthy eating can be cheap, efficient, and delicious all at the same time!
1. Hit the Produce Section First
This section is your glory land, and one of the best ways to make your money count is to buy most of your food from here. I know, I know, you think that container of $4 salad is high, right? Guess again! You need to be spending most of your money in the produce department, because foods like leafy greens, veggies, and fruits, are what make should make up the bulk of your diet. They are filled with phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals to nourish your body with what it really wants, helping you crave less of the bad stuff. It might help to Google a few recipes for fresh fruits, veggies, and leafy greens before you go, so you know which ones to pick up first. Fruit costs more and generally doesn't last as long, so choose your fruits smartly, and buy more veggies and greens than you do fruits to save even more. Bananas, apples, and oranges are usually your cheapest fruit options.
2. Choose Organic when You Can
Buy what you can organic, and compare prices to conventional. Many times they are only pennies higher, and so much higher in nutrients, so you might need less of them to get the benefits. Even superstores like Wal-Mart and Costco now carry organic produce, helping you save even more. If you can’t afford organic, buy conventional and don’t worry too much about it. As long as you’re filling your cart with mostly fruits, veggies, and leafy greens, you can be sure that your dollars will be put to good use.
3. Hit the Bulk Section
In the bulk section, you’ll find raw nuts, seeds, and even whole grains. Try to buy only what you need for the week, and you’ll save a good bit compared to fancier products on the aisles that demand more marketing, and also are higher in costs for this reason. Good ideas are raw almonds, raw pecans or walnuts,(grind your own nut butters), legumes like lentils, black beans, and garbanzo beans. You can also find deals on trail mix and other dried fruit assortments in the bulk bins too. Just be careful and only buy a few things, and watch for added sugar on mixes when you buy trail mix ingredients. And remember, you don’t need to buy it all, just enough to get through the week and round out your meals and snacks.
4. Pass on the Dairy
I know dairy is one food group many people have a hard time giving up, but buying fewer animal products overall won’t only make you healthier, but also reduce your grocery bill - like, by a lot! Dairy is also one of the most priciest items, because to get the good stuff, you’ll pay almost double. You should never buy cheap dairy products, especially if they aren’t organic. Organic dairy ensures that you’re not eating growth hormones, pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, steroids, and antibiotics. Plus, there are plenty of non-dairy options available, but those are also costly. Passing on dairy will save on your money and your waistline no matter what the marketing hype says otherwise.
5. Be Whole Grain Smart
We all know whole grains like oats and quinoa are great for us, but when we get to the store, we’re literally bombarded with choices that scream “Whole Grain!” at us. How are we supposed to choose the best option? I have news for you ladies - the best options are those that are simple, don’t require a lot of marketing and don’t contain an ingredient list with more than one ingredient. Buy 100% plain rolled oats or quinoa, along with plain brown rice, wild rice, and black rice. These are the healthiest options at the most affordable price, and they help slim you down, reduce your appetite, and are incredibly cheap per serving. The plain varieties are also naturally gluten-free.
6. Avoid the Meat as Much as Possible
If you eat meat, it’s going to be hard to trim down your grocery budget, but not impossible. What I suggest, is reducing your meat consumption to three days a week to start. I know that sounds drastic if you eat it every day, but when you buy meat, it’s incredibly important to buy organic and grass-fed so you’re not taking in additional GMOs, hormones, antibiotics, steroids, and more. Sometimes just buying organic isn’t going far enough when it comes to the benefits of buying meat. Grass fed is more expensive but ensures the cows were left to graze in fresh pasture, which makes the meat more nutritious, and better for your body. Reduce your weekly amount of meat and just buy the good stuff. Try eating more legumes like lentils and peas, or grains like quinoa and wild rice at your meals to make them more filling. And never forget your leafy greens and veggies!
7. Avoid Most of the Aisles
I’m sure you’ve heard you should shop the perimeter of the supermarket. That’s very true, but not everything in the aisles is bad. For instance, ground spices, flaxseed, cocoa powder, oats, quinoa, coffee, herbal tea, and a few other healthy things can all be found on the aisles. It’s best to avoid the aisles that include boxed cereals, nut butters which are very pricey, packaged snacks, bottled waters, boxed food mixes, and items that you don’t really need in your diet. Investigate your store and stock up on essentials like those mentioned above that will help round out your meals. You don’t need to avoid all the aisles, just be selective about which products you spend your money on.
8. Freezer Fun
Also, don’t neglect the freezer aisles! They can be your best friends, so long as you stay away from that $5 non-dairy ice cream, or $4 pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Plain vegetables and leafy greens can all be found in frozen form, and are incredibly cheap and versatile. If you can’t spend much money on fresh produce, or are too busy to use most of it, be sure you hit up the freezer aisle because you will save so much money in this one section. Frozen fruits and veggies are incredibly cheap, even at pricier stores like Whole Foods. They're even fresher than non-frozen produce since most all frozen veggies are frozen at peak harvest, which locks in their nutrition. Just be sure to avoid the low calorie ice cream and gluten-free frozen pizzas, even if they’re marketed as healthy. These are just as expensive as buying a fast food meal, and not your best money-saving option.
9. Coupon What You Can
I’m not a big couponer, because you rarely see coupons for kale and quinoa in your weekly circulars. Am I right? So, what I like to do is look online, through coupon websites and on supermarket websites each week. Find healthy items on them out of the many that aren’t so healthy, and coupon what you can. Sometimes I don’t use any coupons, and sometimes I find as many as 5 or 6. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you buy simple, healthy foods, you’ll find that you save more money overall anyway. Some of the best coupons I tend to find are for almond milk, spices, coffee, herbal teas, salsa, and other condiments like mustard or vinegar. You can also find organic dairy coupons sometimes, along with other specialty items. Coupon what you can and try to stick to what’s on sale the rest of the time.
Shopping healthy on a budget doesn’t have to be hard. These tips will help make your grocery budget go much further and satisfy you so much better than highly processed packaged food will anyway. Just because you can get the cereal free, doesn’t mean you need it! Remember these tips, and you can stretch your dollars at the supermarket. Do you have any tips to share?