After serving Beef Wellington and realizing as the butcher handed me the package that it was close to $140.00 just for the meet I started thinking there has to be a few ways to save money at the grocery store and when having a dinner party. My next party will most likely be pasta to help make up the expense of beef tenderloin. I was lucky as I was feeding a very food appreciative group.
Here are the best ways to save money when grocery shopping, from price comparing to using coupons to buying in bulk (and sometimes frozen!)
1. Price Compare with Grocery Store Apps
Browse store flyers to find the best deals for what you definitely need. You can find out what’s on sale on stores’ websites or apps or via app Flipp, which gathers many flyers in one place). Some show specials, and others allow you to clip coupons digitally. The Ibotta app will give you cash rebates for certain larger brands at big box stores by scanning your receipt after.
2. Shop with a Calculator
If you’re trying to stick to a specific budget, then decide on that number, like not spending more than $50 at the store and stick to it. Calculate every item as you add it to your cart. You have a calculator built into your phone, so use it! I almost always have a physical and cross things off as I go, but going all-digital means you can’t lose your list and scramble to try to remember everything you were going to buy. This will help avoid impulse purchases, my downfall.
3. Plan Meals Based on What’s in Your Pantry
If you have a ton of chickpeas in the cupboard, look for recipes featuring them before you go to the store. (Cheap idea: pasta) Think of grocery shopping based on what’s in your pantry as your own Chopped challenge to see what you can make without spending any money. That means using brown rice instead of white rice for one recipe, or emptying out your crisper drawer for dab of this or that frittata.
4. Use a Smaller Cart or Basket
I hate carrying groceries and my next house, the kitchen will be closer to the garage. Using a basket or a small cart at the store will force you to only buy what you need instead of tossing in impulse purchases. If you’re only getting one night’s dinner ingredients, see if you can get it in one armful. Get into that 10-items-or-less checkout line and be a minimalist with your food purchases.
5. Buy in Bulk—Online
If you want to save money by buying in bulk, do it without purchasing a membership to a warehouse store! You can get great deals on bulk goods on Amazon, Boxed, Jet, or using Instacart to buy from Costco without membership Only buy in bulk what you know you’ll eventually use and have pantry space for as you probably don’t need 10 pounds of pork chops or 30 cans of tomatoes.
6. Vacuum Seal Meat and Freeze It
If you use chicken breasts every single week and can get them for $0.99 per pound in bulk versus $5.99 per pound for a regular package, then use a vacuum sealer to store them properly. If you want to freeze 10 chicken breasts, taking all of the air out is imperative so they don’t get freezer burn. My favorite is the FoodSaver ($119 on Amazon), and it will pay for itself when you think about all the food you normally would have to throw away and the money you saved by buying in bulk. They’re also great for sous vide cooking, so you’ll be able to have a perfectly medium rare steak for dinner or a juicy piece of chicken anytime.
7. Shop Bottom Shelves and Outer Aisles
Grocery stores put the pricier name brands at eye level so you’re more likely to grab it without looking around for a better deal. Scan from top to bottom before you purchase as the $3 pickles may be hidden underneath the $10 ones. One of the things I think is important, is to get to know the products you buy. Buy the cheap one and the expensive one and do a taste test. There is a definite difference in canned tomatoes, so I am sure there are with other canned goods. I do try to use a few canned goods as I can, as I prefer fresh.
8. Go Generic
If you aren’t brand loyal to a product, then try generic. I care about my butter for baking, but am willing to try generic to see if there is a difference in taste.
9. Shop from the Bulk Bins
Not sure if you like something you have not tried? Only need a cup of quinoa for a salad, or a sprinkle of peanuts to finish a dish? Hit the bulk bins. It’s a great way to experiment with new grains, dried beans, nuts, or even spices instead of committing to an expensive bag and letting it collect dust in the pantry. One day I was buying Vanilla Beans in a jar and the check out person told me to look at the bulk because it would be about $2.00 instead of $10. That is when my bulk buying adventure began. Bulk does not mean it has to be a lot!
10. Get Dried Beans Instead of Canned
Cooking with dried beans requires a little extra time to soak, unless you have an Instant Pot—to save a lot of money. Canned is fine for convenience, but if you eat a lot of beans, dried will take your dollar further and taste better. Instead of paying $1 per 15 oz. can (which is almost half liquid and half cooked beans, so $2 per pound), you could get FOUR pounds of dried beans for $5 ($1.25 per pound dried, and they double in size when cooked). Make a big batch and freeze cooked beans in pint or quart containers for later use.
11. Buy Frozen Shrimp
Most “fresh” shrimp at grocery stores is previously frozen. To save a little cash, cut out the middleman and buy frozen unless you have a reliable fishmonger and/or live near an ocean. It will be less expensive and be there for you for a random weeknight shrimp stir-fry. I only wish my husband would eat shrimp, but he does not love it.
12. Buy Some Vegetables Frozen
There are three frozen vegetables we vouch for: peas, artichoke hearts, and cooked spinach. If any of your recipes call for them, frozen is typically cheaper and easier to use. You can throw peas directly into pasta water before you drain and they cook in 30 seconds instead of blanching a bunch of fresh ones. Spinach shrinks down when it cooks, you get way more spinach in a frozen bag than you would fresh since it’s pre-blanched and wrung of some excess water.
13. Buy Everything In-Season
In-season produce will be cheaper because it’s so bountiful, even at a farmers’ market. It’s more common to find peaches or tomatoes on sale in the summer than in the winter. It is better for your system to eat seasonal food, rather than food that is artificially ripened and it tastes a lot better.
14. Get Bulk Bags of Potatoes
Loose Yukon Gold potatoes can be $1.69 per pound, but $3.99 for a five-pound bag. That’s almost a 50 percent savings at $0.79 per pound in bulk. Potatoes store relatively well for a few weeks and often you’ll use a few pounds for roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes, so it’s generally better to get more.
15. Wash Your Own Lettuce
Buying pre-washed bagged greens is always more expensive—and they’re not always 100 percent clean. A 7 oz. tub of romaine leaves is about $4.49 , while three whole hearts (about 12 oz.) is $2.99. Buy and wash a ton of kale at once too, as a bunch is typically at least 7 oz. for $2.50, while a washed bag of 5 oz. runs $4.50.
16. Grate Your Own Cheese
A block of cheddar will always be cheaper per pound than a bag. An 8 oz. block of Whole Foods brand sharp cheddar is $2.99, while 12 oz. of that same cheddar pre-shredded is $6.99. That’s $5.98 per pound versus $9.32 per pound for the same thing. Once in a while a good Parmisano Reggiano will go on sale. Stock up and freeze it.
17. Shop Online
For convenience and the ability to know exactly what I’m spending and price compare without leaving my desk, shop online. It’s the one time when laziness pays off. You can easily compare.