Let’s face it, cooking healthy is expensive! Fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat and reduced calorie items can really eat into your grocery budget. I know this from personal experience having noticed that my grocery budget initially increased almost 40-percent from my regular buying before I went on the diet. Being a savvy shopper I taught myself how to cut my grocery budget and still get the items that I need with a few simple tips and tricks that everyone can use to cut down on their grocery budget.
1) Be Flexible with Brand Names
When you’re on a diet, you tend to gravitate towards certain brands that are healthy and they become staples in your diet. For example, I use non-stick cooking spray almost every meal that I cook to grease my pans now instead of olive oil or shortening. While I could go with a brand name for roughly $2.99 a can, instead I buy the grocery store generic brand for $1.69 which is a total savings of $1.30. That little bit adds up. Some of my favorite snacks are also brand names and while they can be harder to find as generics, I do succeed every once in a while at places like Walmart or Target. Switching up brand names for generics can save you a great deal when you’re zooming up and down the aisles of the grocery store.
2) Use Coupons
I spend about two hours a week looking for coupons that I use for products in my week and usually have a pretty good success rate for getting coupons that I need. In order to get these coupons I often sign up for newsletters on my favorite brands because there are coupons from time to time in the emails. I also check sites like Printable Coupons, Coupon Mom and Facebook for coupons that I might use. Since I can print them online, all they cost me is time, ink and paper and I can get them from the comfort of my own home. Getting coupons is easier than most people think and it’s a great way to add additional savings to your grocery budget. Getting a Sunday paper also can provide valuable coupons but it can be hit or miss at times instead I sometimes buy coupons that I know that I am going to use from The Coupon Clippers, they are already pre cut and I can order multiples for products that I do use often enough.
3) Shop the Sales
Looking at flyers is an important part of saving money while shopping each week for supplies. During various points of the growing season, different vegetables are in season and are more likely to be on sale and you can vary your weekly menu to encompass these items. You can also freeze them to make things more accessible at later times. I have not figured out exactly the reason certain meats go on sale when they do but I know that when meats I frequently use go on sale, I stock up on them. Buying lean meat in bulk and freezing it into portions for meals helps in the long run if that meat doesn’t go on sale again for a while. Shopping the sales and also using coupons to go with those sales often helps me save big money while shopping.
4) Plan Ahead
Each week I make a menu of what we are going to eat in my household every day and then I make my grocery list from it. This ensures that there are not any surprises or looking into the fridge and wondering what I am going to cook that evening. It eliminates stress during the week and also makes shopping a great deal easier. When I do this, I make the list based on what is on sale at my favorite grocery store and then add whatever else I need. I look in my cabinets, restock the staples that need to be such as spices, snacks and other pantry items, and so when I get to the store I don’t buy things on impulse because I think that I may need it. Once I make the list, I stick to it. Now, we’re all human and forget things at times but usually one additional run to the grocery store on the way home for those few missing items is all that I need to do. As I go through the store, I cross off every item based on where they are in the store and get everything that I need. This makes shopping and my week a lot less stressful even though to some people it may seem like a very over-the-top way of doing things.
Each of these tips helps me save money in my weekly shopping trips. Though like everyone, I do allow myself splurging for every once in a while because deprivation on a diet is never a good way to stick to it! The most important thing while saving money and cooking healthy is to remember that you can do it if you allow yourself a little bit of flexibility. While my grocery bill is still slightly higher than before the diet, I have learned that these tips and tricks help bring down my grocery bill significantly while still meeting all my dietary restrictions and needs.