Whether you're shopping for yourself, sharing groceries with roommates, or buying food for your family, the cost of food can constitute a significant part of your bottom line. If you're savvy, saving money on groceries doesn't require compromising on variety or quality. Here are 10 tips for keeping food expenses down.
1. Use your smartphone to manage shopping lists. My family uses AnyList, and the ease of use and list sharing makes it simple to stick to a list. By getting everything we need in one fell swoop, we avoid the extra trips to the store that are likely to result in additional impulse buys.
2. Plan your meals. Working out weekly menus enables you to work with what you have and stick to a budget. Meal planning cuts down on food waste, and you're less likely to order takeout at the last minute for lack of preparation.
3. Know what you have and buy only what you need. Keeping an organized pantry means no redundant purchases. Avoid coupon bait or impulse purchase of items on sale; if you wouldn't buy it full price then you probably don't really need or want it.
4. If buying organic is a priority, let the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen be your guide. Unless it costs exactly the same or less than its conventional counterpart, don't bother springing for organic grapefruit or other items on the clean fifteen list.
5. Avoid packaged foods. It's better for your body and your wallet. What is a "convenience food" anyway? It's no harder to grab a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit than it is to unwrap a protein bar. The fruit and nuts taste better too.
6. Shop the bulk bins, where you will find the best values on coffee, tea, beans, flours, and dried fruit.
7. Buy local and seasonal produce. Keep your costs down by keeping your food's travel time down and buying seasonal foods.
8. Consider a discount club. This may seems antithetical to many of the other tips, but there are ways to do it right. The first time I ever set foot into Costco, it was with my friend Heather. At the time we both lived in tiny apartments on Chicago's north side, and bulk items that seemed outrageous for one made perfect sense split in two. So consider teaming up with a friend or another family and split the costs and the grocery bill.
9. Plant a garden! Growing your own veggies, herbs, and fruits can translate to tremendous savings.
10. Learn how to save at your go-to stores. For example, informed Whole Foods shoppers know about the Whole Deal booklet, the 10% discount when purchasing 6+ bottles of wine, and weekend sales that are posted on Facebook.