The Smarter Way to Save Money on Groceries
This post was sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. Because I love dairy.
Trying to save money on groceries is not a new goal. But in difficult times like these where even access to food is limited, stretching your food dollars is a whole other ballgame.
I’m not going to suggest that you suddenly start making your own ketchup (even with quarantine, ain’t nobody got time for that), but there are some legit ways you can make your money go further at the store while feeding yourself and your family the food they need to thrive.
Here are my top five tips on how to stretch your grocery dollars:
Look to higher-value protein sources
Protein is one of our biggest spends in a grocery shop, and it looks like it might get even pricier: predicted shortages will probably drive the price of meat up even further. That’s why it’s important to diversify your protein by including other nourishing, less expensive, high-quality protein sources in your diet.
Greek yogurt, ricotta, milk, beans and lentils (canned or dried are both great!), tofu, and eggs are all choices that I recommend and use regularly. Think about it: one 4 L bag of milk puts 128 g of protein and a week’s worth of vitamin D in your cart, all for about $5.
Don’t fall for wellness fads
Seriously, you don’t need coconut oil, matcha, plant-based beverages, or whatever else is being promoted by the wellness community.
We’re looking for foods that stretch your dollars by providing the most bang for your nutritional buck, not those that clean out your wallet because someone who doesn’t know science says they’re ‘clean’ and ‘healthy.’
Plant-based beverages are mostly water, something you can get out of your tap for free. Swap them out for dairy milk, which has the vitamins, minerals, and protein we need. Coconut oil is super-expensive and completely devoid of any health benefits. Sure, it has a high smoke point, but so do other oils like canola and regular olive oil, which are a lot cheaper.
Remember that no one food is going to lengthen your life or make you healthy – it’s the quality of your diet overall that matters.
Try not to rely on convenience items
Some of us habitually put these foods into our carts without thinking, but when you’re trying to save money on groceries, pre-cut or pre-prepped anything is a colossal waste of money if you have the ability to prepare the same item yourself. I’m talking bagged salad, cubed squash, cut fruit. Even rotisserie chickens and shredded cheese fall into this category.
In some cases, these things can be a real timesaver, but if you’re stuck at home anyhow and are able-bodied, there’s no reason to pay a premium for someone to prep or cook your food.
Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale
This might sound counterintuitive, but hear me out. A sale item becomes a lot more expensive if you never eat it or, if it’s not a great choice.
Be careful about impulse-buying sale items if they aren’t what your family would normally eat (although I do encourage people to try new things, it’s good to assess beforehand if you’ll realistically eat them. especially if money is tight.) or if they won’t serve you health-wise.
Sure, eating should be nourishing both physically and emotionally, but buying a marked-down pork roast when most of your family is vegetarian, or 18 packs of Oreos because they’re 2 for 1, is probably a waste of money.
On the other hand, there are exceptions. Fruits, vegetables, bread, and even yogurt can be easily frozen ,so if you find them on sale and *important consideration here* have room in your freezer, stock up and freeze them!
This is also a great time to remind you that frozen and canned fruits, vegetables, and legumes are fantastic buys that are budget-friendly and nourishing.
Do stick to your plan
I spend a lot more when I go through the aisles, making impulse purchases. Especially now when shopping in person may be more dangerous, try grocery delivery or curb side pickup.
As someone who loves a trip to the grocery store (hey, I want to squeeze those oranges myself!), I’ve learned in the past couple of months to be a bit more chill about getting my groceries delivered. Sure, I don’t get to eyeball the grapes before I buy them, but the tradeoff is that I’m not making crazy impulse purchases. Another benefit I’ve found from delivery is that instead of planning meals on the fly in the store, I get to relax at home and really think about what’s on sale, what my family wants, and how to organize it all to get a week’s worth of meals out of what I’m buying.
If you’re unable to do delivery, make sure you go to the store with a list, and don’t shop mindlessly – think about whether you need each and every food you put into your cart. Even better, decide beforehand how much money you want to spend in total, and use a calculator to subtract the cost of each food you choose, from that total. Watching the number go down quickly can be a real eye-opener!
What are your favorite shopping tips to save money on groceries?