There’s no doubt it’s crazy times we live in right now. We need to be smart with spending whilst still fueling our body to stay as healthy as possible. I run at the moment for the pure joy of it, the outdoors time each day and the mental clarity it provides. When I’m consistently running, I’m almost always hungry. It is important to consider the necessary nutritional intake for any training you may be doing at this time. Stress is stress, whether it be physical or mental, so eating well, and enough is essential to keep the immune system in check. Don’t let this one slide right now.
I’ve put together these tips for you, so you can save some extra cash in these next few months (or however long this thing is going to last!), and still enjoy your cooking and eating.
Write a list
Writing a grocery list might sound like a frustrating thing, however, it will ensure your grocery trip is the most cost-effective and time-efficient. You’re more likely to stick to your grocery budget if you write a list!
There are so many phone apps for writing shopping lists. A few I recommend in America are Mealime, Anylist, and Cozi Family Organizer. For my Aussie readers, Grocereaze, Buy Me A Pie! And Out of Milk.
When writing a list, it can be handy to categorize it. Most grocery stores will have the fresh produce and potentially specific colder goods in the first few aisles or entry section, so I tend to write these on the list first, as shown in my sample template below. Often the bakery section and bulk produce are in the same area, so I place any goods I need from these sections next. The middle aisles hold the cheapest food items, that last the longest. Essentially, your non-perishables like canned goods, preserves, nut butters, cereal, pasta, rice, etc. Meats and often dairy goods are in the same general area towards the back or sides of the store. I like to add these goods to the right side of the list. There are also frozen goods, pharmaceuticals, toiletry needs, and cleaning products, which I put at the bottom of the list.
Navigating the grocery store like a pro
Have you ever walked into a grocery store, and not known where to start? The middle aisles hold the cheapest items that last the longest. Keep in mind that this is great for saving money. If you’d rather fruit and vegetables that last a while, remember you can always get canned, frozen, or chop them up and freeze them yourself. I like to freeze bananas and chop up veggies to freeze for roasting or stir-fry later.
Another nifty tip is to always look high and low in the aisle. Fun fact, grocery stores make most of their money off brands paying to have their product placed in prominent positions around the store, not you as a consumer. The most expensive products will be placed in the middle. Generic brand products often taste the same, so save money where you can here.
Always look at the price per weight, ounce or serving if applicable. You’ll always get the better deal. The first situation I think of where I use this most is milk and toilet paper (although I wouldn’t stress about the latter, there isn’t any, anyway). Also, always buy in bulk for goods you use often. It’s the same deal with cost-effectiveness. Think oats, rice, flour, sugar, pasta, olive oil, chicken stock, seasonings, etc.
Choosing the goods.
On a budget, being open to eating cheaper cuts of meats is prime. Chicken thighs are cheaper than chicken breast, and often marinate better and contain all the flavor. Don’t believe me? Try cooking a curry with chicken breast, and then try one with thighs. Life changer.
Do your own slicing, dicing, and shredding. The stores always charge more if they make cuts or shred the item for you.
Shopping in categories for the time savvy
I’ve found it’s a good idea to have a knowledge of where you can buy produce the cheapest, packaged goods, and toiletry products. This makes grocery shopping most effective cost-wise, however, if the stores are far apart and you don’t own a vehicle, this can be a little tricky. For example, in Boise (Idaho), close to Boise State University campus and downtown, we have an Albertsons, Wholefoods, Trader Joe’s and Winco. There’s a Walmart, Costco and Fred Meyer in other areas of Boise, but they’re not easily accessible by bike or particularly close to BSU campus. These are also cheaper options.
- For organic produce at a lower cost: Albertsons (open nature generic brand products), Trader Joe’s (How is it so cheap for good quality? Check out this post)
- Cheapest: Winco, Walmart
- For organic produce, regardless of cost: Wholefoods, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s (organic veggie section), Fred Meyer (organic section)
Savings programs?! You can get more bang for your buck
Most people’s first thoughts on joining a rewards program are annoying advertisements including multiple emails, flyers and potentially an annoying card that sits in your wallet, hardly being used. However, I’ve found Albertsons ‘Just for U’ rewards program really helpful in saving money, and also for the occasional free grocery item giveaway if I decide to shop at this location. Essentially, you make an account, and each week you can choose which coupons you add to your account. These coupons automatically deduct from the cost of groceries when you enter the phone number you registered at the checkout. Look out for ‘FREE’ groceries each week. I got a free bag of Open Nature Granola for 2 weeks in a row, some Kite Hill yogurt, and have had free bags of coffee on multiple occasions.
I know Wholefoods have rewards for Amazon Prime members. Prime members get an extra 10% off sale items, weekly deals (look for the blue prime member store icon), special deals on online grocery shopping with Amazon-like free delivery.
Moocho App: free grocery money
This app is worth downloading if you shop at Albertsons. For $5 free grocery credit upon downloading the app, use referral code: 293683. Ask to pay with Moocho at the counter and collect 1 Mooch for every $5 you spend. At 20 Mooches, you get $7 worth of grocery credit at the store. The app also connects up with Starbucks and other popular fast food joints, but given the COVID-19 restrictions, these might not be utilized at the moment.