We won’t bore you with the numbers that speculate just how much food prices have gone up in the past few months. We’re pretty sure you’ve noticed that each and every trip to the grocery store is just a tad more expensive than the last, so we’ve come up with ten tips for saving money on your next grocery outing. Try them all at the same time and your groceries will be practically free!
1. Snack Before You Shop
Need we point out how good the deli counter and the baked-goods sections look on an empty stomach? Shopping when your stomach isn’t rumbling will help cut down on impulse purchases.
2. Make It, Don’t Bake It
Try to make most of your meals from scratch. Takeout is expensive, as is that premade stuff from the deli or freezer section. If you can’t cook, start learning by finding an easy cookbook and vow to experiment once or twice a week. One to try: How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman (Wiley, John & Sons, Inc.; $35)
3. Plan Ahead
Take a few minutes (you can even do this right outside the grocery store) to plan your meals. If you know you need sour cream and salsa for taco night, think about how you can use those items again for another dinner or lunches to take to work.
4. Shop in Season
If you buy produce that is seasonally abundant, you’ll pay less. That means say no strawberries in January but yes to apples, citrus fruit, and squash of all shapes and sizes.
5. Clip Coupons
Become a take-no-prisoners coupon cutter. Don’t just look for the ones in the paper. Visit coupons.com and shop by category for all sorts of useful things.
6. Bulk Up!
The bulk section is not just for nature-loving types—buying in bulk is cheaper and allows you to purchase exactly as much as you need. Stock up on rice, granola, oatmeal, and trail mix as well as flour, sugar, and spices.
7. Step Away from the Chicken
You can save significantly on your grocery bill by eating vegetarian several nights a week. Make pastas full of veggies, soups with beans or lentils, or cheesy pzettes.
If you’re cooking from a recipe that makes more than you need, freeze the extras. Soon you’ll have a stockpile of easy-to-defrost dishes to help you coast through a week when moola is tight.
9. Stop Being So Sophisticated
Remember when you used to drink black coffee with milk and sugar and your secret indulgence was a Snickers bar? Revisit those days. Cut expensive coffee drinks, flavorings, and designer chocolates from your grocery list and replace them with your old-school treats. You’ll be just as happy.
10. Always Bring Your Own Bag
It’s good for the planet, and many stores will knock off 10 or 15 cents a pop every time you show up with your own shopping satchel.
Originally published Nicole Williams