Whether your grocery shopping involves visiting the store or ordering through apps like Instacart, most of us are looking for inventive ways to cut back on our food bills. Luckily, there are plenty of options that can help you save on food and necessities. Here are ten easy ways to stretch your grocery budget and eat healthier.
1. Cook Simple Dishes
When a recipe calls for a variety of ingredients (many of which you will only use a few times), it can become quite taxing on your food budget. The smarter way to stretch your grocery spending is to cook dishes that require fewer ingredients, without cutting back on flavor.
For example, instead of making that complicated Thai curry (requiring herbs, spices, and coconut milk, among other ingredients), consider something simpler like a stir-fry that only requires a few veggies (perhaps even frozen). This is a savvy way to reduce shopping expenses while also testing out new recipes. Multi-purpose spices like garlic, onion, and chili powder can dramatically enhance flavor, and not be confined to specialized dishes. You can often find the same spices as chain stores, but much cheaper, if you look for them at Asian markets.
2. Make More of One Dish to Freeze
If you’re going through the effort to buy ingredients for a certain recipe, consider buying twice as much and freezing the rest. This might even allow you to buy ingredients in larger quantities (for example, a one-pound bag of rice versus one-half its size), which can sometimes be cheaper on a per-ounce basis while getting twice as much.
Double down on the time it takes to prepare the meal and then freeze the rest. When you’re in a hurry next week, you can pull it out to reheat, rather than going out or paying for more expensive delivery food. You can lower your long-term food costs and save time.
Meal prepping takes this strategy a step further by allowing you to plan out multiple days or an entire week of meals. You’ll be more likely to stick to your diet and budget, while saving time on cooking and cleaning. You can even invest in an air fryer to quickly and effectively reheat your food.
3. Plan Grocery Trips in Advance
Take a few minutes to plan your meals for the week before walking into the grocery store. Decide which (and how many) ingredients you need to buy. Make a list, check the prices, and stick to it. This will keep you from falling for flashy deals or tasty samples in the store.
Impulse buying is something that many stores rely on to boost sales, but put your blinders on to avoid overspending. This includes when checking out at the register where adding one more thing to your cart is easy. Shopping online can help keep you on target, as you generally only see the food that comes up in the search results.
4. Don’t Forget About What You Already Have
Look for new recipes that make use of the things that you already have in your kitchen or pantry. That can of beans or jar of mayonnaise that may eventually expire can be put to good use. There are a variety of recipes that can include some of the ingredients you already have, allowing you to buy fewer things at the store. This helps to avoid food waste while reducing your grocery store bill.
5. Eat Filling Meals
Many people point to breakfast dishes as a great example of this strategy. Eggs, healthy cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt can provide a well-rounded vitamin and protein supply for a meal. With fewer ingredients typically needed to prepare breakfast, this can be a great idea to repeat for lunch or dinner on some days. Making an omelet or a granola and yogurt bowl for dinner might just be both healthier and cheaper in the long run.
Foods like lentils, beans, potatoes, rice, and fresh vegetables are also perfect for creating affordable, healthy meals. You can often purchase dry lentils, rice, and beans in bulk, because they have an incredibly long shelf life.
6. Spice Up Your Leftovers
Don’t eat a second (or third) helping just to clean up the container. Save your leftovers for a meal the next day. Even if there is just a little bit left of a dish, you can create a tapas-style meal the next day of different things. A small chunk of lasagna, a tiny salad, leftover steamed veggies, and a half portion of chicken—that could all make a tasty and variety-filled meal. Of course, you’re saving money on shopping for an extra meal, too.
If eating the same thing, two days in a row, irks you, consider changing it up with spices or sauces to give it another type of flavor. Or, make something creative like a grain bowl or mixed salad, or even bake it into a lasagna. It might just turn out to be fun!
7. Use Coupons and Online Deals
Grocery stores offer all kinds of discounts and coupons in the store to entice you to choose one product over another. You can also find coupons in magazines, newspapers, online, and even via social media. If you’re not sure where to look, do an online search for words like “coupons” or “discounts” for your favorite brands.
8. Avoid Using Expensive Shopping Apps
While apps like Instacart can save you time and fuel from driving to the store, as well as, avoiding in-person impulse purchases, they do tack on extra fees and gratuities that significantly bump up the cost of your grocery bill. It might make sense if you live quite far from a grocery store (especially with the high price of gas) to use an app, but otherwise, it’s wiser to make fewer, but always in-person, trips to the store to save on those extra fees.
Many grocery stores offer affordable or free curbside pickup services. You simply pick a time and date, order your groceries online, and pick them up at the store.
9. Join Grocery Store Loyalty Programs
Grocery stores often have a free loyalty program where you can earn discounts for buying certain products or simply by being a member. If you are buying for a larger number of people, it might make sense to pay for a membership in clubs like Sam’s Club or Costco. These stores sell items in larger quantities, and cost more upfront, but you can save money in the longer term.
Being a member can also have other benefits like getting notified about product recalls, being subscribed to receive digital coupons, saved shopping/order lists, and more.
10. Scan receipts using Fetch
Receipt scanning apps like Fetch can help you save even more on your grocery bills. Save your receipts from any of the places that you normally shop and scan them as part of the Fetch program. You’ll earn cash back in the form of free gift cards, based on how many receipts you scan and which items you purchase. You can then use these gift cards at your favorite grocery stores, retailers, or even restaurants, which will further offset shopping costs.
Saving cash on grocery shopping is not always about cutting back. There are lots of ways to stretch your shopping dollars, and even have fun and learn something new while doing it.