How to Save Money on Groceries (12 tips from a Dietitian)

Jessica Penner, RDMeal Planning2 Comments

12 ways to save money on groceries
12 ways I save money on groceries without coupons, and still feed my family plenty of nourishing healthy food!
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The Nutritious Food Basket, which monitors the cost and affordability of healthy eating, estimates that I would need to spend at least $900* a month in order to feed my family of four a healthy diet.
I do it for under $550.
We’re not just eating beans and rice either. We do eat a lot of those (since they’re tasty & healthy) but we eat so much more! We regularly consume what I would consider “luxury” items such as:
There isn’t one “right way” of saving money on groceries but I figured I’d share what I do. Here are my 12 tips!
1) I don’t buy many convenience foods! Y’all know I’m not against spending money on healthy shortcuts like pre-chopped veggies, or cooked & diced chicken breasts. It all depends on what you have more of: time or money? It takes time to prep food yourself, but it’s definitely cheaper. For example, I like making this salad mix from whole veggies instead of buying a pre-made mix.
2) I don’t buy many processed foods! People talk about healthy food being expensive, but when I look at the price of pizza pops and boxed mac n cheese, I gasp at how expensive they are! I make homemade versions that are much healthier, AND cheaperBatch Cooking
3) Pulses, pulses, pulses! While we do eat chicken regularly, and shrimp about once a month, we eat a lot of pulses (ie: beans, lentils, and chickpeas), which are super economical. A serving costs about 10-15 cents, if you cook them yourself.  Compare that to chicken breast, which costs around $1.50-$2/serving.
4) I made meal planning a habit. Before I started to meal plan in earnest I would often find myself picking up random food while grocery shopping. It would sit in my house unused for months… or worse, it would sit in the back of my fridge until it went moldy and I’d have to throw it out. My conscience and my wallet hated that. Now that I shop according to my meal plan, I’m not tempted to put things that aren’t on my list in my basket!
Almost left the grocery store without buying a bag of spring mix to throw, unopened, into the garbage in two weeks.
5) I buy in bulk. I have what one might call a mini warehouse in my basement! It’s cheaper over the long run to buy a case of diced tomatoes or a big bag of almonds. So, I tend to do that with most of the foods that we use on a regular basis! But yeah, only do this with foods you really do eat all the time. One time I bought a bulk bag of panko crumbs to try for a recipe, but I’m not in the habit of using it regularly, so eventually it went stale.
6) I buy in advance. Instead of waiting until we’re almost out, I buy things like toilet paper well in advance when it’s on sale. I do this for a lot of my pantry and bathroom basics. Kitty litter, cat food, toothpaste… if it won’t go bad sitting around for a little while, I buy lots of it whenever it’s on sale! Most full service grocery stores have regular sales, but many items at Costco only go on sale once or twice a year. When they do, I stock up!
7) I pay attention to the price at the checkout. I have a whole article about this strategy, but in a nutshell, I watch as the cashier rings up my order. If something registers higher than what was listed on the shelf, the scanning code of practice states that it’s free (up to $10). I honestly get something free nearly every second week simply by paying attention.
8) We have re-learned how to not overeat. What if you are regularly eating 10-20% more food than your body actually needs? We don’t normally think of the financial cost of overeating, but imagine the savings you get by removing 20% of your grocery bill! With our food bill, we would be spending $50-100 more each month. That’s in the range of $600-$1200 a year! I learned how to stop overeating through my education and experience as a Dietitian. I turned everything I learned professionally and personally into an online program called I Quit Overeating. While my husband edited the material I wrote for the program, he absorbed the information, applied it to his own eating habits and can now happily say that he has quit overeating too!
9) I buy fruit in season. Blueberries are twice the price in winter. Apples are half the price in fall. I know I’m probably an anomaly, but I usually know when something is a good price. I keep a list of the price of the foods we typically buy in my head. Vegetables seem to be more random and don’t follow a yearly pattern in price variance, but fruit is fairly predictable! I created a chart to help you decide what fruit to buy depending on what month it is. Check it out herefruit in season
10) I make food from scratch. I know this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, or fit everyone’s time schedule, but I really enjoy making as much of our food from scratch as I can. With some things, like sourdough bread, once you start making it at home, you ruin yourself for the storebought version! I just can’t bring myself to buy bread anymore; I find it completely inferior to what I make at home! Other things, like yogurt or ricotta, I don’t find necessarily tastes better, but I do enjoy the satisfaction (and price savings) of making it at home. We go through a lot of yogurt, and when I make it at home, it costs half of what it does in the store.
11) I compare the unit price. The best deal may vary by brand or size of package. A lot of stores will show (in tiny print) how much the food costs per 100g or 100ml. If the price tag doesn’t show it, all you have to do is whip out the calculator function on your phone. Take the price and divide it by the package size. For example, let’s say there’s a 1.3kg bag of raisins for $9.99 and another 2kg bag for $12.99. $9.99/1.3 = 7.6.  $12.99/2 = 6.5.  The smaller number means it’s a better value! So in this case the 2kg bag is the winner
12) I take advantage of grocery store apps. The main store I shop at has an app that generates specific offers for you based on your past purchases. The more you swipe your card, the better it learns your shopping habits and gives you offers tailored to you! I’ll check out the week’s offers on my app while I do my meal planning, and will make meal choices based on what foods will give me reward points. I usually end up with between 5-10% of my purchase in reward points.

Those are the main strategies I use to keep my grocery bill low! Which one inspires you the most? Are there any other strategies you use? I’d love to hear them (and put them to use to lower my bill even more!)

*$800 in 2011 translates to $900 with the cost of inflation.

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2 Comments on “How to Save Money on Groceries (12 tips from a Dietitian)”

  1. Thanks! This was very useful information! I appreciate the time and effort you have put into all the food knowledge you are (and have) shared!

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