Grocery shopping on a budget can seem overwhelming. Where should you shop? What deals should you take advantage of? Is this even a good price?
We have compiled 5 tips to make you a pro at stretching your dollar, while still eating healthy.
Skip the conventional grocery chains
Big box stores typically mean big prices. To cut on costs, opt for discount grocery stores (shoutout to Aldi), international markets in your area, or local Farmer’s Markets. Low prices don’t mean low quality food. These stores and markets are typically the “no-frills” type, which cuts operating costs for the stores and in turn cuts prices for you!
You can still find fresh produce and quality food at a fraction of the cost. Aldi has set the bar for discount stores as it offers a wide range of organic items, specialty foods, plant-based and gluten-friendly items at a great price. International markets are perfect for finding low prices on grains, legumes, beans, a variety of meats , fruits and veggies. Local Farmer’s Markets allow you to support local businesses and save on fresh produce and food items. Need help finding a Farmer’s Market near you? We’ve got you covered, click here .
Buying in bulk comes in handy for big families but it can also come in handy for those who aren’t feeding an army. When buying bulk there are two things to keep in mind:
- Shelf Life/ Expiration of food
Stick to goods that have a decent shelf life (Grains, oats, rice, baking ingredients, dry beans, cooking oils, spices) or food that keep well when frozen (breads and meats, poultry). This will help to reduce waste and still save you money.
- Price per Unit
Paying attention to the price per unit will help you choose items that will give you the most bang for your buck. There are misconceptions when buying bulk that the bigger the package, the better the deal. That is not always the case! When buying bulk (or when buying food in general) it is more beneficial to focus on the price per unit rather than the overall price. Think of price per unit as price per serving. The smaller the price per unit, the more you get for your money.
Fresh vs frozen
Knowing when fruits and veggies are in season will save you some serious money. The price of produce can vary drastically depending upon what is in season. Buy fresh when in season and frozen when out of season. Frozen fruits and veggies get a bad rep but they are typically frozen at peak ripeness so frozen produce will still have great nutritional value. When going for frozen fruits, make sure you choose packages that indicate that no sugar is added.
Month-by-month guide for fruits and vegetables in season.
The budget mom put together a great calendar to tell you whats in season each month. Download here
Freezing your own fruits and veggies
You can buy produce while they are in season and freeze them properly yourself to have in those out -of-season months. Here are some tips for optimal freezing.
Wash properly and sort through to take out any damaged fruit before freezing. For delicate berries first arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet & freeze then once frozen transfer into a plastic freezer bag or container. For fruits that tend to brown easily, treat with ascorbic acid (vit. C) before freezing. You can find this in the vitamin aisle.
Making the ascorbic acid solution:
- Dissolve 1/2 tsp of ascorbic acid powder (or crushed vit. C tablets) in 3 tbsp of water
- Sprinkle the mixture over cut fruit before freezing.
Blanch vegetables briefly in boiling water then quickly submerge the veggies in ice water to prevent cooking. Dry the veggies throughly on a paper towel before freezing. Blanching will help to destroy any microorganisms that may be on the veggies and preserve the flavor color and nutrients.
There’s an app for that
Sifting through paper coupons can get overwhelming and often frustrating. Luckily for us, technology has saved the day. Almost every grocery store has a free app that displays any promotions or coupons that are happening in-store. You can scan the coupons right from the app so you can say good-bye to keeping track of paper coupons. You can browse the apps before you go shopping and know what stores have which deals. This makes it easier to plan out your shopping trips while making sure you stay within your budget.
The Ibotta app is also a great app that helps you find deals at major retailers in-store & online. The app also offers cash back on items you buy, just by taking a picture of your receipt! You can download the app here.
Opt for affordable recipe substitutions
If you are saving money by cooking at home, that’s great! Sometimes recipes call for ingredients that tend to be on the pricer side. Here are some affordable substitutes:
Use flour or cornstarch instead of arrowroot
Use pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts
Use cottage cheese instead of ricotta
Use raisins or dried cranberries instead of currants
Check out this chart to ensure you are substituting the ingredients properly.