Decrease Your Grocery Bill with Some Expert Planning
Spending money on groceries is a necessity, but enticing in-store marketing along with missteps like poor meal planning and shopping on an empty stomach can contribute to overspending at the checkout stand. If you want to save money at the grocery store, a little preparation and some clever kitchen tricks can save you major dollars and cents. Here are 10 tips you can use to slim down next month's grocery bill.
Make Your Own Stock
A home chef is often in need of a cup or two of stock for soups and sauces, but buying it boxed or canned adds up, especially when you forget you already have some in the pantry and overbuy. Make chicken, veggie, or beef stock with leftover meat bones, veggie scraps, garlic, and the herbs and spices of your choice to save money and reduce food waste.
Plan Your Meals in Advance
Heading to the store without a plan is one of the easiest ways to overspend on food. When you shop without a list, you're less focused and more likely to meander the aisles and load up on impulse buys. Plan your meals for the week before you leave the house so you will know exactly what ingredients you need and will be less tempted to purchase nonessential items.
Look in Your Pantry and Fridge Before You Leave
Before you get in the car to head to the grocery store, take stock of what you have in the pantry and refrigerator. You may find that you already have the ingredients for a couple of meals. (To get ideas, use apps like SuperCook, Allrecipes Dinner Spinner, or BigOven to search for recipes that use ingredients you have on hand.) A few minutes of poking around in the kitchen will save you from having to toss out those aging green beans or purchasing an additional can of black beans that you don’t really need.
Don’t Buy Eye-Level Items
One of the ploys that grocery stores use to get you to spend more money is to place pricey name-brand items at eye level to encourage you to grab and go. You can save a little bit of money by simply bending down or searching high on the shelves for off-brand but equally delicious options.
Bring a Reusable Bag
Some stores—for instance, Whole Foods—offer a slight discount if you bring in reusable shopping bags instead of taking paper or plastic bags at the checkout stand. In addition to the discount, you'll also gain the satisfaction of being a more environmentally friendly shopper.
Do the Math When Buying in Bulk
Shopping in bulk is often a good deal, but before you pony up for two quarts of olive oil, check the math to make sure you'll actually save money. For example, if a 36-count package of toilet paper is $17.84 and a 12-count roll is $4.24, the bulk deal isn’t actually a deal, because you'll be paying about 49 cents per roll as opposed to 35 cents per roll in the smaller package.
Use Apps to Save Cash
While there are still some coupon clippers out there, savvy shoppers these days rely on proprietary store apps like Target Circle and Whole Foods Market as well as apps like Coupons.com, which gives you access to dozens of discounts at nearby stores.
Regrow Veggies in Your House
Fresh produce makes your meals taste better and gives them more nutritional value, but buying fresh can add up, especially if your fruits and veggies spoil before you get around to eating them. Save a few bucks on your groceries by regrowing vegetables like green onions, celery, and romaine lettuce, which can all be grown by placing the root end of the vegetable in water.
Freeze Fresh Herbs in Olive Oil
Fresh herbs add flavor and interest to your meals, but they also add extra cost to your grocery bill. Avoid wasting any bit of your herbs (and the money you spent on them) by preserving them in olive oil and freezing them. It's easy: All you need to do is grab an ice-cube tray, fill it with your chosen herbs and olive oil, and freeze until you’re ready to use.
Go Meatless at Least One Day Each Week
You may be a hard-core carnivore, but cutting down on your meat consumption can be good for your health—and, as it turns out, your wallet. Researchers found in a 2015 study that a vegetarian meal plan costs about $750 less per year than a meat-inclusive one, so even eliminating meat from your meals just one day a week will probably result in some savings.
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