Try Meatless Mondays
With the price of meat soaring, there's a smarter way to get your protein for a much better price. Swap your meat-filled recipes for cheaper protein sources like pinto beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and lentils. For this cost-cutting hack, make sure you like beans!
Not only are they a great source of protein, they're also rich in fiber and nutrients. They'll also have you opting for meals you might not try otherwise. So switch up your menu and skip spending your precious money on expensive meats!
Don’t Judge a Product by Its Brand Name
Did you know that a study shows that most store brands measure up to name brands in both taste and quality? Based on that knowledge, do you still want to spend the extra money on your favorite name-brand pasta? Didn’t think so. With bread prices as high as they are, we can all agree that generic will taste just as good as the name brand.
If you absolutely need to have the premium quality products, here’s a tip: look at stores like TJ Maxx or Homegoods for gourmet ingredients at lower prices. Foods you should ALWAYS buy generic, no matter what, are staples like salt, sugar, and flour since all brands pretty much use the exact same product.
Look for the “Manager’s Special"
Stores will mark down items that are nearing their sell-by date. Meats tend to be salvageable, so long as you either cook or freeze them immediately. Discount produce is great for a salad you're planning to eat that night or for a vegetable soup the next day.
Sometimes the bakery has an excess of goods and will mark down products just to make space. And just like any other store, supermarkets do have clearance aisles. Look for good deals on long lasting products, such as coffee. Also, did you know that Wednesdays are the best days to shop? That’s because stores restock their shelves in the middle of the week and like to mark down what didn’t sell the week before.
Snack Before You Shop
Grocery shopping on an empty stomach is a dangerous game. Keeping your eyes on your list is hard when you haven’t eaten all day. Studies have also shown that if you go into a store hungry, you're more likely to spend extra on things you don't need.
Everything looks delicious when you have the munchies, and you’re likely to fall prey to impulse buys. Avoid wasting a few bucks on chips or candy by grabbing a bite to eat beforehand. This is a super simple way to beat inflation prices!
Cut Costs by Cutting Convenience
Prepackaged salad can save you time in the kitchen, but they cost dollars more than buying a bundle of uncut greens. A head of lettuce or a bundle of spinach is much cheaper than the plastic-wrapped alternative.
Not to mention, it's less likely to have spoiled bits on the inside. Leafy vegetables in plastic bags have no room to breathe, so they go bad extremely fast. That's why you end up with dark, goopy pieces in your bagged salads.
Visit Ethnic Supermarkets for Fresh, Cheap Produce
Avocados are awesome. They’re also pretty expensive. If you have a Latino supermarket in town, you’ll be able to find avocados that are often bigger and cheaper than what you’ll find at American grocery chains. The same goes for other specialty foods.
Looking for bean sprouts? Go to an Asian market. Your friendly neighborhood grocery store may not have what you’re looking for—and if they do, it’s totally overpriced.
Buy Shopping List Staples in Bulk
If you’re constantly running out of flour or sugar, try buying in bulk instead. When the supermarket’s family size option isn’t enough, head to Costco, Sam’s Club, or your local bulk store. They offer both pantry and grocery items at a low price.
Since these stores supply restaurants and other businesses, you can find deals on household essentials, such as toilet paper or cleaning solutions. Of course, you’ll end up wasting money if you let your food expire.
Become a Coupon Master
Many of the deals in the weekly flier may only be available to discount-card holders. These cards are free and tend to come with other benefits, such as discounts at the gas pump. Couponing is so much easier these days. Some stores accept coupons that you’ve loaded onto your smartphone.
Many stores also have their own apps where they send out daily and weekly deals on items. They can have hefty discounts as much as 50%! All you need to do is download the store's app. Do this for the places you shop most, and you'll be surprised how much you save. Take that, inflation!
Skip Unnecessary Organic Foods
You may want to opt for the cheaper, non-organic produce in most cases. You can buy non-organic fruit with a thick skin, such a bananas and pineapples, without fear of tainted fruit. A rule of thumb that health nuts swear by?
Buy non-organic if it's one of the "Clean Fifteen," but buy organic if it's a "Dirty Dozen." The most common offenders on the dirty dozen include strawberries, leafy greens, grapes, apples, tomatoes, and most food items you eat the skin of.
Don’t Be Afraid of Frozen Food
Fresh produce can be pricy. Not only can you save a buck or two by buying frozen veggies, but you also don’t have to worry about a looming expiration date. Unlike fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen is picked right when its ready, rather than when it still needs ripening. That means it tastes the best as it ripened on the plant.
Also, unlike canned, the produce is flash-frozen to retain its nutrients. Next time you need strawberries for your breakfast smoothie, go to the frozen food aisle. You'll get better tasting fruit, and it'll last much longer (meaning less waste in the long run).
Make a List
Okay, this sounds like a no-brainer, but it's one of the single most important things you can do. You’d be surprised at how much extra crap ends up in your cart by the end of a grocery run! Believe it or not, supermarkets are designed with this in mind.
The essential items such as milk and eggs are hiding at the back of the store, behind aisles and aisles of goodies you know you don’t need…but they look so tasty. If you can’t resist the temptation, make a rigid list of food you’ll need to prepare a meal menu. And while inflation affects nearly every item, some items are affected more than others. Do your research as you make your list!
For many of us, when you think of dinner, you want it to be a “nice” meal with sides and all. But dinner can be whatever you want it to be. Don’t have any frozen meat? You could always serve breakfast for dinner—breakfast for dinner is always a winner.
Get simple. Try some sandwiches, salads, or something with eggs—there are so many ways you can serve eggs! You don’t have to create a feast each evening. You’ll save money by skipping out on consistently large dinners and chances are your waistline will see the effects too.
Carry a Calculator
While grocery shopping, whenever you add something to your cart, add the price into the calculator. Doing this will help you make better financial decisions, and you might just put back that pack of cookies you know you’d be better off without, anyway.
Nowadays, stores have devices you can take with you that calculate your total (and makes for easier checkout). You can add and remove easily. The only tough part is knowing what the taxes are in your area, but a quick Google search should answer that question. You'll still need a calculator for this, so keep it ready!
Check the Pantry
This one should be a no-brainer, but before leaving to go on your grocery trip, you should raid the pantry and your cabinets to see what meals you can make beforehand. Plan your weekly meals around what you already have, meaning that Hamburger Helper will finally get used.
By doing this, you may only need to buy a couple of things to complete a few meals rather than purchasing a whole week’s worth of food. You'll also cut back on buying the same item multiple times. Do you really need rice, or do you still have some from the last time you made it?
Freeze and Store Meals
We all know that those pre-made, heat-'em-and-eat-'em options are expensive. On top of that, they're packed with extra preservatives and sodium that will sky-rocket blood pressure. A great way to save money is just to make your own! It's actually much easier than you may think.
There are a ton of free freezer meal recipes online. Meal prep can be fun, and it makes the rest of the week so much easier. And you save money? It’s a win-win! Just be sure to write the dates on everything so you know what to eat first.
Don’t Bulk Up Just Because You Can
A 40-pack of yogurt can seem appealing for the savings; however, if there are just two or three of you in your house it could expire before you can get to it. Bulk up on things like everyday items, instead, like flour, sugar, and canned goods.
Basically, if it's non-perishable, it's a great option to bulk up on, especially when it's on sale. If it goes bad, avoid it. Household items like toilet paper and paper towels are also great items to bulk up on. Just avoid things like milk, bread, and things that go bad super fast.
Take Cash and Leave the Card at Home
Taking cash with you is a smart way to save money. This way, you know exactly how much you can spend, and you’ll make smarter choices about which foods you buy and which you decide to pass up. Once that cash is gone, it’s gone, so be aware.
If you're really concerned, you can take your card with you, but still bring cash. You'll be less likely to use it if you know you have to split the transaction between two different payment options. Using cash may also protect you from the various card skimmers that are floating around in commonly used stores nowadays.
Shop in Season Items
Things like pomegranates in July and grapes in the winter are bound to cost extra and may not even taste the way you imagined. It costs extra to grow them during this time, and shipping them is also more since the weather will likely not be in the produce's favor.
On top of that, produce that's in season may be over-abundant, meaning they could be on sale. Ever wonder why tomatoes go on sale during the summer? That's because tomatoes are best grown in many places during the summer! This goes double if farmers in your area grow the produce.
Ignore End-Cap Items
The items on the end of isles are there to tempt you on purpose. While they may seem on sale, that doesn't mean the prices are cut that far. Avoid these if they’re not on your list or if it isn’t something your family necessarily needs.
End-caps are also often the most expensive brand of that item, meaning there is an item of equal quality out there on the shelves, and the store wants you to buy the name-brand item that's sometimes twice as much.
Try Different Stores
We know it’s convenient to just drive to your nearest neighborhood grocery store. However, it could be financially beneficial if you split your trip up to different stores for different specials.
One store may be having a special on dairy while another might have excellent prices on produce. Not to mention, if there are several stores near you, you can save quite a bit of money shopping the cheaper options. You can often check prices on store apps nowadays.
Sometimes certain stores put specific items on sale on a cycle. If you begin keeping track of the sales cycles of your favorite grocery store, you may be able to begin to predict when the next sale is going to happen.
It can be a little harder to track sales if you're new to the game, so you may want to keep track of items for a little while to see if there's a cycle. If there is, you'll have first pick of whatever you want. It's a great way to combat inflation prices!
Stick to a Meal Plan
Just like sticking to your grocery list, this one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how much it happens. If you already have your meals planned and/or prepped for the week, stick to your original menu. Do your best to not go off track.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself making an extra trip to the grocery store to replenish what you used up. This can be a little tough when items are often missing from shelves, but you can always plan a "back-up meal" that can be your go-to if your necessities are gone.
Don’t Buy More Than You Need
SALE SALE SALE! When we see those words, our adrenaline may spike just a little bit. But just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you need it. And if you didn’t really need it, was it really a great deal?
If it wasn’t already on the grocery list and you end up buying it, you’re still spending more than you planned to spend. That is the antithesis of saving money. Only celebrate when you see a needed item for sale. Then, by all means, snatch it up!
Try Growing at Home
Look, no one knows better than us that not everyone has a green thumb. However, for those that do, it may be beneficial to plant your own garden to grow things like fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Not only will you save money this way, but you’ll have that extra pride of knowing that you grew the nutrients that your family is consuming.
It can be hard to grow on the cheap, but it's totally possible. For one, a lot of stuff you get from the store can be grown from the scraps. This includes lettuce, green onions, and celery. Kiddie pools make great options for foods that don't have deep roots. The most you'll spend is on the dirt. Inflation can't reach you there!
There are several shopping apps that you can choose from, and your favorite grocery store may very well have its own app that you can order from. If you order online, you can search for just the items you need without the temptation of grabbing those extras.
Plus, it’s super convenient to just pull into a parking spot and let someone else load up your car. Not to mention, these apps also give you a running total so you know when you're spending a little too much.
There are a ton of apps for your smartphone such as Ibotta and Receipt Hog. These apps reward users for purchasing certain items or for shopping at specific stores.
It may not seem like much but getting that extra $10 gift card for the store of your choice for doing nothing but buying what you need is just a bit of extra incentive to scan those receipts.
Leftovers Are Key
If you’re like me, leftovers aren’t always a first choice. But if you want an easy way to save money, this is one of the easiest. Leftovers are free and cut down on wastefulness. Besides, if you enjoyed it for lunch yesterday, you should enjoy it well enough for dinner today.
You can always spice up your leftovers or give them a new twist—you can incorporate them into a new recipe or create your very own recipe. It might become a weekly staple and your new favorite food!
If You Buy it, Use it
There is nothing worse than opening the refrigerator to find a sea of rotten dollar signs. Yes, we’re talking about those moldy peaches, rotten tomatoes, and other unused, forgotten-about produce.
Be careful not to overbuy these items and be sure to use what you buy, or else it’s like throwing your money away. Challenge yourself to think critically about what you will actually eat within the span of the week to avoid letting food spoil.
End of Day at the Farmer’s Market
Not everything will be cheaper at the farmer’s market, but we do know there are some pretty good deals you can get for many of your produce items.
The best time to go to the Farmer’s Market at the end of the day when vendors are looking to get rid of what they brought with them. They may slash prices to move the items so they don’t have to cart them home.
Leave Your Over-Spender at Home
That’s right. That includes spouses and children specifically, siblings, parents, etc. If you know you’re going shopping, try to plan it as a solo trip.
Many times, those around you will influence your spending if you’re not careful, especially a cute kid staring up at you with those big eyes begging for that pack of cookies or candy you know you don’t need or want.