The rising cost of food has been making headlines since mid-2020 and the cost of at-home groceries has jumped 11.5% just in the last year. Even basic things like bread have increased 16% and eggs an astounding 39%.
Experts have no idea when food prices will start to go down so the only reasonable thing to do in the meantime is to reevaluate your grocery shopping habits and make some small, doable changes that will save you big on your grocery bill now.
Here are 11 easy ways to save money on groceries that will also save you time and cut down on food waste.
1. Buy (some things) in bulk
There are certain items that you buy again and again—and always will—such as pantry staples like oatmeal, nut butters, quinoa, protein powders, paper towels, toilet paper and toothpaste.
Buying these things in bulk can save you an estimated 25% on your grocery bill—and will also save you time and gas money having to run back to the store more often.
If you typically spend $1000 on these items in a year, you could save approximately $250 by buying these repeat purchases in bulk.
2. Buy some foods frozen and canned
Fresh is not always best. Americans toss one third of the food they buy and a lot of that is fresh produce. In some cases, frozen vegetables are cheaper and just as nutritious. Even better, they don’t spoil and you can have them at the ready in your freezer for months.
Some canned foods offer the same benefit and in some cases are even healthier. For example, canned tomatoes are even more nutritious—they are higher the antioxidant lycopene. Just be sure to choose BPA-free cans and check labels to make sure nothing sneaky was added to your canned or frozen foods.
3. Once a month, use up fridge and pantry stragglers
Dedicating a day or two each month to clearing out your fridge and pantry and using up anything that’s still good in creative ways is one of the best ways to prevent food waste and save a chunk of cash on groceries.
But sometimes the weird medley of foods left behind will leave you scratching your head at what to make. Try this free tool that generates recipe suggestions based on what you have on hand.
4. Embrace leftovers
Don’t turn your nose up at leftovers! They are huge money- and time-savers. Flavors always taste better the next day anyway and if you think that leftovers are destined to be soggy, switch from warming them up in a microwave to a toaster oven and then liven them up with some fresh herbs, and maybe a little hot sauce to make your meal new again.
Double up your recipes and have leftovers for lunch or dinner in the coming days and watch your food spending go way down.
5. Make your own snacks
Make a big batch of crave-worthy trail mix, grab-and-go veggie and hummus packs, big-batch granola bars and healthy muffins and watch your food dollars stretch further. Freeze individual portions and only thaw what you need at a time.
6. Shop no name brands
Name brands are not always the holy grail, especially when it comes to food. Don’t be fooled into thinking brand names taste better or are higher quality than your in-house grocery store no-name brand.
In one consumer test, blind testers found no-name brands to taste just as good as their branded counterparts—sometimes even better—and by switching to the no-name brand, they saved an average of 25% on their overall grocery bill.
7. Plan your meals and list before shopping
This just may be the most important rule of thumb for saving money on groceries. Always plan your meals and write or type out your shopping list ahead of heading to the store.
Going in without a plan is almost a guarantee that you’ll overshop and eventually waste food, too. You’ll also miss items you need for your weekly meals and will be forced to go back to the store and spend even more money on food. No bueno. Try a meal planning app complete with recipes and a shopping list generator.
8. Eat more plant-based meals
It’s no secret that animal proteins can really add up. Eating more plant-based meals throughout the week is a brilliant way to keep food costs down.
For inexpensive plant-based proteins, fill your cart with dried or canned beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, seeds, edamame, tofu, tempeh, quinoa and chia seeds.
9. Shop in season
Eat with the seasons to save big on groceries. The reason in-season food is cheaper is because it has far less distance to travel, which lowers its cost.
Take cherries for example. If you buy non-seasonal cherries in the dead of winter, you’ll pay a lot more for them because they’re grown in Chile and then shipped to the US, meaning they have to travel many miles to get to your local grocery store. They will also lack flavor and will likely be bruised from their travels.
10. Get down with ingredient cross-utilization
A genius hack for saving money on groceries is with ingredient cross-utilization—which is a chef term that means buying fewer ingredients that get used in many meals throughout the week.
Take ground beef. You can buy it in bulk and use it endlessly in dishes like stuffed peppers, bowls, chili, tacos, quesadillas, burritos and more. Another example of this is making a large batch of something versatile like versatile tomato sauce and putting it to work in a bunch of different ways throughout the week such as in lasagna, tomato soup, over a healthy bowl of zoodles and meatballs, eggplant parmesan, chili and more.
11. Batch cook and freeze meals
Similar to cross utilization, batch cooking is not only a money saver but a massive time saver.
Make-ahead batch meals that keep well in the freezer are soups and stews, casseroles, curries, cottage pie, pasta bakes, sauces, healthy baked goods and snacks.
Slow cooker, pressure cooker or casserole-cooked dishes are the best for batch cooking as they’re mostly hands off and leave you with big batches that you simply package up, label with a name and date and store them in your freezer for later use. This hack will save you tons on groceries.
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