How to shop for grocery items and eat healthy on a budget

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Ask tiarajoseph11

I am not a very meticulous person and it reflects on the way I keep (Do I really?) a track of my grocery bills. The very thought of spending hours and hours in keeping notes of each and every grocery item purchased from stores gives me a headache. I am not an over-spender and buy things that I need (things that are necessity) but of late I have realized that I can save some extra money if I start paying a little more attention towards reducing the grocery expenses. I have started adhering to these simple tips to cut down my expenses on grocery and its working. So, I thought of sharing them with you all.

Can you save money and eat healthy food at the same time?

If you think that eating healthy and saving is not possible at the same time, then you are wrong. Saving money doesn't mean that you will have to look at the price tags to shop grocery items. Have you ever thought how much you spend on eating out? You can use the amount to buy fresh produces from the grocery store and invest a little time to prepare those in order to have healthy nutritious food. Read to know how you can save money while eating healthy food.

1. Try to eat home food

Do you have the habit of eating outside? It may be that you don't pack from home or like to dine out with friends a lot. To practice healthy eating and saving money, you don't have to stop eating out altogether. All you have to do is restrict dining out to as minimum as possible. You will be motivated to do so if you calculate how much you spend every week on outside food. You can invest the amount you save for buying healthy food and it'll be also easier for you to afford organic food.

2. Reduce or stop eating junk food

Not only your wallet, your body will also thank you if you stop spending money on junk food such as, crackers, cookies, processed foods, prepackaged meals, diet and regular soda, etc. If it's not possible for you to cut out these foods completely, then start eating them less and lower your intake gradually.

3. Avoid food with hidden sugar

Do you know how much sugar you intake every day? Before replying, just make a list of the food you eat every week. If your list contains processed or packaged foods, then you're consuming sugar that's hidden in those food items. Even if it's much easier to prepare and also affordable, yet consuming too much of sugar is not healthy. It can cause rapid swings of blood sugar and energy which may lead to health problems. Moreover, you might have to pay more to buy certain processed foods. So, if you have a sweet tooth, then it's advisable that you have sweet fruits and sweet potatoes to satisfy your sugar craving.

4. Grow a kitchen garden

In an attempt to eat organic but the cost-effective way, then having your own kitchen garden can be a smart idea. To accomplish this goal of yours, you can grow a host of vegetables or herbs in your lawn, balcony or terrace. This would help you to cut down the overall amount of purchase of groceries from outside.

One of the biggest advantage of having your own produce is that you get to control the way your garden will be raised and the vegetables/herbs that will be grown in there. For example, you can decide the amount of pesticide or other organic/inorganic fertiliser to be used in the garden.

5. Purchase in bulk

If you want to save money, but want to have healthy, organic foods, then you ought to check out at your local grocery stores, health food stores or even warehouse clubs for restaurant-grade food supplies as well as bulk bins.

Experts also suggest that you may verify online about bulk pricing of the items that you consume regularly. This would be one of the most cost-effective ways to stack up organic foods for frequent use.

Ensure that you've got the required storage space to hoard them for long enough to use later or get one of your friends on board to distribute the expenses amongst yourselves. Items that are suitable for bulk purchase are beans, grains and nuts.

6. Stock up the necessity items if they are put on sale

Items like soaps, tissue papers and toiletries can be stocked up. Buying them in bulk will be cheaper. Instead of rushing to stores and wasting gas, you can easily use the items from your stock anytime when you need a new supply for your own use.

7. Watch out for the multiples

Departmental stores often come up with several good offers to attract more and more customers. Some stores will offer 2 bottles of fruit drinks at only $10. But if you purchase only 1 bottle, then you'll have to pay $20. In such kind of a situation it will be a fatal mistake to let go of this offer. You can have 2 bottles at $5 each.

You should always look for multiples. This way you can avoid paying more than you have originally intended to on the bad deals. For instance, it does not make any sense to purchase a huge quantity of a certain product for obtaining the deal price.

8. Compare prices before buying

If you have the habit of comparing prices before buying an item, then it is undoubtedly praiseworthy. However, instead of comparing the total price, you should compare the unit cost or unit price in order to check which company is offering you the item at the lowest cost. This is because the unit cost or unit price depicts the price per pound; so, it becomes easier for you to compare shop. Along with it, also check out the ingredient list to be sure that the item contains the vitamins, minerals, etc. you want.

Do calculations to grab the best deal. You should do quick calculations with help of inbuilt calculators in your mobile phones before purchasing an item. Calculate and compare the per-unit price with the product quantity. This may help you to buy the right product at a low price.

9. Understand the sales cycle of the stores

If you have the habit of shopping your grocery items from one or two stores, then learn about their sales cycles. If you follow carefully, then you'll come to know that food items are offered after every 4-6 weeks. Therefore, you can buy these items, when they're offered at discount rate, at a large quantity so that they last till the time when they would be offered at discount rate.

10. Make fewer trips to store

I have cut down my trips to the grocery store. My trips have been reduced to once or twice a month. The fewer times I visit the store, the less opportunities I will have for impulse buying. Shoppers making a 'quick trip' to grocery stores end up spending 54 percent more than they intended.

11. Try generic grocery products

Most of the people rush to grocery stores and grab the name brand. They simply overlook the generic products. I was also a bit apprehensive about using generic items at first, so I compared the ingredients in the generic and the national brand items. To my surprise in most cases, the ingredients present in the generic and the brand items were same. So, buying generic items do not imply that you are compromising on quality. Everything from breakfast cereals to canned goods and prescription drugs is available under a generic or store brand label. And by purchasing them you can actually save from a few cents to a couple of dollars per item.

12. Buy items fresh and uncut

Do you know that you have to pay much more if you go for prewashed and cut vegetables? Yes, several surveys have revealed that you can save about twenty dollars per month if you buy the fruits and vegetables from the grocery store and wash and cut your portions at home.

13. Buy required items with cash

Believe it or not, you can save a significant amount if you use cash to buy your weekly grocery items instead of using credit. The financial experts are of the view that you tend to save more when you use cash. Doing so also sets an example to your children to use cash to buy the required things instead of buying them with credit cards. Even if you use credit cards, make sure you repay the bills at every billing cycle. However, if you're carrying debts on your credit cards, then repay them before using them again. You can opt for credit card consolidation or credit card settlement, which is suitable for your financial condition, to pay outstanding multiple bills with ease.

14. Keep an eye on the deals and discounts

Most of the stores (such as, K-Mart, Aldi, etc.) issue leaflets where you can get information on the deals and discounts of the current week and/or month. Some of these leaflets also come with a scannable code, which you can scan at the checkout to take advantage of the discount. You can sign up for the e-mails of specific stores, where you usually shop, to receive e-mails with deals and discounts. Several stores also have membership cards which you can opt for so as to get points accumulated on spending. You can redeem these points on your next purchase or you may have to accumulate a certain number of points in order to redeem them.

15. Build the habit of using coupons

It will help you save a good amount if you have the habit of clipping and using coupons. You can get these coupons from certain websites where you need to be a member. While checking out, you can also get discount coupons if you purchase a certain dollar worth item or coupons are available on purchasing certain items. However, it might not be advertised at the store but you get these coupons along with your printed bill. Therefore, next time you visit supermarkets such as, Target, Marsh, etc., you might get such a coupon which you can use on your next visit. Make sure you note the expiry date within which you need to use it in order to take the advantage.

Also, be aware of the coupon polices. Visit the website of the various stores to know about the coupon policies. This will assist you get the good deals. For example, some stores may offer special discount coupons on certain days in a week. Sometimes they also increase the coupon values on those days. So, on a triple coupon day, a $3 off coupon will be regarded as $6 off. So, you can always visit the store on the special days while returning from your office to make purchases at a low price.

16. E-mail to receive the coupons

If you like a specific item but you cannot find discount coupons of that product anywhere, then you can e-mail the 800-number to that company to get discount offers. You will continue receiving discount coupons of your favorite product.

17. Take advantage of loyalty rewards

Some of the big stores across the country offer loyalty rewards to the regular customers. The main idea behind these rewards is to attract as many customers as possible. For example, if you get a reward card, then you may get discounts on your next purchase. You may even win as much as $400 cash back rewards at a certain store. So, try to do shopping at a store that offers loyalty rewards, cash-back rewards to the loyal customers. This way, you may be able to save significant dollars in a year.

Let's now discuss about some cooking tricks

Once you are done shopping and getting things ready, it's time to get into the kitchen and learn how to optimize the utilization of your resources.

Cooking is an art and frugal living is a way of life. If you can successfully combine both, you will be able to eat healthy without spending a fortune. You will also be able to reduce the amount of time and energy spent in the kitchen, leaving you free to take care of other things.

18. Every weekend make the coming week’s meal plan

On Saturdays I sit down and make a plan of the menus that will be cooked for the next week. I also plan for the snacks. Planning ahead restricts me from buying unwanted stuffs and also gives me an idea about the quantity of the items I need to buy.

19. Reduce wastage

Most people don’t realize that there is a lot of unconscious wastage that occurs every time they set out to cook a meal. There are some ingredients as well which people don’t realize are edible and end up dumping it in the trash. When you boil chicken, use the liquid left over in the saucepan for making soups and sauces. You can also boil noodles or rice in the liquid to make it more flavorful. You can also use the liquid to steam dumplings to enhance their flavor. There are many such things all over the kitchen which people don’t know are usable and end up wasting them which adds to the weekly food budget.

20. Coordinate ingredients and dishes

Ensure that the ingredients you buy can be used for multiple dishes. This will enable you to buy each item in bulk quantities and also reduce the number of other ingredients you will need to cook a meal. For example, you can fry bacon for breakfast, chop up a few fried bacon slices and use them in a salad, and you can use the same chopped bacon for dinner along with spicy baked beans. Just mix and match and spread out your menu evenly so that you don’t have to repeat the same ingredient too many times.

21. Reprocess leftovers

A bowlful of sautéed vegetables from lunch, that handful of chicken nuggets from dinner and the little bit of spicy curry left over from the Indian food that you had ordered out will eventually end up in the dustbin. Don’t neglect leftovers. Statistically speaking, the quantity of leftovers accumulated in 2 days by the average American family can be reused to make 2 complete meals. Put all the chicken and the veggies on a tray, cover it with a sauce and bake in an oven or just drop them all into a stockpot and turn it into a soup. You can also find various creative ways to reuse leftovers and save money along the way.

22. Be flexible with your meal planning

The grocery stores offer discounts on foods from time to time. So, you can save money by planning your meals around the discount foods. This way you can follow your budget and at the same time, eat healthy. For example, if you visit the store and see that apples are offered at discount rate, then make apple the prominent food in your portion of fruits for the coming week. However, do check the expiry dates before buying items in bulk.

23. Opt to cook large portions

When you're investing time to cook, then it's better to prepare large portions and keep in refrigerator. By doing so, you can save time and energy of cooking every day and at the same time you can enjoy home-cooked food. This will help you save on gas/electricity and in turn, dollars.

If you follow these things, then you will notice that you can have healthy food without having to pay much. On the contrary, you may be able to save your hard-earned dollars on grocery shopping if you switch to home-cooked food instead of eating out. Moreover, you can plan your meals for the week and keep a check whether or not you're consuming your required amount of nutrition. So, switch to healthy eating and have a good life ahead.

Grocery savings: 5 Practical ways to live well on one income

Do you wonder how much of your paycheck goes towards your monthly grocery bill? With the rise in the price of groceries, most of us are struggling to make ends meet. Moreover, with the food prices continuously rising out of control. People are struggling to get their daily food expenses. Following a budget is very important. You can stay on track or keep your finances under control.

Here are some possible ways to live happily on one income.

1. Plan every single purchase

You should always prepare a list before you start shopping. You need to plan your weekly dishes that you may eat throughout the entire week. Try to stick to buying only those stuffs. Thus, you can save your dollars in the long run. You can prevent yourself from purchasing the things that you can do without. It will also save your time and fuel as well.

2. Don't shop while you're hungry

Yes, it may sound strange but this is like the basic mistake of grocery shopping. You need to hit the store with an empty stomach. Because you tend to buy more things than what you could have bought with a full stomach. You can plan to get yourself some junk food when you're hungry. You can even become an impulsive shopper when you're hungry. When you've no other option but to hit the store with an empty stomach. You should buy yourself some fruits and apples.

3 Don't be tempted to buy branded products

You may feel tempted to buy the branded products. As already mentioned, it is always better to go for the generic products. Thus, you can save a considerable amount of money such as goods often offer good quality and at an affordable price. Every product has a generic version. So, you should look out for such products in the market to save your dollars.

4. Don't let anyone accompany you

Sometimes it isn't possible to go for shopping alone. But it is always better to shop alone as you can make yourself resist to temptations this way. You can effortlessly take all the smart deals while getting your groceries with rebates. You can shop online to look for the stuffs all by yourself. There are also some other advantages of shopping online.

5. Carry a calculator while shopping

It will help you to update yourself with the basic calculations. Doing some calculations on your own will make you stay aware of your present state. Don't forget to follow your budget while shopping things.

What things you should buy in bulk to save money

You must be aware of the fact that buying grocery items in bulk help you save considerable amount. But there are some more things, other than grocery items, for which you can enjoy more facilities if you purchase in bulk. Here are some ways to save money by buying in bulk.

Using an unlimited mobile plan

Switching to an unlimited low-cost prepaid mobile plan can help you save money without compromising on the time you want to chat over phone. Not only for unlimited minutes, mobile companies also offer discounts on texts and data if you buy a certain amount of prepaid card every month or sign up for a definite post-paid connection.

Buying sports tickets for the entire season

Are you a specific sport lover and love to watch it in the stadium? If yes, then buy tickets for an entire season and benefit yourself financially. Moreover, you might also get playoff tickets at a much cheaper price if the season gets extended.

Going for airline ticket packages

Similarly, the airlines also offer discounts if you buy ticket packages. Sometimes, certain airlines offer discounts on two destinations for a certain time period on or above a definite number tickets. You should also sign up for mileage points especially if you have the habit of traveling in one airline only. After accumulating certain points, your tickets can be upgraded or you may reserve tickets at a comparatively lesser price.

Purchasing multiple gift cards

Just by visiting the warehouse store, you can get hold of multiple restaurant gift cards as well as movie tickets for a much lesser price. So, get a membership of such a warehouse store and buy gift cards in bulk to save money.

Order 90-day supply of medication if you need it regularly

Many people have to take certain medication regularly. If you're one of them, why not order a 90-day supply instead of a usual 30-day refill. However, before doing so, make sure that you'd require the medicine(s) for three months.

Sign up together for gym memberships

Most of the gyms offer family and friend discounts when you sign up together. A gym may also offer discounts if you recruit a person you know. So, talk to your friends and family members and join a gym together or get admission in a gym where you already have a family member or a friend. However, it is better you talk to different gyms and the offers, and then go for the one that suits you the best.

Sending the siblings in the same college

You can cut down tuition costs by sending your children to the same college. There are many schools which offer discounts for siblings who attend sessions at the same time. If you are applying for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), then the contribution you're making to the school will be same irrespective of how many children are covered.

Last but not the least, buying fresh fruits and vegetables from your local harvest can save you significant amount every month. You can look for a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) program in your area to purchase your supplies in bulk. By doing so, you can save as much as 50% of your grocery bill; however, you need to buy in bulk correctly. It means you need to find out the proportion you can consume before the items perish. You can also find another household and buy the items together and split the cost within yourselves. Following these strategies, you will be left with a significant amount every month, which you can use to improve your financial situation.

4 Advantages of shopping for grocery items online

Do you know that you can schedule routine grocery deliveries at your doorstep on a regular basis? Yes, it is true. So, you can opt for this and continue getting your regular grocery items even if you forget to buy them when you're busy with your professional and personal life. Read on to know about other advantages of shopping for grocery items online.

1. Time saving strategy

It requires no mention that online grocery shopping is a superb time saving strategy. Think of a day when you are really busy and need to take out time to drive to the grocery store, find the items you need, stand in the queue and drive back home. Have you realized how much time you spend in all these activities? In this time, you might have prepared a meal or completed an office work if you wouldn't have to visit the grocery store.

2. Delivery to doorstep

The items are delivered right at your doorstep and very rarely you need to pick them up from your local post office or FedEx and UPS pick up centers. Even if you're not at home, the items can be delivered at your property manager's office and in most cases, such deliveries don't require any signature. However, check whether or not you have to pay any shipping charges for ordering online. Most of the stores deliver items at free or at nominal cost within a specific distance if you order a certain dollar amount. So, check this out before you order grocery items from online stores.

3. Leisure time shopping

What can be the most lucrative offer than shopping for grocery items at the comfort of your home? By choosing online shopping, you don't have to drive to local stores at extreme weathers. Moreover, if you don't stay at the heart of the city, you may have to drive long distance in order to get a specific item from a supermarket.

4. Fast comparison shopping

You need to contribute significant time to compare the prices of items in order to get the best deal. Certain websites offer the price range of items from various sellers and you can decide the best deals in just few minutes. Compare this with the time you require if you have to visit each store or collect flyers in order to know the discount and/or changing price of items every week or month. Moreover, often grocery stores limit the items you can carry but you can buy them in large quantities online; this may entitle you to get more discounts, too.

Most importantly, you are less likely to overspend when you shop for grocery items online. This is because when you see something in front of your eyes, you tend to buy that even if you don't require that item at present. Moreover, often grocery items are offered online at wholesale prices. So by restricting impulsive shopping and getting items at wholesale prices, you can save a good amount of money every month.

What you grocer would not want you to know

Do you know that the grocery stores are usually designed in a way so that you spend more? Yes, it is true. Many a times, you'll find that you end up spending more at the grocery shop than you need to. Here are certain things which you should know but what your grocer doesn't want you to know. The knowledge will also help you save money at the grocery stores.

1. Usually expensive items are kept at checkout

There are usually magazines, gum, candy, etc. kept near checkout. These items usually have high-profit margin, so your grocery bill can shoot up if you don't restrict yourself from buying these items at the checkout.

2. Only selected varieties are on sale

The stores usually advertise sales on products; however, the sale prices are on only some varieties instead of the whole item. So, if you want to buy an item on sale, before you do so, make sure the variety you're buying is actually on sale.

3. Kid-friendly stuffs are kept at their eye level

Next time you visit your favorite grocery store, notice carefully that the kid-friendly stuffs are kept at their eye level and within their reach. Just walk on the aisle where cereals are kept, you will find that sugary cereals are kept lower and the relatively healthy alternatives are kept at higher racks.

4. Sales usually run in cycles

You do not have to go crazy to buy something in bulk since that item is offered on sale. If you review your grocery store fliers, you'll notice how often items (which you want to buy) are offered on sale. So, don't buy in bulk, as a result of which, either you consume them more than what you usually do or you need to throw if no one wants it to eat any more.

5. 'Sell-By' and 'Best If Used By' dates are not expiry dates

Every one of you check out the expiry dates before buying an item. While doing so, you often come across certain terms such as, 'Sell-By' and 'Best If Used By'. They don't usually mean the expiry dates of the food items. When 'Best If Used By' is mentioned, it means that the food item will taste best within that date. This doesn't mean that the food item will perish after that date. Similarly, Sell By' date means the grocery store can display that item till that date. So, the next time you buy a perishable item, keep it refrigerated and consume it within a few days.

Most importantly, always check when your items are being rung up at the checkout. Do not feel shy to point out if there's any error, especially the items which are on sale. The scanners are not error-free; so there may be a mistake in the price as the person who had entered the data might have made a mistake. Therefore, always point out the errors and by doing so, you will help other consumers, too.

Last Updated on: Thu, 21 Jan 2021

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