Save Money on Groceries
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Track Your Spending
You'll never know how much you save on food if you don't know what you spend. Look at it as an experiment. That way, you aren't locked into a new system and won't feel guilty if it just doesn't work for you. Give yourself the freedom to try new ways to save money on groceries.
- Set a timeline. For example, try shopping for two weeks the way you normally do and two weeks using a money-saving tip like those you'll find on the following pages.
- Write down what worked. Keep track of what you spend and how much you save.
- Add another tip or two. If you are satisfied with your new way of shopping, keep going!
- Make it a family affair. Like any game, saving on groceries can get addictive. Bring the family in on the secret and watch everyone get excited about your growing dollar signs.
Plan Your Meals Before You Go to the Store
This is an important step that can make a big difference. The better you plan, the more likely you are to make better food choices. If your cupboards and refrigerator are stocked with foods you can easily grab for snacks or meals, you are less likely to spend money dining out.
Make a list. Write down the foods you eat on a regular basis or the foods your family gobbles up in one night. If there is a recipe you plan to try this week, get the ingredients ahead of time so you are prepared and not distracted by running back and forth to the store.
Stock up. When you spot a sale or coupon for those items, buy as many as you can without going overboard. If the item can be frozen or has a longer shelf life, having extra on hand could save you another trip.
Shop sales. This might not work for everyone, so this could be one of those experiments. Instead of making a shopping list before you go to store, shop the sales and then plan your meals after you have purchased your discounted groceries. This could work well with whole foods like produce and lean meats, which can be mixed in all types of healthful recipes.
Make Your Own Snack Packs
If you are a frequent visitor to the office vending machine or the coffee shop around the corner, you'll save money and calories by making your own snacks. These foods make tasty, healthful snacks and tend to be more affordable when you buy them at a grocery store or bulk store:
- Vegetables -- Carol Levine, PWD type 2, saves time and money by buying a vegetable tray for the week. The veggies are pre-cut and can be portioned out for easy snacks on the go or at work.
- Fruit -- Buy whole fruit or pre-cut fruit to make healthful snacks even easier.
- Snack mix -- Make your own snack mix to take on the go. You can control the ingredients and the portions.
What works for you?
"I buy lots of fruit and when I feel like a snack, I eat it instead of candy. I love melon and it is cheap and easy to prepare. I cut it all up at once and store it in the fridge in covered bowls to make a quick snack that is easy to use." -- Darlene, type 2 since 2006
Here are some great snack mix ideas:
Keep Track of Easy Recipes For Dinner Ideas
Love that 30-minute shrimp linguine recipe but don't know where it is? Keeping track of all the meals that are quick and easy can help you plan for what you need at the grocery store. It doesn't have to be a sophisticated system to work well. Just knowing what recipes were a hit can be a big help the next time you're looking for dinner ideas. Recipe boxes with note cards, a notebook, or even a computer document can all be easy ways to reference past recipes.
Check out these quick and delicious ideas to add to your recipe organizer today:
Coupons are not a new concept and are still offered as inserts in most newspapers once or twice a week. But if you're not a coupon-clipper or lost your knack and want to test the waters to see if they can really make a difference without a lot of hassle, then give it a try for a couple of weeks and see how it goes. According to Randall Putala, author of Better Groceries for Less Cash -- 101 Tested and Proven Ways to Save on Food (We Deliver Vegas, 2008), you can save money every time you shop by using a system that organizes and updates coupons. His system: clip coupons while he watches TV on Sunday and categorize them in envelopes.
"If I save less than $50 a week [at the grocery store] then I've done a lousy job," says Putala, advertising executive and family shopper for five.
Here are a few sites you can find coupons online:
Freeze Meals for Later
Prepare double the servings (or more) and freeze them for a quick meal you can pop into the microwave later. This can save money as well as time on those nights you might default to greasy, expensive takeout or a trip to the store to buy frozen dinners.
Labeling your leftovers is another great way to make a meal a two-for-one deal. This might seem like a no-brainer, but we have all done it: You reach into your freezer and pull out a frozen container of ... mystery food. If you don't know what it is, you probably won't eat it!
Other ways to make your freezer leftover-friendly:
- Pick a night to have a smorgasbord and thaw all your labeled leftovers to make room for more.
- Freeze portion-ready servings for a one- or two-person snack or meal for convenience and portion control.
- Use space-saving freezer bags to store soups and vegetables. These bags allow for easy thawing in a pot of water.
Try one of these delicious make-ahead recipes:
Buy Seasonal Produce
Depending on where you live, some produce might be available year-round. For other regions, here is a general list of produce to watch for throughout the year. If you'd like to know more about seasonal produce in your area, ask your local grocer about its produce calendar.
What's in Season
Green String Beans
Sweet Potatoes and Yams
What works for you?
"Every week I pick a raw vegetable to add to my daily food plan. That way there is no excuse for not eating more vegetables." -- Carole, type 2 since 1999, insulin dependent
Buy Store Brands
Brand loyalty could be cleaning out your wallet. If you buy only brand-name products, you are likely paying 25-50 percent more than if you bought similar store-brand products, according to a 2005 comparison test by Consumer Reports. In some cases, brand-named companies also manufacture store-brand products without much change to the product except packaging.
Consumer Reports does advise shoppers to consider the value and the quality before making the switch to store brands and to not "expect the same performance from all of them."
To keep up with consumer demand, many store brands also offer organic and health-conscious selections.
Eat Before You Shop
Last but not least, eat before you go shopping. You will feel better and will be less likely to throw caution to the wind as your stomach overrules your brain. If you're not starved, you can make better food choices and will save dollars along the way by resisting impulse purchases, which are most likely pre-packaged foods lacking nutrition and packed full of calories.