Grocery shopping is a chore for most folks. We bachelors are particularly prone to putting off that trip to the store as long as possible. But there are ways to make that trip easier and save money at the same time. We’ve covered some shopping tips before. But people are always coming up with new ideas and schemes.
You’ve probably heard this before, but most of your food should be coming from the fresh, whole foods around the outer edge of the store’s sales floor rather than the inner aisles, where most of the food is bagged, boxed and processed. There are some foods that are not processed, or minimally so, in those center aisles. Things like rice, cooking oil and baking supplies can be found there. Know where those aisles are so you can skip most of the others. In fact, knowing where different categories of products are located in the your usual store will help save a lot of time.
The sad thing about all those processed foods in the center aisles is they are usually cheaper than if you were to buy the ingredients to go into them. But buying the whole, real foods give you better health and more flexibility. Those processed foods are loaded with salt, fat and sugar. We used to like the box baking mix. Now we buy flour, baking powder and shortening to mix together when we need them. That’s the beauty of learning to cook for yourself. It may take more time, but nearly all the time, what you make will be better and healthier than what you can buy.
Always make a list, even if you’re only picking up a few things. While this is not completely stop impulse buys, it will shorten your trip through the store and make it less likely you’ll stop to consider the offerings in the candy aisle or other tempting foods.
Start by reviewing the store’s weekly ad. Most grocery stores have one. Many are available online. Store websites may also have other features like recipes, coupons and event information. Select recipes or meal ideas that go along with what’s on sale in the store. Be sure to include all the ingredients on your list. And if you eat before you go shopping, you reduce the temptations of impulse buys even more.
When you hit the produce aisle, pay close attention to what’s in season and what’s not. If the asparagus is imported, not only are you going to pay more for it, but it’s unlikely to be very fresh or very good. Anyone who buys a tomato in the winter is asking for a beautiful red ball of tastelessness. Food that must be imported usually has to be picked so early to survive the journey that it never fully ripens or develop flavor. At those times, reach for canned or frozen fruits and vegetables.
You’ve probably heard that we should be eating less meat. Not only is that healthier and more environmentally friendly, it saves money. Vegetable protein from beans and tofu is lower in fat and usually uses less polluting fuel to grow and harvest.
One of the best things about lettuce is that it’s usually available all year. But don’t buy those pre-packaged, pre-washed bags of salad. First of all, many of them have been found to contain contaminants like e coli and salmonella. Secondly, you get a lot more for your money if you buy the whole head of lettuce. Investing in a greens spinner will make those fresh homemade salads even easier.
If you’re lucky enough to shop at a store that has bulk foods, you can save a lot of money by buying just what you need. For example, some spices don’t get used so much and you have to buy a whole jar when all you need in a few tablespoons. Getting just what you need from the bulk foods aisle is a big saver. Also, the spices won’t lose their flavor before you get around to using them the way a whole jar might.
You also save money on lots of other ingredients when you use the bulk foods aisle. But not all stores have this section. They take up a lot of space and can leave behind quite a mess.
Another great reason to study the weekly grocery store ad is you can see when staple items you buy all the time are on sale. That’s the time to buy even if you don’t need it now.
Another thing to buy when on sale is chicken. It can always be frozen. Whole chicken is cheaper than parts, especially the boneless, skinless variety. Those parts are convenient, but only buy them on sale. A whole chicken can be baked or roasted and used on so many ways, including making your own chicken broth.
Make grocery shopping less of a chore and save money at the same time. It just takes a little planning and a little thought.