Deal Finder: Ways to Save $$$ at the Grocery Store
By LaTina Emerson, The Deal Finder
The cost of food in the grocery store continues to rise, putting a strain on the budgets of hard-working families and individuals, senior citizens and college students.
Food prices rose 1.8 percent in 2019, a slightly larger increase than the previous year, and five of the six major grocery store food groups increased in price, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Consumer Price Index Summary.
Because consumers are getting less for their money, it’s important to make every dollar count. Shoppers can reduce their food expenses by looking for deals, preparing grocery lists and meal plans, eliminating food waste and buying in bulk.
Follow these tips to maximize your grocery budget:
Purchase Store Brands
Most grocery stores offer an extensive variety of store brand products, which are often cheaper than brand name items and have similar quality.
Buy in Bulk
When shopping for a family and large quantities of items are needed, buying in bulk from wholesale clubs, such as BJ’s Wholesale Club, Sam’s Club or Costco, can help consumers get the most for their money.
Wholesale clubs generally charge an annual membership fee, but it can pay off in the future. Staples such as pasta and nuts are often half the price of those in conventional grocery stores, according to EatingWell magazine.
Have a Meal Plan and Grocery List
Consumers should plan out their meals in advance so they’ll know exactly what they need at the grocery store. Then, make a grocery list that reflects the plan. This will reduce the temptation to buy extra items that are unhealthy or could potentially go to waste.
Many grocery stores, such as Kroger and Publix, offer digital coupons to customers who create an account on their websites. Each Friday, Kroger also offers a Free Friday Download, a digital coupon for a free item. The offer is only available to customers with a Kroger.com account. In addition, Publix offers the opportunity for shoppers to join a corporate mailing list for coupons and promotions.
Shoppers should also find out if their grocery store accepts manufacturer’s coupons, Internet coupons or coupons from competitors. They can clip paper coupons from the sales ads that are found in newspapers or arrive in the mail.
Review grocery store sales ads to find deals on food and household items. Some stores offer buy one, get one free deals, which are a great way to save.
In addition, consumers should consider shopping at discount stores, which are known for offering deals. ALDI, a discount grocery store, reports that its ALDI-exclusive brands are up to 50 percent cheaper than comparable products sold at leading national competitors.
Stock Up on Sale Items
Take advantage of sale prices and stock up when frequently used food items are on sale. Meat, for instance, can be frozen until later. Also, canned goods and pasta can be stored for a while.
Store Food Properly
When food is wasted because it spoils or rots before it can be eaten, hard-earned money is going down the drain. This is a common problem with fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s crucial to know where to store produce (the counter or refrigerator), the best temperature for storage (room temperature or refrigeration) and what fruits and vegetables can be stored together or should be kept apart.
EatingWell magazine recommends storing these fruits and vegetables at room temperature: bananas, basil, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, grapefruit, green beans, lemons, limes, onions, oranges, potatoes, summer squash, sweet potatoes, watermelon, winter squash and zucchini.
These fruits and vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator: apples, asparagus, blueberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, cilantro, corn (whole ears in the husk), dark leafy greens, grapes, leeks, lettuce, parsley, peas, pomegranate, raspberries and strawberries.
Lastly, these fruits should initially be stored on the counter and then moved to the refrigerator when ripe: apricots, avocados, kiwifruit, mangoes, melons, nectarines, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapple and plums.
In addition, some produce items (particularly apples, avocados, stone fruits, pears, bananas and tomatoes) need to be stored separately because they emit ethylene gas, which can speed up the ripening process. Onions should also be stored alone, especially away from potatoes. Leafy green vegetables are among the most susceptible to ethylene gas.
Eat Meatless Meals
Meat can be expensive, and eating vegetarian meals once or more a week can help to save money. Beans, particularly dried beans, are relatively inexpensive and can be used in a variety of meals, from salads, pasta and soup.
For seafood lovers, frozen fish is often less expensive than fresh seafood items. Frozen fruits and vegetables can also offer great deals, especially during the winter. Shoppers also don’t have to worry about these items spoiling and going bad.