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5 money hacks to save on food
By Jackie Lam
Published on May 04, 2023
Read time: 2 min
These days, a trip to the supermarket can make you feel like you got hit with a pay cut. We've all seen what's happened with the price of eggs. And stats confirm the squeeze on your wallet: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index, food costs are 10% higher this year than they were at the same time last year.
Maybe you’re the kind of person who can raise chickens and enjoy your own egg-laying factory at home. For the rest of us, here are a few ways to save money on food.
#1: Strategize your shopping trip
Check out grocery store mailers or download grocery store apps to build a weekly meal menu based on what's on sale. You can also check out coupon platforms that feature food and household manufacturer coupons that you can upload to your phone.
Here's where it gets fun: Devise ways to coupon-stack, where you combine a store's coupon with a manufacturer's coupon for an even greater discount.
When you step into the market, head for the clearance rack first, where you can scoop up heavily marked-down items. Then check for same-day sales in the butcher section. Buy plenty of meat when prices are low and freeze the extra.
#2: Learn what produce is in season and plan menus around that
Produce tends to be cheaper when it’s in season. Bonus: In-season produce often tastes better, too.
Don’t waste money on food that gets thrown out. Only buy as many fresh, perishable groceries as your family can consume before they go bad. Those bags of lentils will probably stay good until the next apocalypse. But extra lettuce just because it’s on sale? Only if you love you some salad.
If you’re in an area where produce prices are high, the freezer is your friend. Frozen varieties are usually less expensive than their fresh cousins, and they contain just as many nutrients. (You can even freeze certain produce yourself, like strawberries or green beans.) Canned veggies, on the other hand, tend to lose some of their nutrients. Plus, preservatives and sugar might be added, which bumps down the nutritional value.
#3: Pay attention to bulk pricing
Surprisingly, springing for the Hulk-sized bulk package doesn't always give you the most bang for your buck. Sometimes, a mid-size choice offers the same (or better) value (aka cost per unit). Plus, you don't want to set yourself up for waste. It won’t do you any good to buy a lot for cheaper if some of it is destined for the landfill.
Some stores do display unit pricing on the shelf. No worries if they don’t. It's just as easy—and accurate—to whip out the calculator on your phone and check yourself.
#4: Broaden your shopping stops
Expand your usual shopping venues to include farmers markets, local farms, and warehouse clubs. Farmers markets and local farms might carry less expensive, locally-grown produce, especially the stuff that’s very ripe and plentiful. Vendors at farmers markets might offer a discount on unsold goods near the end of the day.
Warehouses work for small families as well as for large. If you’re shopping for one or two, look for bulk items that come portioned out in smaller packaged portions—think a six-pack of cheese wedges, or a two-pack of cooked beets. Or, shop with a friend or neighbor and go halfsies on larger, bulk items. That way, you enjoy a bulk discount and get the right amount.
#5: Grow your favorite fruits and veggies
You don't need a huge yard to cultivate your own produce. Many fruits and veggies can be grown in five-gallon buckets. You can grow herbs on a windowsill or small porch or balcony. Give your sprouts plenty of sun, air, and water.
You can also grow fruits, veggies, and plants at a community garden. Not only will you have access to a larger space, but you can get pointers from seasoned gardeners. Lean in on the community part by hosting a produce exchange. That way, you can swap excess produce for goodies from fellow growers, which can help you save even more.
Cutting back on food costs doesn't have to be hard or complicated. Try out these tactics and scale back on your grocery spending.