11 Ways To Save Hundreds on Groceries
Unless you dine out all the time — or are a cyborg — you spend a ton of money on groceries every year. We’ll tell you how to spend a lot less.
By Camille Lamb
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that a family of four spends as much as $1,200 per month on food. You can add up your own receipts to figure out how much you spend, or you start with the FDA’s figure and do some math (sorry) to come up with your own amount. Let’s say a single dude spends $200-$250 a month. If you’re frequently cooking for a date, girlfriend, or caveman you found frozen in ice and thawed out, that figure will probably be even more.
That’s a significant chunk of change every year, so if you could figure out a way to put a dent in it every month, you’d end up saving hundreds of dollars a year on groceries so you could spend that money on other necessities, like video games and awesome cars. And we have some suggestions, none of which have to do with adopting a Kool-Aid-and-Ramen diet. So here are 11 pretty easy ways to save money on groceries.
#1. Make Lists
The last time you made a grocery list was … well, quite possibly never. Here’s why you should do it: Research shows that people with shopping lists cut down on impulse buys and wind up saving up to 10 percent per trip to the store. For layabouts and environmentalists who refuse to use a pen and paper, there are smartphone apps like Grocery IQ, which boasts a vast database of foods and brands, and which you can use with voice dictation.
#2. Don’t Buy More Just Because The Store Tells You To
Buying two things at an excellent price is always a good bargain … right? Not necessarily. Oftentimes, when you see something advertised as “2 for $5,” the reality is that each individual item costs $2.50 — in other words, you don’t actually need to purchase two in order to get the low price.
#3. Rethink Organic
Organic products can cost up to 40 percent more than their counterparts. And while you may be led to believe that they’re more nutritious than non-organic items, that’s probably not true. A recent study found that organic meat and produce weren’t significantly more nutritious or less likely to be contaminated by food-borne pathogens than conventional foods. That said, truly organically produced food tends to be better for the environment, so there’s definitely value in paying more. You should just know what you’re paying for.
#4. Buy Generic
The price gap between generic and brand-name products has been closing since the recession set in, but you can still save an average of 29 percent by buying generics over national brands. It’ll be tough abandoning Cap’N Crunch in favor of Louie Longshoreman at first, but you’ll get over it.
#5. Buy Meat From The Butcher
A butcher shop has more meat variety and prices that are on par (or lower) than you’ll find at grocery stores. The butcher can also save you time with prep by trimming fat and slicing or grinding the meat for you at no additional charge. If going to the butcher scares you because he carries a cleaver and has blood stains splattered all over his shirt, purchasing meat that’s reaching its expiration date at the super market is an alternative that can save you big — up to 65 or 75 percent, if you get lucky.
#6. Buy Produce That’s In Season
Food has seasons. For instance, apples, Brussels sprouts, and squash are most abundant in the fall. Conversely, asparagus, broccoli, and corn grow in the spring. So if you insist on buying asparagus now, you’re going to shell out more cash for it because chances are it’s spent a bunch of time in transit from somewhere far away. For a list of what’s in season where you live, check out this seasonal cooking ingredient map from Epicurious.