How To: Save Money On Groceries
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
"Meal prepping is SO expensive!" I get it, embarking or maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be financially daunting. There's workout clothes, protein powder, gym shoes, supplements, gym memberships, tools and utensils to meal prep, groceries... It seems like a lot at first but trust me, these tips will save you money along the way.
Have a plan and stick to it.
Having the guidelines of a meal plan allows you to buy food in bulk, meal prep in advance, stick to your grocery list, and feel full and satisfied to prevent mindless snacking throughout the day. (Did you know consistent cravings can be a sign that you aren't eating enough calories? Click here for more symptoms of caloric deficiency.)
Buy in bulk.
Go to Sam's Club or Costco to buy certain items in mass amounts; brown rice, produce with a longer shelf life, frozen berries, meat/fish (freeze what isn't going to be used in the next 2-3 days), unsweetened almond milk, eggs/egg whites, low-sugar yogurt, plastic utensils, flavored waters, Tupperware, etc.
Invest in a lean protein powder.
Protein powder is quick, convenient, portable, and CHEAP (and helps with sweet tooth cravings). Protein powder typically goes for about $1 per scoop. The brand I use, American Pure Whey, can be ordered in bulk; I'm talking 10-50 pound tubs which makes it even cheaper than other brands while maintaining a high quality. For example, a 2lb. tub of Quest protein is $1.38 per scoop while a 20lb. bag of APW is $0.42 per scoop.
Don't skimp out on Tupperware.
Cheap containers won't hold up well and can leach BPA into food (a hormone-disrupting chemical - this applies to containers made of polycarbonates AKA plastic #7). I use 6 Pack Tupperware. They're leak-proof, sturdy, long-lasting, and come with a warranty. Make Tupperware containers last by taking care of them. Don't cut food up in the containers; it will leave gouges, be harder to clean, and promote bacterial growth. Put them on the top rack of the dishwasher to prevent melting (but be aware that Tupperware can get a little warped and worn from the dishwasher regardless).
Make a grocery list...and stick to it.
I end up buying a lot more than I actually need if I don't have a list written down. When I have a list, I get in and I get out. I don't need to wander up and down each aisle to make sure I'm not forgetting anything. Not only do I save time and money, but I make better food choices too.
Shop on an empty stomach.
Nope. I've made this mistake all too many times. Do yourself (and your bank account) a favor; eat a solid meal and drink some water BEFORE going to the store.
Prepare produce yourself.
Pre-cut, ready-to-eat, packaged produce is a waste of money. It costs MORE money for LESS food. You're simply paying for it to be washed and cut. If you don't know how to cut that particular fruit, look it up. A few years ago, despite not knowing the first thing about cutting a pomegranate, my mom and I bought one. We watched a video, tried our best, laughed a lot, and ended up figuring it out together.
Let's take a look at the price differences between pre-cut vs. doing it yourself:
How much are you paying per ounce?
In fine print, the price label on the shelf has the exact price per serving/ounce for each product. This is especially helpful for different brands with similar prices. Take a closer look; it can be surprising to see that per ounce, one is drastically cheaper. Every penny counts, right?
Cheaper doesn't always mean lower quality.
Don't be afraid to try the generic/store brands. Sure, certain off brands like Oreos or Pop-Tarts may not taste exactly the same compared to the real thing. But when it comes to basic items like cooking spray, eggs/egg whites, flavored water/water flavorings, baking supplies, seasonings, oats, nuts- the difference if any, is minimal. Generic brands serve the same purpose, are cheaper, and can turn out to be even better than their name brand competitors.
Dollar Stores are your friend.
It's shocking all that dollar stores offer nowadays. It doesn't hurt to swing by for simple items such as mixing bowls, pans, dish towels, ziploc baggies, paper towels, napkins, basic ingredients like salt, pepper, flour, etc.
Shop around at different stores.
Keep an eye out for which stores have the lowest prices and best sales. Some stores may have the best priced meat/fish while others have the cheapest vegetables or best fruit selection. When going store to store, try to stay in a close vicinity to save gas and time.
Download Ibotta right now.
No, this isn't a paid promotion. I always thought money-saving apps were gimmicks. It's as simple as this: check what offers are available, add the offer, scan the receipt, get money back. The money gets transferred directly to PayPal. There are so many stores that use Ibotta; Sams Club, Best Buy, Amazon, Etsy, Target, Walmart, Under Armour, Groupon, Cabelas, and PetSmart to name a few. I have over $100 so far after only a couple months. Join my team and get a $10 welcome bonus when you sign up! A bigger team makes it easier to earn more bonuses too!
Take advantage of sales.
Some grocery stores have sale sections towards the back of the store or on the ends of aisles. If something you regularly use is on sale or part of an Ibotta offer that is about to expire, stock up on it. You may not need it at this very moment, but you will need it sooner or later, so it's better to buy it when you can at least save some money.
Sell-by does not = expiration.
Sell-by dates are when the store has to get rid of the product, so the price drops. Most food will be good for a week after the sell-by date. Typically if I buy something that's near the sell-by date, I make sure to cook it that day or the next and eat it within the next 2-3 days.
Stay hydrated, but not with bottled water.
The average bottle of water costs $1. 4 water bottles per day adds up to $120 per month. Invest in a durable, portable cup that can be used over and over. Even if the cup is $30, it will pay for itself after 8 days of drinking bottled water. And it'll most likely keep drinks colder longer than regular bottled water.
Make your own coffee.
I'm sure we've all heard by now that making coffee at home is cheaper than buying coffee everyday. It's true; ~$4.00 per day on coffee for 5 days each week adds up to $80 per month (plus there's gas and time spent waiting in line). But do you ever think about the price of K-cups vs. bagged coffee? Invest in a reusable K-cup and use regular coffee grounds. Reusable K-cups are as cheap as $2 on Amazon. Even if you don't have a Keurig, brush the dust off of the coffee pot at home and start brewing your own coffee.
Even after all of this, is meal prepping really that much cheaper than eating out?
Let's take this recent trip to the grocery store for example:
$16.45 - 5 packs of 93% lean ground turkey ($3.29 per pack, sometimes it's on sale for $1.29)
$1.57 - 4 yellow squash
$1.84 - 4 zucchini
$1.69 - 4lbs. of sweet potatoes
$21.55 - TOTAL
Now let's break it down further. (How long each item lasts is based on MY personal meal plan and the specific amounts I eat- everyone is different):
$1.32 per meal on turkey
$0.14 per day on sweet potatoes
$0.85 per day on vegetables
This isn't factoring in breakfast, carbs, or other snacks throughout the day, but the rest of my meals are in this ballpark price wise. There are plenty of similar posts on the SUNutrition Facebook page that show healthy meals under $3.