Shopping on a Budget

When shopping for food on a budget, it can be helpful to use a variety of strategies. It may take a little time to incorporate these new methods, so try adding one new money-saving strategy at a time. Below are some tips on how to manage spending at the grocery store so everyone can enjoy healthy homemade meals. For more strategies on eating healthy on a budget check out: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/budget

Buying in Bulk

Buying in bulk is often more cost-effective than buying a smaller version of the same item. But purchasing in bulk is also a larger investment so there are some questions to consider to determine if buying certain items in bulk is the right choice. 

  • If the product is perishable, will you use it all before it spoils?
  • Is this product something you and your family will use? 
  • Do you have space in your refrigerator, freezer, or pantry to fit it?

Some items that may be worth buying in bulk include:

  • Potatoes, onions, garlic, apples, and winter squash
  • Canned foods (tomatoes, fruit, seafood)
  • Chicken, beef, and vegetable stock
  • Nuts and legumes (dry or canned beans)
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Cereals, dry pasta, and grains
  • Dish soap, detergent, and sponges

Comparing Prices

Checking the price tag at the grocery will let you know the retail price and the unit price of each item. The retail price is what you pay for each item. The unit price is how much the item costs per weight or portion. For example, a 6 oz container of yogurt might cost $0.60 so the unit price would be $0.10 per ounce. A 32 oz container of the same yogurt could cost $1.96 so the unit price would be $0.06 per oz. In this case, the larger yogurt would be the better deal if you plan on using the entire 32 oz container. You can compare unit prices for all kinds of groceries such as canned tomatoes, chicken breast, or fresh spinach. 

Compare prices of store-brand products to national brands you normally buy. The store-brand is often a better price with the same quality. Check the nutrition labels and ingredients to be sure. This way, you can save a lot on purchases of many staples such as broth, crackers, cheese, yogurt, peanut butter, bread and more. 

Keep in mind what produce is in-season when you are shopping. In-season produce will be more affordable because it will have less distance to travel to the store. When shopping for out-of-season produce, try purchasing it frozen. Frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh and can be more affordable when the item is not in-season. 

More tips

  • The layout of the grocery store is designed to encourage you to purchase items you may not have intended to so write a grocery list beforehand to follow. Pricier products are placed at eye-level so check above and below to find the same products at lower prices. 
  • Impulse items can be overly tempting when you are hungry, so avoid going to the store with an empty stomach. Try grabbing a snack before heading out the door.
  • Coupons can be useful for saving money. But even with a coupon, sometimes that product could be more expensive than another brand of the same item. Be sure to compare prices. It is a good rule of thumb to only use coupons for food you would normally buy.
  • Make the freezer your friend. Double recipes and save leftovers in the freezer for a quick convenient meal. You can also place excess bulk items (flour, nuts, seeds, etc.) in the freezer to preserve them until ready to use.

2 responses to “Shopping on a Budget

  1. It would be great to be taught about budget saving substitutions. Example: perhaps if a recipe calls for peanuts can peanut butter be used as a cheaper alternative or if something can be done to milk to make it a substitute for half and half, etc


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