More tips for saving at the grocery store

Nutrition educators at Michigan State University Extension share more of their favorite ways to eat healthy for less.

Money is an expirable commodity. It’s important to save money wherever possible to make that commodity stretch. Here are eight tips to save on your food dollar:

  1. Staple food stock up
    Invest in staple foods when they are on sale. Buying a boatload of bananas, or other perishable foods, isn’t a very good long-term investment.  Stocking up on staples like canned tuna, tomato sauce or mandarin oranges when they are on sale can be. Remember to check expiration dates.
  2. Bulk up when the price is right and you can use it
    Do the math and check if you will actually save by buying a larger package. The cost of buying two smaller sized may be a better price than buying just one of  the larger size. You can also look at the unit price on the tag beneath the product. Check it out and if the larger size meets your criteria, go for it!
  3. Store brand savings
    Store brands are comparable in nutrition to name brands, and taste-wise there may be little difference. In some comparisons, store brands have been preferred over the name brands. Some store brands may vary more in size, color or texture than the name brands, but this may be unimportant, depending on their use. A less than perfect appearing vegetable may be just fine if used in a casserole or soup. Lower-priced brands tend to be positioned on the top and bottom shelves. Be aware of positioning in stores.
  4. Prevent food flops
    Check preparation methods for unfamiliar foods. The produce person or meat manager at the store can give you some tips on preparing new foods. Many produce departments have books, posters or handouts with descriptions of all their items, what they taste like, how to prepare them, etc. If you’re not sure how to prepare that new tropical fruit or cut of meat, ask before spending your money on a possible food flop.
  5. Beware of snack attacks
    Unless you’re fairly active and need the calories, enjoy snacks, such as chips, cookies, candy, etc. in limited amounts. You’ll save money and may lose unwanted pounds at the same time! Have cut up vegetables and fruits available instead – a $4 bag of apples lasts longer and is healthier than a $4 bag of chips!
  6. Shop the specials
    Plan your menus around sale items, especially more expensive purchases, such as meat. Buying several packages of meat when it is on sale and freezing it may save quite a bit. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) states,“It is safe to freeze meat or poultry directly in its supermarket wrapping but this type of wrap is permeable to air. Unless you will be using the food in a month or two, over wrap these packages as you would any food for long-term storage using airtight heavy-duty foil, (freezer) plastic wrap or freezer paper, or place the package inside a (freezer) plastic bag.” If you plan to repackage family packs into smaller amounts, USDA/FSIS also recommends using these materials.
  7. Think before you drink
    Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it with tap water. Your investment soon will pay for itself. Limit consumption of soft drinks and fancy coffees.
  8. “Checkout” temptation
    Don’t stumble as you approach the checkout lane. As you’re waiting in line, think twice before buying some last-minute temptation.

For more ways to save at the grocery store, see “Cost saving tips for the grocery store."

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