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Prices of just about everything are on the rise, but that doesn’t mean you need to panic or break your budget. We've put together some tips on how to shave down your grocery bill so you can spend that money elsewhere. From planning before you go to the store to choosing the items with the best bang for your buck, here's what you need to know before your next grocery haul.
Have a plan before you go to the store
This tip seems simple, but it encompasses many smaller tips to avoid common scenarios that trip people up.
For starters, plan out your meals ahead of time. Know what you’re making for the week, and only buy food to make those meals. This can reduce food waste by ensuring all the food you prepare gets eaten. If you think you might eat out during the week, work that into the plan too, to make sure you’re able to eat your leftovers before they go bad.
Planning out your meals ahead of time also makes it easier to shop with a grocery list. Using a list not only helps you get in and out of the store faster, it can help prevent you from making any impromptu purchases—an especially easy pitfall to bumble into, especially if you’re shopping while hungry—that won’t fit into your weekly meal plan, reducing food waste.
Skip the organic version of these 15 foods
While there are a lot of reasons to buy organic, one of the primary reasons is avoiding crops that traditionally require heavy pesticide use. Leafy foods like spinach and kale tend to be the worst offenders, but there are foods where neither version of the crop requires pesticides, meaning you can buy the cheaper version without contributing to the use of such chemicals.
The Environmental Working Group has a list they call “the clean 15,” which includes items where it is OK to avoid the organic version.
Frozen sweet peas
Buy in-season foods
It can be easy to lose track of what foods are in season, since supermarkets carry all kinds of foods all year round, but buying fresh produce during winter months is a great way to tack on a lot of extra costs.
As local conditions aren’t suitable for growing those items, they must be imported from further away, and those transportation costs are passed onto the consumer.
As a bonus, buying locally-grown produce and avoiding imported ones is also a great way to keep your carbon footprint lower.
If you’re stocking up, favor frozen foods, canned foods, and those with longer shelf lives
You shouldn’t load up on groceries that are just going to go bad before you get to them. If you are trying to stock up (maybe you have a new membership to Costco or BJ’s?), make sure you’re investing in freezable foods, canned foods, or dried foods like beans or grains.
Some foods that freeze especially well are soups, chilis, and casseroles, all of which can be portioned up and frozen for six months to a year.
Canned fruits, vegetables and meats can last for years beyond their “best by” dates, as long as the cans themselves remain sealed (if you do find a can that’s dented or damaged, be sure to throw it out—you don’t want to risk a serious foodborne illness like botulism).
Dried foods like beans, rice, or other grains have a functionally indefinite shelf life, they just might need longer to rehydrate again when you prepare them.
Pasta seems like it goes in the same category as rice and beans, but it actually has a much shorter shelf life: just a year or two from the date of purchase. Pasta is still a great pantry staple—a couple years of shelf life is nothing to scoff at—but just be aware it can’t hang around as long as beans and rice.
In addition to these powerhouses of shelf-life longevity, honey and peanut butter are more niche foods, but can also last a long time. Peanut butter can last for up to two years, and honey effectively never goes bad. These foods can be great additions to your cupboard, if you find grains a bit too bland.
Don’t buy pre-cut or pre-made foods if you can avoid it
Pre-cut and pre-made meals can be a lifesaver if you’re busy or for those with a disability that makes cutlery use more difficult, but supermarkets charge a premium for the prepared foods they offer.
If you’re handy with a knife, buying raw ingredients and chopping them yourself can save you some money at the expense of some time and elbow grease.
The same is true for the pre-made meals, as supermarkets tend to charge at least a few extra dollars for the prep work. Preparing a meal yourself can be time consuming, it’s true, but if you do the work yourself you can save some money here and there.
Join the store’s loyalty program
While it’s true that supermarkets use their loyalty programs to collect data about their customers, if you don’t mind giving them data about what you buy and when, you can get significant savings on many items.
Whether or not you’re willing to subsidize your grocery shopping with info on what you buy will come down to personal preference, but there are some real deals to be had here.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: Here’s how to save money on groceries