Shop (and Eat) Responsibly: Tips for Better Grocery Shopping
You went to the grocery store to pick up milk, eggs, and bread. You spent $50 and came home with four bags of random impulse purchases. You still don’t know what to make for dinner. When it comes to spending, food can be a tricky category: On one hand, everyone has to eat, which means food is a non-negotiable part of any budget. On the other hand, though, it’s all too easy to get carried away with your grocery spending.
Ready to curb the impulse buys? Want to rein in your grocery budget? Here are a few sure-fire tips for responsible grocery shopping:
- Don’t limit yourself to traditional grocery stores. If you’re sticking to your go-to grocery store, you might be missing out. Smaller specialty stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s are known for offering high-quality grocery items at super-low prices. And milk is typically cheapest at drugstores (drugstores also typically offer crazy-good sales on things like brand-name cereal, coffee, and other staples).
- Bulk bins are awesome. Bulk bins are a budget shopper’s best friend. Buy spices by the tablespoon, try new types of quinoa, or satisfy your sweet tooth with a handful of chocolate-covered bananas. When you shop the bulk bins, you can get exactly what you need or want, without the commitment (and price) of buying a whole jar/bag/pouch.
- Steer clear of “pre-” anything. Pre-washed lettuce. Pre-chopped kale. Pre-cut fruits and veggies. Pre-made sandwiches, wraps, or salads. Sure, skipping some of the prep work might save you a couple of minutes — but that convenience will cost you. It’s much, much cheaper to take the DIY route.
- Don’t waste food. Responsible grocery shopping means avoiding the urge to buy more of something just because it’s on sale. It also means not buying industrial-sized packages that you’ll never be able to use up. Remember: If you end up throwing food away, you’re not saving money — no matter how “cheap” it was.
- Buy frozen fruits and veggies. Fresh produce is nice, but it has a short shelf life and can get pricey — especially if you’re buying something out of season. Frozen fruits and veggies have the same nutritional content, they last a long time, and they’re usually super-affordable.
- Go meatless for a day. If you eat meat, consider introducing one meatless meal into your weekly dinner rotation. Check out recipes that swap expensive meat with budget-friendly, plant-based alternatives like chickpeas, lentils, tofu, or tempeh.
- Plan your menus and make lists. Grocery shopping without a plan is not responsible, and it’s a good way to end up with an empty wallet and a pantry full of random items. Instead of wandering the aisles willy-nilly, take some time to think things through: Write down a few dinner ideas. Check what you already have on hand. See if you need to stock up on anything. Then, make a list — and try your best to stick to it.
Have more questions about smart shopping and budgeting? Looking for advice that will help you save money or pay down your debt? The team at American Credit Foundation is always available to answer your money-saving questions and offer help, guidance, and advice.