13 ways to save when grocery shopping!

By glblguy

Grocery Store
Photo by: stu_spivack

Mondays here on Gather Little by Little are “Money Saving Mondays” where I share an articles that will help you save money. You can find my other Money Saving Monday articles here on the category page.

We have 6 children, 5 boys and 1 girl. Son #4 was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on November 14th, 2006. My wife and I both read various diabetes websites and magazines as we’re always on the prowl for new recipes and products.

My wife recently found this article on Every Day Health that shared 13 ideas for saving money when grocery shopping. Only one of them is specific to diabetics:

  • Special “dietetic or diabetic” foods are costly and not necessaryI completely agree, most diabetic food is way more expensive than normal foods. We usually try to buy our son sugar-free desserts, items like cookies and pudding. They are usually twice as expensive as regular items. We generally avoid these products as much as possible and search diligently for generic alternatives.
  • Boneless cuts of meat are often a better buy, since you’re not paying for the weight of the bone.
  • There’s no nutritional difference between white eggs and brown eggs, which are more expensive.
  • Not only do vegetables frozen in butter sauce cost twice as much as plain frozen vegetables, they have more calories.
  • Instead of buying small containers of yogurt, buy a quart and separate it into one-cup servings yourself. -I like to throw in some frozen fruit, granola, and raisins and make a really tasty parfait!
  • You can save a lot of money if you don’t buy individually packaged snacks. – My wife has started buying the larger packs and then just splitting them up for the kids using generic “zip lock” bags. This not only controls how much they eat but saves money too.
  • When buying fruit, consider the cost per edible serving. If you’re paying by the pound, you’ll be paying for the weight of inedible seeds and rinds.
  • If fresh fruit is too expensive, buy frozen or canned fruit packed in water. If you buy fruit canned in syrup, rinse it before eating. - We do this one as well. I like canned pineapple and peaches. Our daughter loves mandarin oranges. We put the cans in the refrigerator and they make a great snack.
  • Use nonfat dry milk for drinking, cooking and baking. It’s inexpensive and has a long shelf life.
  • You can make your own cooking spray by putting vegetable oil in a spray bottle.
  • Use regular or quick-cooking oats rather than instant oats, which are much more expensive. - I love oatmeal with some real maple syrup. I far prefer the taste of the regular oats too, so I’m willing to wait.
  • When soaked and cooked, dry beans triple in volume. A one-pound bag will make six one-cup servings.
  • If you buy fresh greens by weight, give them a good shake before you put them in your grocery cart. An amazing amount of excess water (and weight) can be hidden between the leaves. - I have a friend that used to work in a grocery store produce section that told me grocery stores spray the veggies frequently to increase the amount of water and thus weight. This is an excellent tip.

What additional tips do you have? Share your tip by adding a comment!


24 Responses (including trackbacks) to “13 ways to save when grocery shopping!”

  1. debtdieter Says:

    Do they really charge more for brown over white eggs in the US? How bizarre that they even sell them as different colours! :-)

  2. Dialectically_Yours Says:

    In general, buying *any* mix, from pancake/biscuit mix to flavored rice, etc., is very expensive and very bad for you. Most are too high in sodium, low in fiber and contain ‘hidden’ sugars.

    Instead of using Rice-a-Rooni, spend a few minutes measuring rice into sandwich baggies and adding the spices you like. I only keep two or three pre-mixed sides in the pantry, because they’re a fast intermediate step for my novice cooks (teenage sons)who are ALWAYS looking for snacks!

    Don’t wander blindly into the “low fat baking” hype. Read labels carefully: if this weren’t advertised as “lowfat” or “no fat”, would you still buy it? Again, the sodium and sugar counts for these so-called treats are astronomical! When making a batch of homemade cookies, I cut the required fat in half and use either unsweetened applesauce or a slightly overripe banana (mashed) for the other half. (Both can be frozen in 1/4 cup “servings” and defrosted as needed, making them even more convenient to use.)

    Sometimes, the best substitution isn’t– I often cut 1/4 cup of sugar from the ‘standard’ cookie recipes and only notice because it makes a few less cookies in the batch. In biscuits and cornbread,the traditional amounts of sugar added *can* be reduced to a tablespoon– it is there to counteract the taste of baking powder or baking soda. A pinch of salt in baked goods is a browning agent as well as a preservative, but not even 1/4 teaspoon is needed; in both cases, completely omitting salt/sugar *will* effect the quality of the baked dish.

  3. Frugal Dad Says:

    Excellent tips! I especially like the yogurt idea – to buy in bulk and separate into smaller containers. We typically do that for things like cottage cheese, but for some reason we prefer the convenience of individually packaged yogurts for the kids’ lunches, etc. We could just as easily pack them in a separate container and save some money in the process. Thanks for putting this together.

  4. BigEd Says:

    I had do laugh when I read

    You can save a lot of money if you donÂ’t buy individually packaged snacks. – My wife has started buying the larger packs and then just splitting them up for the kids using generic “zip lock” bags. This not only controls how much they eat but saves money too.

    We have been buying in bulk and using zip lock bags to split them up. Recently we switched to generic and that is why I laugh.

    My 8 year old daughter came home about 2 days after I had switched to the generic zip lock bags and said “What did you do?” What a loaded question. I asked her what she ment. She said that she dropped her snack and the bag broke sending her snack all over the floor. She informed me that she does this often but this is the first time that the bag broke. After I stopped laughing, I explained to her that the generic bags were a dollar cheaper than the zip lock and that she would just have to be more careful. I would have never thought such a minor change would even be noticed.

  5. BunGirl Says:

    Great tips here! I have a couple to add:

    Sodas (if you choose to have them in your house at all) should also not be purchased in individual serving sizes. Buy the two liter and pour it into a glass. Most of the cost of cans or smaller bottles is in the packaging!

    Never assume that an item on an end cap or a prominent display in your grocery store is a good deal. ALWAYS check the price against the competition. You’ll find often that these “sales” or “specials” are more expensive than what you’ll find in the regular aisle where it is normally sold.

    IMHO, there are a few things out there that are worth buying the brand name for, but most times, you’d never notice the difference. Try the store brand product to see what it’s like. If it’s really noticeable, you can always go back to brand name later. If not, you’ve just cut down your grocery bill a bit.

  6. Mom of 4 Says:

    I had a couple of additions to this post:

    If you haven’t tried making your own yogurt, do! It’s very easy to make, and cheap cheap cheap! Simply scald a quart of milk (I use the microwave), add 1/2 cup of instant milk, and allow to cool to body temp. Then whisk in a spoonful of plain yogurt and strain into individual cups. Place on a cookie sheet lined with a towel and either place in a 100-degree oven (if yours will go that low), or on top of a heating pad set on low, overnight. If you use the heating pad, you’ll want to wrap the towel so that it’s on top of the cups. In the morning, voila! Yogurt!

    Second note: before you switch to using dry milk, do the math. I check this periodically, and have been surprised to find that the dry milk doesn’t really save that much. YMMV, of course.

  7. Dan Says:

    Here’s a great little tip for savings oodles of money on shopping: Only use meat as a flavoring, not as a main dish. You can buy and eat veggies along with beans, pasta, rice, or some such for much much less than any meat. If you need to have the meat taste, use a few ounces cut small in a larger dish of mostly veggies. The taste will infuse throughout and it’s great!

    Seriously, if you stick to a veggie only diet, you can probably eat quite well for just a couple of dollars a day. If you eat a lot of meat, it’s hard to get anywhere close to that.

  8. Dialectically_Yours Says:

    One of the best ways our family has to save money is by buying flour, spices, beans and even tea bags from bulk bins. But admit it– no one wants to spend all day in the dry goods aisle fiddling with a calculator, so it became important to *us* to have a QUICK way to assess which store or brand or even boxed versus bulk was cheaper.

    Some people keep a price book, and there are lots of good articles about how to do so on the ‘net already. For us, a single 3*5 card tucked into my wallet has the ‘beat this’ price for the dozen staples we use most often. If store A has a sale on bags of flour that beats store B’s base price, we pick it up. If store A repeats the feat, we mark them down as the new ‘beat this’ price.

    Last of all, Instead of calculating the price per ounce, it’s faster for us to use a package size: five-pound bags of flour or sugar are the ones most likely to go on sale in our area, while one-pound bags of beans or peas are the norm. That way, I don’t have to *find* the shelf label with its price-per-ounce information. checking the big signage is as quick as snapping a photo, which leaves me more time to consider the relative prices of the unusual, more variable goods we’ll buy this week.

  9. Lee Says:

    Good tips! I especially like the one about the greens–I didn’t realize the grocery workers would constantly spray the veggies to add weight…nice to know. I also weigh the bags of potatoes to see which one is heavier, since they’re selling the bags at one price, you can get more for your money. You can try it with the fruit too, but I usually buy individual fruits, since they are usually cheaper, and less wasteful, so we don’t buy too many and they go bad before we eat them. Oranges here are 3 for .99, so we’ve been eating a lot of them.

  10. Dialectically_Yours Says:

    Another tip– Make your own “pizza sauce” or spaghetti sauce” in the freezer.

    When my kids were younger, a pint of sauce would be ample for the four of us, and buying even a quart jar of sauce often led to waste. Instead, I bought the BIG (restaurant supply cans of plain tomato sauce, decanted them into pint freezer containers, and added dry spices as I liked. Give each container a quick stir before putting the lid on, and the flavors meld while in the freezer. (Caveat: DO NOT use raw minced garlic in this, granulated or powder works beautifully.)

    Now that I’m raising teengaers, I’m lucky if a half gallon of sauce results in a pint of leftover sauce, though! The savings for us the first time we tried it– even when the jarred sauce went on sale for $.79 per quart, MORE than covered the cost of the plastic containers, and all resulting batches were practically free! Best of all, I *know* there’s no corn syrup, extra salt or MSG.

  11. Bill Says:

    Great tips, I especially like the one about shaking out the water from the veggies! My family spends a fortune on groceries, mostly for our two young boys (2 years old and 6 months old). I try to save where I can; these tips will help.

    Thanks!!!

  12. CollegeSavings.About.com - Ken Clark, CFP Says:

    Check out thegrocerygame.com… my wife shops there and saves about 40-60% on groceries each month. I’m amazed everytime!

    -Ken

  13. Sarah Says:

    You can do the same thing with applesauce too…those individual cups are expensive. Buy a big jar on sale, and divide it out in small servings.

    Also, a way to save on lunch meat/cheese…..most grocery stores will slice meat chubs or chunk cheese for you. If you buy these on sale, you can save a bunch and can freeze the extra for later.

    Great post! I am always looking for tips!

  14. Elizabeth Says:

    Kudos on the list, Glblguy! I find that most lists recycle the same old tired info that appeals to only to a narrowly-defined like-minded crowd. Your list, on the other hand, is much more universally applied and isn’t a rehashing of the same old ideas.

  15. glblguy Says:

    Great tips everyone, thank you!

  16. Aaron Stroud Says:

    Shaking water off the veggies is a great tip. I’m going to pay more attention the cost of my wet veggies from now on!

  17. Justin Says:

    I get cage free brown eggs, they taste better and are better for you.

    We never have milk in the house because my wife doesn’t drink it and I am allergic. I go to Costco and get the long-life soy milk cartons, it’s 10 or 12 cartons for under $10. Much cheaper than at the local supermarket. I also make my own goat milk yoghurt.

    As to the comment on soda or soft drinks, buying the two litre leads to waste in our house as it goes flat before it’s half way finished. So we get cases of cans. Not that we drink it very often, as it is high in HFCS.

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