2020 has presented challenges in unprecedented ways, and many of us are still trying to get our bearings. Specifically, the coronavirus pandemic has put a serious financial strain on many U.S. households. Even for those who remain steadily employed, the uncertainty of life has spurred an interest in—or perhaps a realization about the importance of—cutting back on expenses to save money.
While food is about as essential as it gets, there are ways to cut back on spending while you shop. Here are a few practical tips that can help save money on groceries.
Set a food budget
For some of us, budgets are already an essential part of our monthly planning. For others, budgeting feels more like a chore than a benefit. But the truth is that budgeting gives all your money a place to go, so you aren’t guessing whether you should make a purchase or not. We all have different starting places when it comes to creating a budget, but taking some time to understand how much money you can dedicate to food each month will save you in the long run.
Make a list and stick to it
Once you’ve decided how much money you can spend on food, the next step is to craft a grocery list. It may seem basic, but this fundamental tip will never go out of style. While you’re considering your list, think about the key food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and lean proteins) as your basic building blocks for nutritious meals. Variety is important even if you’re working within a tight budget, so doing your best to have grains, lean protein and fruits and vegetables at each meal is a great goal.
Making a list and sticking to it can also help you consider what you already have on hand, so you’re not wasting money (and food) by buying more than you need.
Stick to the staples
We’re not talking about hoarding here—but stocking up on staples and nonperishables is helpful in saving money regardless of the state of the world. Sometimes we’re in a rush and don’t think through our list as thoroughly as we should, so sticking to staples that will last longer and will eventually get eaten are good cost-saving options. A few suggestions include:
- Frozen foods like berries, veggies, smoothie mixes and lean proteins such as meats, poultry and seafood
- Canned vegetables like corn, green beans, mushrooms and tomatoes; and canned proteins such as chicken, salmon and tuna
- Packaged grains like bread, cereal, oats, pasta, popcorn and rice are sources of fiber and whole grains, which support heart health.
- Dried foods like fruit, nuts and seeds can be great sources of key vitamins and minerals and healthy fats.
- Eggs are rich in protein, vitamins and choline. Some brands of eggs also may be enriched with vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Dairy items like yogurt, cheese and sour cream provide important nutrients for bone health, including calcium, vitamin D, potassium and protein.
- Cooking oils like canola, olive and soybean oils are an excellent source of heart-healthy fats.
Checking out the weekly coupon options takes some extra time and research, but these resources can help you save money. If you’re able, find your local grocery store’s weekly deals ahead of time (you can usually access this information online or via the mail) and plan your meals around what’s on sale.
We can’t always control what happens in our environment, but we can do our best to ensure we are making wise choices with the money we have. Hopefully these tips will help you save money on groceries so you can have a little more peace of mind during this uncertain time.
This article includes contributions from Kris Sollid, RD.