Tips for Saving Money on Your Grocery Bill


4. To Get Your Fish Fix, Head to the Freezer Aisle

Adding fish to your diet at least twice per week can be an excellent way to boost your intake of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, according to the American Heart Association. But fresh fish can be expensive — about $10.89 for a pound of fresh salmon on, for instance — compared with other animal protein sources such as chicken, which costs around $4.14 per pound on average in the United States, according to economic data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St.Louis.

Frozen fish may be the way to go for a number of reasons. Generally, the reduced price tag on frozen fish (with frozen salmon fillets costing as low as $6.99 per pound at Walmart, for example) is due to the increased shelf life and has nothing to do with the nutrition quality of the fillet.

“There is a misconception that frozen fish dictates lesser quality, but that’s simply not the case. Most likely the daily catch was frozen mere hours after being harvested — making frozen fish a better choice of quality, as well as a better choice for your budget,” says Kathy Siegel, RDN, the founder of Kathy Siegel Nutrition in Warren, New Jersey.

RELATED: A Detailed Guide to Tilapia, Including Its Health Benefits and Risks

5. Be Willing to Substitute Recipe Ingredients When You Have Something Suitable on Hand

We’ve all been there — you find a new recipe you can’t wait to try, but it calls for small amounts of multiple ingredients and spices you’ve never tried before. Instead of buying a large, full jar of a spice you may never use again and paying a hefty fee for it, consider substituting with an ingredient you have on hand or know you will use again.

“It’s okay to substitute like ingredients,” explains Colleen Christensen, RDN, the owner of Colleen Christensen Nutrition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Whether you are swapping cumin seeds for less costly caraway or trading asparagus for green beans according to what is in season, these small changes can have a big impact on savings without significantly altering the nutrition content or flavor of your meals.

Speaking of what’s in season, in-season produce generally costs less than out-of-season produce, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You can refer to the Seasonal Produce Guide on its website to help steer your shopping list.

“The key is to be flexible,” adds Leanne Ray, RDN, the Denver, Colorado–based founder of Healthy(ish) Appetite, a website that offers plant-forward recipes. “Shop with a plan, but change up a few things based on sales or what’s in season.”

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6. Opt for Bulk Over Convenience Items When Possible

Buying rice or pasta that can be prepared in one minute in the microwave sounds convenient, but it can also make an inexpensive food cost more.

“Save money by choosing foods that have a longer cooking time. Pre-prepared and convenience foods like precut fruit or instant rice [can] cost more money than foods that require more prep work like whole fruit or rice that takes over 30 minutes to prepare,” says Samantha Shuflin, RDN, who is based in Chicago.

For example, an investigation from Vice found that chopped produce could cost more than three times as much as whole produce. And not only do convenience foods — meaning those that save time in food preparation and cleanup — tend to cost more than their unprepared counterparts, in some cases they may have lower nutritional value, per one study.

For example, most canned soups contain high levels of sodium, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Sodium extends the shelf life of the soup and adds flavor — but excessive sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, per the American Heart Association. Making your own soup allows you to control the amount of salt used.

It may take a few extra minutes to prepare your meal, but the savings — and the health benefits — may be worth it.

RELATED: The Processed Foods Dietitians Say You Should Be Eating

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Shop the Inner Aisles of the Grocery Store

You may have heard that you need to shop only the perimeter of the store to eat healthfully. But if you skip the inner aisles altogether, you may miss out on some nutritious, cost-saving deals. For instance, low- or no-sodium canned vegetables can be a healthy and cost-effective way to add more produce to your plate.

“I keep my kitchen stocked with canned foods and use one or more entire cans in recipes, such as beans and fire-roasted chopped tomatoes, in my favorite chili. By doing this, I don’t waste any food, which saves money,” says Elizabeth Ward, RDN, the Boston-based author of The Menopause Diet Plan: A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health, and Happiness. Both canned and frozen produce are often picked at the peak of ripeness, which allows you to enjoy nutrient-rich foods at a fraction of the cost of fresh varieties.

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8. Be Open to Making Multiple Stops When Grocery Shopping

Although it may seem easier to shop for groceries at the same store week after week, being open to shopping for different items at different places can lead to some big savings. For Zach Cordell, RDN, the founder of Cordell Nutrition in Daytona Beach, Florida, taking time to explore other stores can be well worth the investment.

“Sometimes it’s not about the coupons and sales but the store you go to. You can often get what you need cheaper by simply switching stores,” he notes. A combination of warehouse clubs, co-op shares, farmers markets, and traditional stores may be a winning one for the biggest savings.

“I like to budget for as much organic produce as is available and affordable. I round out my low-cost organic co-op share with Walmart, BJ’s, and Costco, which have a competitive pricing structure compared with supermarkets,” says Tina Marinaccio, RDN, the Morristown, New Jersey-based founder of Health Dynamics, which offers integrative nutrition therapy and cooking tips.

Ethnic grocery stores may also offer additional savings: “Ethnic grocery markets are much smaller in size than mainstream grocery stores and offer a reasonable selection of staples at cheaper prices. They also give me an opportunity to try new foods,” says Cordialis Msora-Kasago, RDN, the Los Angeles-based founder of diet and lifestyle coaching service The African Pot Nutrition.

RELATED: How to Break Out of a Healthy Food Rut

9. Make Adjustments to Your Cart Before You Check Out

Even if you’ve made a list, shopped the weekly ads, and compared prices before placing anything into your cart, you can still keep your budget on track before you head to the checkout aisle. One of the best ways to do this is to keep a running tally of everything you are buying as you work your way through the store.

“I use my phone calculator to add up the cost of each item. When I hit my budget, that’s it,” says Monica Salafia, RDN, the Denver-based founder of nutrition counseling service Mind on Nutrition. You can also examine your cart right before you head into the checkout lane for items you may have a reasonable substitute for at home.

“Take a good look at your cart and ask yourself if there’s anything you don’t really need. Then put it back,” says Diana Rice, RDN, founder of Tiny Seed Family Nutrition. These small adjustments can help you shop more mindfully and only make purchases you really need.

10. Know That You Don’t Need to Buy Everything Organic

Want to buy organic produce but the price tag is holding you back? If so, this tip will be welcome news.

“You don’t have to buy organic versions of everything in the produce department. Those bananas and avocados that you’re not going to eat the peel of? You don’t have to think twice about buying the conventional version,” says Amy Gorin, RDN, owner of Plant Based With Amy. “If organic produce is something you want to spend your grocery dollars on, prioritize your organic spending on fruits and veggies for which you’re eating the whole item and that may contain more pesticides in the nonorganic version, such as strawberries and kale.”

Use the Dirty Dozen list from the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. The list highlights the top 12 produce varieties with the highest pesticide levels to help guide your choices when it comes to determining where your money is well spent on organic produce.

RELATED: 15 Superfoods (and the Scientific Reasons to Eat Them)

Additional reporting by Laura McArdle.



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