10 Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Jacqueline Ho Mar 24th, 2014 (updated Jun 9th, 2015)
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Whether you’re a family of four, a post-graduate professional paying off student loans or someone who’s just trying to be frugal, if you’re like most people, you may have trouble sticking to your grocery shopping budget. Knowing how to navigate the aisles of the store can save you hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars over the course of the year. Here are 10 tips on how to fill up your shopping cart with healthy food without breaking the bank.

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Write down your menu plan
Write down your menu plan

Start by looking up simple recipes that share versatile ingredients. For example, chicken and a mixture of vegetables could be used in a stir-fry, a salad or on a flatbread. Write down the list of things you’ll need for that week, and when you go to the store, don’t let yourself buy things that are not on your list.

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Create a price list
Create a price list

After you develop your menu plan, look on the websites or in catalogues from various grocery stores. Write down the prices from each store. If you notice that you can save a significant amount of money by buying different items from a few different stores, then the extra time may be worth it. And remember that small differences add up to big differences.

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Stock your grocery with staples
Stock your grocery with staples

Plan one trip dedicated to stocking your pantry with staples—items that are used often and can be used in a multitude of ways. Common staples include olive oil, balsamic vinegar, spices, condiments, flour and garlic and onions. You’ll also save money by stocking up on non-perishables, including canned beans, rice, pasta and canned stews.

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Know when to buy generic versus brand name items
Know when to buy generic versus brand name items

Just because something has a brand name doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better-tasting or better for you than the generic item. If there is no significant difference in nutritional value or quality, then it is worth saving a few extra dollars and buying generic. Examples may include herbs and spices, canned goods and hot and cold cereals.

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Know when to buy frozen versus fresh
Know when to buy frozen versus fresh

When it comes to produce, buying fresh or frozen depends on what’s in season. If something’s not in season, buying frozen offers the same nutritional value and lasts longer. Frozen mixed berries, for example, are inexpensive and can be used in healthy smoothies or sauces. If you buy fresh produce, be sure to store it properly, and freeze any excess to keep food safe and avoid wasting food.

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Make sacrifices
Make sacrifices

If you want to stick to your grocery shopping budget, you may have to do without certain items that aren’t necessarily worth the extra money. For example, you may want to learn to do without unhealthy beverages, snack foods and desserts.

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Make your own snacks
Make your own snacks

Instead of buying packaged snacks, try using the items from your shopping list to make your own snacks. For example, that small expensive container of hummus can easily be made at home with a handful of ingredients and for much less money. Crispy kale chips or homemade granola are also healthy, easy-to-make snack options.

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Buy in bulk
Buy in bulk

Check to see if the price of what you’re buying is better per unit. If it is, it may be worth it to buy in bulk. You’ll save money on items like canned beans, grains and nuts. While you may spend more money overall on the shopping trips during which you buy items in bulk, you’ll save money in the long run.  

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Check for items on sale
Check for items on sale

Before going to the store, check catalogues and coupon sites for items on sale. While you’re at the store, keep an eye out for what’s on sale, and check for opportunities to save money. For example, if a recipe you’re making one week calls for asparagus, but you see that the broccoli is on sale and looks fresh, go with the latter.

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Don’t go grocery shopping hungry
Don’t go grocery shopping hungry

Grocery shopping can be a long endeavor. If you go while your stomach is growling, you may be tempted to buy everything in sight that looks good. In order to avoid this temptation, try doing your grocery shopping after lunch or dinner while your stomach is full.