How to stretch your grocery dollar

Need help stretching your grocery budget? During my first year in the career world, my husband and I only stayed within our grocery budget 5 out of the 12 months. That comes out to 41%…a failing grade. Spending $5 over the grocery budget isn’t a big deal, but it adds up to $60 a year. Throw in any other categories that went slightly over and it can amount to hundreds of dollars each year. We became debt free in March 2012 and would like to keep it that way. With that said, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned that may help your grocery dollar finish the month without breaking a sweat (or your budget).

Stock up on staples
I always keep brown rice, whole wheat pasta, dried beans, and oatmeal on hand in my cupboards. That giant canister of oatmeal costs $2 and it makes 30 one cup servings. Add your own ingredients like cinnamon, fruit, or nuts which you can also buy in bulk. The other ingredients I listed make great additions to soups, stews, salads, pastas and casseroles and are a great source of fiber.

Fresh, Canned, or Frozen?
Depending on what’s in season, one choice may be cheaper than the other. Fresh produce tastes better and costs less when it’s in season. Frozen produce is picked at its ripest condition and immediately frozen, so you still get the highest quality of nutrients. Buying frozen can also prevent losing money by purchasing too much fresh produce that goes bad by the end of the week. If you choose canned, look for labels that say “no salt added” for vegetables and “packed in juice” for fruit instead of “packed in syrup.”

Double Batches
My mom had 5 mouths to feed but cooked for 10 because she would freeze leftovers to use another day. This not only saves money but precious time as well. That extra dinner can also save some dough by preventing you from the temptation to eat out when you don’t feel like cooking.

Make a list and stick to it
Aw man, you’re making tacos for dinner but forgot to get cheese! You run to the store for this one item but end up coming home with chips and salsa as well because hey, who doesn’t like chips and salsa with tacos? Making a list before you leave for the grocery store ensures you to get everything needed in one trip. Most grocery stores have their weekly ads posted online. They can guide your weekly meal planning as long as you don’t add an item to your list just because it’s on sale.

What are some methods you use to stretch your grocery dollar?

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Author: budgetforhealth

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget for Health!

8 thoughts on “How to stretch your grocery dollar”

  1. We live in a tiny city that has a small farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, so, I sometimes go there for fresh and inexpensive veggies. We have an acre of land as of March, so, I’ve started a small vegetable garden and gotten some delicious cucumbers and lettuce from it, and my bell peppers are coming along nicely. I live in Florida so I’m going to be planting even more vegetables for a fall harvest. Never thought I’d enjoy gardening, but it is a lot of fun and it will save a lot of money since produce is what I end up spending the chunk of our grocery budget on. Other than that…I use coupons, only buy meat that’s on sale, and buy large packages of what we eat a lot of (like chicken, rice, or salsa), that way I’m not having to spend money on those things every single two weeks when I go grocery shopping. Shopping and planning meals is a job in itself and can be so exhausting, especially when you’re on a budget.

    1. It will be so nice to have my own garden when I no longer live in an apartment! I don’t have a patio or else I’d do a few small things. Gardening your own produce will surely pay off for the amount you get. Meal planning & shopping is time consuming but it pays off and becomes easier with practice. It sounds like you’re on the right track!

  2. I come from a family of gardeners. It was a big deal to them to grow their own tomatoes for spaghetti sauce, homemade. The Italian heritage gives them a tenacity for cooking. It really paid off for me because my grandparents cooked like nobody else.
    Sadly today it’s a lost art in my house. I miss it. But I have the bug somewhere inside me to plant a garden.
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    1. My mom let me borrow all of her canning tools and I made a few jars of home made jelly and I’ve made my own spaghetti sauce with the tomatoes from her garden. I’m sure it was nothing close to your grandparents but it was fun to make and it gave me a sense of pride that it was my own creation!

  3. Great tips! I always hit up the reduced produce section at Meijer to see if anything will work for my meal plans

  4. We have found that making large batches of soup and chili works very well for us. Since we are juicing, we buy fresh vegetables 2 or 3 times a week, but for ones that we don’t juice, we buy frozen often. I hate being caught without something to eat and then being “forced” (or just not excited by what’s in the house) to spend money eating out!
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