Start by planning ahead, stop by the bulk section to avoid costly food waste, then head on over to the frozen aisle to save money on produce—without sacrificing quality!
Eating: We’ve all got to do it! But unless you have your own farm, you’re probably going to have to pay for the food you need to eat. And unless you live in a food desert, which comes with its own issues to work through, you’ll probably be getting that food from a supermarket.
You could try to just get the cheapest food possible, but eating too much unhealthy food can lead to an increased risk of medical issues. And we surely don’t have to tell you that medical issues can get very, very expensive. So when shopping for groceries, you ideally would like them to be both affordable and nutritious. But how can you manage that?
We spoke to the experts to find the answers to that very question. Now let’s eat!
1. Meal plan to conserve ingredients and take advantage of sales.
They say that you should never go to the supermarket hungry. And they are right. Without a proper plan, you might just end up grabbing whatever looks good without enough concern towards cost and nutrition. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead.
“Meal plan and use the same ingredients for several different meals,” suggested Sarah Moe, a money and business coach at Flauk. “The biggest waste of money when it comes to groceries is wasted food. An easy way to avoid this is to plan your meals and use the same ingredients for several different meals. For example, if you’re buying kale for a salad or specific recipe, look what else you can use it for (i.e. roasted kale chips, add it to chili or soup, or add it to an omelet). This also helps you get more creative in the kitchen.”
Knowing what you’ll need in advance can also provide other means to save.
“Here’s an amazing tip for cutting down grocery bills,” advised Talia Koren, meal prep expert and the founder of Workweek Lunch. “This involves some planning ahead. After you make your grocery list, go to the website of your regular grocery store. A lot of them now have features where you can add all of your grocery list items to their site and it spits out the estimated cost. This way, you can easily find brands on sale and give yourself a heads up about deals you wouldn’t have normally paid attention to when physically at the store. It works really well for me and my community.”
Once you know what you’re going to buy, how you’re going to buy is also important.
2. Use the bulk section to avoid expensive food waste.
Meal planning and deals will help you cut costs without sacrificing nutrition. But if you really want to save, you should look into buying in bulk.
“My suggestion is—use the bulk bins,” Mary Weidner, co-founder of Strongr Fastr, offered. “We’ve all run into those recipes where it asks for some ingredient that you rarely use and while buying a bag of it might be cheaper per ounce—if you’re never going to use it again or if it’s going to take you so long to use it that you’ll wonder if it’s still okay to eat—just buy the exact amount you need from the bulk section and pay a fraction of the price. This is a great tactic for those really expensive healthy foods where it’s such a large upfront cost for something you don’t need much of or just want to try out in a single recipe.
“I did this recently for some energy balls that a friend wanted me to make for a hike. The ingredient list had some things I don’t use too frequently like coconut shavings, dark chocolate chips, ground flax, small amounts of various nuts, etc. All of these things I could just buy the exact amount I needed and paid under a dollar for each of them, and now I don’t have 8 bags of ingredients I rarely use taking up space in my cabinets and slowly spoiling. Bonus: the bulk bins are better for the environment too if you bring your own containers. Cuts down on packaging and waste!”
Moe echoed the bulk-based advice: “When buying grains, nuts, or dried fruit head to the bulk section so you only get the amount you need rather than buying a whole 16 oz bag when the recipe only calls for 1/4 a cup. Buying in bulk is also often much cheaper than buying pre-packed food.”
But you don’t want to buy bulk all willy-nilly.
“While bulk shopping can help you save on 30 to 40% on your grocery bill, not everything is a smart buy when it comes to health foods,” warned savings expert and TV personality Andrea Woroch. “For instance, bulk containers or large bags of produce may lead to food waste if you can’t finish the fruits or veggies before they spoil. Focus your warehouse purchases on non-perishable health foods like quinoa, brown rice, almond butter and olive oil. Quinoa, touted as today’s leading super food and cleanest carb to eat, has a relatively long shelf life (two to three years dry) so you don’t have to worry about it going bad.”
Beyond buying bulk, there are other things that are affordable that might still be healthier than you’d think.
3. Go frozen, go generic, and don’t always go organic.
It’s easy to assume that the cheaper option is always going to be less nutritious. But that isn’t always the case!
“Frozen fruits and vegetables may seem like a less-healthy choice compared to fresh, but they’re actually just as nutritious and much cheaper,” explained Woroch. “That’s because produce is flash frozen at peak ripeness, retaining optimal flavor and nutrients. When buying frozen produce, don’t assume brand-names are superior to lesser-cost generic or store brands; after all, frozen peas are frozen peas! If you have room in your freezer, stock up during sale time when you can purchase frozen produce for as little as $1 per bag.
“Another misconception about healthy eating is that you must buy organic. However, not every fruit and vegetable needs to be purchased organic. Coined the ‘clean fifteen,’ produce with outer skins that you peel away like pineapple, avocado, onion, and sweet corn aren’t affected by pesticides. Produce you eat directly, skin and all, is better purchased organic if your goal is to avoid chemicals.”
And then sometimes, it helps to get back to nature.
4. Buying local often means buying cheaper, too.
More natural isn’t always cheaper. If it was, you’d forget the supermarket and just move into a forest somewhere. But when it comes to the supermarket, the less super science they have to perform to get you your produce, the cheaper it’s likely to be.
As culinary nutrition consultant Julie Harrington told us: “The shorter the distance food has to travel, the less expensive it is for the consumer once it hits the store. Ever notice how expensive tomatoes and strawberries are during the winter? Grocery stores pay more to import produce from warmer climates during the winter, ultimately making the price you pay much higher.”
Woroch also recommended a way to skip the supermarket entirely for some produce: “Plant a garden. Why waste time and money at the grocery store when you can grow your own vegetable garden? Start small by planting just a couple of your favorite herbs like rosemary, sage, or dill and study up on gardening tips for optimal conditions. Apartment dwellers don’t have to dismiss this tip, either; vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant, and peppers can be grown in containers on window sills.”
Julie Harrington (@ChefJulie_RD) is the Registered Dietitian and Culinary Nutrition Chef behind her website JulieHarringtonRD.com based in New Jersey. Cooking has always given Julie joy because of its powerful ability to connect people together. Julie’s passion is to educate others about nutrition through food and giving them the tools they need to build confidence in the kitchen. Along with being a cookbook author, most recently, her recipes have been featured in SHAPE, Huffington Post, US News & World Report, and Healthy Aperture. Follow along with Julie on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.
Talia Koren is a meal prep expert and the founder of Workweek Lunch, an online resource for quick, healthy meals on a budget for all diets. She has helped thousands of people all over the world crack the code to meal prep via her website and Instagram and has been featured in NBC Better, Women’s Health, Greatist and Entrepreneurial Chef.
Sarah Moe is a money and business coach at Flauk, a one-stop-shop for individuals who want to launch a business. Sarah is a recovering lawyer who has been traveling and working around the world for the past three years. She enjoys dancing to 90s hip-hop in her kitchen and is always searching for the best croissant.
As a sought-after media source on all things finance and money-saving, Andrea Woroch (@AndreaWoroch) has appeared on hundreds of national and regional TV shows like Today, Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC and more. In print and online, her advice and stories have appeared in New York Times, Money, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, Yahoo!, People, Forbes, Huffington Post and more. You can read more about her at www.AndreaWoroch.com.
Subscribe to our newsletter for more marketing news & industry trends
The information contained herein is provided for free and is to be used for educational and informational purposes only. We are not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law and we do not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit. Articles provided in connection with this blog are general in nature, provided for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for individualized professional advice. We make no representation that we will improve or attempt to improve your credit record, history, or rating through the use of the resources provided through the OppLoans blog.