CANTON, Mich. – Sticker shock is now the norm. A trip to the grocery store feels more like a mugging than a breezy visit to pick up a few things you might need.
If you want to get the most value for your dollar there, you no longer can grocery shop on the fly. A lot of us may not be thrilled by this necessity, but with inflation taking massive bites out of your budget and leaving moth holes in your wallet it’s time to make a study of grocery savings.
So, how do you help yourself? Meijer Dietician Beth Eggleston took me through the Canton Meijer store last week. She was a wealth of information and gave me a great understanding there is a whole universe of ideas to help you rethink your approach to grocery shopping.
In her words, “it takes some work to stretch your food dollar.” Her first bit of advice is to take a step back, slow down and get serious about your attack plan. She says it begins before you ever grab the grocery cart.
7 tips to save money when you grocery shop
- Pick a grocery store close to home. While you may comparison shop the sales fliers it makes no sense, with gasoline at four dollars a gallon, to drive across town thinking you’re saving a few pennies.
- Plan your grocery trip in advance. This means meal planning for the week, and if you have the time -- two weeks. Make a list based on the sale items and then follow it. She says refrain from impulse buying unless it is a great deal. Make certain you have a snack or even a meal before going in. Shopping hungry will fill your cart with items you will regret paying for later.
- When you shop the sales fliers and even comparison shop, you should be looking especially for bargains on protein and things you can freeze.
- Many home refrigerator freezers are small and often full with old items. Clean out the old stuff, make room for things you can freeze and use later. Eggleston believes even a single person might want to spend a few extra dollars on a home freezer. They can be purchased for under $200 and can pay for themselves in short order.
- One way to help yourself with meal planning is to have a well-stocked pantry and some basic and creative cooking skills. Eggleston recommends keeping staples like eggs, milk, cheese, frozen vegetables, whole grain pastas and cereal for example in the house. These things allow you to generate meals out of leftovers.
- Expand your palate and how you view vegetable protein. Beans, legumes, eggs, unflavored yogurt are inexpensive and go a long way. To give you an example: a three ounce serving of 80-20 ground beef costs $1.11. A Meijer grade A, cage free, large egg costs 18 cents. Three ounces of Meijer Lentils is 36 cents. That’s a significant savings with a simple dietary shift.
- Each grocery chain offers store brands. Often, they are exactly the same as a name brand product. Sometimes not. You need to experiment with them to know whether they suit your taste, but the store brands are significantly less expensive.
One of the ideas Beth offered that did not make it into our grocery stories and is very helpful came while we wheeled down the Canton Meijer frozen grocery aisle.
Beth said, “one really good way to stretch your food dollar is to choose frozen fruits and vegetables that are not in season.” While this might seem counter intuitive, she went on to say, “often times they are even healthier than fresh if they aren’t in season because frozen vegetables for example are flash frozen at their peak of freshness and that’s going to keep all those nutrients in there versus a type of vegetable that had to travel maybe a week to get to the grocery store.”
We have a lot of great resources to help you along in this endeavor. We are happy to include Beth Eggleston’s recipe for something I’d never heard of a Lentil Shakshuka. That is available below.
More tips to save money
One of my favorite financial websites serious about saving you money is The Dollar Stretcher. Its publisher, Gary Foreman, is a friend of mine and he has dedicated his life and his site to frugal living.
Here are some spectacularly helpful links to help you make your grocery dollar go farther than we’ve already suggested here: