Home The Recessionista Save Money On Groceries: The Readers Share Their Tips

Save Money On Groceries: The Readers Share Their Tips

by Erika Nicole Kendall

A little while back, I asked both facebook aaaaaaaand twitter how they managed to save money while eating clean… and there were some really awesome and unique answers out there that I thought a few of us could definitely stand to benefit from. Here’s what they had to say:

Great question! 1. I am blessed to work somewhere with a nice spacious, clean refrigerator and freezer. I bring my lunch and breakfast instead of buying lunch out. 2. I buy in bulk. I eat grass fed beef which can be pricey BUT I buy at least 3 lbs at a time and get discounts. 3. I buy frozen veggies which can get pricey but is cheaper than wasting and tossing out fresh ones I did not use. 4. I don’t by box/shelf items and frozen prepared foods which saves me the most money. – Rebecca

  • Take advantage of BOGO sales, even if you don’t need both items you can get one item half off (at least at Publix you can) [Erika’s note: this is important – sometimes, to enter an item as buy-one-get-one, the price of the item is simply marked down to half so that both items together equal “one item.” Stores that have that “10 items for $10” deal also do this by simply marking the item down to a dollar instead of you needing to spend $10 to get the full deal!]
  • Negotiate at Farmers Markets and continue to patron those who are willing to compromise-trust me they remember you …and appreciate your business
  • Buy in bulk where feasible (I have a kilo of oatmeal in my pantry, lololol)
  • plan your dinners on Sunday and buy only the items needed for the recipes for the entire week; take the leftovers to work for lunch
  • I got a carry along cup for xmas, lol. simple but it’s my favorite thing right now. I refill it with water all day, I think I’m at 10 glasses a day. I have not bought any OJ since getting this cup. Strictly water now -Pretty Keish

I signed up for a local CSA which made organic produce affordable. I plan my meals and shop accordingly. I also only cook what I will eat. I only buy things that I know I will use in a timely manner. – Reneschia

I save money several ways.1) Buy in bulk when I find a good deal.2) plan my meals weekly and use the grocery store info to determine what the specials are for the week so I can have meals with those items. 3) this year I’m going to try cowpooling which is when you and 1 or more other ppl buy a whole cow and then split up the meat.(u don’t literally split the meat. It is cut up for you) it is an inexpensive way to get quality beef. – Tamara

Firstly, my CSA and the Farmer’s market. Discount Fresh foods stores like Aldi and Easy Way. Definitely coupons and sales papers online have been my savings guardian angel. Now that Kroger’s let you load coupons on the plus card online ( no… coupon clipping), I’ve been saving. – Cassie

I buy in bulk, cook in mass and freeze everything possible. Farmers markets are awesome. You can freeze summer fruits to use in sauces, smoothies and desserts. I shop ethnic grocery stores where the veggies have dirt on the roots. I cow-pool also. It saves lots of money. The local farmers like knowing they have a buyer so they make great deals with you on eggs and fresh crops. Old school baby! – Michalet

Well I pretty much buy all my Veggies Frozen, Fruit as well esp when making Oatmeal. I love making a Home Made Peaches and Cream Oatmeal. With that money I save I buy Organic Meats on sale and freeze them. – Michelle

While I’ve written on Farmer’s Markets… CSAs (co-ops/community supported agriculture) and cowpooling haven’t been covered here, yet.

Cowpooling is basically a collective of people coming together to share… a healthily grown, properly raised cow. It’s one of those situations where if you save up the money to plunk down at once (can start around $150 for an eighth of a cow up to $900 for half a cow and beyond), you can easily freeze the rest of the cow and save money on your beef purchases throughout the year. EatWild is an amazing resource for finding farms that might participate in your area.

CSAs (community supported agriculture) are actually kinda awesome. Ask LocalHarvest:

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. In brief…

Advantages for farmers:

* Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
* Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
* Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

* Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
* Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
* Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
* Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
* Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

It’s a simple enough idea, but its impact has been profound.

My CSA? $390 for 20 weeks… a little over $19/wk for a nice sized half-box of vegetables (pictured above.) Gotta love a good deal.

If you have specialty stores nearby – a store that makes its own pasta, a kosher deli, a bakery that makes long, fresh loaves of bread, a restaurant that sells its tortillas/tortilla chips for cheaper than available in stores – then you need to take advantage of that!

That being said… these were their tips. What are yours?

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Terri January 21, 2011 - 1:01 PM

I am very fortunate to live in a place where fresh healthy food is as easily obtained as the junk if you know where to look (Austin, Tx) . We have at least 5-6 Farmers markets and just as many CSA’s. The trend here for a lot of the grocery stores and restaurants is to use fresh, local products in their goods. I try to hit the farmers markets on Saturdays for my fresh in-season fruits and veggies. I am getting away from meats but when I do buy them, I shop at the butcher shops (we have a few of those too…lol), seafood market or the farmers markets as well. We have quite a few local bakers who create some of the freshest bread around and I LIVE for the frozen foods sections for my fruits and veggies that are not in season. I live by myself so I don’t do a lot of Bulk buying but I do try to stock up on staples that will last. I also hit up the bulk section for my spices and we have a few ethnic grocery stores for specialty items.

Tanya January 21, 2011 - 2:32 PM

This was a great post. I remember my grandmother shopping sales in bulk and freezing. Chicken on sale at butcher shop? 10-15 pound purchase and freeze. Vegetable stand shopping, blanch produce and freeze.

I like to eat salads as often as possible. At salad bars, I load up on chopped salad fixings, skip the lettuce/spinach and dressing. When I get home, I chop my own lettuce and add it with my salad bar purchase, for a nice big salad that stretches 1-3 days.

ChellBellz January 21, 2011 - 3:50 PM

Hey Now! thats me on the end haha! Yes #teamfrozenveggies or go home LOL.

shimbir January 21, 2011 - 7:43 PM

Most of the money saving tips I have I get from your site (thanks Erika!) but I like to put a little spin on it. I do try to by most of my fruits and veg in season as well as to buy most vegetables frozen. But I have recently taken up pickling vegetables to preserve them and use in most dishes, including my favorite, Bahn Mi–a Vietnamese meatball sandwich.

I know this has nothing to do with food but I have to get it out there–I have also used natural cleaning products to do most of my cleaning. I use lemons, vinegar, baking soda and good ol’ elbow grease for most of the chores. I immediately saw a decrease in my spending habits at the supermarket.

milaxx April 24, 2011 - 7:42 PM

I do a variety of things.

1) I did a CSA with my local Whole Foods market last summer. $15 per week and I had more food than I could handle. I started blanching or roasting and freezing the majority of it. The food lasted me through most of the winter.

2) I’ve started buying fried beans and cooking my own instead of buying canned beans with that mysterious packing fluid that you end up draining off anyway. Anytime I cook a batch of beans they get separated into 3 groups. one part gets separated and frozen immediately. One batch goes into the fridge for tossing in salads and eating during the week. One batch I make my own veggie burgers with.

3) Make my own veggie burgers. I started looking at the amount of sodium in the Morning Star and Boca burgers and decided to make my own. I use a variety of things. The base is whatever bean I cook for the week. (My fav is black beans) I then saute onions, and garlic. I add either cooked brown rice or uncooked oat meal to the mix and whatever other seasonings I want. Corn goes nicely with black beans or chopped tomatoes. Sauteed mushrooms add a nice earthy taste and texture if using navy beans. Mix together in a food processor. Either free form or you can buy tupperware patty molds.

4)Same deal with soups. The amount of sodium concerned me. I now make my own and freeze into individual servings. Also a great way to use those fresh veggies on their way to expiring.

5) Make your own juice. I was fortunate enough to have someone gift me a juicer. I don’t juice everyday, but a few times a week I toss my favorite fruit and either kale or spinach in the juicer.

6) Farmer’s market is my best friend. My local farmer’s market sell eggs 3 doz for $4. They last me about 3 weeks. I boil one dozen immediately. This comes in handy if I am running late in the morning and get tempted to skip breakfast. I can grab a hard boiled egg and a piece of fruit and go. When I make a salad I usually chop a hard boiled egg up in it.

Monday evenings are the day I spend chopping/roasting/freezing or doing any heavy duty cooking. My trash day is Tuesday so all the refuse goes out the next day. It takes anywhere form 1 -3 hours. Still 3 hours a week is well worth it to be able to eat well all week. I am ova-vegetarian so if I don;t plan my meals I don’t get enough protein in my diet.

natural4lyfe August 7, 2012 - 6:34 PM

Oh I loved all the comments in this section! I feel inspired. Especially by you Milaxx. The tips you had about the beans was awesome. I will definitely be doing that from now on. Do you have a blog or website??

Aisha April 24, 2011 - 11:00 PM

Another way I do this is by saving money on toiletries and cleaning products using the CVS extra care bucks program and combining it with coupons. Since I don’t spend much money for those things it frees up money in the food budget.

Vana August 12, 2012 - 10:57 AM

I only buy things on sale and use coupons.

Jacque August 24, 2012 - 12:36 AM

Since I am a single mother of three a 4 year old, a 14 year old type 1 diabetic (boy) and a 15 year old (another rang boy with a bottomless pit for a stomach) who is 6’2 200 lbs. meal planning is a must do. Attempting to drop these pounds and have the correct food for my daily meals and my children’s meals is a delicate balance and planning is the key. I shop sales like a demon that way when times are a little thin in the pocket or its the middle of the winter we have a stock pile. If non perishable items are on sale like non-refrigerated almond milk is on sale I buy a bunch, I also buy in bulk. For our fruit and veggies here in NJ we have fresh markets called Produce Junction where you can buy fresh produce at low prices the draw back is its already bagged you cannot select you own produce at some location, others you can. I buy what we will eat in a give we and shop every Friday during lunch, as the week progresses I freeze anything that my go bad that can be frozen…green peppers for example are 2 lbs. for 2.00 I automatically clean, cut and freeze half for use with cooking. I spend and average of 30-40 dollars for my entire family’s produce for the week. Sunday is meal prep day so that we all have a balanced breakfast I boil eggs for my self, fry I fry a half dozen egg to over easy for the boys so they can have breakfast before school and camp, turkey bacon is made on Sunday to, and I start at least 3 meals so I can be prepared after our long day for dinner at a reasonable time. Fruit salad is a staple in our fridge for breakfast and snacks. I spend about 4-5 hours in prep mode on Sundays but I’m so use to it its now not a chore. I buy very little processed food and throw very little out, two feeding and lunch from each meal and freeze a portion. I also during the fall and winter.months mainly take a day to cook large pot meals and freeze for grab and go times, chilies, soup, stew that can be a quick dinner or lunch to prevent fast food eating. Although you have to have space to store frozen foods and bulk stock piles stashing like a squirrel has save me lots of money and shed me 47 lbs. And counting. The menu has never been my struggle time is my enemy and once I stopped grabbing the processed take out, and spent commited time cooking I found more money and a healthier me. Sorry so long winded, but with all of the great ideas everyone always shares and this wonderful page I felt compelled tonight.

Betty January 1, 2015 - 3:56 PM

Wow this was very inspiring! Thank you!

Crystal January 21, 2013 - 4:06 PM

I buy veggies in larger quantities when on sale and then I look up how to best freeze them and freeze them and use them for cooking later. Like red bell peppers etc. That saves money because I can buy veggies and fruits that are in season and in the freezer they last months.

Mishala July 23, 2013 - 10:31 AM

My biggest tip? If it’s feasible, get a deep freezer. You can freeze fruit and veggies for when they’re out of season, buy in bulk for meat if it’s a priority, and when it come to mass cooking and saving, man. If it’s not feasible, shop once a week, cook and store. Myself, I shop on Saturday, cook and freeze and Sunday, and trash goes out on Monday. And since I replace at least one meal a day with a smoothie, I like to move more than one meal, and freeze the rest. It makes an awesome slushie type dessert.

DevinB September 21, 2013 - 11:23 AM

These tips are great! I definitely want to try the csa! Some things I do are make my own pasta and dry it, make and can my own sauces when the ingredients are on sale, meal plan weekly and cut our portions to a healthy size. I found that my portions were out of control! And that helped me to save a lot of money.

cptacek October 22, 2013 - 11:33 PM

I have a garden, expanding it every year. This year I even planted a fall garden, which is a new experience. I have started pickling and also pressure canning vegetables for later, and also lacto-fermenting vegetables (like making sauerkraut…just need vegetables and salt and if you want, spices. Very forgiving as long as you use the correct amount of salt). I also glean from fruit trees around town, though this year was slim pickings because of the late freeze.

We had a hog butchered, and for the first time, I learned how to render lard. We are getting 3/4 of a beef and should get that in the next few weeks. (Never heard the term cowpooling, but do it all the time! 🙂 )

Up until Jan 1 of this year, I was eating out every lunch, but since then, I made a rule that I had to bring lunch unless someone invites me to go to lunch with them (I’m a programmer and tend to get tunnel vision, so if someone asks, I go. It hasn’t happened often). Now I make sure I make more than I need for supper so I can take it for lunch.

I watch for sales on canned goods, and when they are on sale, I buy flats of them. Same with butter. When they are half price, I buy 20 at a time and freeze them.

Since the nearest bulk spice market is at least 3 hours away (and I never search one out when I am in that city), I organized a spice order with a company out of San Francisco. I had family, friends, and coworkers order. We got a price break at 5 items of the same item, and shipping went down the more we bought. I kept the difference between what their individual order would have been and what our actual order was. It was enough to cover my entire spice order. $160 of spices for the low low price of keeping a spreadsheet up to date, taking delivery, sorting and delivering (all to places I would have gone anyway, so no extra gas).

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