Let’s face it – as much as we may want to eat clean, and have nutritious food in our homes – it is not always cost-effective. Unfortunately, the cheap, super-processed junk we all love to hate to love, tends to keep our wallets thin, but our waistlines huge. After years of research and here are our favorites ways to save some time, and money on food.
8 Top tips to save big $ on groceries
1.Produce/Meat/Dairy CSAThis one greatly depends on where you are location wise, and what time of year it might be – but around New England there are an abundance of Produce/Meat/Dairy CSA or Community Supported Agricultural Shares – This is a financial model where running farms are able to have customers pay for a “share in the harvest” upfront and then receive “dividends” as they become available.
This helps support the farms in receiving payment upfront when they need to have cash for growing season. In many locations all around the country, local farms offer these shares (sometimes seasonally) when they have an abundance of product available. The shares are a unique way to purchase food in the form of a weekly share. The shares are available in different quantities and range greatly in price, however as most nutritionally conscious people know… knowing where your produce is coming from is a major benefit. There is a saying, “ you may need a doctor once a year, but you need a farmer three times a day.”
Examples in just a 20 minute radius of my home are..
Marini’s Farm Produce Share– Available in ½ and Full Shares. These shares are jam-packed. Farm grown corn, squash, tomatoes, fruit, vegetables and much more. A ½ share is a LOT of food. If you 4 person family, you still might have some excess! ½ shares at Marini’s are $395, and the cost for a large is $725, which can be split into two payments. While this may seem like a lot of money up front, it is easily recouped when your grocery bills are slashed more than in half. A large share is the equivalent of around $50 of produce, while a small share is the equivalent of $25 of produce. The share is available for pick up Wednesday’s and you are able to swap out food you do not care for. Should you not pick up your farm share, the food is donated to local food pantries. By buying local you are also greatly reducing carbon emissions by minimizing the need for transportation of produce.
Green Meadows Farm – Produce, Flowers, Fruit, Pork
Arrowhead Farm – Beef, Pork, Lamb
ThreeSistersGarden.Org – Vegetables and Fruit
2.Meal Planning– Not only does this provide supreme convenience during the week, but it can save you time and money. Having even a rough meal plan set up for your week, will eliminate the time spent at the grocery store, and save you money so you do not shop with no idea what to purchase, and end up buying more than necessary, or less and needing to make a separate trip.
We will call this one 2a “A little addendum” – Don’t shop hungry.. We have all been caught in the grocery store absolutely ravenous, and while it can be fun to rip all that food off the shelves, it can really rack up at the register as well.
3.Coupons- Most, if not all grocery stores accept coupons. While I know myself well enough to know I will not ever be a dedicated crazy coupon-er, I certainly take advantage of those that are provided conveniently!!! For example: Whole Foods provides on their website, and quarterly in store a book of over 40 coupons! It’s free of charge, so why not take advantage! If you get the paper, scan through, and see what you can find. If there is nothing, no harm done.
We will call this addendum 3a. Don’t forget to take advantage of Rewards Programs as well, remember even if you forget your rewards cards, or don’t have one, typically you can ask to use a Store Card to save a few $!
4.Meal Prep- Not the same as Meal Planning, meal prep can save you time and money as well. Prepping snacks and meals can save you money in a few ways. 1- It eliminates wasted food. If your foods are ready to be cooked, or already prepped, you are less likely to let them sit and waste away. 2- It reduces the amount of money spent eating out or even just grabbing a quick snack. This can be anything from a $3 coffee, to a $2 protein bar. You would be surprised at how $5 each week can add up! (Let me know in the comments if you would like a Blog Post on How I prep!)
5.Bulk– While Costco may not be your thing, and I totally hear ya..Purchasing in larger quantities can save you money- and you don’t always have to head to the big box stores. For example, there are plenty of foods freeze very well. Consider purchasing a large amount of foods you consume regularly, and you may pay a discounted rate ( see above #2. meal planning) and prepping slow cooker meals with excess, or separating the food into smaller servings, and freezing for a later date. I typically purchase ground beef in larger quantities. The Farm where I purchase my Grass-Fed beef (Tendercrop Farm) offers a price drop for when you purchase more than 3-lbs of meat. Often times they are even willing to bag the meat separately for ease of freezing! This can save you up to $1-2/per pound!
6. Shop Seasonally and Locally– Not the same as a CSA… Not only does this greatly help your local farms and farmers, but it reduces environmental impact and can save you money. I learned this while comparison shopping (see #7) a few summers back. Buying foods in season, which are locally grown saves a lot of money. For example- Buying Raspberries during the summer may be as cheap as $2.99 a pint.. Why not buy extra and freeze instead of paying as much as $6.99 a pint during the winter season? (Yes, it is much harder to do this in the winter!) Why not buy that corn on green beans from the vendor on the side of the road (it may sound sketchy but obviously be careful and check and wash your produce.)
7.Shop Around- Yes, gas is expensive. I am not suggesting you do this every week, and not for everything however it can be cost effective to shop around.
For example: there are certain products I buy at specific stores, because I know I will need them, and I know they cost less in those locations. These may not be groceries, but they are purchases I make at the grocery stores, and need regularly. Consider my dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies. I buy these at target or the dollar store, because it is significantly cheaper than the grocery store. I purchase grass-fed meats and dairy products at a local farm, and produce at another separate farm. I actually save about $15 a week by shopping around after comparing prices at the different stores after monitoring costs over a period 3 months.
8. This is a KLC Original… Try a*Garden Share* – Just like a CSA, but on a much smaller scale. *IF* you have some great neighbors, or friends (which of course is not always the case) consider starting a Garden Share with your friends.
If everyone chooses a few things each spring they grow particularly well at the beginning of the season, once these are ready to harvest… consider having a weekly swap of the fruits of your labor! Rather than everyone growing the same thing, and producing in excess too much of the same foods, think about sharing the wealth! Maybe you grow great tomatoes, but your friends have a ton of squash, why not swap? This can be extremely cost-effective, and there is nothing like fresh out of the garden, grew it yourself, vegetables!***
Remember, our health is an investment. You can pay for it now, with high quality foods or you can pay for it later with doctors bills and health treatments.