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Simple Tips for Budget-Friendly Food Shopping

Submitted by Claire Leitch

Edited by Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD

Is food shopping a time-consuming chore for you? Do you struggle to find healthy and affordable foods? Try these simple tips and tricks to make grocery shopping on a budget a quick and easy task.

Before making a trip to the store,1 plan a few meals for the upcoming week, and try using foods you already have on hand. Check your favorite grocery store’s weekly flyer for deals and coupons then make a list of items you need to purchase based on your meal plan, foods you already have, and what’s on sale. Lastly, don’t go grocery-shopping hungry.2 Remember to eat before you shop!

Once at the store, you will notice that the produce is usually located to the left or right of the entrance, the calorie-dense, low-nutrient processed foods are in the center aisles, and the refrigerated foods are around the perimeter. Food items like milk, bread, and other staples are spread out across the store. The most expensive products are stocked on shelves at eye-level, while less expensive versions of the same product are stocked on the top and bottom shelves. These are a few of the many strategies used by grocery stores to tempt you into spending more. Fortunately, there are a few strategies that may save you time and money:3

  • Shop the perimeter to limit the amount of highly processed foods purchased.
  • Fill half of your cart with fruits and vegetables; remember that canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are great options when out of season.
  • Choose the store brand for lower priced products of equal quality.
  • Buy meat when it is on sale and freeze for later use to save money on this expensive item.
  • Stick to your list; avoid impulse purchases while waiting in the check out line.

These simple tips for smart shopping can help you save time, money, and energy at the grocery store.4

References:

  1. Nestle M. What to eat. New York: North Point Press; 2007.
  2. Tal A, Wansink B. Fattening Fasting: Hungry Grocery Shoppers Buy More Calories, Not More Food. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2013;173(12):1146-1148. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.650.
  3. Brown L. Good and cheap: eat well on $4/Day. New York: Workman Publishing; 2015.
  4. Atkins KG, Kim YK. Smart shopping: conceptualization and measurement. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management. 2012;40(5):360-375. doi:10.1108/09590551211222349.

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