• Grocery Shopping 101: Save More

    January 31, 2011

    Here’s the final post in my Grocery Shopping 101 series! If you missed the first four parts, here they are:

    So far, I’ve covered a bunch of the tricks that I use for saving money at the grocery store. This post shares even more ways to save!

    Buy Reduced Produce

    Confession: I have a reduced produce problem. I buy a lot of it.

    As soon as I walk into the grocery store, I check out the reduced produce section with the hope of finding some good deals on ‘damaged’ produce. Usually, what I find is considered imperfect, but still totally edible. Some weeks I find a lot; other weeks, not so much. It’s definately hit or miss.

    A long time ago, my mom taught that fresh produce is good as new with a swift cut of the knife– just cut off the bad part! In fact, my mom and I only make her famous Apple Crisp with B Grade apples. I mean, we’re just going to cut them up, right? Might as well discard the bad parts and save a few bucks on the process!

    Another one of my favorite reduced produce tricks is to buy a bunch of bruised bananas and freeze them for smoothies and Banana Soft Serve.

    Just make sure you peel the bananas BEFORE you freeze them. Otherwise, it’s a complete disaster!

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    Reduced produce is great and all, but if I buy it and don’t end up using it, I’m just wasting my money. So, I only buy produce that I plan to use right away (or plan to freeze).

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    As you know, I hate seeing food go to waste, so I’m constantly trying to use it up before it goes bad. Buying cheap produce encourages me to get creative in the kitchen, add extra nutrients to my meals, and I save money. It’s a win-win.

    Lower Your Standards

    This tip goes hand-in-hand with buying reduced produce. I’m not saying eat food that has gone bad, but you can save money if you lower your standards. At home, for example, I eat yogurt that is past its expiration date and give life to flimsy broccoli by roasting it in the oven instead of throwing it away. Part of the reason food doesn’t get wasted in our house is because I’ll eat just about anything—as long as it’s not moldy or rancid, of course!

    Learn to Live Without

    If Mal and I run out of something mid-week, we live without it until we go shopping again. A lot of times, it’s easy to make a food or ingredient substitution, so we don’t end up spending more money at the grocery store. Plus, it’s not like we’ll starve to death without cheese or bread or whatever else we’ve run out of! Same goes for fresh berries in the dead of winter. I’d love to have fresh blueberries in my oatmeal, but I live without them until the summer.

    Buy Store Brand

    We all know that store brand products cost less, but most of the time, their quality is the same as that of name brand products. In fact, sometimes the same manufacturer makes both the name brand and store brand products, so I almost always buy the cheaper, store brand. I rarely (if ever) notice a difference between name and store brands.

    Shop the top and bottom shelves

    I’ve learned that the best deals are found on the top and bottom shelves of my grocery store aisles. Big items that tend to provide the most bang for my buck (hello, unit price!) are usually placed on the highest and lowest shelves. Smaller size products, which are often more expensive per unit, are usually placed at eye level, so I spend a lot of time scouring the top and bottom shelves!

    Use Coupons: Part II

    I already talked about using coupons to save money, but here are a few more ways to effectively utilize them.

    Keep them Organized

    I have a love/hate relationship with coupons. Of course, they save me lots of money at the grocery store, but keep tracking of them can be a lot of work, especially since my coupons were a disorganized mess!

    I used to keep my coupons in my wallet, but my collection got out-of-control. I’d open my wallet and they’d spill out all over the place. It was awkward and embarrassing, so I needed a new method of keeping my coupons organized. Now, I store my coupons in a mini expanding file. (Office Depot has some good ones!)

    I organized the sections of the file according to how my local grocery store is set up, so I can easily grab coupons as I walk through the aisles. For instance, the produce coupons are in the first compartment while the ones for frozen foods and bread are in the very last one.

    Cut Coupons for Products that You Already Use

    I love coupons, but I only cut the ones for products that I already use. For instance, the coupons in this week’s Sunday newspaper included one for $1 off Kettle chips and a Buy One, Get One Free coupon for Mal’s deodorant. Both of these coupons were keepers because we already buy and like these products. In fact, we already cashed them in!

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    I typically avoid cutting and using coupons for new products or those I’ve never tried, unless it’s a really good deal, like a free item. For example, coupons for $1 off two items usually isn’t a good deal unless you already buy that product. Even though you’re saving a $1, you’re buying two of it. What happens if you don’t like it? The second product typically goes to waste. Wasted food = wasted money.

    Sign Up For Your Grocery Store’s Newsletter

    I mainly shop at Whole Foods and Stop & Shop, so I signed up for both of their email newsletters (The Whole Deal and S & S Weekly Circular) to keep me up-to-date about their weekly sales. In addition to letting me know about sales, the newsletter also offers coupons, recipes, info about new products, and other great deals. So, be sure to sign up for your grocery store’s newsletter. You’ll definitely save some money being in the know!

    Follow Your Grocery Store on Twitter

    If you’re on Twitter, follow your grocery store for their tweets about upcoming sales and specials.

    Buy Romaine Hearts for Salads

    This one is kind of random, but I save quite a bit of money buying a bag of romaine hearts instead of fancy (and often-expensive) salad greens. Just one bag of romaine hearts lasts me all week, and I get a ton of it!

    Use Reusable Bags

    Most stores will take $0.05 or $0.10 off your bill for each reusable bags that you use for your grocery shopping. In addition to benefiting the environment, you’re saving money.

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    If you always forget your reusable bags at home, try leaving them in your car. I leave all of my reusable bags in the backseat of my car, so I never forget them. I also keep a foldable bag in my purse.

    Shop More Often

    If you have trouble eating the fresh produce that you buy at the grocery store, try supplementing your major weekly shopping with a small trip mid-week to restock your produce. This way, your fruits and veggies will not go bad before you’ve had a chance to eat them. Throwing out food is just like wasting money!

    Take Advantage of the Competition

    Most supermarkets will match other retailers’ sales, but many don’t advertise this. Ask your grocery store’s manager if the store has a policy. You could save a few bucks!

    Don’t Buy Health and Beauty Products

    Health and beauty products are usually much more expensive at grocery stores. Instead, I buy them at stores like CVS, Walgreens, or Target. I also check for coupons in the store flyer when I shop at these stores.

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    { 76 comments… read them below or add one }

    Ibelis January 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks so much about that banana freezing thing! I left them in the freezer with the peel on and yes it was a real disaster.

    Reply

    Lacey @ Lake Life January 31, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I saw something on the news about a 10 cent charge being implemented on plastic grocery bags. In theory it’s a good idea but whenever I bring reusable bags I have to bag the groceries myself because the cashier always ends up smooshing things.

    Reply

    Mary @ Bites and Bliss January 31, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    I love buying reduced produce!! My farmer’s market has 99c bags of stuff- sometimes green beans, squash, apples..anything that’s semi-ripe. And then ripe bananas are 19c/lb! That’s awesome! :) My favorite buy was an entire box of frozen veggies for 3.50. It was 10 bags that sold for 2.39 each. That’s some major money saved!

    Reply

    kristinp January 31, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    I have a flimsy broccoli trick to share! I just learned this from my grandmother a few months ago and it works like a charm.

    First, cut off the florets. If you like the stem too, then cut off the bottom of the stem too.

    Put everything in a ziplock bag with about half a cup of ice cold water.

    Wait at least half an hour.

    TA-DA! Crispy broccoli :-)

    (just be sure not to leave the broc in the water for more than a few hours or it will get waterlogged and go bad…not that I know from experience or anything)

    -kristinp

    Reply

    Cecile Mills February 23, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Another Broccoli trick. Cut off the florets, but then peel the stem and grate it for Broccoli-slaw. That adds a great touch to salads and gets fiber into your diet in a tasty manner.

    Reply

    Honey @ Honey, What's Cooking? January 31, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    OMG, Tina, I have to share my news with you. I read your article and head to the grocery store. I was looking at Red Peppers at $1.99 a pound and when you least expect it, I saw a pack of 3 reduced to $1.09. WHAT A BARGAIN! It was totally reduced produce… and if you hadn’t mentioned it, I’d probably skip it thinking it was full price. Thanks Girl!!!

    Reply

    Tina January 31, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    That is awesome!

    Reply

    lauren @ spiced plate January 31, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Yes! Thank you for all of this. I have one of those handy coupon organizers too — it comes in handy, especially if something I like is on sale, I can easily search through my categories and see if I can save extra with a coupon. Online coupons are so bountiful now, it’s amazing!

    Reply

    Hannah January 31, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Oooh, you’ve reminded me I’m almost out of bananas! Grocery time!

    Reply

    Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin January 31, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    I buy the store brand most of the time too. Oats are oats – it doesn’t matter what the label says! :P

    Reply

    Kristine January 31, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I have a food dehydrator and LOVE it for dried apples. I always check the produce clearance first as well. I will be making the frozen banana ice cream soon, thanks!!

    Reply

    Lauren February 1, 2011 at 12:00 am

    I shop at four different stores (I usually only frequent one, but depends on the deals and what store I’m near during the week) and none of them have discount produce! Once I saw green beans on discount, but that is it!

    I just started buying romaine hearts too, I don’t know what I was doing before, haha! I just buy a bag of spinach too and that’s a good enough salad for me!

    Reply

    Jennifer February 1, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for showing all your reusable bags!! I keep them in my car too, and where I live, we’ve been trying to ban single use plastic bags for a while. Reusable bags are such an easy, smart alternative to plastic bags. The only alarming thing in your photos, however, were the bananas wrapped in plastic!

    Reply

    Tara February 1, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Hi Tina- Thank you for all the money saving posts! Very helpful. I was wondering where you buy your reduced price produce?

    I also live in the Boston area and have only found some at Market Baskets. Stop and Shop or Shaws never seem to have any.

    Reply

    Tina February 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Stop & Shop.

    Reply

    Katie | perkytoafault.com February 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks for the romaine tip! I just implemented it today!

    Reply

    Brandy February 2, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I have a question. Do you buy mostly organic produce? How about meats? I find that this is where my budget strains. I try to hit sales, and I scour the reduced produce too. I’ll change meal plans if what I thought we were going to have turns out to be way out of our price range because of the meat/produce simply being far more cost prohibitive than expected. Still, I seem to spend a ton on two people. I make us breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks every day, as an FYI.

    Just curious. :)

    Reply

    Tina February 2, 2011 at 11:29 am

    We buy all organic meat and dairy, but produce is a mix organic and conventional.

    Reply

    laura February 6, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I love this series :)
    I buy red band (brown spotty) bananas in bulk when the store has them and I freeze them all peeled in a gallon sized bag. I use them for oatmeal, smoothies & banana soft serve. They’re a little bit sweeter when they’re spotty and they’re half the price of the “fresh” all-yellow bananas

    Reply

    ChristinaAnne - RegularGirl{Running} March 21, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I had NO IDEA a section called ‘reduced produce’ even existed! After reading this post I immediately went and checked it out in my own grocery store …. there it was! (hiding all this time, apparently) I got 3 barely bruised apples for $1 and a delicious pear for $.40! Half the time the ‘fresh’ produce is all banged up from being thrown around & manhandled anyway –

    Thanks SO much for sharing this tip!! :)

    Reply

    Jess January 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Could you recommend a good website to find coupons? I’m never sure which ones are actually legit. Thanks!

    Reply

    Tina January 4, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I use the Whole Foods website quite a bit!

    Reply

    Cassandra March 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I loved all these tips so much! I have serious trouble planning meals and going to the grocery store regularly – mostly because it just seems like too much work. But this is great, I’ll definitely try these tips out!

    Reply

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