California’s historic drought is about to affect everyone at the supermarket.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California produces nearly half of all fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States.
That’s why some analysts predict a 10 to 15 percent increase in grocery bills.
Look at it this way: If you spend $100 a week on groceries, you could be paying $115 because of the water crisis.
Here are some easy ways I save on food costs. No scissors necessary!
UPDATED 6/2014: Check out my post on a money-saving app that can save you a few dollars every grocery trip. There’s a sign-up bonus for Save on (Almost) Everything readers. Click here for more details.
Shop the Circular
Even though prices will go up, grocery stores will continue to provide good values in the weekly circular because they can’t afford to lose you as a customer to the competition.
Here is my strategy:
- Check circulars for two stores weekly
- Compare prices on staples such as meats, dairy and produce
- Select the store with the best deals
- Plan my weekly menu around the items on sale and in my pantry
It’s no secret that Americans eat too much. More than a third of us are obese, according to the CDC. My routine involves cooking once or twice a week and then splitting up what I’ve made into containers that I can store until I’m ready to eat.
I’m currently taking an online nutrition course, which has taught me about serving sizes. For some cereals the recommended serving size is one cup. I used to eat two or three times that amount. I’ve learned to eat only the amount of food necessary to fuel my body.
According to the USDA, Americans waste about 30 percent of their food. We can all reduce this percentage by planning our meals before we shop, but inevitably, some food will go to waste.
For instance, take a look at these bananas. I buy a batch every week. I usually eat one in the morning. However, there are times when I get bored with particular foods. These brown bananas aren’t a sign of poor menu planning. They’re a sign that I need to take a break from bananas because I’m sick of them.
I’m not a huge fan of coupons because they generally provide savings on processed foods, which I try to limit in my diet. However, I will check the digital coupons advertised on Swagbucks.com to see if there is something I’m interested in. You can link them directly to your grocery store savings card. I think the key with coupons is to use them only for things you need. A stockpile of foods you don’t like doesn’t save money.
Avoid Convenience Foods
They say time is money and that’s why convenience foods cost so much. Many of them, I’ve noticed, are double the price of traditional foods.
I choose to buy:
- A head of lettuce over bagged salad
- Whole carrots over pre-sliced carrots
- Fresh eggs over boxed liquid eggs
- Fresh chicken over prepared chicken
Meat, Poultry & Fish
I try to buy fresh meat, poultry and fish as often as I can. When there isn’t much fresh meat on special, I have found good deals on frozen chicken, which doesn’t go bad for a couple of months. I avoid processed lunch meats, which I consider another convenience food.
For the past few weeks, my grocery store has raised the price of milk to about $3.60 a gallon. You can still get it for the old price, $2.99 a gallon, if you buy two. I know some low-cost grocery stores, such as ALDI, provide great deals on milk. I’ve chosen to eliminate my consumption of dairy milk altogether. Now, I’m drinking soy milk, but sparingly.
Non-Meat Protein Sources
The USDA predicts beef prices will rise 3 to 4 percent this year. I recently asked personal trainer and nutritional counselor Jason Carver about other sources of protein that won’t break the bank for an article featured on Clark Howard’s website. Many of them, including quinoa, are already part of my diet.
- Greek Yogurt
- Rice & Beans
- Peanut Butter Sandwich
Don’t Forget Rewards
Since I pay off my credit cards every month, I charge almost everything on them. I settle for no less than 2% cash back on everything. A couple of times a year, my preferred credit cards will offer 5% cash back at grocery stores for a limited time.
Finally, I take advantage of fuel rewards. My grocery store provides 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 I spend monthly. I earn extra fuel rewards by completing the survey at the bottom of my receipt.
What’s your secret to saving at the grocery store? Let me know and share this article if you found it helpful.