If you need a little help between paychecks to afford the many expenses we have on our plates today, here are some tips to save money on food.
1. Purchase in bulk.
Bulk sections are making a comeback in grocery stores since the pandemic started. Decide on large meals that you can make in advance such as soup, casseroles, and oatmeal. Find recipes here. Then buy the ingredients like oats, rice, spices, and nuts from the bulk containers at the grocery store, which will save you money (and time cooking). They're cheaper because the companies don't pay for packaging.
2. Get you grocery store’s loyalty card.
You can save money by getting your grocery store’s loyalty card. Often supermarkets list two prices for food items- a general public price and a card-holder’s price. It takes about 5 minutes to sign up at the Customer Service desk.
3. Download coupons.
Once you have the loyalty card, chances are you can download the supermarket’s coupons to the card and simply scan the card at checkout. Otherwise, you can download coupons to your phone or clip them from circulars. King Soopers sends customized coupons in the mail for products you actually buy once you sign-up for the loyalty card.
4. Buy cheaper foods.
Instead of buying meat and poultry, buy proteins like beans, lentils, nut butters, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, eggs, Greek yogurt, rice, and corn. To ensure you get sufficient protein and B12 on a non-meat diet, review this checklist.
Instead of organic fruits and vegetables, buy local produce from the Farmers’ Market, or wash your conventional produce under running water right before using.
You can also save money on food by avoiding the pre-cut veggies and ready-to-cook meals. There is a premium on any food that takes the leg-work out of preparing it.
5. Buy frozen and canned fruits & vegetables.
Believe it or not, frozen fruits and vegetables are equal or better in nutrition than fresh. This is because fruits and vegetables are picked at peak nutrition levels and frozen that way.
When buying canned vegetables, make sure to get “No Added Sodium” or rinse the veggies to reduce the salt levels before eating. When buying canned fruit, buy fruit in its own juice or water to avoid added sugars.
6. Shop Farmers’ Markets.
You can often get deals at farmers’ markets. For instance, the farmers’ apples may seem expensive, but ask if they have “seconds.” Seconds are blemished fruit that farmers will often sell for a reduced price.
If you are approved for SNAP, many states offer “double bucks” or similar deals where you can buy vouchers for fresh produce at the market’s head table with your SNAP card, and they will match your purchase with additional vouchers. It’s a 2 for 1 deal!
7. Sign-up for SNAP benefits
Sign-up for SNAP benefits. The financial threshold to qualify varies by state and family size, but for a household of 1, the maximum gross monthly income is $1,396. SNAP is easier to qualify for if you are over 60 or disabled, including $3750 in allowable countable assets like a bank balance (the home and most vehicles don't need to be counted). SNAP benefits provide a debit card to use on food purchases at any grocery store that accepts EBT.
8. Go to your local pantry or food bank.
It’s time the stigma of attending a food bank is lifted. If you’ve never gone, you may be surprised to know that today pantries offer a “shopping” style approach. Once you check in, you can choose the foods you’d like rather than taking “hand-outs” at a window.
Bring your ID, reusable grocery bags, and some patience. Most pantries today offer fresh produce, yogurt, cereals, and snacks. You may feel like this is a last resort, but so many hard-working people, including college students, nuclear families, and professionals who can’t make ends meet use food banks and pantries.
If your family is going through a tough financial time right now, I hope some of these ideas help you to get through it without compromising your health. Remember that you’re not alone. There is help.
For questions or additional ideas, feel free to talk to a Registered Dietitian at ZEST Nutrition: ZESTNutritionService@gmail.com.