While most of these tips may seem obvious, and we’ve probably heard them all before, I find that an occasional reminder helps keep me from straying back into bad habits.
I think convenience used to be our biggest enemy. When I was going to school full-time and working on my doctorate, and Rob wasn’t getting home until 5:30 or so, neither of us ever really wanted to start a big elaborate meal, even though both of us really enjoy cooking. We got into the habit of leaning pretty heavily on “quick” meals, i.e., pre-packaged freezer meals that you just toss into the saute pan to warm up. Most of them were mediocre at best. I’m sure they weren’t the worst possible thing we could have been eating, but I’m quite certain they weren’t the best, either.
Now that I am home all day every day, you’d think I have TONS of extra time to prepare gourmet meals. But caring for a toddler and a grandmother with mild dementia are TWO full-time jobs! If I don’t make a conscious effort to plan how to start dinner, it’s hard to get it going before Rob walks in the door. That’s why I’m such a fan of freezer recipes. For those times when the day just gets away from me, I can whip one of those babies out, and we’re in business in about a half hour. Just as convenient as the store-bought bags, but far cheaper and more nutritious.
As I’ve said, I’ve never really been much of a coupon clipper, but I’m trying to get into it. We do buy mostly generics, which is probably a big part of the reason I never really acquired the habit. But there are some things that we specifically prefer in name brand, and I’m making a list of those things, so that when I see coupons for them, or see they’re on sale in the fliers, I can be sure to nab them.
Since we’ve gone gluten-free (and mostly primal), we have cut out a lot of the processed foods that we used to buy. It’s not like our pantry was filled with garbage, but it definitely had some less-than-splendiferous choices in there. And while healthier choices like nuts can seem more expensive, they’re really not markedly more if you consider that a handful of almonds is as filling as about a half a bag of Doritos!
One of the suggestions I hear often is to stick to the outside aisles. The center of the store is usually where the highly processed, more expensive foods are, while whole foods, produce, and meats tend to be arranged on the outskirts.
I do find that if I do just a little advance planning before I go to the store, not just to put together a shopping list, but to create the shopping list based on what’s coming up that week, I avoid buying things that sound good, but end up not getting used because they weren’t part of the plan. This probably saves unnecessary trips to the store to pick up one or two items that I need for a specific recipe. (I find the same approach works with crafts: Don’t buy yarns, fabric, etc unless you have a specific project in mind, or you’re just feeding your stash. But that’s another post…)
So, besides the obvious coupon-clipping habits, what other tactics do you use to save money at the grocery store?