Money·4 min read

How to Make Your Grocery Runs Count

woman grocery shopping
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Jul 20, 2022

Everybody’s gotta eat. And everybody’s facing higher prices to do it. Grocery costs rose an average 12.2% in June from the previous year — making them a big contributor to current 40-year high inflation levels.

(Psst…need an inflation explanation? We Skimm’d why prices are going up.)

Will coupons cut it to save on groceries?

They won’t hurt — if you can find them. But keeping your grocery budget in check will probably take a little extra work. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Make a (meal) plan. 

Knowing exactly what you need can get you to checkout — virtual or IRL — faster. And avoid getting to step five in the recipe before realizing you don’t have a key ingredient. No need to (always) get fancy. Some nights just call for three-ingredient meals.

Think long term. 

Make sure you’re buying some foods with a long shelf life. Bonus points for versatile staples you can feature in a lot of different recipes. Think: peanut butter, rice, beans, potatoes, and canned or frozen veggies.

Stay fresh.

Fruits and veg usually cost less (and taste better) when they’re in-season. Because when the supply’s up, prices tend to go down.

Map your store.

If you’re going out for groceries, try to group your shopping list by aisle. That way, you can avoid wandering and get home ASAP. (Bye, bye, impulse buys).

Shopping’s done. Now what?

Focus on making your food last. You’re only saving money if you actually eat (read: not waste) what you bought. Some tips:

Store it right. 

Apples and basil last longer in the fridge than on the counter. Meat should go on the bottom shelf, where it’s coldest. And if you’re saving them for later, coffee beans live their best life sealed in the freezer. Now is not the time to run out of coffee.

Related: 12 Essential Food Storage Containers Your Kitchen Needs ASAP

Squeeze more life out of your produce. 

Turns out, lemon juice isn’t just for Bloody Marys. Squeeze some on sliced apples, avocado halves, and artichokes to prevent browning.

Save the date. 

“Sell by,” “use by,” and “best by” dates indicate the last day a product will be at peak quality...not necessarily when it’s no longer safe to eat. (Important exception: formula, which the gov says to avoid feeding to your baby after the ‘use-by’ date, even in a pinch.) Manufacturers may be more conservative with expiration dates. Conduct your own sight and smell test to decide what’s OK to eat.

Batch-cook and chill. 

Cooking foods that are about to go bad resets their ‘eat by’ date. Freezing puts even more time on your side. Put these tips together, and make some freezer-friendly meals. The Future You who doesn’t feel like cooking dinner will be grateful.

Grow your own way.

Celery ends, carrot tops, and garlic growing new stems might look like trash. But with a little effort, you can use them to regrow fresh herbs and veggies.

Related: Food Waste: Save Your Scraps to Save the Planet.

Anything else I should know?

If you haven’t already, it may be time to update your budget. Because you have to make sure your expectations for expenses are in line with the real world’s higher prices. And you might have to find other ways to make room in your budget until inflation cools off a bit.

theSkimm

Groceries fall under the necessities category of your budget, and you don’t have a lot of control over how much they cost. Shop smarter to save at checkout. Then store items properly to avoid wasting food.


Subscribe to Skimm Money

Your source for the biggest financial headlines and trends, and how they affect your wallet.

fbtwitteremail