With at-home food prices predicted to increase between 3% to 4% in 2022 due to economy-wide inflation, shoppers are sharpening their grocery store savvy to get the best deals without giving up their favorite meals. GOBankingRates spoke to three frequent shoppers about their top grocery shopping secrets that allow you to get through inflation and stay within your budget.
Scan Ads for the Best Deals
Savvy shoppers know what the best deals are at the grocery store before they head out.
Rachel Hemsley, founder and editor at Make Bread From Home, said scan ads and check coupons to find the best deals. Shoppers can sign up for store circulators online, use rewards points offered in-store and download rebate apps to discover even more sales.
Comparison shop by comparing prices on similar items at different stores to determine which store is offering the best sales. Then, make a list of everything you need to stay on track with your purchases and keep your budget in check.
Make a Sales-Based Meal Plan
One of the best practices for sticking to a budget and avoiding food waste is to plan meals for everyone in the family to enjoy. However, if you’re not careful you could wind up spending too much money on meal planning.
“The biggest mistake people make when it comes to grocery shopping is that they make their grocery list and meal plan without considering what is on sale or what they already have in their pantry. This results in much more expensive meals,” said Annie Hanson, financial coach and owner at Mindfully Money.
Hanson recommends making a meal plan based on what is on sale. Use what’s already in your pantry or freezer and buy any sale items you need for a weekly meal plan that doesn’t go over your budget.
Be Mindful of Ingredients
Be mindful of the ingredients used in your recipes. Those cooking with an expensive ingredient, like meat or seafood, may consider using a cheaper alternative.
Try to shop for ingredients that work well together and freeze or prep meal portions ahead of time. Hemsley also recommends making a list of key ingredients you usually have on hand and stocking up when they are cheap.
Don’t Get a Shopping Cart
“If you are armed with a list, just take your shopping bag, or two, in the store with you,” said Ashley Schuering, blogger at Confessions of a Grocery Addict.
Schuering said to fill the bag with everything on your list first. This leaves less room for impulse purchases.
“I also find that when I can actually feel the literal weight of my purchases, I’m more motivated to get out of the store and back to my car,” said Schuering.
Buy In-Season Produce
When possible, Schuering recommends shoppers buy in-season produce. In-season fruits, vegetables and even meats, like turkey during Thanksgiving, are usually cheaper than out-of-season options.
Buy Store Brands
In addition to being a little less expensive than a brand name, store brands are often the last products in grocery stores to experience shrinkflation. You’ll save a few dollars and gain a few extra ounces in products you love like cereal or ice cream.
Don’t Overlook the Frozen Aisle
Swing down the frozen aisle to find cheaper fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood than their fresh counterparts.
“Frozen fruits and vegetables are already prepped for you, so they’ll make your cooking experience easier,” said Schuering. “Also, remember that most seafood has been previously frozen anyway, so buying from the fish counter just means they’ve already defrosted it.”
Stock Up on Nonperishables
Stock up on pantry staple nonperishables, like canned soup, peanut butter, beans and canned meat or stews, whenever there’s a store sale.
Not only does this help shoppers save money spent on full-price purchases, it allows shoppers to use every shopping trip as an opportunity to build your pantry and keep it stocked in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
“If calamity strikes, a well-stocked pantry can keep you well fed from the safety of your house,” said Schuering.
Shop at Warehouse Clubs
If you need to make a bulk purchase, consider shopping at a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club.
“These stores often have lower prices on bulk items and closeout items than regular grocery stores do,” said Hemsley.
Work Your Credit Cards
If you have credit cards that offer points or cash-back offers on grocery store purchases, Schuering recommends using these cards. Some credit card companies will even partner with certain stores for even greater savings. See if your existing credit cards offer these savings or look into credit card options that do.
Keep an Easy Cheat Meal on Hand
Sometimes it can be tough to stick with a meal plan when you’d like to go out or feel too tired to cook. For moments like these, Schuering recommends keeping an easy “cheat” meal on hand.
“A frozen pizza and a salad kit might not be the healthiest meal that I make, but it’s a lot cheaper than ordering takeout,” said Schuering. “Other great options include simmer sauces, pasta sauces and stir-fry kits.”
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