1. Buy produce in season. Check the food section in your newspaper to find the best buys for the week, based on fresh produce in season.
2. Use sales and coupons. Planning meals around what’s on sale can lower your grocery bills, especially if you also use coupons (make sure they’re for item you would buy anyway).
3. Brown-bag it. Making lunch and taking it with you is a great money-saver and an excellent use of leftovers for meals at work, school, or wherever your destination.
4. Think frozen, canned, or dried. Next time you’re gathering ingredients for a recipe, try using frozen, canned, or dried foods. They may be less expensive than fresh, yet are equally nutritious.
5. Save on protein foods. When possible, substitute inexpensive, vegetarian sources such as beans, eggs, tofu, and legumes for more expensive meat, fish, or poultry. Eat vegetarian once a week or more to increase your consumption of healthy plant foods while saving money.
6. Waste not, want not. Before you toss perishable food into your grocery cart, think about exactly how you’ll use it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year.
7. Go generic. Consider buying store brands instead of pricier national brands. “All food manufacturers follow standards to provide safe food and beverage products of high quality,” says Earl. Many grocery companies buy national-brand products made to their specifications and simply put their own label on the products.
8. Buy prepackaged only if you need it. Unless you have a coupon or the item is on sale, buying prepackaged, sliced, or washed products comes with a higher price tag.
9. Buy and cook in bulk. Joining a bulk shopping club, like Sam’s or Costco, can be cost-effective if you frequent the club regularly. Bulk purchases can be a great way to save money — as long as they get used.
10. Plant a garden. For benefits that go beyond cost savings, plant your own produce.