Frugal gurus employ many techniques to save a buck or two while grocery shopping. Some buy seasonal produce, such as mangoes in the spring and pumpkins in the fall, to keep costs low.
Others purchase store brands of their favorite items whenever possible, or scour their newspapers and the Internet for money-saving coupons.
You, too, can cut the cost of grocery shopping with a few painless changes. Here are six tips for staying within a tight grocery budget.
1. Stock up on seasonal produce
Buy when things are in season, and cheaper, and stock up for the coming season.
For example, next fall, stock up on produce that is in season at that time. Root vegetables like potatoes, yams, carrots and sweet potatoes are harvested in autumn and can be used for everything from side dishes to main courses throughout the winter.
Apples also can be purchased in bulk. Wrap them in newsprint and store them in an uncovered cardboard box in a cool, dark place like a basement, or turn them into foods like applesauce that can be eaten later.
Plenty of varieties of produce can be frozen or canned for consumption later. Simply do an online search to find storage instructions for each specific type of produce.
Turn produce into big-batch recipes you can store and eat at a later date, such as soups or stews.
2. Cut back on meat
Meat is one of the most expensive grocery items, so you can save money by using meat substitutes for some meals.
Alternate protein sources such as tofu, beans, legumes and eggs tend to cost less than meat, poultry and fish. They also are quite healthful.
3. Buy generic
Save money by opting for store-brand items whenever possible. In most instances, the generic version of a name-brand item tastes just as good.
The main reason name-brand items cost more is because you are paying for the company’s advertising costs.
4. Make use of coupons and discounts
Keep an eye on your favorite store’s circular to see which items are on sale this week. Combine those sales with coupons to maximize your savings.
Just make sure the math adds up. In some cases, it still is cheaper to buy the store-brand item than it is to buy the name-brand item on sale.
5. Take advantage of holiday sales
Around the holidays, stores run a lot of sales on traditional holiday meal staples. Items such as turkey, ham and roast beef are on promotion, as are the ingredients for popular side dishes and desserts.
Stock up now while they are cheap. That way, you can continue eating cranberry sauce well into February.
6. Make the most of each meal
Make the most of leftovers from any meal you make. Eat them for lunch or dinner the next day, or freeze them for later.
You already have paid for the ingredients, so make sure you are getting your money’s worth.