“That can’t be right,” I thought to myself as I looked at our budget. “Our monthly grocery bill is more than half our rent! Are we spending more than we should for the size of our family?”
Surprisingly we weren’t, at least according to the 2019 Official USDA Food Plans chart. This chart details the average amount that Americans in different age brackets spend on food during a given period. It features four food plans which Americans fall into: Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal.
For a family like ours with a one-year old and two adults between 19 and 50 years old, the grocery costs per month are as follows:
Our monthly grocery bill for the last six months has averaged $585.40. This means that even though we buy all organic produce and grass-fed or organic animal products, we still fall into the low end of the the Low-Cost Food Plan category! I felt reassured to learn I wasn’t overspending on groceries for our family. But it was also a little scary to learn that food is just plain expensive!
Since we’re apparently doing a decent job of eating organic on a budget, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite money-saving tips.
How to Buy Organic on a Budget
1. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is one of the easiest ways to save a ton of money. For example you can buy a single organic granny smith apple at Stop & Shop for $1.20 ($2.99/lb) or you can buy a 3 lb bag of them for $5.99 ($1.99/lb). That’s a savings of $1 per pound!
If you decide to buy in bulk, first consider if you will be able to use all of the food before expires. There’s no point in buying a bunch of food that is going to go to waste. Next, make sure that you have sufficient storage space for your purchase. Finally, be certain that you are checking unit prices and comparing apples to apples, so to speak, to make sure buying in bulk is actually a better deal. Bulk purchases are often, but not always, better.
2. Check Out Misfits Market
Looking for cheap organic produce? Look no further! Misfits Market is an online subscription service that we use to get seasonal, organic produce shipped directly to our door for a fraction of the cost. How do they do it? They sell misfits: produce that was too small, too big, too oddly shaped, etc. to be sold in a supermarket. This perfectly good produce would otherwise be disposed of. Subscribing to Misfits Market not only reduces your grocery bill, but it also reduces food waste!
My favorite thing about Misfits Market is that you get an interesting variety of fruits and vegetables every week (or two, if that’s what you choose). Last week we got Black Spanish radishes. I had to look them up because I didn’t know what they were! They also have great customer service – if one of your tomatoes gets squished in transit, they will take care of you.
If you’re interested in checking it out, be sure to use this link here because you’ll get a discount. It’s a referral link, so I will too. But, that’s not why I’m sharing it – I just really like this company and I think you will also!
3. Choose Frozen over Fresh…
Seafood is a great way to get heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, but it’s also expensive. You can save a few dollars by purchasing frozen fish instead of fresh. This strategy also works for berries, fruits and veggies too. For instance, we like to eat sauteed spinach with our eggs in the morning. We can either buy a 4 lb bag of frozen spinach for $6.99 or we can buy a pound of fresh spinach for $4.69. By buying frozen, we save $2.94 per pound.
4. …And Canned over Frozen
I don’t typically buy veggies in a can (unless it’s tomatoes), so for me this rule mostly applies to fish. If frozen fish is breaking your budget, then try canned. It’s more cost effective to buy canned salmon than it is frozen or fresh. If you choose smaller fish, like sardines or Atlantic mackerel, you could save even more.
5. Clip Coupons…But Not All of Them
Coupons are a great way to save money…unless you start buying things you don’t need simply because you “have a coupon for it!” Resist the urge and only buy things that you need. For more tips on using coupons to their fullest potential, check out this article here.
6. Don’t Make That Extra Trip
Did you run out of bananas shortly after your last shopping trip? Don’t be tempted to go out and buy more. Why? Because you will probably find other things you “need” as well and pretty soon you’re spending more than you budgeted. Your bananas can probably wait until next week. Limit your shopping trips and get creative with what you do have.
7. Download a Receipt Scanning App
There are a few apps out there which will give you cash back or points toward a gift card for scanning your grocery receipts. This article gives you a detailed breakdown of the different apps that are available. This is one money-saving tip that we don’t actually use anymore. We tried it for a while, but for me, the time spent scanning receipts wasn’t worth the extra change we were saving. But, it may work for you!
8. Grow Your Own Produce
Right now it’s zucchini season and these versatile, green squashes are arriving daily by the truckload. (Well, at least it seems like that). If you have space in your yard, grow some veggies. You can either buy an organic zucchini for $2.50, or you can purchase a seed packet for the same amount and have an endless supply of zucchinis – you decide.
9. Time Your Trips Right
Did you know there’s a right time and a wrong time to go shopping? If you’re looking to catch the best deals and the finest produce, head to the store around mid-morning or early-afternoon on the day that new sales come out. This ensures the items you are interested in are well-stocked and fresh. If you want to get a great deal on meat, check in with the manager of the meat department to find out when they do their markdowns, and plan you shopping trips around that.
10. Purchase Organic When It Counts
Every year, the Environmental Working Group tests fruits and vegetables for their pesticide content and ranks them based on the amount of residue they find in their skins and flesh. They compile two lists from the data collected: the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen. It’s best to choose organic if the fruit or veggie in question is a part of the Dirty Dozen because produce on that list has more pesticide residues. You can use the Clean Fifteen list to help you decide which produce to purchase conventional, or non-organic. This can help you save a few dollars in the produce aisle. Find the full list here.
11. Shop Around
Did you know if can cost you big time if you only shop at one store? There’s no single grocery store that has the best prices on everything (or at least if there is, I haven’t found it!) This means it pays to shop around. We’ve found that grass-fed chicken is the cheapest at BJ’s, but avocados and eggs are cheaper at Aldi. You might have to travel a little more, but the savings do add up.
12. Roast A Whole Bird
Speaking of chicken, if you like to eat grass-fed chicken but don’t like to pay a wing and a thigh for it, try roasting a whole bird! Not only will you save a bunch of money, but you’ll be getting extra goodies like nutritious giblets and bones for stock.
13. Sign Up For Loyalty Programs
Most stores have some sort of loyalty program where you can access special deals and rack up points towards a cash reward. Take advantage of these! It may take a few minutes to sign up, but after that it’s money in your pocket!
14. Try the Store Brand
Your mom was right when she told you to buy the store-brand. According to an article in Forbes Magazine, “A recent study from the Private Label Manufacturers Association found that consumers save an average of 33 percent on the total grocery bill by buying store brands.” The packaging might not be as pretty, but it will probably taste just as good, if not better!
15. Wait For Sales and Stock Up
Our local supermarket sells grass-fed beef for $6.99, but often it is on sale for less. On rare occasions, it goes on sale for $2.99! Those are the times we like to stock up. If you want to take advantage of great sales, give yourself a little extra space in your budget so that when the time comes, you can fill your freezer! Your wallet will thank you later.
So there you have it. Those are the top fifteen ways that our family saves money at the grocery store. What about you? What are your favorite money-saving tips?