Saving Money at the Grocery Store

A post came through my feed the other day about eating a whole food, plant-based diet on $1.50 per day. Yes — per day. This was not something the writer was advocating — it was a challenge she gave herself to gain perspective on world poverty — but I found it very thought provoking.

That post, plus a couple of really big grocery bills, made me really start thinking about costs at the grocery store. Yes of course your health is priceless. But the reality is that money is not infinite. So I decided to see if there were ways to economize in my weekly shopping trips.

A pretty obvious example — dried beans. I gave up making dried beans a long time ago — because the canned ones are so easy and so tasty. And if you are only eating a can of beans per month like in my pre-nutritarian days it really doesn’t make any difference. But when you start eating two to three cans per week — it can become significant. A bag of dried beans costs the same (at my store at least) as a can of beans but makes three times as much. Cutting my costs for this staple by two-thirds? Yes please! Bonus: you can cook them with zero salt.

I had also gotten in the habit of buying the little pints of cherry or grape tomatoes because I can throw them on a salad without chopping them. Soon I hope to be picking my own cherry tomatoes off of my newly-planted tomato plants (that’s another blog post) but in the meantime they had some very lovely roma tomatoes for $0.79 per pound — almost half the cost of the cherry tomatoes.

If you are eating four pieces of fruit each day like Dr. Fuhrman says that is 28 pieces of fruit per week. Whether that fruit is $0.50 per serving or $1.00 per serving or $1.50 per serving makes a real difference.  Of course, some fruits (i.e. berries) are more nutritionally dense than others and it is still worth spending extra money on them. But if I am buying apples there is no real nutritional difference between the on-sale $0.69 per pound Fuji apples and the regular price $1.69 per pound Pink Lady apples. And I like Fuji apples just fine. The $2.69 Honey Crisps? No thanks, I’ll wait for a sale!

I was also pretty intrigued by the bit in the $1.50-per-day article where she said she got a 10-pound bag of potatoes at her local dollar store for $1.00.  Normally I buy this cute little 3-pound bag of baby potatoes (less cutting!) for $2.99.  Ten times the price! So I checked out the dollar store in my neighborhood and found out they actually do not have any fresh food at all. And their dried beans were the same price as my regular grocery store. But I am going to try to check out a few other stores and see what I can find.

I will also admit I haven’t paid attention to grocery store coupons or sale flyers in a long time. Primarily that is because most of the coupons/sales are for processed food, but a good deal on a staple that I could stock up on might be worth keeping an eye out for.

The other part of my strategy is to do what they always tell you not to do — go to the store without a list. They say this because they don’t want you to fill your cart up with junk — but I don’t buy that stuff anyway. By having flexibility I can check out what is on sale and base my menu on that. Big sale on cauliflower? I see Moroccan Lentil Soup in my future! Green beans are buy one get one free? Time for a niscoise-style potato salad. This works particularly well at my store because they have an area where they sell bruised/older fruits and veggies at a discount. Flexibility makes it easier for me to take advantage of whatever happens to be there.

Luckily I’m in a position where I don’t really NEED to be economizing too much on groceries. But if I can save some money on beans, spend a little more on berries and greens, and reduce the cost overall, that seems like a win win.

If you have other thoughts or money saving ideas, please post them in the comments!



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