Monday, June 1, 2009

10 Tips for Budget-Wise Grocery Shoppers

This week, I thought it would be interesting to feature several popular bloggers and their budget-wise tips for saving on groceries.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to SummerTomato written by San Francisco native, Darya Pino. Darya recently wrote a blog titled, "10 tips For Healthy Eating on a Budget," and here are those 10 tips:
  • Cook at home The most important change I made to save money was to turn cooking at home into my default option rather than rely on neighborhood eateries as my go-to cop out.
  • Shop on weekends If you already have fresh food in the fridge you will be more motivated to cook for yourself instead of going out and spending money.
  • Shop seasonally When choosing what to eat, taste trumps health 90% of the time. (That’s why you rolled your eyes when I suggested you eat fewer burritos.) If you really want to start eating healthy you must want to eat vegetables, and that will only happen if the ones you buy taste delicious. Seasonal, farm fresh produce can completely change how you feel about vegetables and fruits–it also tends to be the best deal in the produce section.
  • Shop at the farmers market There is no denying that the best tasting grocery store produce is at Whole Foods. But if you have ever been shopping there you know what a dent it can put in your wallet (this does not apply to their non-fresh items, which are competitively priced and often cheaper than anywhere I have seen). Rather than handing over your Whole Paycheck or settling for less than inspiring options at Safeway, do your weekly produce shopping at your local farmers market. If you shop intelligently (see below) you can get 2 meals for the cost of one burrito.
  • (Note to readers: I have to disagree with Darya regarding Whole Foods putting a dent in one's wallet, since that is not my experience. Rather, I've learned how to shop at WFs on a budget and I share with readers the tips and tricks I employ to stay within budget on this blog.)
  • Focus on leafy greens Leafy greens like kale, chard, collards, spinach and broccoli are some of the most nutritious, least expensive things you can buy. Frequently, half a bunch of kale with some beans, grains and herbs (delicious!) is my entire dinner and costs around $1.50. It also takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. Can you beat that?
  • Buy in bulk Canned beans are fine, but dried beans taste better and are way cheaper. Grains from the bulk bins at your local health food store are only pennies per serving. Cook these staples in large batches and save them in your freezer for cheap, quick and nutritious food anytime. Just add some greens and you’re good to go.
  • Eat less meat This is probably the easiest way to save money. Whether at the grocery store or at restaurants meat is always the most expensive thing on the menu. I do not advocate a vegetarian diet, but limiting meat to once or twice a week is an easy way to cut back on both calories and expenses. If you are worried about protein (you shouldn’t be), you can eat beans, eggs and fish instead.
  • Use fish from cans Fish is an important part of a healthy diet, but fresh fish can be incredibly expensive (especially the wild sustainable kinds). Canned salmon, sardines (boneless, skinless) and anchovies are inexpensive alternatives for protein, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Make fruit dessert If you think the farmers market is expensive my bet is you spend most of your money on fruits. I am the first to admit that fruit can be very expensive, especially summertime berries and stone fruits. While I do recommend you invest in some high quality farmers market fruit, it will be easier on your wallet and your waistline if you consider fruit a treat to be enjoyed in moderation once or twice per day.
  • Think long term I am not arguing that buying every single food item at the farmers market is the cheapest way to shop, but it is almost certainly the healthiest. Our hedonistic tendencies may incline us toward cheap, greasy foods but you should consider what you are really paying for in the long run. Poor diet can be attributed to most cases of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and a generally difficult, painful life. And I probably don’t need to convince you that a farm fresh salad costs less than a hospital trip and a lifetime of medication. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive, but unhealthy eating can cost you your life.
Thanks to Darya for these great tips on eating well for less. Do visit SummerTomato for more on healthy eating, farmer's market updates, delicious recipes, and great writing on the science of food.


darya said...

Thanks Louise! You're right it is absolutely possible to get great deals at Whole Foods.

Occasionally, however, WF carries exactly the same items that I get from my farmers market (e.g. peaches from Frog Hollow, a local farm). Since they are the exact same items price comparison is pretty easy. The peaches were 50% more. The tomatoes were nearly double in price at WF. But I think the most important message is that WF makes an effort to sell local items when possible =D

Louise Ross said...

Thanks for the clarification, Darya. The price on produce varies from retailer to retailer, week to week, I find. Sometimes WFs is cheaper sometimes it's more expensive than other stores / farmer's market.

Our farmer's market in Boulder, CO is very pricey, which is unfortunate for those folks on a budget, but Boulder's flagship WFs does a great job keeping local produce prices competitive -- thankfully.

Julie Webster said...

I appreciate the tips for saving money. I have posted two recipes that are focused on this as well. Here they are:

I hope you enjoy them!


Louise Ross said...

Thanks, Julie, these look like delicious meal ideas for folks on a budget!