The whole country is currently feeling the impact of inflation, and it’s especially noticeable in grocery stores. Food prices have increased by approximately 25% since the pandemic and about 12% compared to last year, with some categories rising even more, such as eggs, beef, and milk.

A 12% increase in prices means that if your grocery budget is usually $500, it now stretches to $560. This can significantly affect your monthly expenses. However, there are ways to spend less on food while still eating well.

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1. Make a plan

Planning helps save money for many reasons. Making a grocery list prevents impulse purchases, which can lead to higher expenses. According to researchers, households throw away about 30% of their food on average. A weekly menu (and a shopping list for it) will help you cook at home more often and avoid takeout or restaurant visits.

2. Look for sales

 Many people actively use coupons and browse weekly sale flyers. If you don’t do this, it’s not too late to start. Most grocery stores offer discounts — combine them with coupons, and you can save a lot. If you shop online, try adding virtual coupons to your order or filter items by sale. Also, sign up for the store’s loyalty points.

Don’t buy products just because they are on sale. First, ensure that you can incorporate them into your weekly meal plan, then add them to your cart.

3. Choose products carefully

Choosing frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables is a great way to save money while still including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants in your diet. Look for options with less sugar and salt.

Consider replacing more expensive fruits or vegetables with cheaper ones. Instead of a pricey mixed green salad, buy cabbage and make a salad. Use onions instead of shallots in a soup recipe, or try making smoothies from frozen berries instead of fresh ones (especially out of season).

Also, make sure you actually eat what you buy. If you find products in your fridge nearing their expiration date, try freezing them or adding them immediately to soups, fried rice, or egg dishes.

4. Check unit prices

If you don’t know what the unit price is, pay attention—it’s located on the shelf next to the product price and helps compare sizes and different brands.

Suppose you buy cereal weekly. It might make sense to buy a larger box that costs more but is cheaper per pound than a smaller box. Unit prices show the cost based on weight, and smaller sizes are more expensive.

Checking unit prices also helps you compare various brands offering their products in different-sized packages and find the most budget-friendly option.

5. Pay attention to expiration dates

Check these dates in the store to ensure product freshness. Also, do this at home to know which products to use first before they expire.

6. Reevaluate the protein in your diet

Protein-rich foods like meat, poultry, and seafood are typically among the most expensive on our plates. There are ways to save wisely without giving them up (if you don’t want to).

For example, many plant-based proteins, like beans and tofu, are cheaper than meat. Try diversifying your menu with them. You can also choose less expensive cuts of meat—ground meat, top round steaks, or chicken thighs (instead of breasts). Talk to the butcher and compare prices to save.

Since protein is expensive, if you have space in your freezer, it might make sense to stock up on meat when it’s on sale. You can also use meat by mixing it with vegetables and grains in dishes like burgers or casseroles.

7. Buy in bulk

Buying in large quantities isn’t always the smartest choice, as it means you’ll spend a lot of money on groceries. However, big stores like Costco and Sam’s Club offer great deals and can be especially useful for large families.

Even if you don’t cook for a crowd, you might find that buying some products in bulk makes sense due to the significant savings. If you have some storage space at home, just buy larger sizes (check unit prices!) at a regular store to help save money.

8. Check your pantry and freezer

Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing to eat at home, but that’s not true. Before shopping, take an inventory of your pantry and freezer. This way, you won’t buy unnecessary items and will use what you already have first.

It might require a bit more effort if, for example, you’re unsure what to make from that pasta, or you have a bag of broccoli in the freezer that you don’t particularly like. But using them as ingredients in a dish will help cut costs. An inventory also helps you use products before they spoil.

9. Change Stores

Many of us are loyal to our grocery store, but depending on sales, you might want to change your favorite.

Also, some grocery stores have cheaper products, and it’s not just about big supermarkets. For instance, ALDI and Trader Joe’s have gained loyal fans due to the great prices on their items.

Not everyone can shop at different stores—it depends on location and product availability—but if you can diversify your shopping, you’ll save some money.

10. Rethink “convenience”

Indeed, we often pay for convenience—think about pre-cut produce or ready-to-use sauces. However, sometimes these conveniences pay off, meaning you eat homemade food instead of takeout and avoid letting groceries in your fridge go to waste.

We all need a little help with dinner prep, so choose conveniences wisely and make sure you get what you pay for.

Work in the Food Industry