Budget Worries? Tips For Grocery Shopping On A Shoestring

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

Americans may find food shopping more challenging when trying to stay on track with their budget, while feeding their family a balance of nutrients each day. According to www.walletpop.com,  ground beef has gone up 3.7%, bananas up 5.2%, strawberries up 5.9%, bacon up 6.7%, table wine 8%, apples 9.2%, chicken 10.3%, bread 12.6%, broccoli 13.4%, coffee 18.4%, milk 28.8%, tomatoes 31% and eggs 36%.

Here’s some suggestions that can help you get more bang for your buck:


  1. Plan your menus and make a list

Plan your weekly menus and make a grocery list.  Check out your pantry before going to the grocery. Stick to the list and don’t pick up any foods not on the list.

  1. Use coupons and reward cards

You don’t need to rely on the local newspaper for coupons.  Go to websites like www.coupons.com or even local grocery store chains like Kroger’s (www.kroger.com) and print out coupons.  You can also take advantage of rewards cards to get better prices.

  1. Purchase store brands

Research suggests store brands are 15% to 20% lower than brand named products. Many times the store brands have the same quality and taste the same as the name brand who spends millions on advertising and charges the higher price to pay for the ads.

  1. Buy food on sale and in bulk

If you have the room for storage, in most cases, the larger the quantity the less it costs.  But make sure you use it before it spoils.

  1. Read and compare food labels

Compare ingredients and nutrients using the % Daily Value so you can purchase more nutrient-dense foods.

  1. Compare unit prices not just the price on the container

Make sure to compare the unit price not just the size of the container.  Quick cook, pre-prepared items, and 100-calorie packets cost more.  You can make your own 100-calorie packets and save some money doing it. Calculate cost per serving not cost per pound when buying meat, poultry, fish, eggs and beans.  Typically, eggs, chicken, turkey, beans, peas and nuts are the least expensive sources of protein.

  1. Shop the perimeter of the store first

Foods on the outer perimeter of the grocery, fresh produce, meats, dairy products and breads are going to cost more per unit than canned foods.  The exception to that rule is cereal.  Cereal is typically very expensive.

  1. Buy produce in season and locally

Seasonal fruits and vegetables cost less. In most cases, farmer’s market foods are

less expensive.  Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables may be more economical

than fresh if you are counting pennies.

  1. Prevent food waste

Check out the “sell by” and “best used by” to make good purchases.  You can use Debbie Meyer Green Bags™ to help keep your fresh fruits and vegetables fresh longer.  These bags are reusable.

  1. Check out your check out

Make sure you get the advertised price when checking out, especially on sale items or items that you have a coupon for.


Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N, is a registered dietitian (www.DayByDayNutrition.com) who has been teaching healthy lifestyles strategies to consumers for over 35+ years.