Friday Tips: Cheap grocery shopping strategies

Vegan Goodness:

Today we ate:

  • Breakfast: Green smoothies and cereal for Dad and LP.  Mom just had some rice crispies after a quick morning nap after another busy night with IP.
  • Lunch: We went out for a special treat since we wanted to try the new falafel place in Davis Square: Amsterdam Falafel Shop.  It was fantastic!  Mom and LP each had a falafel bowl and Dad got a MASSIVE falafel sandwich.  We also got an order of fries, which LP enjoyed with lots and lots of ketchup.
  • Dinner: Spicy Peanut and Eggplant Stew over quinoa – it was wonderful!

Money Matters:
We had a great little outing for falafel (which came with the added bonus of letting me clean up the kitchen without having to deal with lunch dishes!).  Well worth it!

  • $1.50 on parking in Davis Square
  • $18.70 for our falafel lunch

Friday Tips for Living Vegan and Living Cheap – with kids!:

Grocery Shopping Tips

After some more sporadic shopping trips in July (when I was busy complaining about being super pregnant) we are back to our “once a week” major shopping excursions.  As we continue to try an save money and stick to a fairly tight grocery budget I have been thinking about how we can save money on groceries while still getting high-quality food.  Here are just a few things that we do to keep our grocery budget reigned in, while also still eating well!

Make a list: It is probably obvious from some of my other posts (and my fridge) that I like lists.  Over time I have learned that I cannot enter a grocery store without a list if I want to stick to my budget.  The times that I don’t have a list, are when I tend to browse the aisles to see “what looks good” in produce or just pick up some stuff on sale, and I usally then forget to get something we need, which leads to follow-up trips.  With a list I will refrain from impulse buying, in large part because I will avoid the aisles that I don’t need anything from!

Eat (or drink!) first: Another issue I have with impulse buying arises when I go grocery shopping hungry.  No matter how much I tell myself I won’t give in, I often end up buying a scone or a bag of chips when I’m in this state.  Its not only bad for my wallet – its bad for my waistline!  I now try to eat a little bit before we go, or even just bring a snack with me on the way to the store.  I also will make myself a drink to bring in one of my to-go cups (like OJ and seltzer water, or a soy chai from home) that will keep me from picking up something from the Starbucks right next to our local Whole Foods. 

Shop around: We don’t buy everything at one store.  This is the case for almost all vegans I know, as well as many vegetarians.  I actually think this could apply to anyone, even omnivores, that are looking for the best deals on the highest quality food.  Some of our staples are cheaper at Trader Joe’s (flour, orange juice, frozen fruit), some are cheaper at Whole Foods (Earth Balance butter, soymilk), some are cheaper at Johnny’s Foodmaster (white beans, liquid smoke), and some are cheaper at Costco (onions, avocados, pomegranate juice).  We currently get our produce primarily in our CSA box, but in the winter we shop at Wilson Farm’s quite a bit.  Basically, we figure out the best place to get the things we need, and often combine several visits to several stores in one major outing.  It does make shopping an excursion, but it is worth it cost-wise in the end, especially since many of these trips (like Costco, Johnny’s Foodmaster, etc.) are more like “once-a-month” events.

Don’t skimp: There are some things we don’t skimp on, and instead try and find the best deals on (see the previous point).  Organic produce is probably the most important one.  We stick with the dirty dozen list recommendations, and then try and buy other produce organic (or IPM) when possible.

Shop once a week (or less!): This is probably the biggest cost saver for us.  When we can really keep our major shopping trips to once a week (after making our weekly menu of course!) we save a lot.  No only do we bring our travel costs down, but the fewer times we go to the store, the few times we pick up “just a few extra things.”  Once -a-week (or once-a-month at some stores) shopping keeps us focused and helps us think about what we are getting strategically, which means we are less likely to waste food later on too.

These are just a few food tips that have helped us lower our monthly grocery bill.  It has helped me a lot to be more strategic and less impulsive about our grocery shopping, and I hope these ideas can help you as well!

4 thoughts on “Friday Tips: Cheap grocery shopping strategies

  1. Good tips! I do these, they definitely help. Was just thinking, though, about all the time I spend grocery shopping. I do the major multi-store excursion once a week or so (I keep a cooler in the car so I don’t have to save frozen stuff for last and can optimize for most efficient route) but it takes so much time!! I need to cut back somehow, maybe find a good way to get it all delivered or something. Have you found any other TIME saving tips for cheap veg grocery shopping?

    Also, another money saving tip: I have Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Veg on my iPod so if I find random things on mega sale I can quickly look up recipes in the store to see what else I might need to prepare them and if it’s worth it.

    1. I love that you keep a cooler in the car for those trips – you are so prepared!

      The only thing I do that I think saves time (that you haven’t already mentioned) is I make my list based on where things are in the store. I group the produce together, the fridge section stuff together etc. Then I skip the aisles where I don’t need anything. This saved time since I used to go down every aisle to see if I needed anything.

      Keep the great comments coming 🙂

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