With food costs on the rise, it can be tricky to stay within your budget. Here are some tips that take very little time and put more money in your wallet without any intricate system.
Download Cash-Back Apps
There are many free apps like Ibotta, Fetch, Rakutan, and Checkout51* that give you cash back on your groceries and other household items. Some require you to select items and then upload your receipts, while others connect to your loyalty card or online account. Each purchase you make builds points that can be redeemed for gift cards or even cash back into your bank account or online payment portal, like a PayPal account.
Many grocery stores, pharmacies, and big-box retailers have loyalty programs, through which you get additional discounts with a card or app. They are easy and free to sign up for online or in-store. Membership gives you additional discounts on select items, and even gift cards or cash rewards to use on future purchases.
Watch your Store Ads and Shop Accordingly
Most grocery stores have weekly “loss-leaders”. These are highly discounted items to get you into the store hoping you’ll spend more on other items. Check their websites or sign up for email lists and create a grocery list featuring these discounted items for your meals each week. Many stores now offer additional discounts with digital coupons for loyalty customers.
If you have space, this is a great time to stock up on your favorite proteins—vacuum seal and freeze and they’ll be good for several months. For pantry staples with long shelf lives, look for these in BOGO sales and keep them stocked. If you find a BOGO sale for something fresh you won’t be able to use in time, get the two and donate one to your local food pantry!
Find your local store with the best prices for what YOU buy most often. Try different stores, and store brands, and find where you can get the best prices on your go-to items, even when they are not on sale.
Shopping at international markets can give you access to a variety of foods at a cheaper price. These might be items that are considered specialty or only available in small amounts at general-purpose grocery stores.
This is not a new Dr. Yum recipe, but a very useful tip!
You can save money--and even get items for free--by combining coupons, loyalty programs and cash-back reward programs. Many store apps now include manufacturer’s coupons so there is no need to physically clip them anymore!
For example: if there is a manufacturer’s coupon in Target Circle for $1, select that and save $1 when you buy. You’ll also collect cash back on all purchases there to use on future purchases in the app. Ibotta may have cash back on the same item, and Fetch may have bonus points when you scan your receipt.
Sometimes grocery and big-box stores run deals like “spend $100 on certain items and get a $25 gift card.” This is a great time to search for coupons and deals, stock up on non-perishables or household items, and keep the gift card for later.
Shop in Season and Support Local Farmers
Stores often have highly-discounted produce when it’s plentiful in-season. For example, buy produce that freezes well like strawberries, broccoli, and corn in the summer when they’re at peak freshness and lowest price, and freeze them (it’s cheaper than buying frozen later in the year). Farmers markets and farm stands sell in-season produce for similar or even cheaper prices than grocery stores and the produce often lasts longer because it was picked that morning or the day before.
Buy in Bulk
This concept isn’t limited to membership warehouses: most grocery stores have family packs of everything from meat, to rice, to diapers that cost far less than buying smaller packages. This can even include a family pack of 8 chicken breasts for the same price as 4 in a smaller pack, or 20 granola bars for a few cents more than 12 in a smaller box. Look for cost per unit on shelves or labels and you might be surprised! Freeze, store, or donate what your family can’t use right away. You can also shop with a friend or family member and split the larger package so you’re each only getting the amount you need, but at a cheaper price.
Make a Plan and Don’t Shop Hungry
Make a list and stick to it. If you go shopping hungry, you’re more likely to buy too much and end up wasting food or having a pantry full of packaged foods that looked good at the time, but don’t fit into your overall meal routine. Look in your fridge and pantry before you shop and make a list of what you need on that trip. If you’re trying a new recipe, make sure you have everything you need and look for ways to repurpose those ingredients in other meals so they don’t go to waste.
Meal Planning Made Easy
If strict meal-planning seems too daunting like it is for me, stick to the key items you need to make your family’s favorite meals and supplement other ingredients from your pantry or freezer. This is where shopping mindfully can help you whip up something because you have your family’s favorite staples on hand. If you’re stuck, you can use our Meal-o-Matic and create a recipe out of what you have at home!
If you do like to plan your meals for the week, try our Menu Planner and customize your calendar, populate with Dr. Yum recipes, repurpose leftovers, and click for a menu plan shopping list!
Food Assistance Programs
Many federal and state programs have expanded qualifications for food assistance such as SNAP (often referred to as EBT or food stamps) and WIC. These programs are designed to ensure families are fed and have access to nutritious foods. During the pandemic, even more families were extended PEBT benefits. Make sure that you get the most for your family with these helpful resources.
We encourage anyone struggling to feed their families to see if you’re eligible with these links. If you are not eligible, but still need additional resources to get food on the table, search here to find a local food bank.
Many farmers markets accept SNAP and WIC, and some will even double your benefits, so you can get $20 worth of produce for using $10 in benefits.
WIC beneficiaries can use your state’s WIC Shopper App if your state participates, which allows you to scan items to see if they qualify for your benefits and help you stay on budget. You can also use our WIC Food Package tag to find recipes using at least 75% WIC eligible ingredients.
Simple Meals are Delicious!
Don’t let celebrity chefs and social media make you think that every meal has to be magazine worthy. What’s most important is that your family is eating balanced meals with protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. And hey, sometimes cereal for dinner is okay too—we’ve all been there!
Whether you’re looking to cut down on the rising cost of your grocery bill, facing stricter food budgets, or relying on food assistance programs, we hope these tips will help you eat well, and help change your world.*The Dr. Yum Project is not affiliated with nor compensated by these companies mentioned in this blog.