Monday, June 22, 2009
How to save money on good food - tips for tough times
Times are tough for a lot of people now, including myself. It's not like after finishing a PhD I'm swimming in money... in fact, it's quite the opposite. But, things will turn around soon and at this time I'm learning how to save money on good food everyday. I just thought I'd share with you how I've learned to save money on groceries.
I will be the first to admit that all through college (university for the Canadians), I NEVER sacrificed eating good food. Nope, I wasn't one of those kids eating Mr Noodles (Ramen noodles) soup, or Kraft Mac N'Cheese. Instead, I ensured my fridge and cupboards were full of vegetables, fruit, protein, and whole grain carbs. The same holds true to this day, and even though money is tight, I still won't let my diet fall to the wayside.
When I went grocery shopping, I always looked for sale items, and tried not to buy something if it was overpriced. For example, if I was planning on buying turkey, but chicken was cheaper, I'd make the switch.
I also tried to use coupons when I could. I remember laughing at one of my colleagues for clipping coupons, but now, I look forward to the penny saver section of the newspaper.
Recently, I've discovered "discount grocery stores". And I'm ecstatic! These stores have already save me hundreds of dollars on good food items, without sacrificing quality. One has to be careful though and still read labels, because hidden sugars and trans fats are still lurking in some of their products. For example, this store has it's own "Fit & Active" product line and something they call a "protein bar" is really just a sugary granola bar with 5 grams of soy protein added.... oh my.
At this grocery store though, I can buy fresh fruit, veggies, canned and frozen products, meats, eggs, spices and even paper products for so MUCH LESS than other stores in my area. Here, at Aldi, they reduce costs by not having fancy signage on the shelving, not having some over-paid dietitian tell me to eat a food because it's gluten-free , the basic line of products without all the fluff, no free samples, cashiers that do not bag your items when you check out, and carts that you pay $0.25 to use (but then get back when you're done shopping - which btw, it something they do in Canada and Australia already to help control the flow of grocery carts).
I actually love the idea of bagging my own groceries with re-usable bags from home rather than having someone do it for me. Oftentimes, the people bagging waste bags anyhow, and by bringing my own, I'm preventing over-accumulation in the environment (although, I do recycle those bags when I do get them - or use them to pick up doggy poopies :) ).
Sure, I will admit that the produce here is probably not organic, and sometimes isn't from a 100-mile radius, but, once I can get back to affording those foods, I'll start buying them again. I do look at the labels though and try not to buy things from overseas...rather I ensure it at least came from North America. I also wash my produce well with a natural cleaner to rid it of any possible chemicals. Most people don't even try to buy local or organic anyhow, so why not save money instead?
Overall, this store has been a money-saver for me and my family (pups and husband). I'd encourage you to try and find a store like this in your area.
Also, now that it's summer, plenty of farmer's markets are open along the road side. Sometimes you can find inexpensive local items that taste SOOO good. For example, yesterday on my way home I stopped and picked up a crate of fresh local strawberries (they're in season and so weren't quite cheap), and a bag of fresh picked peas.
Other tips: Look for coupons for items you would buy anyways, stick to the perimeter of your grocery store and choose items on sale, look at sale fliers and plan your grocery trips for great deals, and NEVER shop hungry - you might buy something you'd never usually buy if you do go with a grumbly tummy.
Happy Shopping! Eat well, and live long and healthy.
at 9:33 AM