A woman standing in front of a store filled with lots of fresh produce

The Secret of Cheap and Healthy Meals

Want to keep your food costs low even during these times of rising costs? Stick to these rules: 1) Set a budget and 2) Never pay full price.

A woman standing in front of a store filled with lots of fresh produce

I know you hate the word “budget.” So do I. And we need to get over it. All it means is that we decide ahead of time how much we will spend on food for the week (or month) and stick to it. And when that amount runs out, we stop buying.

The second rule means you must stop buying anything that is not on sale and I mean really on sale, not just labeled “Special” which means it might not be on sale at all. If you are careful to do this, you will easily bring your food costs down to what they were a decade ago. And you’ll eat well, too.

The first rule is easy. Do it now. Determine how much you will spend to feed yourself and your family per week. Now take the portion of that you are allotting to groceries (as opposed to fast food, restaurants, school lunches and so on) and place that amount of cash in an envelope marked “Groceries.” When it’s gone, it’s gone until the next fill up.

The second rule is going to take some work. You have a choice for how to find what’s on sale in your supermarket(s) before you get there so you can make a list. And don’t worry. If you shop at a typical U.S. supermarket there will be great sales in every category you can think of—healthy choices in the produce, dairy and meat aisles.

You can collect the weekly printed ad for your store(s) of choice and use that as your guide. Or visit any number of websites that will have this kind of information organized and categorized for you; sites like SavingsAngel (membership fee required) and GrocerySmarts (free). Don’t assume these sites are flawless. They often miss the all-important unadvertised sales and don’t always get all of the chain-wide sales either. Consider them a general guide to what’s on sale.

That’s it. Just two rules. And before you have time to object to the idea of “cheap and healthy” occurring in the same sentence let me give you a sampling of what’s on sale in my supermarket right now as I write: Foster Farms Split Chicken Breasts, $.88 a pound (50 percent off regular price of $1.69); fresh blueberries $1.50 for 6 ounces (70 percent off the regular price of $4.99); Haas avocados $.77 each (62 percent off regular price of $1.99 each) and that’s just a tiny start. I’ll be you can guess what’s going in my freezer this week. At that price for chicken, I plan to stock up.

It is with a lot of sadness that I must let you know that after 16 years, my beloved TheGroceryGame.com has closed its doors. Quite possibly the most reliable resource for matching coupons with grocery sales in all of the major supermarkets—including unadvertised sales—TGG has been my personal grocery shopping companion for all of these years. I wish founder and owner, Teri Gault, the very best. It’s hard to keep good people down, so I’m anxious to know what her future holds.

In the meantime, I look forward to your feedback on resources and sites you are using to supercharge your grocery savings—and reviews for those of you who decide to test SavingsAngel. I’m quite curious to see how that site compares with TGG.

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4 replies
  1. Patricia Goff says:

    I use Hip2Save as my blog to save money. If you have a Kroger then you need to check out KrogerKrazy.
    I wish we had an Aldi. I grew up shopping there with my mother in the 70’s and 80’s and some in the 90’s when I shopped there as an adult. I wish we had one in AR within driving distance of me. I always go when I visit my friends in OK and MO cause they are near their houses.
    We are growing our own vegetables and have sent off for some fruit trees so we will see how that works. My girlfriend has her own chickens but that wouldn’t work for us since nobody is willing to kill them or process them. LOL

    Reply
  2. peatwee says:

    I’ve been shopping at Aldi for my produce. Right now they have avocados for 49 cents each, mandarin oranges $1.99 for 3 lbs and 1 lb bags of organic baby carrots for 69 cents.

    Reply
  3. Renita says:

    About produce: especially with fruit, the cheapest produce will generally be what’s in season. I would never buy $4.99/pt blueberries because that means they’ve been imported from Chile in January and probably don’t taste good anyway. Buy blueberries from Michigan in June. Winter is a good time for citrus and pears.

    Rather than “never pay full price,” for produce I would say know what a fair in-season price IS. Apples that are $1 a pound in September are probably a good price regardless of whether it says “sale” or not. Apples that are $2.50 a lb in January, on “sale” from $3, are probably not.

    (BTW – just to be pedantic – everything in a store is on sale. A SPECIAL is a special, marked-down price. Or at least that’s how it should be — a lot of stores mix these terms up.)

    Reply
  4. marrinne says:

    For readers who live in the south, try Southern Savers. It’s free and she directs you to coupons, store and online specials!

    Reply

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