Planning to shop
- Keep an ongoing list in the kitchen. When you are getting low on an item, like bread or eggs, put it on your list. That way you will remember to get more the next time you shop. This helps prevent extra trips to the store.
- Use your menu plan to make the rest of your list. Check see what you already have, so you don’t buy things you don’t need.
- Write your shopping list to follow the store layout. This will help you time spend less time in the store. The less time you are in the store, the less likely you are to make impulse buys that cost extra money.
Before you go to the store
- Shop no more than one time per week. The more often you shop, the more money you will spend, so try to shop no more than once a week.
- Shop when the store is least crowded, like early morning and on weekdays. The weekends and between lunch and dinnertime are more crowded times.
- Leave children at home, if possible. Trade babysitting with a friend.
- Do not shop when you are hungry. Hungry shoppers spend more money. If you feel hungry, eat a light snack before you go. If you must take your children, make sure they are not hungry!
Make a list
- Schedule a time that would work for you to plan your weekly menu. Make sure you will have a few minutes to dedicate to the task.
- Plan your menu around food items you already have. This will not only make your grocery bill less, but also use up products before they spoil.
- Choose a variety of meals that include family favorites, budget stretchers, and quick-fix meals.
- Cook once, eat twice. Plan to use your leftovers. Putting leftovers into your menu plan will reduce the amount you have to cook and reduce the amount of food waste.
- Picture your plate as you plan each meal. Remember to include veggies and fruits in the menu.
- Have the local store sale ads available when you are planning. Always take advantage of sales on products you know you will use.
- Create your shopping list.
At the store
Nutrition facts labels help shoppers determine the nutritional value of food so they can get the healthiest food for their dollar.
- Understanding the Nutrition Facts Label-English (pdf)
- Understanding the Nutrition Facts Label-Spanish (pdf)
Compare unit prices
Unit pricing tells how much something costs per ounce or pound. You can often find the unit price on the price label that is attached to the market shelf. Unit pricing can help you decide what brand to buy or what size of a specific item to buy. The lower the unit price, the better the value. For example, someone is deciding between two different brands but same-sized jars of peanut butter. The unit prices are 10 cents per ounce and 12 cents per ounce. The 10 cent per ounce jar is a better buy.
Read more about unit pricing:
Store brands are often just as good or better than name brands, and they usually cost less.
Check sell-by and use-by dates. Buying items that are short dated can increase waste at home. Wasted food = wasted money.
Maintain food freshness by keeping them safe in the store and storing them properly as soon as you get home.
Place raw meats and fresh produce in plastic bags supplied by the store. Separate them in your shopping cart and bag them separately at the checkout stand. Pick up refrigerated and frozen foods last.
Go directly home and store foods properly. Foods that are not stored properly will be wasted; this is a waste of your money and the time you spent shopping.
It’s important to beware of false or misleading claims. Visit these links for more information:
- Use coupons only if they make the items you need cost less. Do not buy coupon items just because you have the coupon. Remember many coupons are for processed foods that may not be healthy.
- Know your store’s coupon and matching policies. Many stores price match, meaning a store will match the prices in ads for other local stores. Ask at the customer service desk to find out your store’s policies.
- Buy in bulk if the price is lower and you have extra money. When you get home divide the product into meal-size portions and freeze for later use.
- Replace staple items like flour and sugar when they are on sale.
- Buy unadvertised sale items if you use them often and have extra money and storage space available. Be sure to check the use-by date.
Shop in season
Shopping in season is a great way to get the freshest produce at the best price. One of the best ways to find fresh fruits and vegetables is to visit your local farmers market. Learn more about how to shop and save money at your farmers market.