Have you ever wanted tips on how to shop for more healthful foods while sticking to a budget? Look no further! Here are 11 ways to have a smarter shopping trip.
1. Bring a Shopping List
Having a list will keep you focused and prevent impulse buys that might not be within your budget, or the most nutritious choices. Organizing your list into sections according to the layout of the supermarket can cut down on shopping time.
2. Check for Supermarket Coupons
Check for coupons in the store, online, or even on an app! Kroger has an app that allows you to link digital coupons to your loyalty shopping card so you can redeem them at the cash register. Individuals with a Kroger.com account can also download a coupon for a free item every Friday. Other apps like Ibotta give you rebates for certain things you buy, including food items at participating grocery stores. Kroger, Walmart, Publix, and Ingles all participate in Ibotta. Just download the free app, check out what items are offering rebates this week, and buy those items at the store. To redeem the rebate, take a photo of your receipt and upload it to the app. The rebate will be cashed to a PayPal or Venmo account or to a gift card.
3. Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
Researchers have found that people who shop hungry are more likely to choose higher-calorie options than lower calorie options. To avoid this, consider grocery shopping outside of meal times or making sure to have a snack before you shop.
4. Avoid Snack Size Packages, Pre-chopped Fruits or Vegetables, or Pre-seasoned Meats
If you’re looking to save money, avoid snack size packages, pre-chopped fruits or vegetables, or pre-seasoned meats. These can be a bit higher in price. However, if you’re trying to make sure you eat small snack portions or you want to save time on food preparation, these options might be helpful.
5. DOUBLE your SNAP benefits
Did you know there’s a program that will DOUBLE your SNAP benefits at farmer’s markets? The official name is the Double Value Coupon Program, but in Georgia, it’s called “Fresh for Less.” Any farmer’s market or Community Supported Agriculture Shares (CSA) that participate in the program will double whatever amount you plan to spend. For CSAs, members pay farmers at the beginning of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest. In exchange, CSA members receive shares of produce throughout the season. Find a participating farmer’s market or CSA near you and stretch your SNAP benefits further!
6. Freeze It
If a food item is on sale but you don’t think you’ll be able to eat all of it before it goes bad, freeze it. Freezing food can help you take advantage of a sale without letting food go to waste. This trick is great with bread, fruit, and meat. For example, overly ripe bananas can be saved for a smoothie or banana bread later on. Be sure to wrap meat before freezing to prevent freezer burn: tightly wrap the meat in plastic wrap, then wrap a layer of aluminum foil around the meat or seal it inside a zip-lock freezer bag.
7. Read the Nutrition Facts Label
Really—read the nutrition facts label! A food item that looks healthy from the packaging could actually be full of sodium, sugar, and fat, but you’d never know unless you read the facts label. For example, some brands of yogurts, granola bars, and breakfast cereals can have more sugar than you might think. Frozen meals can also be surprisingly high in fat and sodium. Be sure to check the facts label before you buy something!
8. Shop the Outside Aisle
Shop the outside aisle of the grocery store first. This is where fresh produce, dairy, and meats are, while the packaged items tend to be in the middle aisles. Shopping in the outside aisle first can help you grab your fresh items before you’re tempted by packaged foods.
9. Shop Seasonally
Fresh fruits and vegetables can cost less when they’re in season. Put this monthly calendar on your fridge to keep track of seasonal fruits and vegetables in Georgia!
10. Insider Tricks
Take advantage of supermarket insider tricks. Did you know that in many stores you don’t have to buy all ten items to get the 10/$1 deals? You can buy just one item for a dollar, or just one of the 2/$5 items for $2.50. Ask the supermarket butcher about separating one of their pre-packaged meats into smaller portions if you need them to. Supermarket bakeries sometimes do the same for their pre-packaged loaves of bread. Check to see if these tricks work in your local supermarket!
11. Invite Your Kids
Invite your kids to grocery shop with you so you can show them how to make healthful choices! Turn it into a Seek and Find game. The older children can look for the breakfast cereal with the lowest sugar or the best-looking broccoli. Younger ones can point out colors and shapes you call out.
Written by Taylor Newman, PhD/DI student | Edited by Laurel Sanville, MS, RDN, LD