Grocery Shopping on a Budget: 10 Ways to Keep Rising Food Costs in Check

Christine Ryan Jyoti

2. Stock up during deep-discount periods. For meat, look for manager markdowns, suggests consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch, and then buy a lot and freeze what you don’t plan to cook right away. According to the USDA, meat can stay in the freezer for up to 12 months. Just make sure to cut it into smaller pieces and then individually wrap them, so you don’t have to defrost a whole package at once.

For other foods, if you missed a sale, keep an eye out for another retailer that’s having a sale on the same item the following week, suggests Crowson, explaining that temporary price reductions are offered by manufacturers to all retailers in the same area, typically on a monthly basis. Each retailer then decides which week to run the sale.

And always ask for a rain check if the store runs out of a sale item, Crowson says. Unless it’s a limited-quantity offer, they’ll usually honor the sale price when more stock comes in.

If you really want to go whole hog on your beef, consider “cowpooling”—going in with friends or neighbors on an entire animal from a farm and sharing the butchered cuts.

3. Forgo the packaging. The more precut or prepackaged fresh meat and veggies are, the more it’s adding to your cost, says Woroch. Fresh meat precut into smaller portions is about 60% costlier than buying larger slabs; precut fresh fruits and veggies are 60% more expensive than buying them whole.

4. Know when not to shop organic. You pay a premium for that label, but some produce has built-in “protection,” which means you don’t have to go the organic route if you’re worried about pesticides. Bananas, avocado and pineapple—thanks to their thick, tough skins—fall into this group, notes Woroch. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 for more products you can pass over in the organic aisle.

5. Buy the whole cow. If you really want to go whole hog on your beef, consider “cowpooling”—going in with friends or neighbors on an entire animal from a local farm and sharing the butchered cuts of meat. Staying local and buying “in bulk” gives you access to higher quality at lower prices.

6. DIY your produce. The great thing about fruits and veggies is that you can always grow your own. Start small with herbs, suggests Woroch, and don’t let space hold you back. Do you lack the backyard real estate? Vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant and peppers can just as easily be grown in containers or window boxes.

RELATED: 10 Spring Veggie Recipes for $10 and Under

  • ksgirl73

    I have to disagree with #1. I’ve never seen reduced prices on perishables on a Wednesday night.

  • Valerie

    Great article! There has been a lot of press about meat prices going up, but not a lot of discussion explaining why (droughts and sickness) and not a lot of discussion on produce going up in price even more significantly! Thanks for being well rounded and giving us some hints!

  • elisha reverby

    ummmm it’s not all thanks to mother nature that costs have gone up – it is thanks to human consumption, bad habits and climate change due to those bad habits. dont blame nature. we all need to take responsibility for this mess!

  • elisha reverby

    and p.s. you can blame the disgusting and inhumane practices of factory farms for the viruses and disease that lingers on our meat supply. whoever wrote this article needs to face reality.

  • Lara Rosenblum

    I think this is fine for people who have a lot of time to dedicate to grocery shopping (e.g. prep the night before for a sale the following day to know what’s on sale) – but as a working mother who is trying to feed her family healthy, non-antibitically enriched, pesticide-free foods, this is not helpful at all. Where is the advice on knowing the difference between sustainably farmed vs. organic food (and the fact that USDA ORGANIC labeling is pretty much a scam, since KRAFT is on the board of USDA ORGANIC?) – this is not mentioned here. Also, when I shop at Trader Joe’s, it is already deeply discounted and generally has a good selection. Some stores are better than others – where is the advice on the 5 best nation-wide supermarkets?

  • angela1a

    Excuse me but right off the bat, you sound very ignorant. it isnt Mother Nature wrecking havoc with the food supply, better read some more.