[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
If you're an adult human who eats food, you've probably noticed that the price of groceries (and the price of a lot of other stuff) is rising (read more about why here). If you're like me, you don't exactly love grocery shopping, or cooking, or general domesticity. I'm sure as hell not Betty Crocker, I'm usually not cooking dinner from scratch, and I'm definitely not clipping coupons, paper or otherwise. But I have to eat, and so do you, so here are some hacks for finding healthy, affordable groceries. Thank me later.
1. Shop seasonally. You don't need an avocado in the off- season. You just don't. Which produce is in season will depend upon your location, so check out this handy seasonal food guide that adjusts for location. Eating seasonally helps you change up your diet and forces you to diversify as well as saving you money.
2. Don't buy pre-cut vegetables or those stupid salad kits. They're literally double the cost in most instances, and how hard is it to chop a cucumber? How hard is it to wash some lettuce and add a slivered almond? You'll pay for convenience, and I do occasionally buy a kit, but it's never necessary.
3. Buy Organic Store Brands. I feel like I can hear you telling me that organic groceries aren't a necessity. Kroger's Simple Truth, Whole Food's 365 Everyday Value, Target's Simply Balanced, Safeway's O Organics, and Aldi's SimplyNature are a few examples of organic store brands that will save you money and help you avoid GMO's.
4. Buy organic meat in bulk. Find it on sale. Freeze it. Your welcome.
5. Make a list and stick to it. This feels a lot like the "don't shop when you're hungry" advice, but it helps you not buy things you don't need.
6. Use what you already have. This feels obvious, but sometimes we buy groceries because we want a certain thing, not because we need food. I think it's kind of fun to exhaust my cupboards before heading to the store. It helps me be creative and avoid a trip.
7. Follow the 10 cents per ounce rule. This is not an original hack, I read about it on a blog somewhere. But for many foods like cereal or crackers, aim to pay about 10 cents per ounce. Sometimes you'll find items priced less than half that, which means it's a good time to stock up. (This rule of thumb will vary in more expensive areas.)
8. Don't buy too much fresh produce at once, and store it correctly. Find a handy guide like this one to storing produce correctly and don't buy more than you might reasonably consume.
9. Shop farmer's markets and co-ops. There are often *very* good deals, especially on seasonal produce, at farmer's markets and co-ops. Sometimes you can haggle for a cheaper price on a bulk haul as well.
10. Avoid processed foods. Snack foods and highly processed convenience foods cost you money while offering very nutritional value. They're a waste of money and a waste of stomach space.
11. Buy holiday and seasonal stuff after the holiday. Holiday item prices get slashed by 50-75 percent after a holiday is over, so if you can, wait until after a holiday to buy.
12. Check your receipt. One time I was buying blueberries for $1.00 a pound but they got rung up for close to $4 a pound, so the total was over $14. If I hadn't been paying attention, I might not have noticed.
13. Shop at discount stores. Aldi can be a madhouse, but my grocery bills are consistently ~25% less when I shop there. Be sure to check your produce and bring a quarter for a shopping cart.
14. Shop at local markets. I used to shop at a Mediterranean market in college, and I'd always find cheap produce. The owner got to know me and he'd occasionally give me really deep discounts on boxes of oranges or persimmons. I shop at a local Asian market here in Orange County for things like bulk rice and produce.
15. Build a budget. Go to the store with a budget in mind, maybe it's fifty dollars, maybe it's 75, maybe it's 100. Whatever number fits your budget, try to stay below it.
I hope you find one of these tips nominally helpful. Someone asked me the other day what meal I'd eat on death row, and I said "Sushi and a pancake," and I thought that was kind of poetic. Let me know what your last meal would be and I'll judge you accordingly.