Once your food budget and menu plan are in place, it is time to shop! Follow these simple tips to minimize the amount of time and money spent in the grocery store.
Organize your shopping list
To create a shopping list:
- Keep an ongoing list in the kitchen. When you are getting low on an item, such as catsup or eggs, but before you run out completely, put that item 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 create the rest of your list. Check cupboards and pantry to know what you already have on hand so you don't buy unnecessary items.
- Organize your shopping list according to the store layout. This will minimize time spent in the store. The less time you are in the store, the less likely you are to make impulse buys that cost extra money.
Things to know before you head to the store:
1. Shop no more than one time per week. The more frequently you shop, the more money you will spend, so try to shop no more than once a week.
2. Shop when the store is least crowded, typically earlier in the morning and on weekdays. The weekends and between lunch and dinnertime are more crowded times.
3. Leave children at home, if possible. Trade babysitting with a friend.
4. Do not shop when you are hungry. Hungry shoppers spend more money. IF necessary, eat a light snack before you go. If you must take your children, make sure they are not hungry either.
Use coupons and sales wisely
- 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 have little or no nutritional value.
- 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, if necessary.
- 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.
Read labels and compare unit prices
Nutrition facts labels help shoppers determine the nutritional value of food so they can get the most nutrition for their dollar.
Compare unit prices to find the best buy.
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..
Compare quality. 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.
Look at how much you can save by buying the store brand!
Shop in season
Shopping in season is a great way to get the freshest produce at the most economical price.
Click here to see a list of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Click here for a list of Utah Farmers' Markets who accept EBT cards.
For more information, check out our Food $ense at Home online lessons.