Planning is needed to make the best food choices while in the supermarket.

Want to Save Time and Money in the Supermarket?


This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

Anyone who goes food shopping on a regular basis knows that supermarkets can be intimidating places. With over 80,000 items on the shelves, you are bombarded with decisions from the minute you push your cart through the revolving doors until you pick the right check-out lane on your way out.

What was once a simple trip to buy groceries has now become an excursion where you can purchase everything from pate to patio furniture. Even if you’re shopping for the same items each visit, the displays, prices, and available merchandise are constantly changing, so you’re never sure got what you came for. There are times I’ve felt I’ve needed a Ouija board to figure out where they put the salsa!

If that sounds familiar, don’t despair.

By doing a little preparation before each trip to the supermarket you can over-ride the confusion and take advantage of what’s on sale, avoid impulsive purchases, and have everything you need for all your meals. That adds up to big savings and better food choices for you and your family.

Follow these steps to make each shopping trip an opportunity to invest in good nutrition and have meals your family will love without spending any extra money.

  1. Start by looking at your household calendar to see who will be home for what meals in the week ahead.
  2. Decide what meals you are shopping for and how many people will be eating them from home.
  3. Review the store circular to identify any specials you would like to take advantage of.
  4. Go through your coupons to see which ones you can use.
  5. Create a basic menu plan to cover the days you’re shopping for by filling in the key foods or recipes you want for each meal.
  6. Check your recipe files to see what other ingredients you may need for the dishes you will be preparing.
  7. Write your shopping list in sections based on food categories or store layout, such as Produce, Meats, Dairy, Breads, Frozen, Staples, Condiments, Beverages, etc.
  8. Grab your reusable shopping bags and head to the store ready to cross things off as you load them in your cart.

Would you rather spend 15 minutes to plan your meals before you start shopping or an extra 30 minutes roaming around the store trying to decide what to buy?

Good nutritional values can be found in the interior of your grocery store.

Healthy Eating on a Budget


Finding healthy foods to eat while sticking to a tight budget is not a difficult as you may think. Grocery stores circulars feature deeply discounted items each week to attract customers and good values can be found in every aisle all year round if you know what to look for.

The hard part is changing your shopping list to match what’s on sale or a good bargain. But if you’re trying to save money and eat well, it can be done. Let me show you how.

The biggest myth handicapping people who want to shop smart on a budget is the notion that all of the best foods are found on the perimeter of the store. That’s simply not true! Perishable foods that have high turnover and need to be closer to receiving docks or refrigerated storage areas are around the perimeter.

For example, fresh produce is found on the perimeter. Good deals can often be found on seasonal produce, but fresh is not always best. It is, however, more expensive, other than staples like potatoes, onions and carrots whose prices don’t vary much. Fresh produce becomes even more expensive it spoils before you eat it.

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruit, dried fruit, and canned or bottled 100% fruit and vegetable juices offer good nutrition at a good price every week of the year. Why not replace a green salad with a bean salad using canned lima, kidney and string beans or combine fresh carrots with canned pineapple for another low cost salad option?

Fresh meats, poultry, eggs and milk products are also found on the perimeter walls of the store. It is worth taking advantage of sale items in the meat case if you have the freezer space to store them when you get home. Fresh eggs remain one of the best nutritional values in the store at 20 cents apiece, while individual containers of flavored yogurt are among the worst. It’s far more economical to buy a quart of plain low fat or fat free yogurt and add a spoonful of jam.

You can build everyday menus around the good values found in the interior of the store if you by-pass the more costly versions packaged for convenience, and stick to the basics. These include:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Bagged dry beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned salmon
  • Sardines
  • Evaporated milk
  • Nonfat powdered milk
  • Canola oil
  • Whole wheat flour

Of course, you must be willing to learn some new cooking skills and a few new recipes so you can prepare things from scratch, but that provides further nutritional benefits. It’s worth it if you want to make an investment in your health and your wallet at the same time!

How are you saving money at the grocery store?