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Money-Saving Grocery Hacks

By Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD | July 22, 2020 | EatingWell

The COVID-19 pandemic and self-isolation practices have forced many people to limit grocery store trips to once or twice a week. People who were accustomed to "running to the store" daily had to learn how to quickly stock up on food to feed themselves for longer. The larger-than-normal grocery bills sure were shocking. And after tossing fresh items you never got around to using, some may be avoiding fresh items in fear that they'll go bad. Although it takes a bit of effort at first, it is entirely possible to limit grocery store visits, save money and eat in a healthy way. We rounded up some shopping tips to help you accomplish exactly this.

Money-Saving Tips for Grocery Shopping

1. Make eggs a protein staple

Think beyond the basic breakfast scramble when considering eggs. Nutrient-rich eggs are an inexpensive source of high-quality protein. Plus, they have a surprisingly long shelf life, too. Raw whole eggs in their shell will keep without losing quality for up to five weeks beyond the pack date if they're stored safely in the refrigerator, according to the American Egg Board.

Protein is not the only nutritional benefit that eggs offer; they are nutritional powerhouses with a good or excellent source of eight essential nutrients, including choline, which is important for brain health.

Eating eggs as a protein source can be a quarantine-friendly swap that can continue beyond when this pandemic is but a distant memory. Shakshuka for dinner, anyone?

2. Embrace frozen berries

Fresh berries are a yummy and versatile staple that are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and gut-healthy fiber. Unfortunately, the shelf life of these sweet treats is not very long. Choosing frozen berries like blueberries instead of fresh allows families to continue to enjoy a common oatmeal topping or smoothie ingredient in a frugal and convenient way.

There are way too many health benefits associated with blueberries to list here, especially in relation to those who are managing a specific health condition. A study published in Current Developments in Nutrition found that the equivalent of one cup of blueberries daily may beneficially affect certain areas of health in overweight men with type 2 diabetes, including reduced hemoglobin A1C levels (or an average blood-sugar level over 3 months). Including frozen berries into one's diet allows a person to reap the benefits of this superfood without being dependent on fresh.

3. Toss some potatoes in your cart

Potatoes are a nutrient-dense vegetable with a relatively long shelf life. Because of their longer shelf life, they don't cost a fortune at the supermarket.

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, potatoes provide more nutrients per penny compared to most vegetables. Potatoes have the highest score per dollar (along with sweet potatoes and carrots) on eight essential nutrients including potassium, fiber, protein, vitamins C and E, calcium, iron and magnesium.

As long as potatoes are stored correctly—they like cool, dark, and well-ventilated environments—they should stay fresh for quite a while.

4. Skip buying perishable items in bulk

While it may be tempting to take advantage of that sale on 5-pound bags of avocados, unless you are certain that they will be eaten in time, don't give in. While buying perishable foods, like produce, in bulk may sound like a money and time-saving dream, the reality is that you may end up throwing your food (and money) away if you don't actually eat it.

Foods like whole-grain pasta, canned beans and even canned veggies like hearts of palm are excellent items to stock up on. They can save both time and money in the long run.

5. Buy your meat in bulk and freeze appropriately

If you are a meat-eater, you know that you can't expect a fresh cut of steak or perfect piece of raw chicken to last in your fridge for weeks before consuming. But, if you know how to freeze fresh meats properly, you can save time and reduce your need for grocery store runs. Better yet, buying in bulk will likely save you some money too.

The goal is to prevent freezer burn when freezing beef, chicken, pork or any other meat that you enjoy. Whether you vacuum-seal it or wrap and bag it yourself (make sure to get all of the air out before you shut the freezer bag!), buying your meats in bulk and freezing them can be a huge time and money-saver. Be sure to freeze your meat in separate portions for an easy weeknight ingredient. Simply move your pre-portioned meat package from the freezer into the fridge to defrost overnight, and you should be good to go for the next day.

6. Buy your groceries online

If you have ever gone to the grocery store while you are hungry, you know what the effects of impulse-buying can do to your wallet and waistline. Those BOGO bags of cookies were not on your grocery list but somehow made their way into your grocery cart.

Impulse buying is not as much of an issue when shopping online. You can't get drawn in by display cases and samples while shopping behind a screen. Typically, people tend to stick to their grocery list, which can result in healthier choices and less money spent on unnecessary items depending on the selections made.

7. Try a Flexitarian diet on for size

A flexitarian diet is essentially a "semi-vegetarian" diet. It is primarily vegetarian with the occasional inclusion of meat or fish.

If you are not fully on the vegetarian bandwagon, a flexitarian diet can be a nice compromise that can be associated with benefits for your health, the environment, and your wallet.

In a review of the available literature published in Frontiers in Nutrition, researchers conclude that following a flexitarian diet may have a positive effect on body weight and blood pressure and result in a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

If you are a carnivore at heart and adopt a flexitarian diet, you may see a dip in your grocery bills once you start bypassing the butcher section of the grocery store. Data suggests that vegetarians can save, on average, $750 per year on groceries simply because they are not purchasing pricey meats. Even if you are not going full-blown vegetarian, expect so save some green by swapping your pricey cuts of meat with beans and legumes.

One simple meat swap is subbing lentils into recipes like tacos and meat sauces. Lentils are an inexpensive plant-based protein source that gives dishes a similar consistency to ground beef. Dried lentils have an extremely long shelf life and are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

The Bottom Line

It doesn't have to take a global pandemic to motivate you to make some changes in your grocery shopping routine. Incorporating some of these small changes can have a big impact on both your health and wallet when it comes time to fill your fridge.

This article was written by Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD from EatingWell and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD
EatingWell