How to Find the Best (and Worst) Deals in the Grocery Store

Condé Nast Digital StudioCondé Nast Digital StudioselfselfBy Beth Janes, SELF magazine

Keep this guide handy to score big savings in every department...

Biggest Money Savers:

1. Produce
Break up the bunch. You pay by the pound for most fruit and vegetables, so don't feel required to purchase the prepackaged amount. Pull off only as many bananas as you'll actually eat before they turn brown, and leave behind excess grape clusters to save more and waste less. Likewise, if a store is advertising three of something (kiwifruit, lemons) for 99 cents, know that you don't have to buy three to get the deal. Buy only as many as you need; you'll still pay 33 cents each.

See more: Food Swaps to Keep You Slim All Season Long

2. Dairy
Upsize. It takes only seconds to spoon a serving of yogurt into a reusable container, so it's hard to justify forking over more cash for single-serve containers, say SELF contributing experts Stephanie Clarke, R.D., and Willow Jarosh, R.D. You can save nearly $2 buying the larger tub. What's more, it's hard to find single servings of plain yogurt, and Clarke and Jarosh say the flavored alternative is often loaded with added sugar. Mix in your own sliced fresh fruit, which tastes so much better.

3. Meat

Take a number. Before grabbing prepackaged lunch meat from the cooler, check out the deli display case. You may have to wait in line, but it's worth your time. At one store, 5 ounces of freshly sliced turkey breast was $1.74, but 5 ounces of the same brand of turkey prepackaged was $2.69. (You pay a premium for grab 'n' go convenience.) The deli counter also offers greater selection, including more low-sodium picks, and you buy only what you need-no more tossing expired sandwich fixings.

4. Packaged Goods

Go generic. When it comes to one-ingredient items such as canned beans, rice. oatmeal and dried spices, there's virtually no difference in taste between generic and brand-name options. But don't be afraid to experiment with generic versions of multiple-ingredient foods such as cereal and pasta sauce, too: If you don't like something as much as your favorite name brand, ask the store to refund your money; most will if you have a receipt and the original packaging.

5. Freezer Items

Frozen isn't always frugal. Compare prices per ounce (whether for Arctic char or zucchini) to see if frozen or fresh is cheapest. A store sale on fresh seafood can trump the frozen price. Likewise, in-season produce usually costs less than its icy counterpart. If you're worried about fresh-food spoilage, spend the money for frozen-better to shell out an additional 50 cents now than to throw away $3 in rotting food later. Smoothie cravings may come and go, but the berries in your freezer will be good all winter.

See more: The Healthiest Cities for Women


Biggest Money Wasters:

1. Microwave Popcorn

Boxes of nukable corn are almost 25 cents more per ounce than loose kernels.

Super Saver Solution:
Drop 2 tbsp kernels into a paper lunch bag (makes 2 to 3 cups popped), fold over the top and microwave two to three minutes, or until the popping stops.

2. Nonstick Cooking Spray

Name-brand sprays can be found for $3.29 and generic for $2.49. A no-name bottle of heart-healthy canola oil, on the other hand, is $5.59 for 48 oz. That's nearly 30 cents less per ounce.

Super Saver Solution:
Create your own nonstick spray by filling a stainless steel or glass spray bottle with bargain canola or olive oil. We like the Misto Gourmet Olive Oil Sprayer ($10; BedBathAndBeyond.com). It will set you back a few bucks initially, but you'll net more in the long run.

See More: 5 Ways to Banish Post-Holiday Bloating


3. Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
A bottle of vinaigrette costs about $3.69 for 8 ounces, or 46 cents per ounce. But a DIY dressing made with bulk red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil comes out to 24 cents per ounce.

Super Saver Solution:
A little Dijon helps bind oil and vinegar and adds a tangy zip to homemade dressing. In a jar, combine 1 tbsp mustard with 2 tbsp vinegar, 1 tbsp oil, 1/3 tbsp chicken or vegetable broth (optional) and a pinch each salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover, shake, and voilà! Tasty dressing for two.

4. Cookies, Chips, Soda...

Snack food and soda add a hefty sum to your bill-and empty calories to your diet.

Super Saver Solution:
Limit yourself to one temptation per trip. Buy the fun-size candy, but skip the chips and salsa, saving yourself $2 and who knows how many extra calories. Now that's a sweet deal!

More from SELF:

20 Superfoods for Weight Loss
Yoga Moves for Flat Abs
38 Antiaging Foods
Gwyneth Paltrow's Arm and Ab Workout

Financially Fit Feedback:Take our Survey »

Follow Shine

POLL

What extra baking essentials do you purchase?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options

PICK OF THE DAY

  • Bad financial habits to ditch in 2013
    Bad financial habits to ditch in 2013

    Don’t let these bad financial habits keep you from your long-term spending goals. Identify your weaknesses and start remedying them. …