Money makeover: 20 ways to slash your grocery store spending

Perhaps it's the Yankee in me--relatives who will remain unnamed have been known to pick up nickels off restaurant floors--but I was born a thrifty girl. So when the economy tanked and belts were tightened, I was already in the habit of living close to the bone. Only now I had to find new ways to cut costs that still jived with my desire to lead a life filled with daily pleasures. But cutting back at the grocery store doesn't have to mean giving up your bon vivant mantle, just a little reimagining of the way we spend, shop, and eat. Here, bloggers and smart ladies like you share some ideas.

  1. I've found that getting handy with baking has been a huge money-saver in our household. Homemade bread for roughly 50 cents a loaf is awesome. So are fresh batches of zucchini bread, applesauce muffins, and bar cookies. --Kristina
  2. [One of my biggest tricks is] Planning my menus for the entire week. When I plan ahead I can take into consideration what I have in my pantry - or what few ingredients I can use for several meals (got a big bunch of arugula? have arugula salad one night, pasta with arugula pesto another and the last goes into a frittata). When I was living by myself I was definitely able to live this way on only $25 a week. --Christine
  3. Make and freeze! Tomatoes on sale? Make a huge batch of spaghetti sauce and freeze in a few tupperwares. Same goes for corn, lima beans, etc- blanch and freeze! --Sara Rose
  4. Discovering the versatility of beans. This week we've had red beans and rice, arepas stuffed with beans and huevos rancheros, all from one batch of dried beans. I think the rest need to go in the freezer, though, or my family is going to protest! --Kim Walker
  5. Using my two hands is key. My housemate is always shocked that I spend so little on food and eat so well. But then I break it down: mostly local and seasonal, mostly fruits and vegetables, and I do almost all the chopping and stirring. I eat tomatoes in summer, and a lot of sweet potatoes in the winter.--Maria
  6. Life without coffee is hardly living. So buy cheap coffee. I have three words and one contraction for you: Chock Full o' Nuts. I know, you don't believe it's good. I didn't either. But it is! Pinky swear.
  7. Try to buy foods in reusable containers. Like peanut butter, for example. Then when I'm reaching for a plastic baggie for that half a lemon, I can stop myself and put it in a jar instead. "Free" is even better than "cheap."--Kristina
  8. Planning several meals around one cut of meat-roast the chicken, then use the rest to make a stir fry, some chicken salad, and soup; pork roast one night, over rice later in the week. We have a family of four and we can get 2 full dinners, several lunches, and soup/stock off an $8 oven roaster. --Fran
  9. The #1 way we've cut our grocery bill is by becoming pescetarians. We made the decision that we'd rather go without meat/poultry than eat factory farmed meat, and I've noticed a GIGANTIC difference in our grocery bill. --Erika
  10. One of my favorite Gertrude Stein quotes is "Loving repeating is one way of being," and it has become a motto for our lifestyle in a lot of ways - we live more economically and more ethically by eating a lot of what is seasonal. --Megan
  11. Use real towels instead of paper towel for spills, and it will amaze you how infrequently you will have to buy those staple items. Another way of thinking about it: instead of wasting a baggie to save half an onion, half a pepper, etc., just use the whole vegetable in a recipe, and save the leftovers!
  12. Stock Bag! In the freezer I keep a plastic bag. Whenever I chop onion, carrots, and the like, I always have odds n' ends left over. I save those bits and pieces and put them in the stock bag. When I roast some chicken thighs, I take the meat off the bone and then stick the bones in the stock bag, too. Once the bag is full (every two or three weeks), I dump all of it in a pot of water and simmer it and strain the broth after a few hours. Free chicken stock! --Amy C
  13. Make friends with the humble vegetables. Depending where you live and what season it is, there are always stalwarts of the vegetable department that reside in the bargain bins. Onions, cabbage, fresh corn on the cob and green beans, for example, are cheap, cheap, cheap. Try recipes that make them the stars, like braised onions and cabbage over pasta, a caramelized onion soup, or a succotash of corn and green beans.
  14. The bulk section is my biggest hint-organic whole wheat flour for 69 cents/lb? Spices/nuts/dried fruits/grains/beans/lentils…it's all here, fresher and cheaper than in packaging. --Emmalinda
  15. I learned to shop from my Dad, and he always shopped coupons. Every Sunday afternoon he would pick up a flyer from the grocery store, pull out the inserts from newspapers, and collect receipts from the week. Then he would plan out the week ahead with my Mom and buy accordingly. --Betsy Peggy
  16. As a single person, I've noticed that it's easier on my budget when I go to the store just to get what I need. It seems that when I try to buy for the entire week at once, things end up going bad or going unused. The less I waste, the more I save! --Kasey
  17. Avoid "snacks." Anything that comes in a box, a bag, wrapped in plastic, or in individual packets is more expensive than a banana or a large bag of popcorn.
  18. I have a great pantry that I work to always keep stocked. It is filled with great buys when things are on sale. Some weeks I just refuse to go to the store and make myself prepare meals from the freezer and pantry. Period! It is a great feeling to make a wonderful meal from items purchased on sale! --Diane Carol
  19. I always used to go crazy for produce, buying a weeks supply at one time and forgetting about half of it until it went bad. Now, if I am making a salad with dinner, I get it that day. I buy only a few days worth of fruit at a time and we eat what is there. Too many choices usually means too much waste. --Serafina
  20. When I was living in my apartment I always went to the farmers market on Saturday afternoons. Right before the vendors are ready to pack up they offer AMAZING deals on their remaining food. Being thrifty + supporting local farmers = happiness. --Elisha Lynn
Now it's time for you to weigh-in. Add your tried-and-true grocery store savings tips in the comments.

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