Stretch Your Paycheck at the Grocery Store

I don't know about you guys, but my grocery store trips have become a gut-wrenching, calculator-carrying, wallet-emptying experience. Earlier last year, I gave some tips and strategies I use to save a few bucks at the register, but it seems those have even become dulled in the face of inflation and continued supply chain issues. So, I thought it might be time to take a different look at how to save on your groceries in 2022.

So, this post will take a new look at how to save some money while stocking your kitchen with healthy essentials. Maybe even allow for some cheat snacks. Let's save some money!


Meat Free Monday. Flesh Free Friday.

Whatever you want to call it, this is something I left out of my last post. While I plan out my meals for all protein options each week, I also leave a couple of holes in the protein consumption. What does that mean? Well, it means we have a couple of meals a week that do not have a main animal protein source.

Ok, calm down a second. I know that if there isn't a honking piece of some sort of roast beast on your plate in the western world, can you even call it a meal? Yes, yes, you can. American meat consumption, for example, has been top of the charts for years. Why, just this week, I've spent a lot of time with the owners of my full-time job from Belgium. Belgium ranks down 55 spots below us here in the US. While we throw down 266lbs per person annually, Belgians only take down 119lbs per person. My boss commented that everything here is such an insane serving size as compared to what they're used to.

Not knocking the good old US of A, just stating the facts. We're a meat-hungry nation, and the prices in stores and restaurants reflect that in a big way. Beef is definitely at a premium, and more and more, I'm convinced that being an adult is putting back a pack of chicken that is $8.44 because you spot one that is $8.04.

The easiest way to avoid this pricey purchase in the grocery store is not to purchase it. If you're worried about your protein intake, don't. Instead, grab some whey isolate (or pea protein isolate) in your favorite flavor and have yourself some shakes. On meatless days, I'll down up to 4 scoops of the stuff to get my needs in for lifting and maintaining mass. The BEST part about meatless dinner in our house? It's usually pasta night! I make a mean homemade marinara and homemade alfredo sauce. If you're curious about meatless recipes, well... this used to be the Vegan Pauper. Just click those recipe links above for serving and price breakdowns!


Take Stock of Your Pantry

This may seem like a no-brainer, but when was the last time you actually inventoried what you had in your kitchen? I'm a terrible spice buyer. So far, I've started my own ground cumin collection, as well as a smoked paprika family. Buying something you already have can be seen as stocking up, but it's just eating into your bank account on a budget.

Before you head out on your next big trip, make a list and go through your kitchen so that you know what you have. I have posted my existing list on the side of my fridge so that I can 86 something when I run out. It just so happens, I used up my last cayenne pepper this morning. Time to get more this weekend!


Buy Whole. Save Dough.

I know that I'll fall victim to the brightly colored and oh-so-organized cups of pre-chopped fruits and veggies on busy weekends. Grabbing a bag of parboiled rice, or a container of shredded rotisserie chicken is a breeze. However, it digs into any savings you might have been able to scrounge on for the rest of your trip.

That's because you're paying the person in the store who cut up those fruits, veggies, and meat. In the case of cheese, you're paying the factory extra for that finely shredded cheese because a machine had to run to create it. Therefore, the more something is touched before it gets to you, the more expensive it's going to be across that scanner. Learn your way around your knives and cutting boards for meal prep. Your wallet is going to thank you.

PRO TIP: The one prepared food that doesn't fall into this category is the whole rotisserie chicken. You can get one of those, fresh or chilled, for cheaper than you can prepare at home.


Go it Alone.

I love spending time with my family. They're literally my favorite people. However, shopping time is the me-time I crave. Not because I want to sneak and get little treats that the wife doesn't really approve of (alright, it is a little). It's because they're not there to ask me to pick up this craving or that half-thought-out dinner.

If you planned out your shopping list, and you're at the store alone, then you'll have an exponentially easier time of leaving with exactly what you came for. That being said, make sure that you're properly planning for your upcoming trip with lists, recipe lists, and your kitchen inventory on hand, or at least in your mind. Don't forget the TP!


Try it on a Tuesday.

Who loves going to the grocery store on the weekend where you can't even get down an aisle without waiting? No one that I want to be friends with... You end up rushing, missing things on your list, and just throwing in whatever is convenient so that you can get the heck outta Dodge.

Try this. Plan your grocery trip on your way home from work on a Tuesday or a Thursday (which are common restock days). This way, you're by yourself on your way home, you could take your lunch break to figure out your plan of attack, and grocery stores are more likely to run sales towards the middle of the week to get ready for turnover for the weekend crush.


Look for a Sale!

In our local store, we look for those yellow labels on the items we're getting. It's especially useful for items that have many different brands within the store. Being a marketer, telling you not to be brand loyal hurts me, but we can't afford that these days. If it's on sale, grab that brand that's saving you money even if it might not be "your brand." Yours will be on sale soon enough; just keep looking.

The other thing I tend to look for are things on manager's special. Fair warning, though, these things are at the end of their shelf life and will need to be prepared immediately. Utilizing weekly sales and manager's specials can easily save you hundreds of dollars a month.


Produce of the Future.

Now, I'm not talking about GMOs, new plant technology, or a futuristic strain of your favorite persimmon. I'm talking about ripeness. Often our goal in the produce department is to find the most perfect specimen to take home. Eyeballing onions, bruising perfectly fine avocados, getting handsy with a grapefruit, and thumping on every melon that you come across.

However, the smartest way to shop for fresh fruits and veggies you find on sale is to look for the underripe pieces in the produce bin. This way, they can rest in your chill chest or countertop for much longer. This reduces both food waste as well as wallet waste.


Don't Look too Hard for a Sale...

Okay, I know that I was talking about looking for a sale just a point earlier. Why the flip flop? Well, to put it very simply, you waste money on things you didn't even come to shop for. That's right... when I say to look for items on sale, I mean the items you were already there for. If your brand isn't on sale, I'll bet that another one is.

The trap you're falling into is the one where you see a sale on an item that you want. Then it's as easy as saying, "Man, what a sweet deal!" Then you just spent $X on something you weren't even going to purchase. Even savings are out to sell you something.


I KNEW I was Forgetting Something!

Yeah, we've all been there. We get home, and for some reason, the first person to greet us is the one sent to remind us we forgot that one thing that we went for in the first place. For me, that would be my wife. A trip to the end of our neighborhood to our local gas station sounds better than the slog back into town. However, I know that I'll be paying up to triple the cost for the convenience of time.

With this in mind, hitting up your corner store for every now and again items that you may forget or just want to grab on the way home to avoid the rush may not hurt you too much in the long run. However, avoid stopping in for an entire meal or several items. In the end, you wouldn't have even paid that in gas to get back to town.


Rewards. Coupons. Digital Deals.

Nearly every major chain of grocery stores has its own reward program. Save a few cents on items, earn a few cents off on gas, and rack up those points for new coupons and member levels (if applicable). Check with your local store to see if they offer a membership program. By the end of the year, your savings will be very evident at the end of your receipt.


Don't be TOO Loyal.

With the above point made, always switch up where you shop every now and again. Not only will you get introduced to new brands, more exotic produce, and products, you'll also stumble across sales every now and again. Plus, if you're smart, you'll sign up for any digital deals/membership program they offer too. This way, you can see weekly deals for all of the stores in your area and choose where to go to save that dough.


With these methods, I have kept food on my family's table, and sometimes even with minimal grumbling. Skyrocketing prices may have us checking our bank account in the parking lot before we go in, but we'll fight back with a little grocery store know-how. Food is a precious resource that we often take for granted in the western world. Saving a buck is key, but cutting down on overall food waste is vital.

Stay Fit & Stay Frugal, friends!

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