There is nothing at all wrong with clipping coupons. In fact, I used to be one of those mega-deal couponers. I would make it my goal to save money grocery shopping, and get everything for at least 50% off of the normal price.
Things changed a little when we got away from processed foods. There are still coupons out there for produce and natural foods, but they are much harder to find. If I buy a Sunday paper, I will often not find any coupons that our family will use. There are a few coupon sites out there (like mambosprouts.com) that cater to the natural/organic food crowd, but it still takes much more time to find even one or two coupons I will end up using.
If you have ever tried to find “deals” on healthy food and concluded that healthy shopping is just too expensive or takes too much time, this is the post for you! I want to share how I have streamlined my shopping to save money without searching for paper or printable coupons, AND without shopping multiple stores.
This step-by-step process can help you save on healthy food, fast!
How to Save Money Grocery Shopping for Healthy Whole Foods (the quick and easy way!)
Choosing your store
- If possible, pick a store that offers store-brand organic and natural foods. Meijer, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi are all stores that have store brand organics. You may have to do a little searching in your area. Often, store-brand organics are regularly priced the same as name-brand conventional (non-organic) items, or even less!
- Bulk bins can also save you money. If your store has bulk bins, head into the store and compare prices (or see if you can find prices online).
- Often bulk foods are cheaper than packaged, but sometimes there are items that are actually higher. Make sure to check which ones are a good deal at your store.
- It could even be worth stopping at a bulk food store for some items, in addition to your regular store, if the prices are much lower.
- Consider curbside pickup.
- Whether you plan to go in the store to actually shop, or use curbside pickup, get online and browse while you make your list (if your store offers this option). This way, you can search and compare the EXACT prices. This makes it so easy to see the sales, and choose the best price per ounce.
- I like to utilize curbside pick up (even though there is a small fee at my store), because it saves time, AND ensures that I don’t buy anything that’s not on my list.
Making your list
- Start with the sales flyer! Go through the sales flyer, page by page, and pick out the best sales on healthy items you already need. You’ll save the most if you can build your meals for the week around what’s on sale.
- I like to have the sales flyer open in one browser tab, and my online ordering page in another.
- Go ahead and add these sale items to your list. Sub out items that you were planning to buy for items that are on sale (example, if I am planning to buy apples, I might buy some pears instead if they are on a great sale).
- Buy enough to last until the next time each item is on sale (or as much as you will use before they go bad).
- Most stores have the same items on sale again in about 3-4 weeks, so if you find a great price, buy enough to last!
- If it is an item you need to use more quickly, just buy what you will use. Consider freezing or canning fruits and veggies if you find a great stock-up price.
- Shop the Clean 15 items for produce when possible. These are the 15 produce items determined to have the least amount of pesticide and chemical residue, so you are safe to buy conventional rather than organic. (See the list here).
- Note: I’m going to be honest with you. We don’t buy a ton of organic items due to cost. I stick to the clean 15 items for produce when I can, and wash and dry all produce well when I get it home. We do shop organic for milk (when we buy it), half and half, and eggs, plus all items that are typically GMO (soy, corn, sugar, zucchini, and yellow squash). I also buy organic if it is close in price to the conventional version.
- If we could afford to buy organic meat all the time, I would consider that the next most important. We have ordered organic grass-fed beef from a farm in the past, but do not buy it this way all the time.
- Compare prices by weight. A price diary is one way to keep track of the best prices you have found. You can download a free printable grocery price diary here!
- I like to keep a target price for each type of item I purchase. For fruits and veggies, I shoot for $1/lb or less, and buy whatever I can find for that price, then plan my meals around those items. I also buy berries occasionally, which are more expensive, but they are not our main source of fruit.
- For meats, I buy under $2/lb., except for the occasional roast, which I try to buy under $3/lb. Again, this will vary by region, but if you keep a price log for a little while, you will see what the rock-bottom prices are in your area.
- Quickly check for digital coupons if your store offers them. If you’re already on your store’s website making your list, check to see if they offer digital coupons on any of the items you are purchasing. It takes just one click to “clip” them, and they are automatically loaded to your store savings card (or sometimes to an account using your phone number), no printing required.
Those are my favorite tips for buying healthy groceries on a budget! It does not have to be expensive to eat healthy, whole foods and stay away from processed foods.
Let me know in the comments – what are your favorite tips?
P.S. If you are into cooking real foods, and want to pass these skills on to your kids, check out the course by Katie of Kitchen Stewardship below! My kids are taking the course and we all LOVE it.