4 Simple Tips to Help You Shop Smart and Save

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Written By: Nadia Lopez, Dietetic Intern for N.C. Cooperative Extension of Lee County

Grocery shopping is a necessary and often expensive checkbox on our to-do lists. In our busy lives, many of us look for ways to save time and money. Deals are often hard to find. One store has a sale on meat and another on canned goods. Sometimes you forget your coupon at home. I’ve definitely been there. Finding ways to save money can start to feel like a part-time job. Below (and in this video) I share tips that may help you shop smart, saving time and money.

Tip #1: What’s in your pantry?

Our first tip is a great start and the easiest. Before going to the store, check what you have at home. The suggestion seems obvious, and it is. Yet, I still find myself in the store thinking, “do I have a jar of salsa?” because I forgot to check. Checking before we shop can help save us time and keep us from grabbing things we do not need. Planning meals using items you already have can also help save money. A can of beans and some frozen corn can become a tasty taco salad or a savory vegetable soup. Often, we have a few items already that can start a delicious lunch or dinner meal. Use this tip by itself or pair it with the next one.

Tip #2: Preparation is key

Meal planning is one way to meet our nutritional needs while saving money and time. Be it a meal for one or seven – cooking takes time. Consider how much time you want to spend cooking. Sticking with two to three different meals can help simplify your week and allow you to buy in bulk. It is okay if you are not a leftover person. Using recipes with the same ingredients can help shake up your menu with something different to eat every day. Breaking up two pounds of lean turkey over the week, you can make burgers, tacos, and spaghetti. Simple recipes that are easy to make or hands-free can help save time in the kitchen. Keep a list of your favorite easy meals for those extra busy times. Check your pantry and make a shopping list from there. Keep in mind a good meal plan fits your family’s needs. And try not to forget your list on the way to the store!

Tip #3: Keep it simple, buy what you eat

Buying the same foods can help us budget through the month. They can simplify our cooking process and can also get boring. Changing up the seasoning or trying a new sauce can help you reinvent some of your go-to items. Trying different foods can be costly and leave us hungry. One way to add these foods with less waste is to incorporate them into meals you already enjoy. Making tacos? Try some with black beans instead of your normal protein. Simple swaps or additions can help add variety and allow you to try new things.

Tip #4: To pick up or not to pick up?

Grocery pickup can help you save time and stay on budget. For anyone who has not used this service, here are some insights. You know how much you will spend before you checkout. You also chose the time that works best for you. One negative is some items may be out of stock, and you will have to go to a store anyways if you need them. Also, not all stores will allow you to use benefits, gift cards, or coupons with the pick-up option.

The goal of the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 919-775-5624.