I grew up in a very small town with only one grocery store. Pricing wasn’t negotiable, options were standard and variety just wasn’t an option. You can imagine how excited I was to move to a place like Washington D.C. where there is grocery store around every corner.
With options like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's within just a few miles, it’s pretty easy for me to find healthy groceries. What isn’t easy is saving money while shopping at these stores. I adore Whole Foods and will shop there as often as I can, but it does do a number on my wallet. Here are a few basic tips on how to shop for healthy food on a budget:
At Whole Foods
Check out the online coupons/deals newsletter. The newsletter is usually right outside the door at Whole Foods and has a handful of coupons to use in Whole Foods only. My favorite coupons are the ones for protein bars.
Buy only what you need. The bulk isle in Whole Foods is stocked with snacks, grains and nuts. It’s also beneficial to get your meat and cheeses from the deli. When you only buy what you need, you’re bound to save.
At Trader Joe's
Buy the biggest items. What do I mean by this? I have found that some of the cheapest items in TJ’s are the items in large packages. Their cereal, tortilla chips and olive oils are great examples.
Shop for your produce elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love TJ's, but I’m not a huge fan of their produce. It may seem like a good deal, but I prefer buying at my local farmers market. However, their bananas are very cheap and usually really fresh.
At Sam's Club
Buy your produce here! I am so surprised and happy with the produce selection at our Sam's Club. I went this past weekend and stocked up. I was able to get a bin of spinach for $4 that’s three times the size and the same price as the ones at our normal grocery stores. Their organic selection includes spinach, spring mix, celery and carrots.
It’s ok to buy in bulk. Most of the time I think it’s crazy to buy your groceries in bulk, but if you find yourself eating the same thing all the time, it might make sense. For example, I love mozzarella cheese and it’s usually $6 for one ball at a regular grocery store. I got four times that amount for $4 at Sams Club. Buy foods you know you will eat fast or that store safely for a long time.
Share with your friends. If you do think you are buying more than you need, just buy the item and share it with your friends.
At the “regular grocery stores” i.e. Giant, Safeway, Shoppers
Use coupons. Couponing is huge right now. You've watched this, right? I’m the first to admit, it’s a little insane to watch the shows and try to wrap my head around a stockpile of cereal and mustard, but it works. It works to whatever level you are willing to commit to. Try it. I did, and saved almost $60. You can read about it here. There are coupons out there for healthy food. If you can’t find them in the paper, just start searching for them online.
Over time, you will find that certain stores have certain items at better prices. Sometimes it is a little exhausting having all of these options, but the effort does help you save.
Last but not least, one of my favorite ways to save and buy the healthiest food around, is to shop at the farmers market. Farmers markets are starting up all over the county and are stocked full of fresh local produce. The vendors are always extremely friendly, knowledgeable and much more likely to negotiate a price than a standard grocery store. Don’t be afraid to spark up a conversation that might lead to a weekly relationship and potential deals.