Make the Most of Your Grocery Budget

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Rising prices at the grocery store are a common topic of conversation these days  – especially when it comes to fresh produce. Increased fertilizer and fuel prices have pushed farmers to stretch their resources or reduce the number of crops they grow.

According to our Agriculture Technician, Adam McCurry, “the numbers are down across the board. The higher costs to get plants in the ground and maintain healthy growth have kept farmers from planting what they would normally plant. Farmers deciding to grow anyway are struggling to get markets to pay the price needed for them to break even on what it costs to grow the produce this year. If they can’t get markets to purchase what they’ve grown, there’s a chance of losing those farmers next year because, in their eyes, it won’t be worth it.”

All these factors are impacting what and how much we consume. Healthier diets such as the highly recommended Mediterranean Diet are viewed as too expensive to maintain. One of the main drawbacks is the number of fruit, vegetable, and seafood servings recommended. These are some of the most expensive ingredients currently offered at local grocery stores, but it doesn’t mean you have to cut them out to rescue your budget.

I spent some time today in our local chain grocery store and the grocery outlet store. I took one Mediterranean recipe with several high-dollar items required and shopped for the ingredients at both locations. At the chain store, the total for all required ingredients was $32.14. The grocery outlet was considerably less with a total of $13.46. The largest expenses at both places were chicken and olives but the chicken was the same at both stores – the difference being the expiration date. The $5.49 variation in price simply comes from the sell-by date. The outlet chicken had to be used or frozen within two days, and the chain store chicken had a little over a week. Comparison shopping is just one of the many ways to manage your grocery budget.

tips for shopping on a budget

Helpful tips to eat healthier on a budget:

  • Plan meals for the entire week and scan store ads for items on your menu that are on sale.
  • Utilize pantry staples that you already have, such as pasta, rice, sauces, beans, etc.
  • Avoid being drawn to sales or store specials that aren’t on your shopping list. You’ll buy things you hadn’t planned to use, and you’ll buy more of them simply because it’s on sale.
  • Shop at local produce stands: many times the produce is grown by the owner and will be sold cheaper than it would be at grocery stores
  • Incorporate canned or frozen fish
  • Check for weekly sales on fresh proteins – especially chicken, turkey, and fish. The price increases aren’t as significant on poultry and fish as they are on beef.
  • Buy whole grain products in bulk and portion them out Use dried herbs and spices in place of fresh.