I rely pretty heavily on sales and special pricing when grocery shopping - I typically plan my meals for the week based on what ingredients are on sale. This is especially true for meat, which often goes on “manager special” when it’s close to its use by date. While yes, you have to cook the food more quickly, you can always freeze your cooked meat (or even entire meals) for future use.
2. Take Advantage of Rewards Programs
Most grocery stores offer some kind of rewards program - Safeway has their Just For You program, QFC/Fred Meyer offers their club card, and even co-op stores like PCC offer exclusive discounts for members. My personal favorite is Safeway's Just For You program, as it gives me lower pricing on the items I buy most, which includes a lot of healthy veggies! Taking advantage of grocery memberships is an easy way to buy higher quality/less processed foods without breaking the bank.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Grocery Store Hop
This is the #1 way I manage to buy whole, healthy foods without going over budget. Even though it can be a pain to shop at 2-4 different stores, it’s worth it for the savings. Different grocery stores have different sales, specials, and keep other items in stock. For example, I’ve found it’s a lot more cost-effective for me to buy my gluten-free flours at Whole Foods, but other items are much cheaper at Safeway. Don’t be afraid to shop at multiple stores in order to get the best deals on the healthy food you need. This includes online shopping too - Amazon is a great way to save money on bulk goods like Collagen Powder (I like the Great Lakes brand), bulk herbs, sugar alternatives etc.
4. Buy In Season, And Buy Local
Farmers markets are my favorite way to buy fruit and vegetables. Not only are you getting fresher produce than what’s in stock at grocery stores, but often it can be less expensive (plus you’re supporting local businesses). I’ve found this to be especially true for leafy greens like lettuce, cabbage, spinach, and arugula. I can often get a better deal (and MUCH fresher produce) by stocking up at my local farmers market. Even if you prefer to shop at a grocery store, purchasing fruits and veggies that are in-season are usually less expensive, and allows you to both cut costs and make sure that you’re getting the freshest food possible.
If you like companies that ship seasonal produce directly to you, check out your local farms - a lot of farms in the Seattle area offer weekly delivery boxes of fresh, local produce.
5. Look for Alternative Protein Sources
If you eat meat, you know that meal planning with meat protein can get expensive very quickly. Try substituting meat with some alternative protein sources for 2-3 meals per week - it’s a little change that can really help your budget. Some of my favorite alternative protein sources include beans and lentils, nuts/nut butter, and chickpeas. I also put protein powder in my smoothies a few times a week, the convenience aspect of protein powder makes it an easy way to get your protein on the go!
6. Minimize Food Waste with Meal Planning/Prep
Before I started meal prepping, I didn’t realize just how much of the food in our house was wasted. When you don’t have meals planned ahead, it’s easy to purchase produce that goes bad before you can use it, and every ounce of food that’s thrown out is basically money that you’re throwing away. I use Sundays as my meal prep day, and I batch cook all the meat/veggies that I want to eat for the week. If I make too much food, then I just stick it in the freezer and voila, I have less to cook next time. By meal prepping, you have a designated time and day to eat each meal, so less food is wasted - and your budget will thank you!