Believe it or not, you can save up to thousands of euros annually if you follow these tricks to save money on groceries. In 2009 Anna Newell Jones was over 20,000 euro in debt. Instead of just cutting back her spending, she decided to stop spending as much as possible on things she didn’t truly need, a pattern that she turned into her trademarked Spending Fast.
The trickiest areas to cut back, she found, tended to be groceries and clothing.
“Realizing that groceries were one of the few precious Needs-Only items I allowed myself to spend money on, I wanted to stretch every penny and shop as smartly as possible,” writes Newell Jones in her upcoming book, “The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living.”
Tricks to Save Money on Groceries
Pick food that is nonperishable or freezes well to avoid ’empty-pantry syndrome’
Empty-pantry syndrome occurs when you have no staples at hand, so you resort to calling your local takeout joint, writes Newell Jones.
To avoid “empty pantry syndrome,” stock up on canned goods, nuts, rice, flour, peanut butter, oats, beans, noodles, and the like. These foods last, and you’ll be able to make a number of dishes with them.
Perfect a few go-to recipes
Keep them simple and delicious, and make a lot of them. Freeze or package leftovers in single-serve containers for the next day’s lunch so you don’t come across “empty-pantry syndrome” or Newell Jones’ other ailment: “I was running late so I couldn’t pack my lunch disease.”
If you’re looking for affordable, delicious recipes, try Leanne Brown’s free book, “Good and Cheap: Eat Well on 4€ a Day.”
Do the ‘fake-out’
Buy your name-brand coffee, cereal, or whatever the first time — but follow up with the generic version on your next trip. You probably won’t be able to tell the difference, writes Newell Jones.
It’s healthy and filling, you can make it a million different ways, and it’s dirt cheap, Newell Jones says.
Buy special ingredients at ethnic markets
They will likely be significantly less expensive than at your local grocery store.
Consider becoming a ‘secret shopper’
Companies hire people to visit their stores, pretend to be an average customer, and report back on the service and overall experience. Sometimes you might be reimbursed for a purchase or even receive free groceries.
Newell Jones writes of secret shopping, and another form of that is mystery shopping: For 10€, you can get certified as a mystery shopper through MSPA North America, which will get you access to available job listings. Read one woman’s account of being a mystery shopper — she made 14,000€ in a year.
Shop at the local dollar store
Newell Jones suggests getting cheap snacks and cereals at the dollar store. She cautions that it’s only advisable if the dollar store isn’t a spending-binge trigger for you.
Avoid recipes that call for unusual ingredients
Unless you are absolutely sure you’ll use them several times, avoid recipe-specific ingredients. They’re not worth spending the extra money, writes Newell Jones.
Resist the temptation to stock up on supplies you don’t need
Buying in bulk might seem like a great idea, and probably would be cheaper in the long run. But there’s a difference between having staples and blatantly overbuying, and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two, writes Newell Jones.
Ask for gift cards
Birthdays and holidays are the perfect opportunity to ask for gift cards for the grocery store.
Shop locally and in season
As a basic rule of supply and demand, it’s cheaper to buy foods when they are in season because there’s an abundance of supply. Plus, buying locally supports the local economy.
One way to do this is to buy a community-sponsored agriculture (CSA) share, which allows farmers to share their produce with the public. If your community offers one, you may be able to receive produce on a weekly basis in return for a fee.
Skip most organic foods
Not all groceries need to be organic if you’re worried about your health, according to Newell Jones. Stick to organic for the fruits and veggies known as the “Dirty Dozen,” which are determined by the “Environmental Working Group’s Pesticides in Produce“ report to contain the highest levels of pesticide residues.
They are apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, nectarines (imported), peaches, potatoes, snap peas (imported), spinach, strawberries, and sweet bell peppers.
The “Clean 15” are the fruits and veggies not as high in pesticides, or those that have inedible peels that limit your exposure to pesticides. Buy cheaper, conventional versions of asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, onions, papayas, pineapple, sweet corn, sweet peas (frozen), and sweet potatoes.