With these 10 tips, you’ll know how to grocery shop on a budget. You’ll be on your way to building your traditional foods kitchen, eating healthier, and saving money.

Mary Shrader talking with the hosts of Spectrum News Austin about buying groceries on a budget.

Update: I talked about these Grocery Shopping on a Budget tips and my new book, The Modern Pioneer Cookbook, on Spectrum Morning News Austin on Thursday, June 8, 2023.

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1. Make an Inventory

Before you even go to the grocery store, make an inventory of what you have. Once you know what’s in your pantry, you can fill in the gaps by making a list of what you need, and you won’t overbuy the foods you already have. (You can download a free pantry inventory list with my Top 15 Foods to Stock Up on Now for Your Prepper Pantry video and blog post.)

Bonus: Remember to always store your food using a first-in-first-out system so that you use food when it is at its peak and you limit waste.

Sign with words: Clearance! Clearance! Clearance!

2. Check the Clearance Section

When you first go into your grocery store, check the clearance end caps or aisle. Search for products you know you can use and get them at a discount. Also, be alert to discount stickers on perishable foods in the refrigerated areas that may be near the end of their best-used-by date.

Bonus: Don’t worry if the outer packaging of your clearance food item is a little beat up. Just check to make sure the inner food container is still sealed, and the packaging indicates the item is still within its best-used-by date. (Note that canned foods are an exception. Avoid cans that may be dented, smashed, or swollen.)

DeCecco Rigatoni Pasta Smashed Box on Clearance with price $1.26

3. Buy Real Foods

Buy real foods as close as possible to their whole form. Purchasing a whole chicken is the perfect example of a real food that will provide you with many nutritious meals.

For example, purchase a whole chicken instead of boneless skinless chicken breasts. Roast your whole chicken with inexpensive vegetables, such as onions, carrots, and potatoes. Save your onion skins and carrot peels.

Roast Chicken

After you’ve served your roast chicken, save any leftovers. Use the chicken carcass, onion skins, and carrot peelings to make chicken bone broth. Use the remaining bits of chicken meat with your chicken bone broth and additional inexpensive vegetables to make chicken soup.

Bonus: Other foods to purchase in their whole form include all fruits and vegetables. Do not buy these foods already peeled or cut up. Not only do these prepared foods have a shorter shelf life, but they are also considerably more expensive.

4. Don’t Stress Over Organic

Do not stress over buying only organic produce. Instead, purchase real foods that are in your budget.

Bonus: If you are overly concerned about pesticides, focus on fresh produce that is often touted as the Clean 15, which are not organic but have less pesticides used on them.

USDA Organic symbol in a circle tag.

5. Shop for Meal Extenders

Fill your pantry with meal extenders, which are foods you can use to extend other foods to increase the number of servings you can make for your dinner table. Meal extenders include:

  • Beans (Dried and canned)
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms (Dried and canned)
  • Rolled Oats (Old-fashioned)
  • Pasta
  • Rice
Cup of Rice

For example, you can easily extend ground beef by mixing it with cooked and mashed beans or lentils, cooked and pureed mushrooms, or ground old-fashioned rolled oats.

Pasta, especially when it is made from durham semolina flour (which most pasta is), can make a nourishing and filling meal for pennies. You can also use pasta as a vehicle to introduce a host of vegetables that you mix into the pasta’s tomato sauce for added nutrition.

Bonus: You can increase the nutrition of rice for very little money by using your homemade chicken bone broth in place of water when cooking the rice. Plus, white rice is inexpensive, stores well, and is filling, so you can stock up on it when the price is right.

Low Sugar Granola in Bowl

6. Make More Food Homemade

Limit the amount of prepared or packaged food you buy and instead make as much food as you can homemade. As a result, you will save money, and your homemade options will be more nutritious.

Bonus: For example, prepackaged granola and granola bars have become quite costly. However, if you buy old-fashioned rolled oats, you can easily make your own granola and granola bars for less, and since you’re making them homemade, you can limit how much sweetener you add. (Check out my recipe for Sugar Free Granola.)

7. Search for Store Brands

Do not be brand loyal when shopping for canned and jarred foods. Most store brands today are high quality, and they are typically cheaper than name-brand products.

Bonus: Try the store brands of your favorite foods at least once in place of buying name-brand products. You’ll typically be pleasantly surprised.

8. Think Twice About Coupons

Only use coupons for things you really need, and be sure to compare prices by the ounce to see what is the best buy: the store brand or the name brand with a coupon.

Bonus: If you have a mobile phone, check to see if your grocery store has an app that will let you browse sales and clip coupons. Some mobile apps will also let you browse the sale flyers of multiple grocery stores, helping you plan your purchases in advance.

9. Let Sale Foods Create Your Meal Plan

Do not be tied to a premade meal plan you take to the grocery store. Instead, shop with an eye for what foods are on sale and in season. In-season foods will be less expensive. Then buy those foods and plan your meals around them once you are home.

Bonus: Sticking to your grocery list will generally save you money over impulse buying foods that catch your eye as you traverse the aisles. However, if you see a sale on foods that you and your family eat, be nimble enough to recognize that you’re making a wise and not an impulsive choice.

10. Buy in Bulk

When your budget allows, buy items you use regularly in bulk or by the case. Buying in bulk means more than just a sizeable prepackaged quantity of an item. It also means buying more of an item you’ll use when it’s on sale.

Bonus: Buying in bulk is typically cheaper than smaller portions of the product, but not always. For example, use your mobile phone’s calculator to make sure the price per ounce of a big bag of beans is really lower than the price per ounce of a smaller bag. Also, check to make sure that buying a wrapped set of six cans is cheaper than buying six individual cans of the product.

Download Your Free 36-Page Pantry List

For an extensive list of the traditional foods you can make and purchase to stock your pantry, be sure to download my free 36-page Traditional Foods Pantry List. This comprehensive eBook is full of links to recipe videos, helpful articles, and more!

And if you’re looking for a printed book full of my traditional foods recipes that shows you how to create a traditional foods kitchen, be sure to preorder your copy of my new book, The Modern Pioneer Cookbook.

Order YOUR COPY Now!

The Modern Pioneer Cookbook

Seasonal ingredients, traditional techniques, and nourishing recipes. Over 85 traditional, from-scratch recipes! Discover for yourself how you can use simple ingredients and traditional techniques to cook the modern pioneer way.

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