We love Whole Foods and Central Market as much as the next person but doing the bulk of your grocery shopping there can eat up your paycheck. Since C and I are in full swing unemployment (while trying to pay for a wedding…), we’ll need to be careful and creative at the grocery store. We’re no longer living down the street from a Whole Foods and we’ve had to say goodbye to Central Market. Luckily, we don’t have to give up our beloved Trader Joe’s and the local Stop&Shop works just fine (I’m anxious to try Peapod). I’ve come up with a few tips that can help keep your grocery bill in check.
As tempting as it may be to grab that perfect plastic tub of lettuce, you’re going to pay more for less produce. Always try to get the produce that’s un-packaged or in the bulk section. Our Central Market has a large “bulk” produce section which makes veggies more affordable especially when we’re buying lots of spinach for smoothies. Also, Farmer’s Markets!!
The Bulk Section
While I prefer the bulk section at Central Market (they have zip top bags) better than Whole Food’s, it’s a great option for getting what you need on the cheap. You can typically find nuts, dried fruits, grains, flours, granola, chocolate, spices and other items in this section. This is a great option if you’re buying a large quantity of rice or if you need a small quantity of special flour for a recipe (coconut flour, almond flour, pastry flour etc). You get only what you need and don’t have to pay for the expensive packaging. Make sure to browse this section for the items on your like before you hit up the shelves.
I know plenty of people who’d rather purchase the “brand name” product instead of the store brand that can sometimes cost as much as $5 more. If you’re shopping at a “high-end” grocery store, it’s almost always appropriate to choose the store brand. At Whole Foods, the store brand is 365 and I’ve purchased plenty of 365 products without hesitation. Central Market is an HEB brand and their store brand products can also be trusted. If you’re concerned, compare the ingredients on the label. I bet the only thing your extra $5 is going towards is a fancy label.
Buy Only What You Need
This may seem obvious but it can be tricky. C and I try to plan to make three dinners a week. We buy lunch and breakfast food that will get us through the week. C will usually eat leftovers for lunch too, which is great. If we’ve stayed on track, then we’re usually out of dinner options by Thursday. No problem, we can run down the street to the store. But to me, that makes a lot more sense than getting to Saturday and still having a fridge full of food that’s spoiled because we bought way too much. We also keep a selection of freezer options on hand whether it’s an extra package of frozen chicken and sweet potatoes or some sort of microwave meal (not ideal, I know).
If you have one near you, then this section needs no explanation. It’s so dang cheap no matter what you’re buying. C and I have used to make special trips out to Plano when we were living in Dallas, an all-day ordeal when dealing with Saturday traffic. There’s a TJs not to far from us here in CT but they don’t sell wine at the TJs in CT. Major bummer. Still, we can leave with an entire car full of groceries for only $100.