Couponing and other frugal food shopping tips

Want to save money on your grocery bill? Try these savvy shopping tips. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Trying to eat healthier and save money by preparing more meals at home? That's a smart move. Of course, you can still spend big at the supermarket. But by using coupons and other frugal food shopping tips, you can cut your grocery bill — and still eat healthy.

Skeptical? Don't be. You can find plenty of resources to help you become a frugal food shopper while still paying attention to nutrition. For instance, the Department of Agriculture has created a "thrifty plan" for feeding a family of four — two adults plus two children between the ages of 6 and 11 — that meets the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and costs only $135 a week.

You say you're not the frugal type? Try easing into it with a few of the frugal food shopping tips below. You may discover that being frugal isn't so tough — and can even be tasty.

Before you leave home

Frugal food shopping starts before you hit the supermarket. Take some time at home to review your staples and make a game plan:

  • Clip coupons. If you aren't using coupons for items you regularly buy, you're missing out on savings. Check the fliers that come in the mail or with your newspaper — and check online, too.
  • Sign up. Shopper cards, also called bonus cards, are the surest way to save at most grocery chains. Sign up at the supermarkets that you frequent.
  • Join the club. Discount clubs can save you money on bulk items. If you can't use up the big quantities, consider splitting them — and the cost — with extended family or friends.
  • Plan ahead. Make a menu plan for the week and then make a list of the groceries you'll need. Having a list helps you avoid expensive impulse purchases, as well as the frustration of getting home with groceries, but with no plan for using them.
  • Change the focus. Dial back on the meat. Try one or two meatless dinners a week. Build the meal around vegetables, beans and grains — they're cheaper, lower in fat and higher in fiber than meat is. Use them to make filling soups, stews and casseroles.
  • Check the pantry. Use up your supplies rather than letting them gather dust. Use canned beans and tomatoes to make chili or whip up a fruit salad from a couple of cans of fruit.
  • Invest time to save money. Making time for some prep work in the kitchen can mean big savings. Consider this example: Pre-cut broccoli florets are twice as expensive per pound as whole broccoli.
Aug. 13, 2011 See more In-depth