How Nutritionists Are Saving Money on Groceries

Stay within budget without compromising healthy habits.

January 30, 2023

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Photo by: leonori/Getty Images

leonori/Getty Images

Food costs are rising these days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain healthy habits, while prioritizing a budget. We’ve enlisted food and nutrition professionals to share their best tips for saving money on groceries. With a bit of out-of-the-box thinking and flexibility, there are many ways to get food on the table without breaking the bank.

There’s An App for That

Many grocery stores now have apps for online ordering, but you can also use this technology to check sales and unit pricing to find the best deals. “Download the app and look at the front page of the store flyer,” advises Dr. Joan Salge Blake, Nutrition Professor at Boston University and the host of the nutrition and health podcast Spot On! “This is where the supermarket advertises their weekly ‘Loss Leaders.’ Loss leaders are foods on sale at bargain prices. In fact, the prices are often so reduced that the store loses money when you buy them. They are drastically reduced in price to motivate you or ‘lead you’ to visit the store.”

There are also more and more apps popping up that can help in other ways. Many dietitians including Rabiya Bower, MHSc, RDN, LDN and CE Carroll, RD at Stack Your Stacks are using Flashfood. “I’ve been using the Flashfood app to pick up discounted groceries that are close to their sell by date. There are pictures in the app and most items are 50 percent off,” says Bower. “Apps like Flashfood partner with local grocery stores, which share marked down items, foods close to their expiration dates, or overstock,” adds Carroll. “You can order the food right on the app, then pick it up at your store that day at your convenience. By planning your meals around the discounted items, you’ll save a ton on your grocery bill.

Hit the Holiday Clearance Section

CE Carroll also suggests a festive way to save some money. “Grab holiday clearance food. From Halloween to Christmas, Valentine’s to Easter – you can often find foods that are 75 to 90 percent off, simply due to their holiday packaging.” This won’t be the case for all types of food, but savvy shoppers save money where they can. “While you’re probably not going to come across produce or meat this way, you might find great deals on dark chocolate, condiments, coffee and other snacks,” adds Carroll.

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Photo by: Erik Isakson/Getty Images

Erik Isakson/Getty Images

Open Up Your Produce Possibilities

Fresh produce has seen huge spikes in prices but there are steps you can take to eat your fruits and vegetables while saving some cash. “Be flexible with what produce you buy. If you notice that pears are on sale, but your grocery list says apples – grab the pears instead,” suggests Kelsey Stricklen, dietitian at Root Functional Medicine. “The same goes with vegetables. If the head of cauliflower you were planning to roast is $4.99, but broccoli crowns are on sale at $.99 cents each, grab two broccoli crowns instead OR swap out fresh cauliflower for frozen (which tends to be cheaper but is just as healthy!).”

It’s a little-known fact that frozen produce is just as nutritious as fresh. Buying more frozen produce is wise advice from culinary nutritionist and food photographer Sara Haas, RDN, LDN. “Fresh produce is great, but unless that food is in-season, it can be expensive. Frozen produce can be a great, typically less expensive option. And these days, there are so many amazing options in the freezer aisle!”

Take Stock of What You Have

Numerous dietitians suggested checking what you have on hand before heading to the store. Melissa Mitri, MS, RD is a nutrition writer and owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition advises, “Always scan your pantry closely before making your grocery list. If you’re not doing this every week, chances are you’re forgetting many of the items in the back and are buying duplicates unnecessarily.”

Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD also embraces the adventure of discovering what’s already in your kitchen. “Whether it’s our pantry, fridge or freezer, so often we don’t know what we have. Take a few minutes to get things in order and see what’s really in there. You’re practically guaranteed to uncover some hidden gems that can be spun into supper.”

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Photo by: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

Buy In Bulk

Many experts suggest buying in bulk – check your store to see what they offer. “Shop in the bulk section, if your store has one,” suggests Rebecca Clyde MS, RDN, cooking for one expert at Nourish Nutrition Blog. “It’s a great place to get spices for cents instead of $5+, and depending on the store, you can get lots of grains, nuts, baking supplies.”

Buying in bulk is a great money-saving tip, but some may not need bulk amounts nor have the room to store them. Sara Haas suggests shopping with a friend. “…If you bring a friend, you can easily buy in bulk or at least divide up some of your stash. For example, maybe you don’t need the 20-pound bag of frozen salmon fillets, but the cost is much cheaper than a smaller bag. Enter your friend, who takes half the salmon and also pays half.”

Embrace Imperfections

“One creative way to save money on groceries is to buy damaged or discontinued items,” says Kristin Draayer, MS, RDN. “A lot of people don’t know it, but most grocery stores have a section for these items that are sold at a discounted price.” There are also companies dedicated to reducing food waste and repurposing foods, such as Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market.

Buy Meat Mindfully

Fresh meat and poultry are some of the most expensive items in the store but there are ways to be more frugal. “Consider the weight of bones when buying meats by the pound,” says Bridget Swinney MS, RDN, LD Founder and Chief Mama at EatRightMama. “While boneless is more expensive, you will get more edible portions per pound.”

Kelsey Kunik, RD registered dietitian and nutrition advisor for Zenmaster Wellness shares one of the best money saving tips: “Buy the entire chicken instead of single cuts like chicken breast. The price per pound of chicken breast can be over a dollar more than the price per pound of a whole chicken. Cook the whole chicken, remove and shred the meat for your recipes, then use the bones to make your own bone broth.” Also be on the lookout for daily specials at your local butcher’s counter and build your meal around that protein.

Waste Not

Cutting back on food waste is the ultimate way to cut down your food bills. Dani Lebovitz, MS, RDN, founder of Kid Food Explorers agrees. “As a military family on a fixed income, I’m always looking for ways to save money on groceries, especially produce. I love buying whole fruits and veggies and using every edible part of the plant to maximize our grocery budget. Lebovitz suggests giving new life to produce that would normally end up in the trash. “We make watermelon rind pickles and crispy roasted cantaloupe seeds; fuzzy kiwi skins are perfect for smoothies offering more antioxidants than the fruit flesh. [There are] many uses of pineapple core from baby teethers to tea, you will never toss them again.”

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