Does your neighborhood grocery store have a coffee shop? How about a juice or wine bar? Are there specialty areas with pre-made meals you can take home to feed your family?
Does your grocery have time-saving features such as a program that lets you order your groceries and then pick them up or have them delivered?
Or maybe you use an online meal delivery plan that brings perfectly portioned and fresh ingredients you can cook up into a weeknight dinner with little prep.
Do you sound off your grocery list to a voice assistant that will order your groceries?
Innovations in packaged goods, grocery stores and e-commerce are helping shoppers move from the once-limited choices of packaged, frozen and manufactured foods toward healthier fresh food options.
But these conveniences can take a bite out of your wallet. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend, on average, around 6 percent of their budget on food. And that’s just for groceries. Americans spend an additional 5 percent of their income dining out.
Get the Most from Your Grocery Dollars
Research suggests that a healthy diet costs only about $1.50 more per day than an unhealthy diet. Here are a few ways savvy shoppers can get the most for their money.
Buy whole fruits and vegetables. You pay extra for precut produce, so save money by cutting it yourself. Chop once and enjoy all week. Store your sealed chopped veggies in the fridge and you’ll have the ingredients for a meal prepped and ready.
Check unit prices. Compare unit prices (price per pound or ounce) for the best deals. Buying in bulk is typically cheaper than buying regular-sized items. Choose bulk foods that won’t spoil easily, like whole grains. And don’t forget to mark the purchase or expiration date.
Minimize waste. Don’t be a statistic: Up to 40 percent of all American food is wasted. Only buy as much perishable food as you can eat before it goes bad.
Find new ways to buy protein. Try a whole chicken instead of individual cuts. Try canned seafood or other affordable protein sources, such as beans, lentils and eggs.
Pick up ingredients, not premade meals. The pretty, shiny packages can be so appealing and convenient. However, packaged and processed foods often cost more and may have large amounts of salt, fat and sugar. Along with higher prices, premade meals may also have smaller portions that might not work well for growing families.
Get the store brand. Many stores offer their own line of packaged foods. Save money without sacrificing quality by avoiding name brands.
Make a plan. Each week, check your cabinets to see what you need. Combine foods you already have with sale or special items to plan a menu. Need some inspiration? Check your favorite food blogs, cooking sites and publications for recipes that cater to the budget-minded cook.
Shop the perimeter. Shop at the outer edges — near the produce, meat, dairy and bakery — to avoid the temptations of fancy displays or unhealthy, expensive processed foods.
Buy in season. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables near the time when they’re grown. Check farmers markets if they aren’t available at your grocery store. Only buy as much as you need.
Skip the soda aisle. Buy a water filter and drink tap water. If you’re in a festive mood, add a lemon or lime wedge.
Stick to your list. Don’t let the fruit of a popup pie stand tempt you. You spent time planning your grocery list, so don’t stray from it! And don’t forget this sage advice: Don’t go to the store hungry.
Coupons rule. Skip the Sunday paper. Look online at your favorite stores before you go, or use store or coupon mobile apps designed to help you save.
The rapidly changing world of grocery shopping offers better access to a larger variety of healthy and local foods. And even if you sometimes take advantage of the more expensive convenience options, the benefits of a healthier lifestyle can be priceless.
Get more shopping tips.
Need help getting more nutrition for your dollar? Visit Choosemyplate.gov for more tips on smarter, budget friendly shopping and meal prep.
Sources: Five Trends for Grocery Retail in 2018, Retail Info Systems, 2017; How Much Should You Budget for Groceries? USA Today, Aug. 2, 2017; Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill, National Resources Defense Council, 2012; Eating healthy vs. unhealthy diet costs about $1.50 more per day, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2013; Eggs are a Nutrient Goldmine!, Egg Nutrition Center, 2018; 7 Ways to Shop Healthy on a Budget, Eatright.org, 2016