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Budgeting for groceries is one of those things that appears easier in theory than in practice. Prices fluctuate, hunger strikes, and that eye-catching display of cookies distracts. Grocery stores go to all sorts of extremes to get us to spend more money — and it works. A recent Gallup poll found that 59 percent of Americans spend more on groceries today than they did last year.both enjoyable and frugal.
Always Shop with a List. If you are prone to wandering around the grocery store without one, you will find that big cart will fill up quickly. Don’t be tempted by the sweet-smelling flowers and fresh-baked bread. Instead, plan your meals at home before heading to the store so you don’t end up with a basket full of impulse purchases.
Generic brands save money. Baby boomers are big on brand loyalty, but for millennials, not so much. It is no wonder that generic labels are growing in popularity. There is a whole private-label industry that produces store brands, and strangely enough, big brands also create private-labels products to expand their reach (however, they don’t usually make a generic version of their most popular products). Even chefs are OK with generic. A paper published last July by economists from Tilburg University in the Netherlands and the University of Chicago found that in comparison to the general population, chefs were 12 percent more likely to buy generic over more expensive national brands. So while some scoff at the idea of buying off-brand, others just see savings.
Saving money at the grocery store doesn’t mean you can’t do your part for the environment. You think the words “frugality” and “organic” don’t belong in the same sentence? Think again. There are ways to remove those worrisome pesticides from your diet and still afford your grocery bill. Organic produce isn’t just for the one percent. Discount grocery stores like Costco are now carrying more and more products for the budget-conscious shopper. In fact, Costco just pushed out Whole Foods from the top seat in annual organic food sales.
Another great way to save money is by buying in bulk — once again, big-box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club have lighted the way. Buying in bulk will save money in the long run, but food waste often comes up as a reason to avoid bulk purchasing. Ask yourself, “Do I need three when one will do?”
Planning out the items you need, buying in bulk, and switching to generic brands will help save money in the long run, even if it takes a little more time in the present.
Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Find her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos.