If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably read in more than one post that I shop at Whole Paycheck Whole Foods. How on earth can I claim to be a tightwad when I shop there, you ask? Happy Katie has taken the words write out of my head. She gives the low down on how she shops Whole Foods without emptying her wallet. If you read through her post she points you in the direction of Mambo Sprouts a kick ass coupon site for healthy products.

I may be cheap, but when it comes to the food I eat I’m not willing to sacrifice nutrition for a few bucks. Luckily grad school taught me many things, among them how to be frugal and still eat a healthy diet. There are a few guidelines you can follow in any grocery store to keep your costs down:

Stay here if you want to keep your costs down

Stay here if you want to keep your costs down

  • Buy in season. Produce that is in season tends to be cheaper and it tastes better. You may have to be flexible with the recipes you choose, though. For example, strawberry shortcake in the dead of winter is out. For recipe ideas and to find out what exactly is in season, check out Seasonal Recipes. Most recipe sites like Epicurious and Culinate have recipes and menus for seasonal eating, too.
  • Buy in bulk. This may be more applicable at Whole Foods, which has a fantastic bulk section, though I have seen modest bulk sections in other grocery stores. Buying in bulk saves money because you buy only what you need and you aren’t paying for the packaging. This is helpful for expensive items like spices or nuts. And if you only buy what you need you lose less food to spoilage.
  • Stay on the perimeter of the store. When eating on the cheap you will end up buying more whole foods (i.e. non-packaged foods) and doing the prep at home. The center aisles of most grocery stores are where the packaged foods and the high prices live. Think about it: the produce section, dairy and meat counters are all on the perimeter. Staying out of the aisles, with the occasional foray for pastas, rice and beans, will keep your costs down and will probably make you healthier in the long term.
  • Bring a list and stick to it. It will take a few minutes before your trip to the store, but writing a list allows you to take inventory of what you have on hand and will help you with meal prep. If you force yourself to stick to the list you can thwart the seductively displayed impulse buys (Veggie Chips!!!) that rack up the total on your grocery bill.
  • Become a vegetarian. Meat is expensive. If you can’t stand the thought of going meatless, try reducing your consumption by making several meatless meals a week. Your heart and your arteries will thank you.

If you have other ideas for healthy grocery shopping on the cheap, please leave them in the comments. I can always use the advice!

Photo credit kudzuplanet