Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: 10 tips to lower your grocery bill

<p>The aisles of Apna Bazaar, an Indian-owned grocery store on Third Street, are shown with products on the shelves. </p>

The aisles of Apna Bazaar, an Indian-owned grocery store on Third Street, are shown with products on the shelves.

With grocery prices rising and budgeting always being crucial for many college students, here are some tips to help you reduce grocery costs while still maximizing convenience.  

Plan ahead 

Writing out a grocery list beforehand can help combat impulse spending. If you want to take this a step further, try planning out all your meals for the week to maximize the efficiency of your shopping. Planning ahead allows you to take stock of your current food at home and calculate an estimate of how much your bill should be so you can adjust accordingly. Additionally, if you know you like to eat out or there are days of the week you are too busy to cook, build those meals into your weekly plan to keep track of your budget. As college students, it can be hard to perfectly balance budget with convenience, so give yourself grace and make tradeoffs that are appropriate for your lifestyle. 

Take note of items you already have 

The cheapest and most sustainable thing you can do is to cook with groceries you have already bought. It is especially important to keep track of any perishable items and ensure you are using things before they expire. Wasted food is bad for your wallet and the Earth. Before going shopping for the week, take a look at the things you need to use up. 

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Sign up for grocery store rewards programs 

Since groceries are a consistent and often high expense, consider signing up for the rewards and discount programs at the stores you frequent. The Kroger mobile app allows you to get a digital rewards card or add the one you already own. It also has a grocery list feature and notifies you know when coupons are available for your frequently purchased items. Aldi and Target have similar apps. There are often exclusive deals for members at most grocery stores, so be sure to take advantage. 

Cut back on meat 

Meat is a reliable source of protein and can often make up the bulk of a meal. That being said, other protein sources like beans, lentils and tofu are significantly cheaper than meat and still provide considerable nutritional value. Try incorporating more of these ingredients into your diet to cut back on meat consumption. If meat is a staple for you, try stocking up on your favorite cuts when there is a sale and keep the extra meat frozen. 

Shop the perimeter of the store 

Typically, the center aisles of the store contain the bulk of the processed foods they carry, like chips, candy and cereal. These items are often more expensive and less nutrient dense. Try keeping most of your shopping to the perimeter — which tends to house fresh items like dairy and produce — to cut down on processed foods.  

Buy canned and frozen goods 

Canned and frozen goods are often cheaper than fresh produce, and they last longer too. We’ve all experienced the disappointment of watching fresh produce go bad just a couple days after purchase. If you’re prone to this issue, buying frozen and canned goods can help cut back on your costs and your food waste. These options are just as nutritious as fresh foods as well. 

Shop wholesale 

Buying items you use frequently in bulk can be a great way to save money on staple groceries. Although not ideal if you live alone, buying in bulk can be an especially helpful shopping method for those who live with multiple roommates. Bloomington’s closest Costco is far out of the way, but Bloomington does have a Sam’s Club. Look into a membership if you think wholesale shopping might be a good option for you. 

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Pay attention to unit prices 

The price of one product may seem cheaper than a similar one at face value, but be sure to check the unit price when comparing two brands. This strategy takes into account the actual amount of food you are getting for your dollar. 

Shop online 

If you are prone to impulse buys or simply want to be able to take the time to find the best deals from the comfort of your computer, try placing pickup orders at your grocery store of choice. This does not typically incur any extra fees like delivery can and helps cut back on time. 

Buy generic brand 

Obviously, some name brand snacks cannot be replaced, but for seasonings or other simple ingredients that you’re not picky about, try opting for the generic store brand. These savings can add up quickly. 

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