How to Grocery Shop Smartly and Cheaply

Food shopping is one of those necessary evils. You need food to survive, of course, but heading to your local supermarket is the last thing on your mind when you’re experiencing a busy time at work. But living on take-out pizza and fast food burgers and fries won’t do anything except make you feel even worse, and it can get pricey to eat dinners in a restaurant instead of cooking at home. It doesn’t have to be this way. Check out this how-to guide on how to grocery shop in a smart way that won’t break the bank and can be achieved while killing it at your 9 to 5.

1. Shop Only Once a Week

The most efficient way to make sure you’re feeding yourself while not sacrificing your productivity at the office? Make your supermarket trip only once every week. Sunday is the typical day for shopping and cooking but it doesn’t have to be for you. Pick any day of the week that works for you. Perhaps Monday night is a good time because it can set you up for the week ahead.

2. Mix-and-Match Ingredients

To ensure you’re not spending tons of money on your weekly grocery bill, it’s a good idea to have a game plan. But it takes time and energy to decide what to make every single night of the week. Decide on a few staple ingredients

Smart choices include carbs such as sweet potatoes, quinoa and brown rice, protein such as cans of tuna and ground turkey, and some cans of diced or cubed tomatoes. These will allow you to create tons of different meals using the same ingredients, which will save you money, while it’ll also be easier since you won’t have to sit there wondering what to make night after night.

3. Pick up Odds and Ends on Your Lunch Break

It’s difficult to buy all the fruits and veggies that we want to eat for the week at once. Produce goes bad quickly, after all, and you want to ensure that you get a chance to eat it so you don’t waste money. Use one or two of your weekly lunch breaks to head to a nearby grocery store or supermarket and grab some salad greens, apples and bananas. These fruits are more likely to stay fresh at your desk so they’re easy to store at work for the duration of the afternoon before it’s time to head home.

These lunchtime trips are also a good time to buy anything that you may have forgotten to pick up on your once-a-week food shop or extras that you need for recipes like herbs or garlic.

4. Make Friends With Your Freezer

If the only things in your freezer right now are a long-forgotten bag of peas that is now completely covered in ice and maybe some other containers that you don’t even recognize anymore, it’s time to get serious. Always keep your freezer in mind when you grocery shop and you will thank yourself later. Save tons of money by buying meat, chicken and fish when it’s on sale or at a low enough price. Then cook the meat one night after dinner when you have some free time and freeze it in appropriate portions. And just like that, you’ve got enough protein for several work lunches and dinners.

You can also buy cheap berries, wash them, and freeze them. This will give you a steady fruit supply for breakfast smoothies or afternoon snacks.

5. Rethink Your Breakfast Carbs

We all know that we need to consume carbohydrates in the morning to give us a steady stream of energy that will allow us to be productive at our desks all day long. So why not eat the carbs that you’re already buying for work lunches and easy dinners? This will cut down on food costs since you’ll be using the same ingredients and won’t need to shell out for expensive freezer waffles or pancakes or that 8 dollar loaf of crusty bread.

Some smart breakfast ideas include a warm bowl of quinoa or millet. You can enjoy these gluten-free grains with the milk or yogurt of your choice and some sliced bananas and strawberries. Think of them as healthier, cheaper versions of cereal. Just heat up some leftover grains in the microwave and you’re good to go. You could even eat some leftover sweet potatoes as a side dish for your usual scrambled eggs. Breakfast just got so much easier.

6. Buy and Prep Veggies on Your Lunch Hour

You’ve got a kitchen at work, so why not take advantage of it? Pick up some coloured peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc. on your lunch hour and take 10 minutes to prep them in the office kitchen. Cut them into easy-to-roast cubes or strips to sauté them for a simple weeknight stir-fry. Then just keep them in some plastic baggies or containers, leave them in the fridge, and simply transport them when it’s time to go home. And just like that, you’ve shopped smartly and even gotten the prep work done. This is the least offensive kitchen task to perform at work since veggies aren’t smelly at all, so your coworkers won’t take issue with it.

7. Buy Your Pantry Essentials Once a Month

All ready to make pasta and then you realize that oops, you forgot to buy any noodles? Dying for a stir-fry but you’re out of brown rice? Those days will be long gone if you buy all your pantry essentials one day a month – say the first Monday of the month. You can stock up on grains like rice and quinoa and oats, canned products such as tomatoes, black beans and chickpeas, and any spices you’ve run out of. Then you’ll be all set for the remainder of the month, since these ingredients last a very long time. You might even be able to save a few dollars since sometimes stores have 2-for-1 specials on bulk items like canned beans.

8. Always Splurge Once at the Store

Any routine can get old fast and when we get bored with something, that’s when we tend to make unhealthy choices. So you might be super into living a healthy lifestyle and committed to shopping for groceries every Monday. This could work for a few weeks, and then you’re tempted to skip it and get take-out all week long. If you keep that up, you’re spending more than you planned and your waistline might get a bit larger, too. So to ensure that doesn’t happen, always splurge on every grocery store trip. Buy your favorite type of chocolate, a bag of fancy potato chips, that prepared flavored hummus that you’re addicted to – whatever you want. This will keep your taste buds interested and your mind happy, since you’ll have something to look forward to when you’re running this sometimes dull errand.

9. Forgive Yourself Any Mistakes

Even the most organized among us slip up sometimes, so if you stray from your grocery shopping routine or end up throwing out the meat you so carefully defrosted because you went to a last-minute dinner with your colleagues, don’t sweat it. We’re all human and we all make mistakes from time to time. Just use that as motivation to keep going with your healthy routine.

See Also: How to Reclaim Your Lunch Break

Tired of overspending at the supermarket because you didn’t plan ahead? Wondering how you’re going to possibly buy food, let alone feed yourself, during your busiest of work weeks? Stop worrying today and follow this how-to guide so you can approach your grocery shopping in a clever, logical way, and you’ll be able to create lunches for the office and simple dinners in a carefully planned way.