If I created a list of my favorite hobbies, grocery shopping would be close to the top. For real, grocery shopping is like a sport or strategic game to me. Finding all the good sales and deals, finding unique and delicious produce at the farmer’s market, scanning the aisles for new products, fighting other customers for the last cauliflower gnocchi. I would say I have quite a bit of experience in the grocery shopping game; I go several times a week and love to compare and track prices at different stores, and honestly just walking down the aisles and seeing all the fascinating foods is pure entertainment to me.
But, as a college student, I have definitely had to learn how to budget and find the best deals. I don’t know the exact number that I spend on average, but it’s somewhere between $60-$85 per week for myself, at the higher end of that range if I’m doing a special recipe or restocking on baking things.
When I shared this is how much I spend on Insta, some people messaged me saying they spent 3x this! I had no idea that I was spending so much less than many other people, and my first thought to these messages was, what the hell are you buying?? But then I realized maybe I have some tips I am unknowingly harboring that I am meant to share with the world. So here are my money saving tips and what I buy each week (and every month or so!).
Before I get into it though, I would like to clarify that since I am a food blogger I get sent many of the things in my pantry. Not fresh produce or anything, but stuff like nut milk, protein powder, granola, nut butters, pasta, sauces, bars, etc., which is why I don’t spend as much at the store as some people and why you won’t see most of those on this list. Just being real here! But there are still lots of things you can do to lower your weekly bill, and here they are:
Tips to save on groceries:
- Memorize prices at different stores. There are some items I buy at Trader Joe’s rather than Whole Foods (and vice versa) because the price is better. I also browse farmer’s markets for when I can get a better deal there, too!
- Browse different stores’ weekly catalogs to find sales. The Whole Foods app tells you all the current sales going on and is so helpful! The Sprouts paper ad also includes great deals.
- Buy heavier produce at Trader Joe’s. They don’t weigh the items like Whole Foods and other stores do, they have a set price per item. For example, organic zucchini at Trader Joe’s is $.25 per zucchini, so I get the biggest ones I can find there rather than having it get weighed at WF. Same goes for potatoes, bananas, and other heavy items. More food for the same amount of money!
- If you can’t buy all organic, just stick to the ‘dirty dozen’ and ‘clean fifteen’. The dirty dozen are items you should always buy organic as they are heavily sprayed with pesticides or other harmful chemicals, and the clean 15 are okay to buy conventional, aka cheaper. Here’s a visual to keep with you!:
- Compare sizes and calculate $/oz. Let’s say for example the generic 14oz peanut butter at Trader Joe’s is cheaper than at Whole Foods, but the one at WF is 18oz, calculate the cost per ounce for each one to see which is actually the better deal!
- Shop the perimeter of the store. The perimeter of the store is mostly necessity items like produce, fresh bread, meats, milk, eggs, etc. and things that would be mostly essential to buy, while the middle of store has processed, expensive products you don’t really need! Don’t get me wrong, I still buy some cereals, tortillas, snacks, etc. on my grocery trips, but it’s definitely a very small percentage of my haul.
- Make things yourself. Instead of spending $4 on a bag of frozen premade sweet potato fries, make them yourself! You can get a huge bag of organic sweet potatoes at Trader Joe’s for around $3 and make twice as many fries that taste twice as good.
- Shop in season or shop frozen. Example: obviously raspberries are going to be expensive as hell in winter months in most places, so either pass on them til they’re in season or buy from the freezer aisle where they are picked at their peak season and kept frozen. Personally I prefer my berries frozen all year round anyway 🙂 so good.
- Lastly, do not buy pre-cut produce. I mean $3 or $4 for a plastic container of like 1 serving of pre-cut watermelon? How is this even allowed. Buy the real thing (for much cheaper), take it home, cut it up, and put in reusable containers. Period!
Below is what I currently am picking up at my grocery stores throughout the week. This is not a static list and it does change every few months (and every week depending what I want to cook that week!), so I’ll have to do an updated list in a few months, but as of now these are my weekly staples:
* = Organic
TJ’s = Trader Joe’s, WF = Whole Foods, FM = Farmer’s Market
- Apples* (WF or FM)
- Carrots* (WF)
- Japanese sweet potatoes* (WF – don’t have at TJ’s)
- Baby bella mushrooms (TJ’s or WF)
- Baby Kale* (TJ’s)
- Bag of avocados (TJ’s)
- Bag of sweet potatoes* (TJ’s)
- Bananas (TJ’s)
- Broccoli* (TJ’s or FM)
- Cauliflower (TJ’s)
- Cherry tomatoes* (TJ’s)
- Cucumber* (TJ’s)
- Microgreens* (TJ’s)
- Spaghetti Squash (TJ’s)
- Spinach* (TJ’s)
- Yellow squash* (TJ’s)
- Zucchini squash* (TJ’s or FM)
- Black beans*
- Non-stick olive oil cooking spray (TJ’s)
- Crunchy peanut butter* (TJ’s or WF)
- Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi
- Raspberries* (TJ’s or WF)
- Blueberries* (TJ’s or WF)
- Kite Hill plain almond milk yogurt (WF)
- Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale Cashew & Basil Pesto
- Sprouted multigrain bread (TJ’s)
- Sprouts seedsational sourdough bread
- Rice cakes (WF)
- Puffins peanut butter flavored cereal (WAY better deal at TJ’s)
(aka things I don’t need to buy once a week, maybe once every 1+ months):
- Local organic pasture-raised eggs (FM, where I get about 4 dozen at a time)
- Olive oil and coconut oil (TJ’s)
- Banza chickpea pasta (WF)
- Pasta sauce* (TJ’s or WF)
- Hilary’s veggie burgers
- Siete tortillas (WF)
- Green lentils (TJ’s or WF)
- Rice/quinoa (TJ’s or WF)
- Lotus Foods ramen patties (Costco)
- Baking things (TJ’s and WF)
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Coconut sugar
- Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 gluten free baking flour (WF)
- Vegan baking chocolate
- Bulk items*:
- Almond slices
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds (actually I find good deals at Homegoods or TJ Maxx on these)
- Other seeds/nuts
Hope this helped guys! Leave any tips that save you money down in the comments or any of your favorite grocery staples. I want to know! xoxo