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13 Insanely Simple Tricks to Trim Grocery Costs Without Couponing

by Shawanda Greene

When I left DC for a month-long stay in Jacksonville, FL, I expected southern food prices to be comparable to those of a third world country. They’re not.

As it turns out, the financial pains of food inflation are experienced across the United States.

We all gotta eat. And most of us don’t want to dedicate three hours a day to coupon clipping.

Try these easy tactics to cut your grocery bill.

1. Skip prepared artificially flavored drinks.

What happened to beverages made from powdered drink mix, water, and sugar?

Country Time Lemonade?

Kool-Aid?

Gatorade?

Tang? Let’s hear it for Tang. If it’s good enough for astronauts, it’s good enough for yo’ dumb ass.

Go heavy on the water, light on the sugar, and you’ll stave off insolvency and adult-onset diabetes in one fell swoop.

2. Stop juicing.

There’s another word for all that pulp excreted from your juicer. It’s called food.

Pulp has loads of fiber, so if you hanker something sweet and liquidy, consider smoothies instead.

Grab bananas, strawberries, blue berries, and other freezer friendly fruit when they’re on sale.

Bonus: Never waste a banana again. Peel, cut, and freeze bananas to toss in smoothies.

3. Eat less.

Take the Portion Distortion quiz to find out how much American portion sizes have increased over the past few decades.

Save that extra slice of pizza for another meal.

With every additional bite after you’re satiated, your discomfort increases—all the way to the point that you’re just a stuffed, mouth breathing blob too miserable to focus or fall asleep.

4. Accept defeat.
Why I don't cook at home

Laboring in a hot kitchen for two hours is unimpressive. Especially when your efforts produce something that—if we’re honest—tastes marginally better than a $2 menu item from a late night Wendy’s drive-thru.

You can prepare delicious home cooked, no-fuss meals. French’s Chili-O makes the best chili seasoning mix. And McCormick’s sells a variety of delicious pasta, beef, seafood, and poultry seasonings.

5. Clean out your refrigerator weekly.

Groceries, unlike the plastic bag you brought them home in, don’t have a half-life of 55 kabillion years.

The additional space allows you to easily find food before it goes bad and helps you avoid buying items you already own.

6. Eat Ramen.

Kids these days aren’t too bright.

Recently, my 5-year old nephew snubbed my generous gift of one U.S. minted nickel. Yes he did.

Another five cents and he could’ve bought a pack of flash fried noodles.

Chuck the sodium laden seasoning pack. Instead, experiment with different sauces, broths, spices, veggies, and meats.

My favorite, albeit merely semi-frugal, ramen recipe includes bacon, Alfredo sauce, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and red pepper.

And no, I don’t fool around with homemade Alfredo sauce or that ridiculously priced shaved Parmesan cheese.

7. Stop wasting food.

According to Dana Gunders of the National Resources Defense Council, “40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten.

Learn how to properly store food. Transfer your restaurant leftovers from the Styrofoam carry out box to a glass or plastic food container with a lid.

Not only will your takeout last longer, but it won’t absorb the flavors of other foods in the fridge.

fat cat

8. Learn how to cook a few meals well.

Often your first swipe at a dish is a fantastic, inedible failure. Think you’re the only one? Just ask the average Pinterest user.

9. Take a chance in the kitchen. As a novice cook, I’d follow recipes to the letter. If the recipe called for fresh parsley, I ignored the dried parsley sitting in my cupboard and used fresh parsley.

After discovering modifications could improve a dish, I took on more risks. The next time you’re short a few ingredients, either find a substitute or consider eliminating them altogether.

10. Read user comments before attempting online recipes.

I’m amazed at how many people shell out 4 and 5 star ratings for recipes they’ve modified beyond recognition. Commenters often disclose whether a recipe is too salty, too bland, too spicy, too greasy, or any other small factor that might yield a meal unfit for consumption.

11. Ignore food “expiration” dates.

“I dunno. Smell it.” That’s my canned response to questions involving whether my food has spoiled. It’s quite possible, probable even, that you’ll contract a nasty foodborne illness if you follow my lead . . . so don’t.

But don’t accept your supermarket’s word as gospel.

Many foods are perfectly safe to eat after the “sell by,” “best by,” “use buy,” or any other date posted on the packaging by manufacturers. Do your research.

12. Drink tap water.

I don’t care if you can buy forty-eight 16.9-ounce bottles of water for $3.99.

Grab a BPA-free water bottle and refill it for eternity (or until you leave it at the gym).

13. Load up on inexpensive foods. 

I could list them all here, but why redo what’s already been done? Check out 25 Cheap Foods that are Good for You!

Also, plan your meals around seasonal produce as prices tend to be cheaper. Refer to Epicurious’ Seasonal Ingredient Map.

Of course you can increase your savings significantly by spending a few hours rifling through your local grocers’ weekly ads and snipping coupons from the Sunday’s paper, but if you’re uninterested in such tasks simply take the knowledge from this blog post with you the next time you hit the supermarket.

How do you cut your grocery bill without coupons?

Image credit: Why I Don’t Cook at Home from The Oatmeal

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Blair@LifeDollarsandSense January 19, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Great suggestions! I agree with not letting food go bad. I’m amazed how much food just never gets ate in a fridge. I also am a big ramen noodle fan…..add an egg to the water and make a great egg drop soup that is more filling.
Blair@LifeDollarsandSense recently posted..Budget Set-Back: The New Year’s IncidentMy Profile

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Jules@Fat Guy,Skinny Wallet January 22, 2013 at 9:18 AM

When I first saw the topic, eat Ramen, I shuddered. All I could see was sodium. I am glad I continued reading, I’ve never thought about using another sauce on them! Great idea! I drink tap water, and it does the trick for me! Thanks for these suggestions
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Julie @ Freedom 48 January 23, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Ah… ramen noodles! I remember one year in university I literally had $20 left for groceries for an entire month. Between ramen noodles and Kraft dinner… I managed to eat for a whole month on that $20!
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Nunzio Bruno January 25, 2013 at 9:34 AM

This is awesome! I just did a youtube video – the link is really me – ( http://youtu.be/NX72qqXVQ3w ) on this and I wish I found your post first :) Being a better shopper isn’t always about the greatest savings it’s about really planning for desired outcomes! I loved your tips and am definitely giving my own shopping habits a good look through again. The only thing I don’t think I can do is the “eat Ramen”. In trying to clean up my diet I have to watch those carbs and sodium levels lol – but you can’t beat the cost of those things :)
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My Financial Independence Journey January 27, 2013 at 8:27 PM

As a single guy two things have worked well for me, and have led to zero couponing and zero dietary changes.

1) Learning to cook. I can now cook better than most chain restaurants. This has largely negated any desire to go out to eat barring a special occasion.

2) Don’t stockpile. When things go on sale, it’s tempting to buy a 12 months supply. Except that most foods aren’t going to last that long, even in the freezer. So I don’t stockpile anymore. I regularly check the freezer to make sure that I’m using up my frozen foods before investing in new ones.
My Financial Independence Journey recently posted..Frugality is Just a Tool – Nothing MoreMy Profile

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Wayne @ Young Family Finance January 29, 2013 at 11:16 PM

This is an excellent list! I think that sometimes you actually end up spending more if you cut coupons; coupons are usually for things that you don’t really need. We also cut a lot out of our grocery list by eating mostly vegetarian. Our protein mostly comes from nuts and legumes. When we do have meat, it is usually poultry or ground beef.
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KC @ genxfinance February 22, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Try not to bring the kids when you shop.. This will avoid buying unnecessary things when they start to cry or ask for anything.
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Edward Antrobus February 27, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Shop the discount racks. If you need ground beef for dinner and there is a package of it half off because tomorrow is the sell-by date, you just saved yourself a couple bucks.
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Kelly@FinancialFixers May 9, 2013 at 3:05 PM

Good tips! I’ve never been keen on the idea of sitting down and looking through circulars and newspapers for hours to clip coupons. All it takes is a little creativity to eat good meals for cheap. If you’re trying to save money, the crockpot can be your best friend- almost everything comes out delicious.
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Thomas | Your Daily Finance June 6, 2013 at 11:57 PM

I could have told you that prices down here are not that much different then up north. I drink tap water as well people spend a lot of money on bottle water and still dont drink it. Such a waste. I remember the Ramen noodle days.
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Marie @ My Personal Finance Journey March 28, 2014 at 1:52 AM

These are all great tips! I have cleaned my refrigerator before going to the supermarket just to check what are stocks that I need to buy. And also I lessen my soda intake, I’m more into a tap water.

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