12 Grocery Shopping Hacks That You Need Now. More Than Ever.

Hacks to make grocery shopping less of a headache.

Food & Drink

I don't know about y'all, but it seems like these days, every time I go to the gas station or the grocery store, I find myself saying "WTF?" (sometimes audibly, sometimes not) when I notice the prices. It really is amazing that with the work and housing crises that we're currently going through, somehow we're also trying to figure out how to make $20 to get our gas talk above a quarter full and a hundred bucks to get us past two plastic grocery bags.

While it's pretty hard to come up with gas hacks, in the spirit of doing what I can to get y'all ready for the holiday season, I did want to share several grocery shopping hacks; 12 that can hopefully get you more bang for your buck, so that your Thanksgiving and Christmas can be as stressless (on your budget) as possible.

1. Download an App

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These days, there's an app for just about everything. The cool thing about grocery-related ones is many of them can help you to keep some extra coins in your pocket. Ones that you should definitely check out include Checkout 51 (which gives you a list of offers, then gives you cashback whenever you purchase something that's on the list), ibotta (which gives you money when you take a pic of your receipt and submit it; you need to reach $20 and you typically get it back within a day) and Coupons (which offers a good variety of paperless coupons that you can easily scan at checkout).

2. Use a Calculator

Now tell the truth — how often do you actually use the calculator app that is there for your convenience on your smartphone? I once read that a couple should be spending around $130-150 a week on groceries; however, with inflation and all of this shipping drama that's currently going on, it's a pretty safe assumption that you should set aside $25-50 more, just to be on the safe side. Since groceries are a bit higher, going into the store on a set budget and then making sure that you honor said-budget by keeping track of your costs with a calculator can help you to get what you need without stressing out in the process (so can using the handheld or smaller baskets and/or purchasing generic brands).

3. Get Produce at a Local Farmers Market

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Fresher fruits and veggies. A wider variety. Cheaper prices. Support of local farmers. Better for the environment. These are just a few solid reasons why you should consider not getting your produce at the grocery store and stopping by your local farmers market instead. I can't tell you how many times I've compared costs in my mind and honestly been pretty pissed by how much a grocery chain will charge for not nearly as much or delicious as a farmers market does (Whole Foods is absolutely not exempt in this case either).

4. At the Store, Get Things in Season

Speaking of produce, if you click right here, you will be taken to a site that will provide you with information about when different fruits and vegetables are available, based on the season of year that you are in. And just why should you care?

For one thing, produce is best for you when it's in season. And when it comes to saving money, purchasing it when it's in season means that you should be able to get stuff at a lower cost because your grocery store will be carrying an abundance of it all. Make sense?

5. Don’t Turn Your Nose Up at Aldi’s, Trader Joe’s and Walmart

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Earlier this year, I checked out an article entitled, "America Just Named Its Cheapest Grocery Store. Do You Shop There?" Can you guess which one it is? I mean, it's in the title and yes, Aldi's, it is. While they don't tend to have as much of a variety, a lot of your "staple stuff", you can get for much cheaper. Same goes for Trader Joe's, Walmart, Walmart Neighborhood Market (I don't really like their produce, but their meat costs are bar none) and Costco's. Oh, and while Target wasn't on the list, I do know quite a few people who get groceries from there. If you scan the circle on your Target app, it'll take you to deals throughout that store. You're welcome.

6. Learn the Bottom Shelf/Outer Aisle Trick

Grocery stores are a business too, right? This means that they've got their own marketing strategies. One of them is putting some of their most expensive stuff at eye level because that's what will catch your attention first. That said, a workaround for this is to be intentional about looking for what's on their bottom shelves and outer aisles. If you do a bit of comparing, it might shock you how much you can stand to save by applying this lil' trick to your shopping routine.

7. A Few Meat-Buying Tips

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Hats off to all vegetarians and vegans (did you peep the recent report tied to veganism and depression? Thoughts?). Personally, I am a meat eater and not ashamed of it. If you're a part of my tribe, I've got a few tips for you.

One, although tougher meats are more expensive than tender cuts, oftentimes butchers will run your tougher orders through a tenderizer if you ask them to (sometimes you can get better cuts if you tip them on the low too). Two, get meat based on the portions that you actually need. What I mean by that is, if you know that you're not going to eat an entire roast, ask the butcher to cut the roast in half so that you don't waste any and, since they weigh by the pound, you can save a couple of dollars. Three, don't overlook the area where meat is marked way down. Just make sure to cook it ASAP or that you immediately freeze it properly. Four, the holidays are the perfect time to stock up on meat for your freezer.

For instance, Thanksgiving is going to have a lot of turkeys and because those bad boys can't sit around forever, stores are going to cut the rate (especially the day before and after the holiday) so that they can get rid of them.

8. Stock Up on Frozen Stuff (and Freezing Stuff)

According to many health experts, frozen fruits and veggies are just about as healthy as fresh produce is. The reason why they can actually be better for you in the long run is fresh produce tends to expire pretty quickly (which means you have to hurry up and eat it or toss it when it goes bad) while frozen stuff lasts much longer and is cheaper too. Just make sure that you read the labels carefully to make sure that the brand that you go with is low on preservatives, additives, sugar and salt. Oh, and when it comes to buying frozen meat, to avoid freezer burn, it's important to vacuum seal everything. While the better ones are going to run you between $100-200, they are worth every dime considering how long they're able to keep so much of your food nice and fresh. A list of some of the top ones is provided for you here.

9. Remember That You Can “Break Up” Bulk Deals

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Something that it took me a second to catch is when you see those "Get 10 for such-and-such price" bulk deals, you don't have to purchase all 10 items. If you get just two, you will still end up with a discounted rate.

And how can you be sure that you don't overdo it on the bulk stuff, in general? Easy — take a picture of the inside of your refrigerator and pantry before you head out. That way, you can easily recall what you need and what you've already got a ton of.

10. Cop a Rotisserie Chicken

I honestly can't think of the last time that I went into a grocery store — pretty much any grocery store — and I didn't see a mini-kiosk that had a whole bunch of rotisserie chickens on it. Good thing too because that kind is healthier than fried chicken, is affordable as all get out (usually a whole one is less than ten bucks) and it's so easy to prepare a meal with, with plenty of room for leftovers if there aren't a ton of people in your house. I have spared myself a "shame drive" to a drive-thru several times by picking up a rotisserie on the way home. If you've never considered it before, I promise you won't regret it.

11. Take Advantage of Bulk Bins

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If you're a single gal like myself, it can be challenging to grocery shop in smaller servings. When it comes to this, one hack to apply is to get things like beans, spices and grains out of bulk bins. That way, you can measure out exactly what you want; especially if you're experimenting with a new recipe and you're not exactly sure if you want to "marry yourself" to some of the ingredients just yet.

12. Avoid Shopping After Work 

While some of y'all might be tempted to "yeah right" me on this one, when you're too hungry or too tired to go grocery shopping, you don't tend to make the best decisions because you're not as alert as you should be. So, while it's OK to cop a couple of items real quick when you're on the way home after a long day at work, try and do your major shopping on the weekends, on your lunch break or at least after taking an hour nap. That way, you won't be rushed, anxious or so ravenous that you end up making unwise shopping decisions. Make sense? Cool.

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