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5 expert tips to save money at the grocery store

Parents are struggling to provide for their families during these uncertain and challenging times. A recent survey conducted by the Brookings Institution finds 1 in 5 young children in the U.S. are not getting enough food during this pandemic, and food insecurity is rising at an unprecedented rate.

Financial expert and author Tonya Rapley has a few savvy tips to help families tweak their grocery-store routine to reduce spending:

1. Cut out convenience costs

When shopping for foods such as meat, fruits and vegetables, you pay a premium for pre-cut and specialty items. Although it can seem tempting to grab pre-cut ingredients like chicken breasts to incorporate into family meals, purchasing the whole chicken can offer multiple meal opportunities while reducing costs. Same goes for produce, such as chopped fruit, trimmed veggies and prepacked foods like salads and sandwiches. You’ll save a lot and likely get more food by doing the prep work at home.

2. Try a flexitarian diet

Meat is often the most expensive item in a family’s shopping cart. By experimenting with a flexitarian diet, you can cut down on grocery spending and instill healthy eating habits in children. By making a meatless meal a couple of times a week, parents can introduce a variety of foods and ingredients to their kids that will expand their taste preferences. You can start simple by skipping meatballs on spaghetti night or using beans instead of meat on taco Tuesday. Then get kids involved in trying new recipes together and expand your meatless dish collection.

3. Keep your head up, then down when scanning shelves

The most popularly marketed foods are stored at eye level and typically have higher prices than less-known name brands or store-brand alternatives. Your best bet is to look at the higher and lower shelves, as that’s where the most cost-effective products are located. A little effort to look beyond eye level will reward you with a lower grocery bill.

4. Choose store-brand infant formula

For parents with infants at home, switching to store-brand infant formula can cut costs by up to 50%, resulting in $900 in annual savings. Store-brand infant formulas offer the same complete nutrition and meet the same FDA standards as big-name brands. Faced with financial stress, some parents may be tempted to make homemade formula or add extra water to stretch formula to save money. These actions can have a harmful effect on baby, so keep an eye out for a store-brand alternative at the grocery store instead to ensure your infant is obtaining the essential nutrients he or she needs to grow and stay healthy. Learn more at

5. Use coupons and shop the sales

When you enter a store, pick up the weekly flyer if one is available and flip through the coupons and sales. This can help you save money on the items on your list. As you shop, watch for shelf advertisements for sales or bargains like buy one get one free (BOGO). Keep in mind, grocery stores often advertise savings based on multiple purchases. For example, save $3 on two. Unless it specifically states you must buy two to earn the savings, you can still save money when you just buy one item.

Smart grocery shopping can help you save during the pandemic and at any time. Your family will get the food they enjoy, and you get to stay on budget, perhaps with a little extra to put into savings.

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