Thrifty Food and Grocery Shopping Tips

by kimbesa

The wisdom of the Frugal Zealot, based largely on traditional Yankee thrift, holds firm today, just as it did years ago

Thrifty foodies are as close as their keyboards to all kinds of tips and articles about grocery shopping. There are lots of ways to make the best use of their money when it comes to family meals and home cooking.

I saw an article recently on Yahoo, and compared it to what I’ve seen in The Tightwad Gazette, a newsletter from the 1990s that was turned into books, by Frugal Zealot Amy Dacyczyn.

The Gazette has a loyal following, though the newsletter ceased publication nearly 20 years ago.

Eating well while saving money never goes out of style.

21st Century Thrift

A lot like mom and grandma did things

Image credit: ckforjc via sxc.huModern frugal shoppers can choose tips and techniques that best fit their lifestyle and family’s needs.

No matter where you may be on the spectrum of thrift, if you want to go further, there’s something new you can add to your existing methods.

Finding and storing the right ingredients is just as important to managing the food budget as knowing how to make simple recipes and one pot meals.

But to start with shopping, I’ve grouped the recent tips I found about grocery shopping around two central themes: planning and sweat equity.

Image credit: ckforjc/

Budget Recipes

A repertoire of good food
EatingWell on a Budget (EatingWell)

Make Your List

And check your recipes
List and recipes
List and recipes
Photo by kimbesa


This includes shopping, cooking, and food storage

Simple grocery listEven simple plans can save you money when it comes to the grocery budget.

  • Make your list. Check your cupboards and the recipes you’re making, before heading off to the store. Shopping from a list makes a huge difference.
  • Study your stores and food sources. Sales are great when you can make use of the markdowns. Farmers markets are great places to find seasonal produce. If you have a CSA in your area – Community Supported Agriculture – a subscription might be just the thing to get the freshest vegetables all season long.
  • Shop when you’re full, not hungry. This is a common tip. Ignore it at your peril, especially if the kids are going along! It’s so easy to add unplanned extras to the grocery cart when your stomach is rumbling or the kids are fussing – and those goodies are calling from the store shelf.
  • Buy in bulk. If you will use it, or have a way to store it, a bulk purchase can make sense. But check the quality and the per-pound or unit price, to make sure it’s the deal you think it is.

Sweat Equity

A few simple skills can save you money after you’ve bought your groceries

Homegrown strawberriesTasks you can do yourself will reap benefits in your food budget.

  • Process your food at home. This can be as simple as cutting larger pieces into smaller cuts, such as separating chicken leg quarters into legs and thighs.
  • Go for the fresh food. Processed food generally costs more than the components, found around the outside in most grocery stores.
  • Garden at home. Even a few pots on your balcony can give you fresh and dried herbs for cooking all season long. Your pots can come in when the weather turns cold.
  • Take up home preserving. A freezer of any size can help you take advantage of bulk purchases and sales on foods you use. Canning is coming back as an artisan hobby for people in rural and urban areas. Or, you may be intrigued by other methods. Pickling and drying are other time-honored preservation techniques that you can apply to managing your pantry staples. 

Menu and Shopping Planner

List what you have and what you need
Weekly Menu Planner with Tear-off Shopping List (Yellow, Green, Blue)

From Shopping To Composting

Thrift in terms of food covers activities from gathering to disposing. Using every last bit, one way or another

Green apples at the farmers marketPurchase well, cook, store and dispose well, to get the greatest value for money out of your food supply.

Those apples are looking good!

I found a sturdy, big basket for when you're shopping. Or carry in from the garden with it.

The peels (if they're coming off) and cores can go into compost. Check out:

  • Fair trade market basket. Heavy and hand woven, for trips to the market or the garden.
  • Stainless steel kitchen compost crock. Generous size and dishwasher safe.
  • Bokashi all-food recycling and compost bucket. From Japan. Uses fermentation, so bones, dairy, etc., can go in, too, without the aroma of other methods.





Take It To The Bank

Tightwad Gazette IIIf taking more control of your money is important to you, then taking advantage of some thrifty living tips may suit you very well.

Grocery shopping is a good place to start, or expand your knowledge, whether you follow the Gazette, or more recent versions of these time-tested ways for penny-wise living.

The simple methods that mom and grandma used to stretch the family budget are alive and well in modern times -- with plenty of room to adjust them, based on your own family's favorite foods and lifestyle, and the resources you have in your area..

Updated: 10/04/2013, kimbesa
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

What’s Your Best Budget Grocery Shopping Tip?

kimbesa on 10/31/2013

That's a great approach! We do that too, and we're also familiar with which stores have a "last chance" produce and meat section. Or the "manager's special" marks. Those can go into dinner right away, or into the freezer.

poutine on 10/31/2013

My best budget grocery tips would be to cook your meals according to what is on sale that week at your supermarkets. I try to never pay the regular price for meats.

kimbesa on 07/28/2013

I know what you mean. The kids have to stay home when it's time to go to the grocery store!

ologsinquito on 07/27/2013

All of these tips are so useful. A year ago I found I didn't have enough money to pay all of our bills because I had spent so much money on organic food. I had to belt tighten. I like the tip about not shopping while hungry. If I bring my children shopping I always buy more.

kimbesa on 07/27/2013

You are welcome! There are always new ways to work the budget, and it seems to always need working over!

MimiBrusko on 07/26/2013

Thanks for sharing the good tips and resources. Eating is something none of us can give up so saving is always welcome!

Mira on 07/13/2013

Great tips, Sally! I would add that it also helps to completely empty the fridge now and freezer now and then. It's amazing how well food can hide itself in the fridge. And then you either eat old bell peppers or moldy garlic, etc., or throw away jars of pickles someone opened and forgot to eat, etc.

kimbesa on 07/06/2013

Absolutely right! Don't go shopping when hungry! I know what you mean about progress, too. There are new markets springing up, or new ways to achieve budget goals.

Holistic_Health on 07/06/2013

I also try to eat something before shopping. It definitely helps. Thanks for your tips - groceries are an area where I can always do better.

kimbesa on 06/30/2013

Good idea! We tend to go middle of the road, but we could take that balance. Bean soup is good in the winter.

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