1. Buy Fresh Salads
Places like Plum Market and Whole Foods seem really expensive - and you're right, they are! However, if you know how to be a conscious consumer, buying certain items from these stores aren't so bad. For example, they each have salad bars where you can customize and build your own salad.
Typically these build-your-own salads will cost around $8/lb of goodies. They have multiple items such as chicken, bacon, feta cheese, carrots, tomatoes, egg, tofu, multiple dressings, and so much more. So instead of buying the things to make a salad individually (which could run you up to $50), buy the portion of items you want in whatever quantity desired.
2. Kroger Rewards
Seriously. This is the best rewards program I have ever been a part of. Simply by having a card (or a number associated), I can easily save between $5-$15 per shopping trip. For example, a sale on meat could mean $5 off the market value for everyone who doesn't have a card. That piece of plastic will save you tons.
3. Replace Frozen with Fresh
It's very easy to store frozen vegetables. I understand - they last long, taste decent, and get the job done. However, for a lower price, you can buy fresh produce. The great thing about this is that when you buy fresh items you're getting more nutrients from the food. Often times frozen foods are not the best quality and have been farmed for the sake of quantity rather than quality.
There are some great companies that do sell frozen vegetables, but these can be much more expensive than just buying it fresh. The great thing about fresh produce is that you can control the quantity you want and which item you're getting exactly. Hell, you can even freeze them, too, if you're really missing that nostalgic feeling of frozen veggies.
4. Go To Farmers Markets
These places are gold mines for good food. Not only do you get to know more about where your food is coming from, but you'll save a ton of money doing this. For example, I went to a farmers market back in my hometown and bought apples, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onion, and a couple of other items for around $20. This seems like a steep price, but I had a lot of this stuff.
If I had bought it from a local grocery store, I would've spent around $30. That $10 difference can get me a nice coffee and pastry treat.
Get the Sunday paper and start clipping. You'll be surprised at how many coupons are in there. You can also sign up to receive mail from places like RedPlum which will give you more coupons. Many grocery stores also have mobile apps that will give you mobile coupons for items that are on sale. I know Meijer, Kroger, Fresh Thyme, and Walmart all participate in these types of marketing. Coupons are not for the old, but for the wise.
6. Name Brand or Nah?
Really this all depends. Some generic brands are really great like Private Selection from Kroger. Others can be kind of scary like meat from Aldis. However, it's important to look at the price and compare it the units of the product.
For example, if I am trying to buy tomato sauce a 'name' brand will sell it for $2 per 8 fluid ounces. The generic brand might sell it for $1 per 4.5 fluid ounces. When you do the calculation, the two sauces are around the same price. So, being conscious of fluid ounces in comparison to brands could save you.
7. Don't Buy What You Don't Need
In America, we have this crazy trend of buying produce, frozen food, and meats in bulk. We go on a crazy purge of grocery shopping because we come home one day and there's suddenly nothing in our fridge. Buying things ahead of time is great only if you know exactly what you are eating and have it planned out. Most of us aren't all that put together (how I wish I was).
What I have begun to do and have noticed plentiful savings is buying things per meal or day. This guarantees that I am buying fresh produce and meat that I am actually consuming. I found when I bought things ahead of time with no concrete plans, I would often throw things out.
BONUS! Make Extra
When you're making dinner or lunch make a little extra so that you have plenty to take to school or work the next day. This will save you tons because the average price of lunch could be anywhere from $4-$12 depending on where you are. If you're worried you haven't made enough, that's okay.
A good way to practice portion control is to scoop out what you would normally eat, divide it in half, and save the rest for later. So, even if you aren't necessarily making enough for two days worth of eating, you can still get positive outcomes by saving some of the food from the night before.
Now go out and conquer.