If you’re trying to save on the grocery bill, a great habit is to look through the receipt afterwards and circle everything that (a) cost over $5, or (b) cost way more than you think it should have. If you’re trying to cut back, these items will get you the most savings. Often, it’s just a few high-cost items driving up the grocery bill.
Sure, some of the expensive stuff is necessary. Most meat purchases will be over $5, and if you’re buying high-quality meat, it’s worth paying for. But sometimes there are easy ways to crack down on those high-cost groceries. Here’s a list of 6 pricey items that might be eating through your budget, and tips for cheaper substitutes.
1. Bacon: Try the Ends and Pieces
Bacon ends and pieces are exactly the same meat, but instead of being in regular strips, they’re in odd-shaped bits.
If you’re planning on making bacon-wrapped something, then that won’t do. But if you just want bacon flavor (say…in some Paleo pasta or a quiche), ends and pieces will do you just fine. You were going to cut it up anyway! It’s actually more convenient to get it pre-cut-up, and it saves a lot of money. The ends and pieces are often half the price of “ordinary” bacon.
You can usually find the ends and pieces off to the side of the regular bacon, or sometimes with the ham hocks and neckbones and other “odd bits.”
2. Red Meat: Try Heart Instead of Roasts.
They taste the same. Heart tastes exactly like a roast, and it mostly cooks up like a roast, but it’s often several dollars less per pound because people think it's "icky." Especially if you have a big family, you can save a lot of money by snapping it up!
Here’s some more about the nutritional benefits and cooking with heart, with some easy recipes that you can use if you don’t already have one.
Extra tip: you can also swap out chicken for chicken hearts. Chicken hearts are around meatball size, so they’re not an exact substitute for something like a breast. But they work just fine in soup or stir-fries.
3. Broth: Try DIY Instead of Store-Bought.
Chicken broth from the store can run up the bill fast, especially if it’s organic. But if you ever eat chicken, you might be throwing out a perfectly free source of chicken broth: the bones.
When you eat bone-in chicken, save the bones, wingtips, necks and backs…all the gristly bits (throw them in the freezer if you don’t have a lot at once). Then throw them in a slow-cooker, add water, and turn it on overnight. In the morning, you’ll have chicken broth from the bones you would have thrown out otherwise. Even if you need to buy a slow-cooker for this, it’ll pay for itself in just a few batches of broth.
If you’re worried about getting caught in a time crunch, keep one or two boxes of the store-bought stuff in the pantry for emergencies.
Bonus tip: if you never have bones because you always buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, swap out those for thighs, wings, and whole chickens. Those cuts are cheaper per pound, and they actually have a flavor!
4. Bars and Jerky: Try Summer Sausage Instead.
Snacks and to-go food can really add to the grocery bill, and two of the worst offenders are bars and jerky.
Bars and jerky aren’t “bad.” There’s a time and a place for Paleo recreations of PowerBars, and we went over some of the best for Paleo Leap members here (sign up here if you haven’t already!). And jerky is a convenient, high-protein, low-sugar snack that doesn’t have any of the problems with eating nuts or dried fruit.
But there’s one big problem with bars and jerky: the price tag. For everyday eating, they’re really expensive.
A cheaper solution is summer sausage (that’s the hard, shelf-stable sausage you’ll see out at room temperature). Per pound, it’s ¼ or ⅓ the price of jerky, with the same nutritional bragging rights as a meat-based, low-carb snack full of healthy fats. If you leave it in its original package, it usually lasts several weeks at room temperature with no issues. Even if you take it out, it’ll last the better part of a day unrefrigerated or longer if it’s cool.
5. Berries: Try Frozen Instead of Fresh.
Even people who rarely eat fruit sometimes go for berries – they’re low in sugar and high in antioxidants, and definitely very tasty. But they can also bump up the grocery tab, especially in the off-season. Frozen berries are a more affordable alternative.
There’s usually no difference in nutritional quality between fresh and frozen. And when there is, it’s usually in favor of the frozen berries, since they were picked at the peak of their ripeness instead of being picked unripe and fridge-trucked across the continent.
Frozen berries are sturdier and easier to transport, so they cost less, and the cost savings get passed on to you. And they’re delicious with a drizzle of coconut milk on top.
Extra tip: if you often have the problem of buying vegetables that rot in your fridge, frozen vegetables might also be a money-saving option for you.
6. Nuts and Spices: Try Bulk Foods Instead of Packaged.
Bulk spices are so much cheaper that you can actually save money buying in bulk at Whole Foods compared to buying in a package at a regular store. Where else can you actually save money by going to Whole Foods? That shouldn’t even be possible! It disobeys the laws of the grocery-store universe! But it’s true.
Other foods where you can save a ton of money by buying in bulk include…
- Nut flours or coconut flour
- White rice (if you eat it)
- Dried fruit
“OK,” you say, “but who has time to go to a special bulk-food store on top of all the regular grocery shopping? I thought this Paleo thing wasn’t supposed to eat up my life.” Two solutions
- Buy in bulk…online. It’s even cheaper than a physical store, and you don’t have to leave the house.
- Make a big trip every 1-2 months. Most bulk items are nonperishable. Nuts and spices and rice will keep for ages. You don’t have to go every week; just keep a running list and head out for occasional bulk shopping trips.