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Strategies to Decrease Spending and Maintain Your Health

September 2014

Anita Jalloh, Nutrition Intern, College of St. Elizabeth
Karen Ensle EdD, RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Every year Americans spend millions of dollars on grocery shopping. Unfortunately, many do not have a strategy to save money when shopping. When it comes to grocery shopping there can be a great deal of planning involved or absolutely no planning at all. Often, when we don’t create a plan, we overspend and buy foods that lack in nutritional value. Follow these small steps to decrease your spending and maintain your health:

Eat Stored Food Before Buying New: Using food items in your home is an effective strategy if you want to save money each week. Before grocery shopping, it is helpful to check your pantry and refrigerator to see items that you already have. Another handy tip is to create a meal using eft over vegetables and frozen meat.. (e.g., a stew with vegetables with chicken, steak, or turkey)

Use Coupons: A very good way to save money on grocery shopping is to spend time saving coupons. Using coupons is not only a good way to save money, but it is also a good way to create a grocery list and plan meals in advance. There are plenty of ways to collect coupons including websites, apps on your phone, circulars, supermarket savings cards, and the newspaper.

Make a Shopping List: According to, making a list can decrease the money and time spent when grocery shopping. A simple way to create a grocery list is to base it on the USDA MyPlate budget game plan. provides the guide, Shop Smart to Fill Your Cart that indicates foods to buy within the recommended food groups. Just buy the foods you need to prepare the recipes you have chosen for the week with the budgeted funds put aside for food shopping.

Be Selective with Your Purchases: Choose food brands that cost less.. Stores often stock the priciest items at eye level. You can save big by looking at the upper and lower shelves. Learn to read food labels for nutrition content/ingredients along with comparing costs of at least 3 similar items. Make sure to compare the prices and do not assume that the store brand is always cheaper. According to the USDA, “Day old bread” costs less, but still offers nutritious benefits.”

Buy Items on Sale: Ask for a rain check if a sale item has run out. This allows you to pay the sale price after the item is restocked.

Join a Store’s Loyalty Program: Most supermarkets offer a free loyalty program. Get special offers and discounts that non-members do not. Buying food on sale can help save money. Just beware of “buy 1 get 1 free” or the “buy 10 for 10” deals. These offers will only benefit you if you are need of the specific food or beverage product being sold. Don’t overbuy any products that you will not use in the next few months.

Remember the 3 P’s of Eating on a Budget: Plan your meals and snacks for the week according to an established budget. Purchase groceries using a list when you are not hungry or too rushed. Prepare dishes ahead of time when possible and freeze them.

Taking small steps to think and plan ahead will keep you and your family healthy and well-fed. Get additional tips on supermarket savings from UNL Extension in Lancaster County, Nebraska.