Grocery Shopping Hacks: Save Time & Money

As parents, we’re always trying to save money and conserve energy whenever and wherever we can. After having my baby, grocery shopping soon became my least favorite thing. In my last blog post I talked about a produce delivery service I use called Imperfect Produce (IP). This helps me save a ton of money. If you’re interested, you can click here to learn all about it. But, and this is a big but, IP doesn’t deliver everywhere. Yet… So, I have come up with some shopping tips for you busy parents to help you save money and, of course, time.

This week, to give you a better representation of what the cost would be if I didn’t have access to it, I skipped my Imperfect Produce delivery. These hacks are a no brainer and include smart meal planning (we’ll go into detail below), using coupons and promo codes, and taking advantage of your local grocery store’s delivery service. For this experiment I shopped at Safeway, since there is a location less than a mile from where I live, and I often shop there for most items I don’t get from IP. To see if you have a Safeway location near you, click here.

How To Get The Biggest Bang for Your Buck

Smart Meal Planning

It’s one thing to plan your meals for the week, it’s another to do so smartly.  Let me explain.

1. Plan meals based around seasonal produce

Using seasonal fruits and veggies can help you save a ton of money. For example, in December here in California we are growing squash, root veggies, citrus, pomegranates, broccoli, and more. Use as many of these items as possible in your dishes since they will be cheaper than imprted produce. If you’re not sure what’s in season, a Google search will tell you all you need to know. Just make sure you take your region into account.

2. Keep It Simple

Choose a handful of fruits and veggies and plan all of your meals around those. No need to make things complicated. Because I’m a busy mom and no longer have the time or energy to prepare gourmet dishes, I like to come up with a few meals that are easy to throw together throughout the week. Here are five meals that I chose for this week, and their ingredients.

MONDAY: Acorn Squash Chili Bowl

INGREDIENTS:

Chilies, beans, lentils, corn, crushed tomatoes, spices, garlic, kale, carrots, onion, bell pepper, okra, cilantro, acorn squash, vegan cheese, green onions, hot chilies

ABOUT:

Chili is easy, delicious, and perfect for cold weather. Toss all the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning and let it cook while you’re out running errands. Toss the squash in the oven when you get home and in 30 minutes you’ll be enjoying an amazing dinner. I decided to throw frozen corn into this recipe, and a couple others as well, since I already had some in my freezer that needed to be used up. Making use of what you already have is another great way to save money. I’ll talk about that more later.

TUESDAY: Jambalaya

INGREDIENTS:

Frozen corn, okra, yams, spices, tofu, vegan sausage, bell peppers, chilies, crushed tomatoes, rice, onions, celery, carrots, veggie stock, garlic, hot chilies, cilantro

ABOUT:

This is another great cold weather meal. Prep it early in the week, and store it in a casserole dish in the fridge for a quick and easy meal later on.

WEDNESDAY: Chickpea Pasta & Steamed Veggies

INGREDIENTS:

Chickpea noodles, vegan pasta sauce, mushrooms, vegan meatballs, spinach, carrots, vegan cheese, broccoli

ABOUT:

Everyone loves pasta! This meal is so easy to throw together, and cheap too. Before having my baby I would make all my pasta sauces from scratch, but now I simply don’t have the time. So I just pair my favorite vegan noodles ( I usually keep my pantry stocked in case I need to makea quick meal) and sauce with some vegan meatballs and steamed veggies. I also like to add more veggies into the store bought sauce to spice it up a bit, hence the mushrooms, carrots, and spinach (which I toss in at the very end).

THURSDAY: Miso Ramen

INGREDIENTS:

Noodles, miso, veggie stock, frozen corn, tofu, yams, carrots, spinach, broccoli, cilantro, green onions, mushrooms

ABOUT:

Before I was vegan, ramen was one of my all time favorites. It’s super easy to make, especially if you use miso paste for the broth. When I make ramen, I add whatever veggies and proteins I have left over from other meals. In this case, I have frozen corn, broccoli, yams, carrots, mushrooms, and tofu. You can add whatever veggies you want, which makes this super fun and different each time.

FRIDAY: Vegan Sausage, Garlic Herb Quinoa & Roasted Root Veggies

INGREDIENTS:

Vegan sausage, quinoa, carrots, onion, garlic, veggie stock, beats, turnip, potatoes, broccoli, spices, sweet potatoes, mushrooms

ABOUT:

Another easy meal. Cook your quinoa in veggie stock with garlic, herbs, and serve it with baked or pan seared vegan sausage and roasted root veggies. Yum!

As you can see, I used the same ingredients in most of my meals. But don’t worry, changing it up by using different spices and bases will keep it from becoming boring and monotonous. Just look at the variety I was able to produce with the same simple ingredients!

3. Stay Fresh

Try to avoid purchasing too many pre-made or packaged items. I know how hard it can be! Tofu and other vegan meats are okay, as long as you don’t overdo it. To save money you want to stick with grains, legumes, and fresh fruits and veggies as much as possible.

4. Stock Up

One of the best ways to save money is by stocking up on grains, seeds, nuts, flour, and legumes. Buy in bulk! It may cost you a pretty penny at first, but once you make that purchase, you won’t have to do so again for at least a couple of months.

Avoid purchasing canned goods since it’s a lot more expensive than purchasing dried legumes and such. My pantry is constantly stocked with dried goods that I store in glass containers. You don’t have to store them this way, but I find that it’s convenient, reduces clutter, and is a lot more efficient.

5. Use What You Have

Try to utilize the ingredients you already have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. If you have frozen veggies and dried black beans, plan to make black bean soup! You may need to purchase only a few ingredients.

6. Eliminate Waste

Instead of throwing out the rubbery carrot in your fridge, or the half eaten squash you know you won’t eat, make your own vegetable stock! Take all of your vegetable trimmings (yes, even those garlic and onion peels) and store them in your freezer. Once a week, toss all of the trimmings in your crockpot with some water and salt, and let it cook all day. Once it’s done, strain it and store the stock in either your fridge or freezer to use with your meals.

Use Coupon, Deals, & More

Go on the store’s website and take advantage of all of their offers! Safeway, for example, offers customers a club card. With it you get items for the club price, can upload coupons to your card, and get rewards points every time you make a purchase.

1. Coupons & Club Card

There is no shame in clipping coupons. Especially since these days you can do it online and don’t have to wait in the checkout line while the cashier scans them, all while trying to avoid making eye contact with the angry customers waiting in line behind you. With Safeway, you simply go onto their website and clip the coupons you want. They are then automatically uploaded onto your card and all you have to do is swipe it or enter your phone number at checkout. And BAM! Instant savings. And don’t forget to pay attention to the Club card prices as well. You can save a bunch just from that.

2. Deals

Stores often have BOGO deals, so make sure you keep an eye out for deals on products you often use and stock up if you can! It will save you money in the long run. You can often find these deals on the store’s website and add them onto your club card along with the coupons.

3. Delivery

You may have to pay a little extra, but shopping at a store that offers delivery will save you so much time! And we all know time is money. Especially for you mamas who have a new baby. I do 100% of my shopping while I’m nursing my 2 and a half month old baby. Talk about multitasking and being productive!

4. Promo Codes

The advantage to shopping online is that you can use promo codes. Before placing your order, always check to see what promos they are offering at the time. Sometimes you get free delivery, others you’ll get free items. Below is a screenshot of the order I just placed with Safeway. And before you guys get upset and say I’m a fake vegan, the honey is for my partner who is omni. Don’t worry, I’ll convert him someday!! Now, keep in mind that this is the cost of groceries for 2 people for the week. One who is a big muscular man, and the other (me) a breastfeeding mama.

 

Conclusion

As you can see from the screen shot, I saved over $30 on this purchase, and this is the price BEFORE all my coupons have been taken into account. I’m guessing I saved closer to $45, which is over 1/3 of the entire cost before coupons, promos, and other deals. Now, if I had used Imperfect Produce to get my fruits and veggies delivered this week, I would have saved even more since a 13 pound box only costs me $20 including shipping. Not bad eh?

As always my lovely readers, if you have any questions, please ask them below in the comment section. And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @theveganmom1 for more tips and tricks. Ciao!

7 Replies to “Grocery Shopping Hacks: Save Time & Money”

  1. SO informative! I have not been able to find anything like your site, we’re a big group of people with so little resources. Meal planning has to be my favorite suggestion, I’m always running out of the house at the last minute throwing anything I can into a bag but of course when I get to work and take lunch I realize nothing is filling at all. Stock up and eliminate waste are also some favorites, it’s amazing how many people and animals are helped by implementing this into your lifestyle. Thanks for the great read!

  2. I am always looking for ways to shop smartly so I would like to thank you for these tips.   My favorite was the one where you suggested saving up the vegetable trimmings in the freeze and then using them to make stock once a week.   That is a great idea that I have never thought of before.  Thanks! 

    1. Sondra,

      That’s a little trick I learned from my mom. She owned a restaurant when I was a kid and would save all of the vegetable and meat trimmings to make stock for soups and sauces. This is why her french dip sandwiches were the best around! Of course, I no longer eat meat, but the same concept applies. Glad I could help!

      Missy

  3. Thank you for that simple one week plan and for the reminder to plan meals around seasonal produce. I falter on that a lot.

    Most times a draw a food time table and when it’s time to execute it, I realise a lot of the fresh products are out of season and I may have to go for canned products or quickly come up with another option if I really want something fresh.

    Thanks also for the tip on using what you have and cutting down on wastage. I’m guilty of those.

    1. You are very welcome!

      If ever need some tips or recipe ideas for produce available to you, feel free to email me and I would be delighted to assist you!

      Missy

  4. Thanks for your lively post, Missy.  The topic — grocery shopping —  is one that is dear to my own heart being a die-hard foodie who is a lot into fresh everything.  I am not sure that my own strategies actually saves me very much money since I do tend to go for taste, freshness and high quality which are likely to cost a bit more than blah-ness and generic stuff.

    The only thing we get a lot of is canned coconut milk and different kinds of beans.  Because we don’t have a lot of mouths to feed, I don’t tend to do bulk purchasing so much any more.  And even though the bags we buy are smaller and cost more per pound, we don’t waste a lot of the stuff.  

    Lately I’ve been cruising a couple of very good farmer’s markets with produce from for-real family farmers rather than the more industrial big farm dudes as well as locally made farm products (with things like mango chutney, assorted kinds of curry and herbal mixes, assorted herbal teas and tisanes and preserves and pickles plus a wide array of baked goods).

    My very best thing has been the salad bar that the Light of My Life started growing in containers next to the porch.  We’ve got Manoa lettuce, arugula, green onions, swiss chard and a whole bunch of great herbs that all become part of a mondo salad every other meal.  We buy the other veggies — like asparagus, onions, all the root vegetables and the other stuff that take up a lot of room in a regular garden.  We have lots of dried fruits and seeds as well that liven up the mix.  It works well.

    1. Hello Netta,

      Yes, it is much easier when you have only a couple people to feed. I have seven siblings and my mother was a single parent who had to work three jobs to keep food on the table. I learned a lot of money-saving tips from her. Farmers markets are great, and I used to go every week before my baby was born. Now I just don’t have the time.Your little garden sounds wonderful! When we had our ranch I had a 1/2 acre garden. How I miss it!! 

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