eople throughout the United States have struggled for many years to put food on their families' tables. Unfortunately, this tends to be one of the leading causes of the rise in fast food consumption and obesity throughout the country. It’s not that individuals don’t want to eat healthily; it is more complicated when you live on a tight budget, and the cost of healthier foods has increased so much. 

College students are one of the largest groups trying to remain healthy and keep up with everyday life tasks such as bills and paying for necessities for their education. So as prices continue to rise throughout the country, what should they and others in a similar situation do? 

As you continue reading, you will learn about some places where you can grocery shop on a budget, as well as a few different tips on how to save money while eating healthy as a college student or a young individual just starting their professional lives.

Budget-Friendly Grocery Stores

Don’t have a lot of spare money to spend? Don’t worry. We got you covered!

The key to grocery shopping on a budget is finding stores that won't break the bank. Luckily, you don't have to shell out Whole Foods money to put a balanced meal on the table. We're taking a look at five budget-friendly stores where you can stock up on grocery essentials.

1) Dollar Tree

Prices start as low as $1.25 as stores across the country are forced to increase their product prices. Image courtesy of relexsolutions.

Typically when our minds go grocery shopping, we think of big brand names such as Albertsons, Walmart, Target, and Ralphs. And we skip over the fact that stores such as the Dollar Tree exist. Although it is not popularly discussed, the dollar tree is a great place to get spices and other ingredients for meals that may be significantly more expensive elsewhere. So although the store may not have everything you are looking for, it is a good start when trying to keep your spending at a particular amount.  A bonus is that you can also purchase other household items you may be running low on, such as cleaners, hygiene products, and dishes that range between $1.00 and $1.25.

2) Costco

A great place to go and get your favorite items in bulk. Image courtesy of wrdw.

When most people think of Costco, they think of the cheap hot dogs and churros you can buy to snack on as you shop. But that's not all. Costco is also known for selling items in bulk for budget-friendly prices. You may think that sounds great, but I don’t have a Costco card membership. If this is you, fear no more. 

Although having the membership gives you the perks of being able to walk into any Costco store you want, one way that you can get past having to pay $60 for the annual membership is to pay for a gift card. The only issue you may run into with this is that you may need a Costco member to purchase the card for you, and you may be only able to load $1000 at a time to the card. However, if you find that you enjoy the services Costco offers after a “trial” period, you may be more interested in purchasing a membership yourself. After all, the $60 membership may be worth it in the grand scheme.

3) Trader Joe’s

If you are open-minded and want to test different food products from all over the world, then Trader Joe’s is a must-go-to place for you. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

With over 530 stores in the United States, shopping at Trader Joe’s has never been more accessible. One of the advantages of these stores is that they sell mainly organically made products at an affordable price. A part of how they can maintain affordable prices is that they will discontinue items that are becoming more costly for companies to make and would increase the costs that you would have to pay. 

Finally, one thing that makes the company stand out compared to other grocery stores is how they care for the environment and look out for those who cannot afford to go grocery shopping altogether. The products that customers don’t purchase go toward food recovery partners or will end up being composted.

4) Winco

Similar setup to Costco but arguably better. Image courtesy of theshelbyreport.

Suppose you are shopping on a budget, and shopping in bulk for an affordable price. These stores may not look attractive, but they do the job. This company tries to use up as much space as possible in any given location, which is why only a limited number of employees are working at any given time. If you decide to shop at one of these locations, keep in mind the likelihood is high that you will be checking out and bagging items yourself. 

One crucial aspect to remember when shopping at these stores, along with serving yourself, is that these locations only accept debit cards and cash. I know this was something new to me when I visited Winco for the first time.

5) Amazon

Amazon offers online grocery shopping, so now you can shop in your pj's from the comfort of yourt home and have fresh food delivered straight to your door. Image courtesy of techcrunch.

What once could only be considered a dream is now a reality. If you are someone who has a busy schedule and can’t find the time to make it to the grocery store physically, then this is something you can do. One of the best things about shopping for groceries online is that you can see what the total cost for your grocery visit will be as you are shopping.. This also makes it easier for you so that if you realize you forgot to add any particular items to your cart, you can quickly go back and add the item into the total instead of driving to the store and then getting back home only to realize that you forgot to buy that darn cartoon of eggs or that pesky gallon of milk.

7 Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

1) Shop online for nonperishable items.

By doing this, you are not only saving money on sales tax that you would be paying at stores, but you will also be saving yourself an unnecessary trip to the grocery store. This will save you from using gas, which is advised, especially with how high the gas cost is around the country right now.

2) Buy perishable items in portion distributions that you will use.

This is something that people are guilty of. It is too easy to walk into stores and see food items on sale, so we load up. This is fine and good, but only if you are using the items you bought. This is unfortunate because you ended up wasting money.

3) Only buy fruits and vegetables that are in season.

Now in saying this, I am not saying avoid particular items altogether. However, I recommended taking advantage of fruits and vegetables during the period that they taste their best over just buying them to buy them.

4) Watch how much-precooked food you grab.

Although it can be convenient to grab precooked meals, you will notice that these items tend to cost more money. You end up paying more because you are having someone else prepare your food for you. So ask yourself, what is more important?

5) Use Coupons with caution.

Using coupons isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do. You just have to be careful when you do it. One thing you should look out for when using coupons is to know when they expire, see if they can only be used for products from a particular brand, and make sure that there is no underlying catch that you were misinformed on. Nothing can be more frustrating than going into a store thinking that you will be saving some money with coupons only to find out that they either have expired or can only be used on products from a particular brand. The other frustrating thing, too, is that a coupon can only be used if you buy a particular amount of that product first.

6) Get some use out of leftovers sitting around the house.

Now, this is easier for some people than it is for others. In some cases, it might just be that you never have leftovers around because you either make just enough food for yourself, or you have a house full of people that go through food quickly. While for others, using leftovers can be more of a struggle because having leftovers isn’t your thing. Either way, one of the best ways to save money is to do what you have. After all, beggars can’t be choosers.

7) Avoid pre-portioned items.

Now, if you are reading this and thinking this sounds crazy, you aren’t the only one. Having items pre-portioned out makes things easier on us and allows for convenient grab-and-go items, right? Although this may appear to be more appealing, something you must remember is that these items may cost more than just buying the regular packs. This is similar to precooked food because the food has already been doled out, and packaging costs a bit more because the food is separated.

All in all, even though prices in stores are going up, it is easy to feel as if there are not many options when it comes to grocery shopping while on a budget. But by reading through the above, you hopefully took away that there are budget-friendly stores and some new tips to use when grocery shopping on a budget.

Aug 3, 2022