Experts share easy strategies to reduce your grocery bill without sacrificing quality or your family's health.
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Close-up of ecologically friendly reusable bag with fruit and vegetables
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Between continued shortages and rising food prices, the last few years have been a strange time for home cooks. Learning how to save money on grocery shopping has become more important than ever. But take note: This isn't just about clipping coupons or buying store brand items, though these strategies certainly help. Smart shopping takes it a step further, allowing you to get the most out of every dollar without sacrificing quality, taste, and most of all, your usual go-to dishes. If you're unsure how to start, try these expert-approved tips for grocery shopping to save money.

Choose Minimally Processed Ingredients

Although pre-prepared ingredients are convenient, some options aren't ideal for lowering your grocery bill. This is especially true for items that can be easily shredded, peeled, or cut at home. "Shoppers pay extra for the 'added value' of foods that have undergone processing," says Anne-Marie Bonneau, author of The Zero-Waste Chef: Plant-Forward Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen and Planet. Examples include shredded cheese, chopped butternut squash, and oat flour—all of which cost more than a block of cheese, a whole squash, and rolled oats, respectively. With that in mind, consider choosing the whole versions of items that can be easily processed in your kitchen.

Buy Whole, Uncut Vegetables

Similarly, buying pre-cut vegetables may save you time but it costs you money. Instead opt for the ones with leaves or stems attached. Not only are uncut vegetables cheaper than their pre-cut counterparts, but they technically include more food, too. For example, the stem of a broccoli can be chopped and cooked just like broccoli florets, notes Bonneau. You can also "roast whole cauliflower leaves tossed in olive oil, fry potato skins, [and] eat the green parts of leeks in a stir fry or omelet," says Bonneau. The tops of beets can be added to pesto, sautéed dishes, or salads, just like any other leafy green. By choosing vegetables with all edible parts attached, you'll be able to "save money and shop less, all while eating delicious food," says Bonneau.

Substitute Eggs for Meat

It's true that eggs—among countless other kitchen staples—are getting more expensive by the day. But when you consider the protein-rich content of eggs, they're an excellent swap for meat products. Even a dozen organic, pasture-raised eggs offers more protein "bang for your buck" than ground meat these days, says Jenna Helwig, food director of Real Simple and author of Bare Minimum Dinners: Recipes and Strategies for Doing Less in the Kitchen. Not to mention, "putting an egg on almost anything makes it richer and tastier, [which] is especially true of grains and vegetables," says Helwig. For example, the next time you make stir-fry or soup, try topping it off with a fried egg for an inexpensive source of added protein and flavor.

Buy Frozen Seafood Instead of Fresh

If seafood recipes are a staple in your home, one of the best ways to shop smart is to choose frozen options over fresh. "A lot of seafood at the fish counter has actually been frozen and defrosted already," explains Helwig. Thus, when you bring "fresh" seafood home, it won't last long in the refrigerator, increasing the chances of spoilage before you can use it. But when you buy frozen seafood instead of fresh, you'll be able to defrost and cook it at your own inconvenience, helping you avoid wasted food (and ultimately, wasted money).

Shop Your Kitchen First

"Before [buying] more food, look through your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry and try to come up with a dish with what's on hand," says Bonneau. "Let the contents of your kitchen dictate what you'll cook next." Helwig echoes this concept, noting that with a little excavation, you'll be sure to discover treasures in your own kitchen. Case in point: Recently, Helwig defrosted and grilled a rack of frozen baby back ribs, then cooked farro she unearthed from the pantry; the result yielded more than a week's worth of lunches.

Even if you're unable to create a full meal out of existing ingredients, browsing your kitchen allows you to establish a jumping-off point for the next dish. This way, you can "fill in the blanks" at the grocery store and only buy what you need to complete a meal, effectively shortening your shopping list. "The good news is that frozen foods are safe to eat indefinitely, although it's possible the quality will suffer after a while," says Helwig. "And pantry goods are often perfectly fine well after the expiration date; just use your eyes and nose."

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