How to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill

Photo Credit: Robin DeGrassi James via Flickr

Photo Credit: Robin DeGrassi James via Flickr

One of the largest expenses that most students have outside of tuition and rent is groceries. Here are some tips that can help you both save money without resorting to ramen noodles and eat healthy without forking over hundreds of dollars:

  • Budget: Have a specific grocery budget for the week and stick to it. One great way to do this is by shopping with cash.
  • Make A List: Set aside some time each week to plan out your meals and make a specific grocery list. Try to base your meals on what is in-season, on sale, and what you already have on hand. Then organize your list according to the layout of the grocery store, you’ll save time and money by avoiding impulse buys!
  • Coupons: Check the Sunday paper or your local grocery store website for this week’s deals. Check out Couponsuzy.com or CouponMom.com both sites feature printable coupon deals organized by region. Check out this post on couponing for more tips and tricks.
  • Buy In Season: Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, they are cheaper and a lot fresher. Try going to a farmer’s market, you can find good deals and the produce is fresh! Or, support a local farm by joining your local CSA.
  • Going Organic: It can be hard to buy organic on a small budget. You may not be able to buy everything organic, but you can be more conscious about where you get your food. Check out your local co-op, join a CSA, or go to a farmer’s market. Or, try out one of my personal favorites Trader Joe’s that features tons of organic food and products at lower prices.
  • Buy Less Meat: Meat is often very expensive. Try cutting down on your meat consumption by eating vegetarian for most meals. If you find a good deal on a large amount of meat, re-portion it into individual servings and freeze it for later use.
  • Store Brands: Don’t neglect the generic store brands, often they are the same product as the name brands. Sometimes the store brands even offer organic or all-natural options!
  • Avoid Prepackaged Foods: They may be convenient but they really add up. Instead of buying prepackaged cookies, why not make your own?
  • Check Unit Pricing: One of the best tips for finding a good deal is to check the unit pricing on items. This will quickly help you find the best deal.
  • Watch the Scanner: This will help you keep track of costs, make sure your coupons actually went through and it will keep the cashier more alert.
  • Limit Your Trips: Make fewer, larger trips. While shopping around can be very good, it can cost a lot in time and gas. Check out what you can get for the best price at different grocery stores in your area and make trips once a month to those stores for specific items.

Join the Conversation: What tips do you have for saving money on your grocery bill?

Frugal Fitness Challenge: Creative and Fun Ways to Workout

This is our final week of the Frugal Fitness Challenge. We have looked at frugal fitness options, nutrition, and grocery shopping. This week I am investigating some outside of the box forms of exercise to help you break out of your workout rut even in the dead of winter.

Are you looking to put a little pizzazz into your workout? Are you getting bored running, walking, or lifting weights? Looking for something a little more exciting especially with winter on its way? Here are a few creative and fun ways to workout throughout the fall and winter:

  • Rake and Jump in Leaves: Act like a kid! Rake up a big pile of leaves and jump in them. This is even more fun if you get a few friends together. Don’t have a yard of your own? Why not rake a neighbor or friend’s yard for them, you can have a little fun, get a great workout and do something kind.
  • Nordic Walking: This is a great way to put a little pep in your step during any season. This way of walking with special poles burns 40% more calories than regular walking and engages the upper body and core. Here is an instructional video on Nordic Walking. Many cities have nordic walking groups, including the twin cities. Some groups even provide the poles!
  • Zumba: A latin-inspired form of exercise that is a combination of dance and aerobics put to the beat of lively, fun music. Many community centers, fitness clubs, and even churches are offering this with varied pricing. Search here to find classes near you.
  • Dancing: Dancing can be a really great work out as well as fantastic way to have fun with friends and meet people. Many cities have salsa and swing dancing classes and clubs. If you are little shy about your dancing skills, you can always play DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) for a great dance workout at home.
  • Jump: Did you really enjoy jumping on trampolines as a kid? Well, your fun doesn’t have to stop with adulthood. Jumping on trampolines can be a great workout! There are even some indoor trampoline parks, like Sky Zone, that offer aerobic fitness classes.
  • Old 80s Fitness Videos: One of my favorite, fun ways to get fit is to unearth some of those 80s and 90s fitness videos out of your parent’s basement or local library. You will not only get a great workout, but also a good laugh!
  • Broomball: One of winter’s most fun ice sports is broomball. A recreational winter sport that is similar to hockey. See if their are any recreational leagues near you, like this on in St. Paul.
  • Hula Hooping: Bring out that old hula hoop from your parent’s garage and get a great core workout this winter. This a great cardio exercise to do inside or outside.
  • Climbing Wall: Did you love climbing trees when you were a kid? Why not get your workout climbing a rock wall this winter? Here is a guide to the climbing walls and caves in the twin cities.

For more great ideas, check out this article on fun ways to workout. What are you favorite fun and creative ways to workout in the fall and winter?

Frugal Fitness Challenge: Save Money on Your Grocery Bill

This is my third post in the Frugal Fitness Challenge series. If you missed the first post on fitness or the second post on nutrition, check those out! This week I want to focus on ways that you can save money on your grocery bill. While this may not seem directly related to fitness, it is certainly a large part of healthy, frugal living. It is possible to eat healthy and save money without buying all organic foods or living solely off of ramen noodles. Here are a few money saving tips to keep in mind as you shop for the nutritious foods that I discussed in last week’s post.

  • Budget: Have a specific grocery budget for the week and stick to it. One great way to do this is by shopping with cash.
  • Coupons: Check the Sunday paper or your local grocery store website for this week’s deals. Check out Couponsuzy.com or CouponMom.com both sites feature printable coupon deals organized by region.
  • Buy In Season: Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, they are cheaper and a lot fresher. Try going to a farmer’s market, you can find good deals and the produce is fresh! Or, support a local farm by joining your local CSA.
  • Make A List: Set aside some time each week to plan out your meals and make a specific grocery list. Try to base your meals on what is in-season, on sale, and what you already have on hand. Then organize your list according to the layout of the grocery store, you’ll save time and money by avoiding impulse buys!
  • Going Organic: It can be hard to buy organic on a small budget. You may not be able to buy everything organic, but you can be more conscious about where you get your food. Check out your local co-op, join a CSA, or go to a farmer’s market. Or, try out one of my personal favorites Trader Joe’s that features tons of organic food and products at lower prices.
  • Buy Less Meat: Meat is often very expensive. Try cutting down on your meat consumption by eating vegetarian for most meals. If you find a good deal on a large amount of meat, re-portion it into individual servings and freeze it for later use.
  • Store Brands: Don’t neglect the generic store brands, often they are the same product as the name brands. Sometimes the store brands even offer organic or all-natural options!
  • Avoid Prepackaged Foods: They may be convenient but they really add up. Instead of buying prepackaged cookies, why not make your own?
  • Check Unit Pricing: One of the best tips for finding a good deal is to check the unit pricing on items. This will quickly help you find the best deal.
  • Watch the Scanner: This will help you keep track of costs, make sure your coupons actually went through and it will keep the cashier more alert.
  • Limit Your Trips: Make fewer, larger trips. While shopping around can be very good, it can cost a lot in time and gas. Check out what you can get for the best price at different grocery stores in your area and make trips once a month to those stores for specific items.

Join the Conversation: What tips do you have for saving money on your grocery bill?

Frugal Fitness Challenge: Nutrition

Last week I kicked off the Frugal Fitness Challenge with a post on frugal exercise options. This week I want to focus on nutrition. It can be really hard to eat healthy while you are on a small budget. Most of the cheap foods: ramen noodles, mac and cheese, etc. are not that healthy for you and not that filling. Here are a few nutrition tips and frugal foods to keep in mind as you plan your meals.

Many of you, like me, probably grew up with the food pyramid as the nutrition standard. Recently, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shifted from using the pyramid to using the plate model on the right. This plate is a good image to keep in mind as you plan your meals.

You will notice that there are five groups represented: vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy. Half of the plate is fruits and vegetables, with slightly more veggies than fruit. Remember, veggies aren’t just greens. Try to eat red, orange, as well as dark-green veggies. Some frugal veggies are peas, sweet potatoes, winter squash, collard greens, kale, cabbage, and carrots. Some great frugal fruits are bananas, strawberries, apples, and frozen berries. To get the most bang for your buck, buy the fruits and veggies that are in season.

The other half of the plate is grains and protein, with slightly more grains than protein. At least half of your grains should be whole grains. Some frugal grain options are brown rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, and quinoa. Try to eat lean proteins, varying your food choices. Some frugal lean protein options are dried beans, nuts, eggs, lentils, and chicken. Dairy is in the corner. Add a cup of low-fat or skim milk or low-fat yogurt to your diet. Many typical dairy products such as whole milk, butter, ice cream, etc. are loaded with fat and extra calories. Look for calcium rich, low-fat options.

Watch out for excess sodium or sugar in the foods that you eat. Many prepared foods are packed with excess salt, all of that sodium adds up. Use flavorful ingredients such as onion, garlic, pepper or spices so that you don’t have to add a lot of excess table salt. Cut down on sugary drinks. Instead, drink water, low-fat milk, or 100% fruit juices. For dessert, choose less sugary options like frozen, low-fat yogurt or fresh fruit.

For more information on building a nutritious meal check out these tips or this healthy eating brochure. Looking for some help completing your fitness and healthy eating goals? Check out WebMD’s free food and fitness planner. Get healthy on a budget!

Join the Conversation: What are some of your favorite nutritious, frugal foods?