I’m often asked for the best ways to save money on produce and meat each week. It can be tricky – but it’s certainly not impossible. Try out these smart shopping strategies the next time you shop:
1. Stick to the Sales
One way to save consistently is pretty simple – STICK TO THE SALES. Not just any sales, of course, but the best “loss leader” prices on fresh foods (loss leaders are those front-page items advertised to lead you into the store).
2. Support Local Markets
Pay special attention to any local meat and produce markets in your area and follow their advertised sales. Consider asking them if they offer any discounts when buying meat in bulk (since they won’t need to package items individually, sometimes they’re willing to pass the savings on to you).
Don’t forget about farmer’s markets in the summertime! Shop near closing time and you may be able to strike up a deal on a box or two of produce that the farmer doesn’t want to haul back home.
3. Watch the Warehouse Club
See if your warehouse club (BJ’s, Costco or Sam’s Club) has good prices on the meat and produce items you need as well. Consider keeping a record of their prices in a price book (or even document it using photos on your phone) so you’ll be able to compare prices across the board.
4. Stretch Your Savings through the Week
Shop the sale early and late in the week. If you buy perishable fruits, vegetables and meats during the first day or two of the sale, then again at the end of the sale, you’ll be able to use those fresh items for your family for almost 2 weeks!
5. Don’t Forget the Clearance Section
Many stores offer lower prices on close-to-date meat and produce. Check the clearance section for browning bananas or markdown meat.
Flashfood is an app that allows you to shop the clearance rack from the comfort of your own home – and decide if it’s worth a trip based on what’s available that day. You can save 50% off close-dated meat, produce, deli, seafood and bakery products (“best before” dates within a few days up to 2 weeks – expiration dates are provided in each product listing). You’ll even find fruit and veggie boxes for around $5 – perfect for washing and freezing or batch cooking!
6. Buy in Bulk, Portion and Freeze
- When I find boneless, skinless chicken breast for $1.49-$1.69 per pound, I buy 10 or 20 pounds, portion and prepare it for meals, and freeze for future use. That includes cutting small pieces of meat for stir fries, thinner fillets for easy chicken marsala, breading or marinating. Often we will bake or grill 5-10 pounds, cut and freeze the chicken pieces for future use in other dishes.
- When lean ground beef is $1.99 per pound (or ground turkey is available at a low price), we buy 10 or more pounds, mix burgers and meatballs and freeze. We also make large batches of spaghetti sauce, meatloaf and taco meat for the freezer, along with some plain cooked ground meat for future skillets and casseroles.
- Wash and chop. Berries can be frozen on a tray, then packaged in containers or plastic bags. They’re perfect for baking in breads or muffins or blending into a fresh fruit smoothie. Vegetables like carrots, celery, peppers and onions can be chopped and frozen for later use in soups, stir fries and casseroles. Find tips on how to freeze 20 different fruits and vegetables here.
- Don’t forget to keep a freezer inventory so you remember to use what you’ve stocked away.
7. Make a Menu Plan
If you’re not excited about buying larger amounts and freezing them, don’t worry. Simply sit down at the beginning of the week and take a look at the best prices around town – then plan your weekly menu around those items.
Consider using a free website like Supercook to assist you – type in the ingredients you have (and those on sale) and view recipes for meals you can make easily!
8. Look for coupons and cash back offers
Coupons for fresh produce and meat can be very tricky to find – but that doesn’t mean you should stop looking! Though they change often, here are a few examples:
- Driscoll’s Consumer Advisory Panel: Earn e-gift cards when you complete berry surveys
- Earthbound Farm Organic Printable Coupon: A great way to save on organic produce – you should be able to print 2!
- Ibotta “Any Item” Offers: Earn small amounts of cash back on select any brand items, including produce. These change often, so check your app before you shop!
- Meijer mPerks digital coupons and Kroger digital coupons (and other similar store coupons): Be sure to check out your store’s website or app and look for savings on produce and meat, like the examples above. They’re often waiting for you!
BONUS: The Benefits
By purchasing when prices are lowest, you’re saving the most you possibly can on these items. If you can plan your meals around the best sales at your store (or stores), you’ll avoid a last-minute trip for dinner ingredients (as well as the extra expense).
When you focus on advertised fruits and vegetables that are in season, you can dig your family back out of the produce routine you may have unknowingly fallen into. Heather commented, “After a few weeks I noticed that I was coming home with a much bigger variety of fresh fruits & vegetables. By checking the sale list, I realized we could have fresh kiwi or kale for the same price as the boring apples & baby carrots I previously kept bringing home.”
Shopping with a Bridge Card?
When you use your Michigan Bridge Card, Double Up matches your fruit and vegetable purchases dollar for dollar, up to $20 a day. That means you and your family get twice the fresh fruits and veggies. If you have a Bridge Card, you’re automatically eligible for Double Up. Some locations may require a quick sign-up at a cashier or info booth. The program is valid in 25 states, so even if you’re not a Michigan resident, the program may be available to you.
I’d love to hear how you stretch your dollars when it comes to meat and produce! Let me know in the comments!