I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal that was examining the current buying habits of grocery store customers. The author discussed the fact that sales of processed foods are steadily declining and how companies are dealing with these changes. The dietitian in me is intrigued by the news that processed food purchases in the grocery store appear to be decreasing. The advice on shopping the perimeter of the grocery store has been around the nutrition world for more than a decade. It is a tactic that focuses shopping energy on the produce, fresh meat, and dairy sections (the perimeter of the store) and avoid the processed and shelf stable items of the center aisles. While I find it unrealistic to shop the perimeter exclusively (hello, COFFEE is found in a center aisle), I do try to make my way to the check out lane with a cart that represents the fresh foods of the perimeter well.
I admit though, saving money on the perimeter shopping has been one of my biggest challenges on my journey to eat well frugally. Nonetheless, where there is a will, there is a way, and I’ve found some tricks.
1. Only shop the sales
Yes, there will be items on sale each and every week. In the produce section this is invariable the items that are in-season, so you have the added benefit of best-tasting items being the best price. I got into the habit of only buying in-season produce years before I started my frugal living journey. What started it? I paid $6 for a small container of the most tart and terrible raspberries I have ever put into my mouth. I decided right then and there I would never buy fresh raspberries in January in east Tennessee again. So instead of planning what fruits and veggies I will buy based on my whims, I use the weekly ad and see what is on sale. I know those items will be the most flavorful and the best priced, and then plug those into my weekly meal plan.
2. There will be coupons!
It is true that there will not be as many coupons for fresh fruits, meats, and dairy case items in the weekly paper as there will be for processed foods, but there will be some! Stay vigilant and look in the less obvious places as well such as catalina coupons (these are the ones that print at the cash register) and tearpads (the ones that are hanging up next to products) in the grocery aisles.
3. Freezer space is your best friend
I have a small, nothing-fancy freezer in my garage. I absolutely love it! For many years, I didn’t have the space or money for a freezer so I managed with my fridge freezer only, but I regret not making space for a small chest freezer sooner. Having a freezer allows me to really stock up on the fresh meat sales. It also allows me freedom to store more freezer meals, which is a huge time (and stress) saver for me on busy days.
Here is a picture of my freezer just to show you how simple it really is:
4. Use Rebate Apps
This is my most reliable way to save on perimeter grocery shopping. There are several rebate apps out there Checkout51, SavingStar, and my personal favorite, Ibotta. Rebates apps are just that, money back for purchasing certain products, but all of these rebate apps have produce, fresh meat, and fresh dairy available. Once you get a specified amount in your account (varies across platforms) you can cash out. It is my single most used technique to save on produce.
So why do I like Ibotta the most? Honestly, it is because one of the lowest cash out amounts is available for an Amazon gift card. We are Prime members and I love how quickly Ibotta accumulates and I can use it for my Amazon purchases. There are other cash out options too, including PayPal and Venmo, so I always encourage people to explore the apps for themselves.
You are not limited to using one app. You can use as many as you wish, and get even more money back. For the purpose of streamlining my systems to save time, I tend to focus on Ibotta and then if I have time, I also use Checkout51. I am of the opinion that time is money, so I view my time in efforts to save money or make my dollars go further, as time well spent!
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