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How to Save Money on Groceries: Comparison Shopping

A man pulls out the inside of his pockets to show he's broke.

Inflation, recession, inflation, recession—you can’t check the news without hearing the words.

Money is on everyone’s mind these days, and I’m sure you’ve noticed rising prices at the grocery store.

Can you do anything to “work around” inflation and cut back on the costs of healthy food?

Yes!

Here’s one way to save money: Find the best prices on your staple items.

It’s common to get into a routine: Head to the same store and buy the same stuff without looking at the price. But you’ll find a lot of variety among stores—even those less than a mile apart.

Check out the chart below. It was created using online shopping systems at two stores in close proximity. To get from one to the other, you’d need about five minutes on a bike or two minutes in a car, so the fuel and time costs of a second stop aren’t extreme.

ItemStore 1 (Mega Retail Center)Store 2 (Grocery Only)
7 bananas$2.10$2.38
7 Honeycrisp apples$8.33$14.56
2 cucumbers$3.34$1.98
Broccoli crowns (500 g)$3.30$2.75
1 lettuce head$1.97$2.99
Lean ground beef (500 g)$5.80$7.70
Chicken breast (500 g)$6.45$8.80
12 large eggs$3.48$3.79
2 L 2% milk$3.77$3.79
Total$38.54$48.74

Savings at Store 1: $10.20.

That’s a significant number, and it would be much greater if you bought larger quantities of some items. For example, if you had to buy twice as much ground beef and you did it at Store 1, your savings would jump from $1.90 to $3.80.

But you can find even more money.

What if you used your bike to hit both stores and bought only the cheaper items from each store? That would give you a small workout plus a total of $36.63. That’s another $1.91 saved—and remember, that number would increase significantly if you bought larger quantities of the items with a sizeable difference in price, such as chicken and apples.

Let’s go even further.

What if you bought 7 Gala apples at the cheaper store? That’s $6.93 instead of 8.33—a savings of $1.40. And the 3-lb. bulk bag of Red Delicious apples? It’s $5.97. If we assume each Honeycrisp or Gala apple is 120 g each, you’re getting 521 g more in the bulk bag that’s already cheaper to start.

You can make other substitutions, too.

For example, at Store 1, bone-in chicken thighs are $3.94 for 500 g. You can actually figure out cost per unit of edible portion so you know if the thighs are indeed cheaper once you account for the bones, skin and gristle you don’t eat. Check out this PDF from the Texas Agricultural Extension Service if you want to dig in: “Cost and Yield Comparisons of Ready-to-Cook Chicken Products.”

Quick tip: Using our online shopping cart and the info from Texas, 755 g of bone-in chicken thighs will give you the same yield as 500 g of chicken breast, but you’ll save 51 cents if you buy the thighs.

So let’s redo our table with the cheapest options at each store and a few substitutions:

ItemCost and Location
7 bananas$2.10 (Store 1)
3 lb. Red Delicious apples$5.94 (Store 1)
2 cucumbers$1.98 (Store 2)
Broccoli crowns (500 g)$2.75 (Store 2)
1 lettuce head$1.97 (Store 1)
Lean ground beef (500 g)$5.80 (Store 1)
Bone-in chicken thighs (755 g to obtain 500 g edible portion)$5.94 (Store 1)
12 large eggs$3.48 (Store 1)
2 L 2% milk$3.77 (Store 1)
Total$33.73

Additional savings over Store 1 shopping with initial selections: $4.81.

This two-store plan with revised selections produces a savings of $15.01 when compared to the costs of filling your cart just at Store 2.

The point of this simple exercise: You can probably find ways to save money on groceries.

If you always hit the same store and buy the same items without looking at the price, you might be spending too much. With a little extra effort, you’ll be able to drop your grocery bill.

We saved $15 here on small quantities of just nine basic items. Imagine how fast the savings will add up if you’re feeding two to five people. Or if you wait for sales or clip a few coupons.

If inflation and recession talk have got you down, take action in the grocery store aisles so you can eat well without breaking the bank!

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