Want to make the most of your food purchasing dollars? With rising grain prices, greater fuel costs and increased global demand for both, food prices have increased and are expected to stay high for the foreseeable future.

But, according to the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), people may find that planning and making minor adjustments to their grocery shopping activities can significantly increase the power of their grocery dollars.

“Simple activities, such as developing a food budget, planning before shopping, changing how you prepare meals and continuously looking at spending habits all are ways to make the most of your shopping dollars,” said Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer for NCGA, a business services cooperative representing 109 natural food co-ops nationwide.

You can’t change your habits overnight, and implementing these tips do take time. But, by following them, you’ll accomplish more with your grocery dollars and may even spend more time with your family cooking, dining and conversing, to boot.

Tips for making the most of your grocery dollars

-Courtesy of Liz McMann, Education & Special Projects Manager at Mississippi Natural Foods Market

Set a budget

  • Calculate your current food expenditures
  • Decide on your grocery budget
  • Stick to your budget by setting up a tracking method, much like your checkbook

Plan ahead

  • Clean out expired or unusable food from the pantry and fridge
  • Inventory what’s in your freezer
  • Draw up a list of staple foods you’ll need every week
  • Create a grocery list you can re-use every week
  • Share the list with your family for their input
  • Clip coupons, but only for items on your list
  • Plan your shopping around sales

Shop wisely

  • Stick to your list; avoid impulses
  • Change your purchases with what’s in season
  • Focus on the perimeter of the store, where bulk, produce and basics are most available
  • Consider special orders of bulk quantities of food

Change your patterns

  • Prepare the produce you’ve purchased (i.e., clean and slice strawberries and store in a container in your fridge)
  • Organize your cupboard
  • Put a message pad or board on your fridge with meal plans and snack options
  • Don’t overstock; plan for leftovers
  • Minimize purchasing food at convenience stores
  • Slowly add more cooking time into your schedule
  • Plant a garden
  • Try to eat as a household more often

Re-evaluate your method

  • Try your budget and plan for a few months before assessing
  • Continually monitor how you’re spending your food budget
  • Adjust your budget, if necessary

Additional tips from Willy Street Co-op

-Compiled by Kathy Humiston, Wynston Estis and Brendon Smith from the Willy Street Co-op

  • Don’t shop when you are hungry
  • Keep it simple. Using few ingredients means lower costs and allows the taste of the food to shine through
  • Shop the bulk aisle for pantry staples
  • Use the perishables you buy. That really good deal on cabbage isn’t so good if you end up composting it
  • If you eat meat, consider eating it less. This will save you a considerable amount of money and has the added benefit of slashing your saturated fat intake
  • Use your leftovers
  • Buy herb plants—you can grow them indoors and will be cheaper than buying packages of herbs
  • Buy produce that’s in season
  • Prep the produce you’ve just purchased and then use it soon or freeze it
  • Eat a variety of grains—they are an inexpensive, complex carb that go a long way to giving you good energy, dietary bulk and help you fill up
  • Willy Street Co-op has discount produce bins for bruised fruit and veggies that is not up to our high standards, but still fine if eaten a day or two after buying

About NCGA

The National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), founded in 1999, is a business services cooperative for consumer-owned food co-ops located throughout the United States. NCGA is owned by 109 food co-ops operating more than 130 stores in 32 states with combined annual sales of over $945 million. NCGA helps unify natural food co-ops in order to optimize operational and marketing resources, strengthen purchasing power, and ultimately offer more value to natural food co-op shoppers everywhere. For a map of co-op member locations, visit www.ncga.coop/member-stores. To learn more about NCGA, click here. To learn more about co-ops visit www.go.coop.