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KPBS Midday Edition

Your Money: How To Save On Groceries

A woman buys locally grown produce at a farmers market in downtown San Diego.
Katie Orr
A woman buys locally grown produce at a farmers market in downtown San Diego.

How much do you spend each week on food? It’s not a fixed expense like your house or car payment, so you have some control over how much you spend. But how can you control it?

As KPBS Midday Edition's series on personal finance continues, we explore how to pare down costs at the grocery store.

Callie Brust is a registered dietician and director of programs at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center.

Your Money: How To Save On Groceries

Brust joined Midday Edition Tuesday to discuss ways to save money on food.

Here are a few of the tips she shared:

–Plan your meals based on what produce is in season. When a certain fruit or vegetable is in season there is an increased surplus, which lowers the cost of the particular fruit or vegetable.

–Plan your meals based on what is advertised as being on sale in your grocery store's weekly circular.

–Make friends with the staff at your grocery store. They can tell you when new produce comes in and when meat will go on sale.


–Be aware of product placement. On-sale items are typically displayed with more expensive items that pair well with the on-sale item.

Online resources to help you save money on food:

FoodKeeper App


Listen to the full interview:

Your Money: How To Save On Groceries
Your Money: How To Save Money On Food GUEST:Callie Brust, registered dietician and director of programs, Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center

>> How much do you spend each month on food. It is not a fixed expense like your house or car payment. So you have some control over how much you spend. But how can you control it. Our series on your money continues and we will explore how food expenses can bust a budget, or how you can pare down the skyrocketing grocery bills. Joining me is tran37 from all of Wood Gardens Learning Center. >> I think many of us experience price shock at the grocery check out. How do we spend so much when we didn't even buy that much. Is that something that you can avoid the better planning? >> Planning is the key to saving money when you're grocery shopping. I know how it piles up. Your hungry and you see something that entices you so you would the cart and the next thing you know your $50 over your budget for your grocery shopping. >> How do we prepare before going to the supermarket? >> Prepare your grocery list before going shopping by this you can stay on key. Instead of purchasing items that look good in the moment that you won't use when you get home. If we can reduce food waste by purchasing only what we need, what is on our list, and what we need. We can save 5 cents at a time but it adds up. Plan your meals based on the seasonality of produce. We know that right now leafy greens are in season. Summer squash is coming up. So if we can purchase foods that are in season, it ultimately saves us money. When fruits and vegetables come into season there's an increased surplus of that food item. So the demand is going to be there and lower that cost. You are ultimately going to save a few dollars when you purchase your fruits and vegetables when they are in season. At all of Wood Gardens we have so much. It's so specific to Southern California when practice becomes available if I can take a look at that chart I know that my broccoli is about to be out of season I can use it in all my recipes and then switch it over to another food item that serves well. That is something else in season. >> Does where you shop for your food also affects the prices that you pay? >> It depends on doing your research before going grocery shopping. Maybe on Wednesdays you shop, if you can check those Pennysaver's you'll know what's on sale before you step into the store. >> You advise people to talk to the staff to find out when items go on sale and new protists. >> If you make friends with your grocery staff, they are here to help you. If you come into the grocery store on Tuesday morning you'll have fresh pick up the seasonal produce available. They might know about the cuts of meat that are on sale or something that they have as a manager special. So it helps to make a relationship with those working at your grocery store took >> So you have your meals planned for the week and a list. You had to the grocery store. What are some things we should be aware of at the store? >> This is one thing that we talk about at tran32. We know it's important to eat healthy foods and one way to do that is to purchase healthy food. We are trying to figure out ways that we can reduce the cost because it's somewhat of a misnomer to think that healthy foods are costly. We are trying to find ways to cut that cost out. So when you're grocery shopping there are certain areas that you'll need to be aware of. At the end, you might see those sales that have salsa on sale, maybe your salsa is discounted, but they know that you'll probably purchase tortilla chips to go along with that so they might share that with the most expensive brand of chips. So get your salsa on sale, but take your few steps around the corner and find a cheaper bag of chips. >> And the way you navigate yourself to the store can actually save you money. >> Yes, if you shop along the perimeter of the grocery aisles you will find foods in their most whole form. Whole carrots or whole grains in bulk bins of your grocery store. It's usually a little less process. So the more processing your food goes through, the more costly it's going to be. So if you find carrots in the whole form as opposed to shredded carrots you will have saved yourself some money. You may have to spend more time processing it yourself, but if you can purchase that item is most wholesome form, you have definitely signed some change. >> Some people claim that they actually save money and eat better and avoid waste by getting boxed meals like hello fresh or blue apron. This is possible? >> It's all about the trade-offs between time, convenience, and your budget. We know that those boxed meals might save you time, so it depends on the price that you put on your own time. If you're in it for the convenience and yes that's a great option for you. But you can also stretch $10 or $15 to make wholesome great meal for your family, and come in under budget. It just takes a little more time on your end with purchasing and preparing. It's your decision based upon the convenience and time factor. >> Obviously if you want to save money on food you should eat out less. But you need to stop completely? >> Is all about balance. If you can budget that in you can make it work. There are ways to save money when you eat out. If you have an early bird special or if you can split an entrée with a friend. Box up half of your meal when you sit down so you spread this out over a few different meals like lunch and dinner. Look for the weekly specials at your favorite restaurant. >> Some suggestions about online tools that help to save money. Tell us about these. >> There are a lot of different applications out there and one that I'm familiar with in terms of food waste and knowing when your food is safe to eat and not, the food keeper at is a great one. Is a good tool to look through and assess what you have in your pantry and your kitchen. Another great application is tran35. It assesses the great coupons that you have in your grocery store area. Take a look at that before you go shopping for the week and plan your route for what stores are going to hit up for discounts. >> Realistically, how much of your clients been able to cut their food budget by following your advice? >> Every person's budget is different. As soon as you start to be mindful and intentional about the money that you're spending at your grocery store or at a local farmers market, you can start to save 5 to $10. The stars to add up. That much every week can be about $40 per month. That can go towards something else like electricity or other options that your funding. >> Thank you tran37, regular registered dietitian. Thank you for your time.

Do you have a money-related question or tip? Ask us here.