Don't sacrifice nutrition trying to save on food costs.

If you feel your food dollars aren't reaching as far as they did last year, you aren't wrong. The cost of food rose 4% in 2020, according to the Consumer Price Index. Illinois Extension can help you stretch your food dollars while maintaining the nutritional quality your family deserves. Read our cost-saving tips.

Shop to Save

calculating unit price
The Unit Price is a great way to compare prices.

These easy tips can add up to big savings. 

  • Look low for bargains
    Most bargain brands will be located on the lower shelves. More expensive and name brands are located at eye level to grab your attention.
  • The Power Wall
    Looking to save big money? Shop the Power Wall. This is usually the wall just inside the front door of the grocery store. It displays both seasonal and weekly sales items.
  • Use a grocery list
    Use your grocery list to help you stay on track and avoid impulse buys. Try arranging your list to follow the flow of departments in your favorite grocery store — backtracking leads to impulse buys!
  • Shop the weekly ad sales
    Shopping the weekly sales ad offers significant savings. Stock-up on extras when on sale. If you buy more than you can use, simply freeze for later use. Make sure you have ample freezer space to prevent unintended food waste.
  • Use electronic coupons
    Many stores allow you to use both electronic manufacture and local store coupons for double the savings.
  • Check for savings clubs and apps
    Many stores offer member-only benefits.
  • Limit the number of trips
    Plan menus for one or two weeks, and then shop for everything in one trip.
  • Keep a list of items you want
    Keeping a shopping list will help prevent buying duplicate items, reduce food waste, and help with menu planning.
  • Buy seasonal produce
    In winter, instead of fresh items, buy frozen and canned items. They are just as nutritious and less expensive! When purchasing canned items, select low-sodium veggies and fruit packed in 100% fruit juice.
  • Go meatless one day a week
    Beans and eggs are great sources of protein and are less expensive.
  • Track the food you throw away
    Only buy enough food you can use before it will spoil or buy it in a form that has a longer shelf life, such as canned, frozen, or dried.
  • Check your receipt
    Check your receipt before leaving the parking lot.
  • Don’t shop when hungry
    Eating a small snack and drinking a bottle of water can help prevent impulse buys.
  • Plan your menus
    Use the weekly sale flyer and items you have on hand in your cabinet and freezer to plan your menus.
  • Shop in bulk
    Buying in bulk saves money because it leads to fewer shopping trips. Buying in bulk is typically less expensive per unit.
  • What to ask yourself before buying in bulk
    Will you use your purchases before they go bad? If the items will not be used before the “best if used by date” and you have to throw them out - it is a waste of money! Do you have enough space to store everything? Make sure you have enough storage space, especially when buying items needing refrigeration.
  • Compare prices
    The lowest price is not always the best buy. To know what the best buy is, compare prices by looking at the Unit Price.
  • Calculate unit price
    The Unit Price is a great way to compare prices. Some products will tell you the unit price per ounce, while others may tell you the price per unit in pounds. Unit pricing is often listed on the store shelf.