It is possible: "Grocery stores are now stocking more healthy options, so you're more likely to find bargainsthanks to better-for-you store brands and more competition," says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. You just have to avoid the spending traps, Gans explains, and know where to find the real deals. To that end, we rounded up six strategies that will slash your bill.
Strategy #1: Don't be too strict with your list
Are you one of the 72 percent of Americans who makes a list for grocery shopping trips? Consider this: Being a list stickler can cause you to miss out on really good deals, says Janis Jibrin, RD, author of The Supermarket Diet. "If you follow it too rigidly, you could be blowing by some really luxurious in-season fruits and veggies for a great price," Jibrin says.
A more cost-effective way to shop from a list: Spell out those things you definitely do need and want (your go-to Greek yogurt, for example), but keep it vague for categories where you're flexible and the price swings a lot, like fruit, poultry, and seafood.
Strategy #2 : Be picky along the perimeter
Nutritionists love to encourage their clients to "shop the perimeter of the grocery store," and for good reasonthat's where you tend to find the fresh produce, dairy, meat, and whole-grain bread.
Realizing this, grocery stores have expanded the perimeter and are filling it with an even bigger selection of tempting fresh foods, says Phil Lempert, editor of The Supermarket Guru, a consumer grocery-shopping website. "They want you to spend more time and money there," he notes.
In fact, they're also slipping in healthy indulgences that will drive up your grocery bill, says Linda Watson, author of Wildly Affordable Organic. Think dark-chocolate syrup next to the strawberries, or pita chips in a display beside the grass-fed beef. Buyer beware, though, because these impulse buys can ratchet up your bill.
Strategy #3: Buy naked produce
Ever notice those shrink-wrapped potatoes that are "microwave ready"? The cut-up fruit in a plastic container? They're just marked-up goods.
"Regular potatoes are microwave ready, too, and you don't have to pay for packaging, which can double the price for the same amount of spuds," Watson says. Not to mention, a cantaloupe at one grocery store, as of press time, was $2.50, while "cantaloupe chunks" in a plastic tub at the same store were $4.49almost double the price even though the whole melon had more fruit!
The other reason to steer clear of pre-cut: "Chopped fruits and vegetables lose nutrients more quickly because they have a larger surface area, which means more of the fruit or vegetable is exposed to damaging light, heat, or air," explains Lyssie Lakatos, RD, co-author with her sister, Tammy, of The Secret to Skinny. "Vitamin C is especially sensitive to light and heat, and fruits are more sensitive to nutrient losses than vegetables."