Staying home means buying lots of groceries, but there are still plenty of ways to cut costs.
9 Ways to Save Money on Groceries During the Coronavirus Crisis
You thought you were stocked up on groceries for a month. And you were. But now you’re still stuck in the house 30 days later, and it’s time to get out and stock up again.
Like many people, maybe you got carried away when coronavirus news prompted shoppers to load up on toilet paper, cleaning products, canned goods, and other foods. Now that the initial shopping panic has subsided, however, you don’t have to go broke buying up food with no regard for cost.
Almost half (42 percent) of Americans need their economic stimulus check to pay for groceries.
If you fall into that camp, it would definitely help to know these 9 tips to save money on groceries during the coronavirus crisis.
1. Mind delivery fees
If you’re playing it safe with a grocery delivery service such as Instacart, Shipt, Amazon Fresh or Peapod, make sure you understand all fees added to your order. For example, Instacart delivery fees are higher during busy times and range from $3.99 to $7.99, while Instacart Express members receive free delivery on orders of more than $35. 
Amazon Fresh offers attended or unattended (drop-off when you’re not home) delivery to Amazon Prime members if your order exceeds the local free shipping threshold before tax.  Otherwise, Amazon Fresh fees vary, depending on the total amount and which delivery option you choose.
2. Make a list
Don’t run to the grocery store to pick up a few items only to leave with an overflowing shopping cart. Even if you’re planning to stockpile groceries, going in “open to anything” will run up a huge bill fast. It’s just too easy to grab jars of pricey olives, nuts, dips, snacks and meats when you have no plan.
To avoid willy-nilly shopping and the gargantuan grocery bill that comes with not having a strategy, create a list before shopping. Check out what you already have on hand in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry and plan meals around ingredients you already have on hand.
3. Don’t shop when hungry
There’s nothing like mixing a rumbling stomach with pandemic panic to run up your grocery bill fast. When you delay dinner to shop, you can be sure you’ll return home with at least one bag of snacks, frozen dinners and baked goods you would have never considered.
To prevent overspending, consume a meal or at least a snack before heading to the grocery store.
4. Shop non-peak hours
Many stores are open during select morning hours only to customers over 60 or people with underlying health conditions. Restricted hours not only reduces contact with other shoppers but also alleviates anxiety and impulse buying from the stress of elbowing your way through crowded aisles.
Even if you’re young and healthy, shopping during non-peak hours – such as an hour before closing – has the same cost-saving and health benefits, so give non-peak hours a chance. Less stress is beneficial to your immune system, too.
5. Make one productive trip
You won’t save money on groceries if you dash to the store one day for milk, another day for ground beef and one more time to buy ingredients for dinner. You’ll just run up a bunch of charges on your debit or credit card until you’ve unwittingly spent much more than necessary.
Instead, plan weekly or biweekly shopping with a grocery list and set a limit to how much you can spend.
6. Shop with meals in mind
We’ve all come home with four bags of groceries and not even one combination of ingredients that we can whip up for dinner. It’s easy to avoid that scenario, however, when you factor meal planning into the grocery list.
For example, you might prepare chicken for dinner but also use the poultry for soup, chicken salad or tacos. The same goes for vegetables, which you can add to many recipes, serve as a side dish or munch as a snack. Write down potential uses for all foods on your grocery list, so you’ll know which ingredients to add to base meals and how to stretch the foods further.
7. Utilize your freezer
Your freezer is your best friend when it comes to saving money on groceries. Not only can you stock up on sale and other items to freeze until you need them, you can freeze leftover portions of sauces, soups and certain vegetables to use later instead of buying more at the grocery store.
8. Buy in bulk
Don’t pile your cart high just because something is a fantastic deal. However, if you love canned green beans so much that you can conquer a case in two weeks, go for it. With meat, purchase a large package on sale and freeze some for later.
Some of the best bulk-buying deals are on paper goods such as toilet paper and paper towels, so buy in bulk to save. Want to save even more? Throw in a coupon from the manufacturer’s site, the Sunday paper or another savings source.
9. Watch for sales
Even during a pandemic, grocery store circulars still arrive in the mail and grace stands by the store entrance. So, don’t forget to scan store ads for coupons and sale items, especially on frozen and canned foods, meats and other items that you can freeze or stock in the pantry.
This article by Deb Hipp was originally published on Debt.com.
Published by Debt.com, LLC