Save on groceries by using these strategies from local experts

Experts share some simple ways to stretch your grocery dollars.

Shopping basket full of grocery foods on calculator. Savings, di
With grocery prices much higher than they were a year ago, there are still ways to eat healthy while saving money. Making a meal planning list, checking sales and coupons and eliminating processed food are just a few of the strategies that can help.
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Higher prices for food is leading many people to re-evaluate their grocery budgets.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price of groceries increased by 11.4% in 2022.

Donna Anderson is a SNAP Educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Office who works with Hubbard County residents. She recently shared strategies to help people spend less on groceries, while still preparing nutritious meals.

Anderson said having a meal planning and shopping list is the first step in assuring that good choices are made and food is not wasted.

“Read the recipe. Look in your cupboards and in the refrigerator to see what you have and then make a list of what ingredients you need to buy. Then see if there are less expensive substitutions,” she said. “Right now, you can easily spend $15 buying five different kinds of vegetables. However, you may be able to find one bag of mixed vegetables in the freezer section and then add an onion or pepper.”


Once the meal plan for the week is set, check the coupons and the store ads.

“Make a grocery list and stick to it,” she said. “Don’t shop when you’re hungry. And make sure you only buy what you can use or have room to store.”

The list should be balanced with items from every food group for meals and snacks, including dairy, protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

“Skipping meals is not good because then your body stores fat,” she said. “Every few hours, have a snack like a string cheese and a cutie or celery with peanut butter. Make sure snacks have nutritional value and don’t snack on empty calories like chips and pop.”

Anderson said buying sale items and storing them for later use can also help save money, as long as there is room to store it in the freezer or pantry.

She said anyone who is having trouble affording groceries, including seniors, should apply for the SNAP benefits which used to be called food stamps. “I know there used to be a stigma around that, but now the EBT card looks like a debit card,” she said.

Lessons from the past

Park Rapids resident Carole Shelby is still using tips she learned when she was feeding her family 60 years ago.

“Meat wasn’t the center of our meal then,” she said. “It was combined with other nutritious foods. When I was raising my three children, we didn’t eat hamburgers on buns. Hamburger was always used in a hotdish to spread it out with rice or pasta. I remember taking a pound of hamburger and a can of chicken gumbo soup and making a mixture to serve on buns when the kids had a party. And when I made meatloaf, I put a cup of oatmeal in it. They were real nutritious meals without a lot of meat. There are other ways to get protein. And if you mix meat with vegetable protein, it turns into complete protein. “


Shelby continues to limit her meat to a 3-ounce serving per meal. “And Instead of whole chicken, I use ground chicken because it’s less expensive,” she said.

Since the price of eggs has increased, Shelby uses an egg substitute for baking, using 1/2 cup of ground flax meal mixed with 1-1/2 cups of water. “You boil it for three minutes, stirring it constantly,” she said. “Store it in a closed jar in the fridge. One tablespoon of that mixture equals one egg in your baking. It works really well in bread recipes and muffins, but I’ve never tried it in cookies.”

More savings

Other strategies Anderson suggested to save money on groceries are as follows:

  • Use frozen fruits and vegetables instead of fresh. 
  • If using canned vegetables, instead of buying the no-salt ones that are more expensive, rinse with cool running water to reduce 40% of sodium from regular canned vegetables.
  • Saute regular hamburger and run under warm water after cooking to remove some of the fat rather than buying the more expensive lean hamburger.
  • Use meat alternatives, such as beans or chickpea pasta, that have protein. Other good sources of protein are seeds, nuts,and nut butters without added sugar.
  • Cook dried beans instead of buying canned beans.
  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, as inside aisles often contain more expensive processed food.
  • Bake bread at home instead of buying packaged bread.
  • Purchase “day old” items, such as bread and freeze for later use.
  • If whole grain bread is too expensive, look for breads fortified with whole grains.
  • Cut up fruit and vegetables that are on sale into small bags and freeze for later use.
  • Save scraps of fresh produce such as onion skins and carrot peelings to make soup stock instead of buying stock.
  • Buy the generic or store brands when possible as they are usually less expensive.
  • Look at unit pricing per ounce to see if smaller cans on sale at 5 for $1 are less expensive than one larger can.

Any local group interested in having Anderson teach a cooking or health and wellness class may contact her at 218-640-0285. Grocery store tours focused on nutrition are also available.

Resources to help

  • Find out about eligibility for SNAP benefits by calling 888-997-2227. 
  • Check with local schools to see if they offer students weekend food backpacks.
  • For recipes and information about health and exercise, go to
  • The Hubbard County Food Shelf, located at 308 Pleasant Ave. S., is open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Call director Bob Hansen at 218-732-1282 for more information.
  • The Akeley-Nevis Area Food Shelf located next to the post office, at 6 Broadway St. E. in Akeley is open Tuesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. Call 218-652-2388 for more information.
  • Ruby’s Pantry offers a large food package for $25 in both Laporte and Menahga and there are no income requirements. For dates and locations visit their website or Facebook page.

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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