One sure way to get the most for your money at the supermarket: Don’t make a list and buy the same stuff every week! Ideally, you should only be buying most of your grocery staples when they’re on sale!
Of course, you can’t buy and stock up on everything. Foods like fresh eggs and milk, for example, don’t last very long and can’t be stashed in the freezer. My two rules for what to only buy on sale: foods that get marked down as much as 50% or more during sales and last super long in the pantry or freezer—we’re talking up to a year or more!
Here are the foods you should ONLY buy when they’re on sale. And be sure to stock up for at least a few months so you can hold out for the next big sale!
Meat and poultry. These are usually the most expensive items on your list, but during sales they get marked down up to 50% or more. And many of them can last a year or more in the freezer, including uncooked roasts, steaks, chops, and whole chickens. Cooked meats, chicken parts, hamburger, bacon, and sausages start to lose their flavor and texture and can become freezer burned after 1-3 months.
Cheese. Yes cheese! When cheese goes on sale it can be marked down more than 50%. And while soft cheeses may last only a few days in the fridge and maybe 3-6 weeks in the freezer, unopened packages of hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan can last a couple of months in the fridge and 6-8 months in the freezer. Sliced and shredded cheeses can be frozen up to 4 months.
Non-acidic canned foods. February is a great time to stock up on canned foods because it’s National Canned Food Month and many grocery stores have big sales. Canned goods are among the longest-lasting foods in your kitchen (sugar and salt are among the few foods that can last virtually forever) and when they go on sale, the markdowns can be steep. Canned veggies and soups can last up to 5 years. The one exception: Acidic foods like tomato sauces and soups can go bad after about 18 months. Just make sure cans aren’t dented. Bonus: Studies show that canned produce is just as nutritious as fresh fruits and veggies.
Margarine and butter. Margarine lasts up to a year and butter can last up to 9 months in the freezer. And according to Land O Lakes, freezing won’t alter the taste of butter as long as you freeze it in its original packaging tightly wrapped in a freezer bag or with a tight layer of aluminum foil. If the flavor or texture changes, you can always use it for cooking.
Cereals and granola bars. Most of them last at least a year in the panty and sale prices can slash costs up to 50%. Just be sure to keep them in their boxes and away from light and heat.
Other foods that can last a year or more: olive oil (1-2 years in the pantry); nuts (1 year in the freezer); crackers (a year in the freezer); syrup (1 year in the fridge); and lobster (one year in the freezer).