If it seems like your grocery bill gets higher every month, it might not be your imagination. Food costs are going up and are likely to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.
So what's a shopper to do?
Here are seven solid tips for cutting your grocery bill. They make a little time and research but can pay off big next time you go through the checkout at your favorite store.
Tip # 1: Become a coupon addict. Watch your local newspaper for money-saving coupons for food and non-food items. Some families make a game of this – with a prize for whoever finds the most valuable coupons. Look carefully and you may find coupons worth as much as a dollar off items you can use. If you do not subscribe to a daily newspaper, consider signing up for a subscription, as it might be a very good investment. If possible, subscribe to just the weekday editions as most newspapers have a special food section in their Wednesday edition and that's where the coupons will be. You can also get money-saving coupons online. Two sites I like are: www.valuepage.com and www.smartsource.com.
Tip #2: Always make a list. People who shop without a list almost always end up buying impulse items – which can run up your grocery bill dramatically. Start by making a menu list for the week built around the coupons or specials you've been able to find in step #1. Then build your shopping list based on your menu planning. Do not buy convenience items. If you must buy convenience items, try to make it those for which you have coupons or where the tore is running a special. This means cook from scratch as much as possible.
Tip #3: Watch your attitude. Many experts will tell you that the number one mistake people make when shopping is their attitude. For example, never shop before breakfast, lunch or dinner. You will always buy more when you're hungry. Avid shopping when you're tired o angry as the experts say that's when you're most likely to reach for those expensive snack foods and other such goodies. If you're angry, it becomes easier to go for junk food. So, don't go shopping if you just had a fight or a bad experience with your boss.
Tip #4: Get a notebook. Devote one page to each item your family buys regularly. Write down what you usually pay for the item. If you see an especially good price, make a note of where and whet it is. This way, you'll know when a store sale or special is just advertising or is a really good value. When you find an item your family uses regularly, stock up on it. When you buy these items at markdown prices, you can easily save 15 percent to 20 percent on your groceries.
Tips #5: Know when not to use a list. When it comes to produce, take the farmer's market approach. Buy what's fresh, inexpensive and in-season. Then, adapt your menus accordingly. You will get good buys and your family will get the freshest food.
Tip #6: Grocery stores are for groceries. Avoid purchasing non-grocery items at the grocery store. While it's more convenient to buy your laundry detergent, toothpaste, painkillers, etc. at the grocery store, it's also probably more expensive. Instead, check out the prices of these items at Wal-mart, K-mart, Super Target and even Walgreen's. You may find you can save as much as $15 to $20 a week just by buying your non-grocery items some place other than the grocery store.
Tip #7: Does your store honor competitor's prices? If you find items you need at a store where you don't shop, request price matching from the store where you do. Suppose, for example, the store across town where you don’t normally shop is offering turkeys for 29 cents a pound and the price at your store is 59 cents. Don't be afraid to ask your store if they'll match the 29-cent price. This is an especially good way to get bargains on things like meat or vegetables where coupons are rarely offered.
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