Friday, January 9, 2009

Shop Wisely

Janet Koch's post yesterday reminded me that the best place to save food dollars is at the grocery store. A few basic rules can make a big difference in how much you spend on food for your family.

1. Shop for groceries once a week. This took me a long time to learn. Just like stopping for take-out, it's too easy to swing by the grocery store on your way home from work. All the extras you buy each time add up.

2. Set a food budget. Take a calculator or add rounded numbers in your head as you place items in your cart. When you reach your limit, stop, or make decisions about what you really need versus what you want. That pricey jar of imported chestnuts is probably a luxury you can do without.

3. Check your refrigerator. If you're like me, you want to gag when you throw out food that spoiled before you could use it. Don't over buy. Check your refrigerator and make note of what your family isn't eating.

4. Shop alone. If you're on a budget, don't take the kids who will want the package with the useless toy or hubby who thinks he should eat Superbowl style food every day.

5. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. That's where you'll find the fruit, veggies, meat and dairy. The inside aisles tend to have pre-prepared foods in boxes. You'll pay extra for the convenience.

6. Don't be afraid to try the store brand -- at least once. I buy canned pumpkin regularly and found that my store brand, which is significantly less expensive, is less watery than the popular national brand. Same goes for organic frozen green beans at my local grocery store. Their brand tastes almost like fresh green beans.

7. Know prices. There was a time when I bought all my laundry detergent and paper towels at a big box store because the price was better. Not anymore. My national chain grocery store now regularly puts paper goods, dog food and detergents on sale at prices that beat my big box store by up to $4.00.

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