|Supermarket Savings: 16 Tips that Can Total Big Bucks|
It’s possible to save money shopping for groceries without cooking everything from scratch, packing your purse with coupons or purchasing foods in season. Here are 16 easy tips that can total big bucks:
1. Keep a grocery list. Gas for an extra trip to the store easily can add a dollar or more to your grocery bill. And the less you shop, the less likely you will make an impulse purchase. Keep a grocery list where it’s easily accessible, like on the fridge and remember to take it with you. Stick to your list for added savings, but do stay flexible if you encounter a sale.
2. Garbage check. We lose money whenever we toss food because it spoiled before we got around to eating it. If leftovers get the "heave ho" because they’re left too long, we’re putting money in the garbage can. Make planning to avoid tossing foods a priority.
3. Avoid shopping when hungry. Everything looks good on an empty stomach. And, it’s all too easy to buy something to tide us over in the car until we make it home. Eating before going shopping not only helps forestall impulse buys, it may save calories. If you’re shopping with your kids, feed them in advance, as well.
4. Brown bag it. If you normally eat out at noon, consider brown bagging it at least one day a week. The typical fast food meal easily can cost $5 or more. Take food left over from the evening meal to work the next day. A peanut butter sandwich and a piece of whole fruit quickly can be packed from foods on hand.
5. Coupon common sense. Use coupons only for foods you normally would eat, rather than for "extras." Don’t miss out on potential sources of valuable coupons. Check your grocery receipt – sometimes there are great coupons on the back to help save money. Also, if you have access to a computer, check online for coupons. For starters, check the website of the store where you shop or of products you use. Often the website address for many foods is given on the product label. If possible, shop on double or triple coupon days when a store increases the value of coupons. Grocery store loyalty cards may be another source of savings, offering in-store discounts to cardholders.
6. Check expiration dates. Avoid buying food past its prime. If it’s on sale and near its expiration date, use it soon.
7. Small scale experiments. Before trying a new food, buy the smallest size of package. If your family doesn’t like the food, you won’t be stuck with a big box of it.
8. Costly convenience foods. How much time do you really save when you buy a convenience food? It takes just a few seconds to mix your own sugar and cinnamon rather than buying it pre-mixed. Microwaving a bowl of regular oatmeal rather than pouring hot water over a pre-measured package adds only a few minutes. You’re likely to save by cutting fruits and veggies yourself. Plus, the precut ones won’t keep as long.
9. Staple food stock up. Invest in staple foods when they’re on sale. Buying a boatload of bananas (and other perishable foods) isn’t a very good long-term investment. Stocking up on staple items like reduced-price canned tuna, tomato sauce or mandarin oranges can be. Remember to check expiration dates.
10. Bulking up when the price is right and you can use it. First, do the math and check if you actually do save by buying a larger package. The cost of two foods of the smaller size may be a better price than the larger one. Plus, will you use the food while the flavor is still tasty? Always check it out and if the larger size meets your criteria, go for it!
11. Store brand savings. Store brands are comparable in nutrition to name brands. And, taste-wise, there may be little difference. In some comparisons, they have been preferred over the name brands.
12. Prevent food flops. Check preparation methods for unfamiliar foods. Perhaps that tropical fruit looked enticing at the store. However, if you’re not sure how to prepare it or where to find more information once you bring it home, think again. Or, that new cut of meat – do you slowly roast it or can it be grilled? Either way, find out or risk having a food flop.
13. Beware of snack attacks. Unless you’re fairly active and need the calories, enjoy snacks, like chips, cookies, candy, etc. in limited amounts. You’ll save money and may lose unwanted pounds at the same time!
14. Shop the specials. Plan your menus around sale items, especially more expensive purchases, like meat. A dollar saved is even better than a dollar earned, as you don’t have to pay taxes on it! Buying several packages of meat when it is on sale and freezing it may save quite a bit. It is safe to freeze meat or poultry directly in its supermarket wrapping, but this type of wrap is permeable to air so unless you will be using the food in a month or two, over wrap these packages as you would any food for long-term storage using airtight heavy-duty foil or freezer plastic wrap or place the package inside a (freezer) plastic bag. While raw ground meat maintains optimum quality in the freezer for three to four months, larger pieces of meat like steaks or chops will maintain optimum quality for four to 12 months. Make sure your freezer temperature is zero degrees F for optimum storage length and safety.
15. Think before you drink: Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it with tap water. Your investment soon will pay for itself. Limit consumption of soft drinks and fancy coffees.
16. "Checkout" temptation. OK, you’ve almost made it to the finish line … don’t stumble now as you approach the checkout lane. As you’re waiting in line, think twice before buying some last-minute temptation.
Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at (205) 410-3696 or your local County Extension office.