May 7, 2010
Slash Your Food Costs
IconSlash Your Food Costs by Mary Hunt Next to your rent or mortgage payment, food is probably your biggest expense. Don#146;t believe me? For the next thirty days keep track of every nickel you spend to feed your face and tell me if that doesn#146;t add up to one boatload of cash-ola. Just think: Every dollar you do not spend on food is a dollar you have in your pocket to use for something else ... like prepaying your student loan or stashing into your savings account. That dollars was already taxed and you don#146;t have to wait for it to show up in a future paycheck. It#146;s yours right here, right now. Here's a snappy collection of the best tips for slashing your grocery bill: Don't shop hungry. Studies find you will spend at least 17 percent more. Shop with a list. As much as humanly possible, do not buy anything that is not on the list, but be willing to substitute. Prepare your list. Use the store's weekly sale ads found in the newspaper as a guide and build your menus from there. Go for loss-leaders. These are the items that are deeply discounted in order to get you through the door. Time your trip. Avoid shopping the first of the month and right before holidays. Stores regularly adjust prices up on the days they anticipate heavy traffic. Know your prices. Keep a written record of the regular per-unit prices of the items you buy most often so you'll know whether a Special is a bargain. Many times they have nothing to do with a sale but more to do with a marketing ploy. Buy in season. Fruits and vegetables will be the best quality and the lowest price when they are in season. Shop with cash. Take only the amount of cash you have decided to spend on this trip. If you come across a fabulous bargain and don't have enough cash you can always return to the store to stock up. Carry a small calculator. Keep a running total of your items in your cart so you won't be embarrassed at the checkout. Stick to the two or three cheapest stores in your area and then rotate your shopping trips. Shop at larger stores. Because of volume discounts, larger stores are generally cheaper than smaller ones. Find a bakery outlet. These kinds of thrift stores offer wonderful bargains if you can be highly disciplined. Visit a salvage store. This is the land of dented cans and mis-labels. Buy in bulk as appropriate. If you can't use it before it goes bad, it's a bad deal no matter how good the bargain was. Don't overbuy your storage space. It takes a lot of room to store a year's worth of toilet tissue. "On sale" without a coupon is usually cheaper than the regular price with a coupon. Be coupon selective. Only use a coupon if you would have purchased the product anyway. Buy the smallest size or quantity that the coupon allows for the greatest percentage of savings. Always check expiration dates. If you have a choice choose the date farthest into the future. Consider generic and store brands. Many times the product is identical to the brand name except for the lower price. Shop solo. Being distracted can be quite costly. Make friends. Produce, bakery and meat department staff may mark down day-old items if they know you as a regular customer. Look high and low. Expensive brand names are purposely positioned at eye level. Fancy packaging increases the price. Example: Quaker Bagged Cereals vs. other brands packaged in fancy boxes. Check those eggs. Do not purchase a cracked egg. Don't buy non-food items at the grocery store. Housewares, pharmacy items, greeting cards, paper goods and cleaning supplies can be purchased for less elsewhere. Avoid individual-size packages. Buy the big bag or size and divide into smaller portions at home. Avoid convenience items. It's more cost-effective to make your own salad dressing, chicken-coating mix, and so on. Buy on sale. A national brand on sale is usually less expensive than a store brand at regular price. Learn sale cycles. Study sale flyers until you recognize predictable cycles. Buy enough when it's on sale to last until the next sale. Follow these guidelines and stop eating out so much and I promise you#146;ll see big results in little time. Mary Hunt is the founder and publisher of Cheapskate Monthly newsletter and is a respected authority on spending habits and financial responsibility. She and her husband Harold dug their way out of a horrible mountain of consumer debt and lives to help others get out of debt and live joyfully beneath their means. The door is always open at her popular Web site, Permission granted for re-print on

Posted by Staff at 1:29 AM