Save Money on Grocery Shopping

Smart shopping can reduce the cost of food and cut the time and energy it takes to shop. Try these tips for frugal, efficient grocery shopping.
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Smart Shopping

Smart Shopping

Take charge of shopping trips, but travel alone. With kids in tow, you'll be distracted and may be persuaded to buy more than you intended.

Photo by: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - House Works , 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Take charge of shopping trips, but travel alone. With kids in tow, you'll be distracted and may be persuaded to buy more than you intended.

1. Never shop hungry. Hunger pangs make it easier for snack food and impulse purchases to jump into the shopping cart.

2. Shop less, save more. A quick stop for some milk usually turns into an hour’s trip and a dozen grocery bags. Avoid small shopping trips.

3. Shop at home first. When making menu plans, assess the contents of your refrigerator, freezer and pantry before buying new foodstuffs.

4. Make a list, and live by it. Grocery store marketers depend on the impulse buy. Protect your budget by shopping from a list.

5. Time trips for best savings. Plan shopping trips for the day meat and produce managers mark down soon-to-expire items. You can save up to 50 percent on those purchases if you time it right.

6. Be fickle and shop around. Those who have a “favorite store” usually pay
a price for their loyalty. Peruse supermarket ads and shop in two or three stores to make the greatest savings.

7. Love those brand names? Get over it! Private store labels offer equivalent quality at a lower price than “nationally advertised” products.

8. Do the math on unit pricing. Big boxes don’t always mean big savings. Rely on the “unit price” — the item’s cost per ounce/gram. It’ll show you the carton with the best price, regardless of size.

9. Shop with the season. Citrus in winter and strawberries in summer are much less expensive than the out-of-season reverse. Eat in season for freshness and savings.

10. Buy in bulk, but only if large sizes boast a lower unit price, and if your family can consume the product without waste.

11. Love those “loss leaders.” They’re the sales items in the weekly food ads, offered below cost to lure shoppers to the store. Take the bait, but pass on higher-priced items.

12. Support local growers. Farmers’ markets and CSA farm shares offer fresh, local produce at competitive prices. “Eat local” to reduce transportation costs and energy use.

13. Equip the trunk. For easy shopping, put an ice chest in your car’s trunk for dairy products and frozen foods, and boxes to support plastic sacks.

Cutting Costs With a Price Book

Even at the supermarket, knowledge is power but how do you track prices and stay informed? With a price book.

A price book is a product-by-product record that tracks prices, sales, and buying opportunities for foods. Over time, you’ll discover the “target price” for any item: the rock-bottom low price goal for purchases.

Second, the price book illustrates each product’s sales cycle: the number of weeks between sales offering that target price. If canned tuna is offered for sale at a 4 for $1 target price every six weeks, smart shoppers will buy six weeks’ worth of tuna and they’ll avoid this product during those high-price weeks where it sells for 59 cents.

To make your price book, use a small notebook or printable price book form from Assign one page to each staple product on your shopping list. On each page, list the date, store location, brand, item price and unit price. As you shop, note each new “low price” for each product.

Hint: Supermarket receipts make it easy to add entries to the price book. In the store, shelf labels often list unit prices for goods.

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