Mason County News
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Family Times
Wednesday, February 25, 2009 • Posted February 25, 2009

Supermarket Savings: Tips that 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. An example is given for each with the potential savings from: (1) spending less and/or (2) avoiding uneaten food (and lost grocery money).

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, such as on the fridge and remember to take it with you to the grocery store. Stick to your list for added savings, but do stay flexible if you encounter a sale.

Example:

(1) Gas to drive four miles for an extra trip to the store: $1.00 (or more!).

(2) Impulse purchase of snack crackers at the store: An additional $2.50 spent.

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.

Consider: If wilted lettuce is a frequent occupant of your garbage can, serve more salads at the beginning of the week. If extra mashed potatoes get tossed because they've lingered too long in the fridge, make less next time. Or recycle them as potato patties, shepherd's pie or potato soup within a day or two of making them. Some other ideas: Use ripe bananas in banana bread; add juice to smoothies or make popsicles; freeze leftovers for another meal.

Example: Tossing a half bag of 'tired' lettuce: $1.00.

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.

Example: Buying an energy bar at the grocery store to tide you over until you get home: $1.50 more spent.

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 out easily can cost $5.00 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.

NOTE: You may save money on your children's lunch by having them participate in the school lunch program. They can eat a balanced meal that is offered at a reasonable price.

Example:

(1) Eating a sack lunch once a week: Save $2.50 (or more!)

(2) Eating a sack lunch 5 days a week: Save $12.50 (or more!)

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 that help save money. Also, if you have access to a computer, check online for coupons. For starters, check the Web site of the store where you shop or of products you use. Often the Web site 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.

Example:

(1) NOT buying that NEW dessert mix: Save $2.00

(2) Using two 50-cent coupons for items you DO use: Save $1.00

6. Check expiration dates. Avoid buying a food that is past its prime. If it's on sale and near its expiration date, use it soon.

Example: Avoid dumping a half gallon of soured milk down the drain: Save $2.50.

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.

Example: Limit your purchase of an exotic spice you discover your family won't eat to a small container: Save $1.50.

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.

Example: Buying a carton of old-fashioned or quick oatmeal that provides 30 servings vs. buying 3 boxes instant oatmeal that contain 10 packets each: Save $5.50.

To be continued next week!

Source: Alice Henneman, UNL Extension in Lancaster County “Food Reflections”

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