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Wednesday, March 4, 2009 • Posted March 4, 2009

Saving $ on Groceries, Part 2

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 such as reduced-price canned tuna or tomato sauce can be. Remember to check expiration dates.

Example: Stocking up on 10 cans of food reduced by 20 cents apiece: Save $2.00.

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!

Example: Buying a 5-pound bag of rice instead of a 1-pound bag: Save $1.50.

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.

Some store brands may vary more in size, color, or texture than the name brands. However, this may be unimportant, depending on their use. A less than perfect appearing vegetable may be just fine if used in a casserole or soup.

Store brands and lower-priced brands tend to be positioned on the top and bottom shelves. The national brands are more likely to be on the middle shelves.

Example: Buying just two store brands and saving 50-cents on each: Save $1.00.

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.

Often the produce person or the meat manager at the store can give you some tips. Many produce departments have books with descriptions of all the items, what they taste like, how to prepare them, etc.

Example: Purchasing a bag of self-rising flour without reading the directions and discovering it won't work in your recipes: Lose $2.50

Beware of snack attacks. Unless you're fairly active and need the calories, enjoy snacks, such as chips, cookies, candy, etc. in limited amounts. You'll save money and may lose unwanted pounds at the same time!

Example: Buying one less bag of chips weekly: Save $2.00.

Shop the specials. Plan your menus around sale items, especially more expensive purchases, such as 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," advises the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS). "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, (freezer) plastic wrap or freezer paper, or place the package inside a (freezer) plastic bag." If you plan to repackage family packs into smaller amounts, USDA/FSIS also recommends using these materials.

While raw ground meat maintains optimum quality in the freezer for 3 to 4 months, larger pieces of meat like steaks or chops will maintain optimum quality for 4 to 12 months, according to USDA/FSIS. At 0 degrees F, frozen foods remain safe indefinitely. The safest way to thaw meat is in the refrigerator on a plate on the bottom shelf so it doesn't drip on other foods.

Example: Buying meat on sale: Save $2.00

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. Make sure you wash that water bottle daily, though, as they can harbor bacteria if left unwashed.

Example: Drinking tap water vs. buying a 12 pack of bottled water: Save $4.00.

'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.

Example: Resist that magazine with the latest diet: Save $3.50.

GRAND TOTAL: The more of these tips you can use and the more foods you can use them with, the more you can save. Case in point: If you were able to use each of the preceding examples in one shopping trip, you could save as much as $40 a week.

Multiply that by 52 weeks and the savings would be "TA DA!" over $2,000 yearly!

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