Mason County News
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Family Times
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 • Posted September 15, 2010

Squeezed by Rising Food Prices?

Small changes in your shopping habits can mean saving money at the grocery store.

Remember that changing habits is hard! Try one or two each week. Soon you’ll see some relief in your grocery bills!

Before you go to the store

* Make a list. Why? You’ll spend less time in the store. For every minute in a supermarket, you spend $2.17, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Also, if you have a list you will make less trips to the store and save gas. If you take a few minutes to organize your list (group like foods together) you’ll find it much faster to shop and you won’t forget an item or two, like I do when I don’t remember to go back and get something!

* Plan your meals. Look for specials and seasonal foods.

* Where you shop may cost you money. Bulk food stores may not always be a good choice. You may be tempted to buy foods you don’t need and can’t store properly. Large food packages make it too easy to eat larger portions.

* Use coupons for foods you need. Sometimes coupons tempt you to buy things you don’t need.

* Convenience foods can drain your food dollar. You pay for convenience such as a ready-to-cook chicken breast. If you prepare it yourself, YOU have control over what goes in the food - less fat and salt.

* Looking for the best value? Foods high in fat and sugar, like cookies, chips, doughnuts and soft drinks, have fewer nutrients than nutritious fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and lean meats. Remember, the fiber in fruits and vegetables fills you up and keeps hunger away.

* Buy non-food items like pet food, cleaning supplies and personal care items from discount stores. You pay more for these at the grocery store.

At the store

Look high, look low

* Shop alone. Shopping without kids can help you avoid the nag effect. Or the I-better-hurry-up-because-she’s-getting-cranky effect! This is hard to do for a single parent, but maybe you can swap out with a friend who needs to get to the store too.

* Shop on a full stomach so you are less tempted to buy more. And so you don’t grab junk food!

* Consider store brands. Many taste the same as name brands and are from the same companies as name brands. I almost ALWAYS buy the store brand and I really can’t tell the difference on most things.

* Bigger is not always cheaper especially if you buy a large size food package and throw food away. Bring a calculator to compare unit prices. Sales tags often do not re-compute unit prices.

* Shop the outer aisles where you find nutritious fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meats. The inside aisles are where you find higher priced processed foods and snacks.

* Look high, look low. Bargains are usually on the top or bottom shelves - NOT at eye level.

* Track your store's loss-leader items. What are loss-leader items? They are low-priced items to get you to the store so you buy other higher priced items. Different sections of the store are featured each week. Stock up on each week's loss-leader items, especially things like cereals and juice.

When you get home

* Store food properly. Food that gets thrown out is money lost. According to a University of Arizona study, households throw away about $600 a year - or ten $60 fill-ups with gas!

Eating out

* Eating out costs money and uses extra gas. Preparing food at home allows YOU to control what goes in your food. Food prepared at home can be healthier. If you have children, involve them in the meal planning and preparation to build their kitchen skills.

* If you must eat out, share an entrée. Or choose appetizers which are smaller portions of food.

Eating at home

* Portion sizes. Most of us eat larger portions than we need. Serving food on smaller plates and drinks in taller, thinner glasses can help us eat or drink less.

* Eat slowly. Put your fork down between bites. You’ll eat less. Try to be the last person who finishes eating!

* Repackage large containers of food into smaller bags and containers. If you must have snacks on hand like cookies, smaller portions help you avoid overindulging.

* Keep healthy foods in sight - like fruits on a bowl in the kitchen or cut-up vegetables in the refrigerator. You and your family are more likely to choose them over unhealthier snack foods.

Preparing food at home

* What you don’t use, you lose. If, for example, you are preparing broccoli, cut up the stalk and cook it so it is tender. If you use just the broccoli flowerets you are throwing money away.

* Plan leftovers. Got veggies left over from last night’s meal? Throw them in tomorrow’s omelette or salad or pizza.

* Cut back on meats when possible- add a smaller amount of meat in your stir-fry. Don’t forget to use some of my favorite inexpensive proteins- eggs, beans, and even peanut butter! Venison is a good choice too.

* Cook once, eat twice. Buy enough ingredients to cook more than one meal and freeze meal-sized portions. Now there’s no need to buy frozen dinners!

Before you go to work, and at work

* Eat breakfast at home or prepare something to take with you. Food on the road costs more. And sitting in the drive-through lane wastes gas.

* Foods from vending machines are expensive. Bring food from home.

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