Updated: 10/5/2011 1:55 PM ET|
5 ways to trim your grocery bills
It's the grocery cycle: You shop, you buy, you eat, then start over. But being prepared along with being vigilant on prices, coupons and brands can save big bucks.
To help you get a grip on this tasty but often expensive cost of living, here are five ways to cut the fat from your grocery bill:
1. Make a grocery list and check it twice
Going through your kitchen before hitting the supermarket is free, and a little planning can fatten your wallet by preventing expensive impulse buys. You might even save on gas by being organized, because you won't need to make a second shopping trip to buy those forgotten items.
Use this free printable grocery shopping list to help you plan your next trip to the market.
2. Watch the price scanner
Mistakes on price scans are common at the grocery store and can cost you additional dollars. A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 6% of respondents were overcharged at the grocery checkout, and no particular chain stood out as more or less accurate than the others. Watching while your grocery prices scan and verifying their accuracy at checkout can save you money and may even score you free food -- many grocery chains will give you the item for free if it scans at the wrong price, but it's up to you to spot the error.
3. Buy generic items over big brand names
Save a huge 10% to 50% on every shopping trip by switching your brand-name buys for generic items. It costs big bucks to market brand-name products, and you're paying for that expense when you buy a food item with a recognizable label. Compare many generic items to the brand-name equivalent and you'll find that the brands are not necessarily better than their less-advertised alternatives.
4. Stop clipping the wrong coupons
Take a good look at the grocery coupons you're clipping before getting excited about the deal. Many coupons offer deals on highly packaged foods low in nutrition and high in unpronounceable ingredients. Skipping the coupons for bad buys and opting to pay a little bit more for whole foods may be a better deal for your health in the long run.
5. Skip the cans, buy dried beans in bulk
Why are you buying beans canned in captivity? Buying dried beans in bulk and soaking them overnight is a frugal way to add protein to your diet without paying for the high cost of meat. Besides, dried beans are extremely cheap and expand when soaked, so your family gets more meal for every dining dollar spent by forgoing the canned variety.
Finding simple ways to cut your everyday food expenses takes a bit of practice, but the payoff can be huge. Keeping track of your budget using this free household budget spreadsheet can also help you save money on all your other living expenses.
This article was reported by Kerry K. Taylor for U.S. News & World Report.
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Along with the beans, you can save a bundle by making your own stuff from scratch. Pasta sauce is an example. Use a giant can of tomato sauce or puree, or several large cans of tomato paste. (Shop Smart & Final, Sam's Club or Costco for great bulk deals.) If you don't have a recipe, find one online or at the library. Get the spices cheap by buying bulk and splitting with friends or family. I bottle the sauce (using recycled bottles, natch) and put in the refrigerator or freezer. You can make several bottles of sauce for what you would pay for just one. You can also make pizza sauce.
I make bread crumbs from bread and rolls that have gotten dried out. Healthier, too, because we eat whole-grain bread, and I haven't seen whole-grain bread crumbs.
If you have fruit trees, don't waste that produce! I have a wonderful Minneola tree (tangelo). Everyone wants them, but I only give away a few. I juice most of them and we enjoy the sweetest orange juice all year. (Freeze it in those recycled bottles again!) We also use it for making smoothies, which by the way is a great way to use your overly-ripe bananas. (Banana, OJ and several frozen strawberries - mmmmm!) I also have a lemon tree. Those I share, as I can only drink so much lemonade, and don't use that much juice for cooking. What my friends and family don't use I donate to the food bank. I have apple trees as well, and used to have a plum tree, who's death I still mourn. Not bad for Arizona.
If you don't have trees of your own, there are "pick your own" farms all over the country. Nor is freezing the only choice. Canning is the time-honored way to "put food by", and fruits do not require a pressure cooker. Drying is another option, but beware those little circular dehydrators. Hit your local library for a book on how to score a good quality unit, as well as advice on what to dry and how.
We try to avoid packaged meals and canned foods, as they are way too expensive, unhealthy, and rarely taste good anyhow. Anyone can learn to cook basics, and with all the whole grain pastas and bread available now, you can eat healthy for less than you would spend on spaghetti-os and macaroni and cheese in a box. If you have kids, get them involved. Not only will it teach them to cook healthy foods, but as they get older, they are more helpful and that saves you time. My nineteen-year-olds cook one night a week at least, and they are getting better all the time. They also like to come along shopping now.
Garbage is such a problem. Back in the sixties there was a product called FIZZIES. Just like Alka Seltzer it came in foil wrapping. You bought a dozen in a pack for about 49 cents. You dropped it in water and had a carbonated flavored soda that was perfect. You could get various flavors such as coke, root beer, grape, cherry coke. It was never flat and tiny compared to plastic bottles, glass bottles and aluminum cans, easy to carry and were not exploding our landfills and highways. Why not bring them back? Do you suppose the soda companies bought them out? We don't need these new homemade soda makers at all just those great tasting FIZZIES.
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If your wallet is running on empty but you still have more shopping to do, we've got you covered. Here are 10 cool kid gifts that won't break the bank.