Practical Ways to Trim High Grocery Prices

Families, Food and Fitness November 18, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

Practical Ways to Trim High Grocery Prices

After nearly two decades of low food inflation, prices for staples such as bread, milk, eggs and flour are rising sharply, surging in the past year at double-digit rates, according to the Labor Department. Milk prices for example, increased 26 percent over the year while egg prices jumped 40 percent. The U. S. Department of Agriculture forecasts overall food prices will rise about 4 percent this year.

During these times of high food prices, you might be asking yourself “What can I do to save money?” A smart spending plan at the grocery store is one way to make ends meet. Families need to begin by creating a food budget. It just takes a little time and know-how to put into practice. Below are some specific money-saving ideas to consider:

Know How Much You’re Spending- When you spend $60 at the supermarket one week and $100 the next, you may not realize that your monthly grocery bill is one of your biggest expenses. Save your receipts and analyze them – you will be amazed at how much you spend on groceries and how much you can save by shopping more carefully. Take the time to create a food budget and follow it.

Plan for More Family Meals- Plan ahead instead of stopping at fast food restaurants on the way home from work. Make meal planning a family affair. Write up a menu of the meals and snacks you plan to prepare for the week, while making sure they are affordable and fit your food budget. Start planning with your main meal and go from there.

grocery shopping cart

Plan Every Shopping Outing- Experts say that planning meals in advance and making detailed shopping lists can cut your grocery spending by 20 percent or more. Check your pantry before you go shopping to be sure of what you need. Review store flyers and build your list around what’s on sale and the best coupon deals. Buying in bulk, when possible, can often help save money in the long run.

Stick to Your List- Grocery stores are designed to entice you to buy more with irresistible marketing. By sticking to a list, you will only purchase what you need and “get in and get out” of the store quickly.

Do Not Shop on an Empty Stomach- If you go to a supermarket hungry, you will most likely purchase more food than you need, including expensive items as well.

Leave Young kids at Home, if Possible- Young children want all of the products that are marketed to them and conveniently placed at their “eye” level. Avoid potential in-store battles and try to shop alone.

Break Yourself of “Brand Habits"- Generic or store brands are generally better buys. Basic commodities such as sugar, flour, tomato sauce, and paper towels are often indistinguishable when the label is removed. Some store brands are different from their national-brand equivalents, however, so buy small amounts first to test quality and flavor.

Go Easy on Highly Processed Foods in Expensive Packaging- Buy the basics and add your own sugar, spices, condiments, and sauces. You’ll save 50 percent or more, and feel much more creative. The closer a food is to its natural state, the less it tends to cost.

Don’t be Deceived by Packaging- Check the per-unit cost of food products; sometimes small sizes are more economical than jumbo packs.

Beware of End Caps- Food items on aisle “end caps” are often attractively displayed to entice shoppers to make additional purchases; these displays are not always a shopper’s bargain.

Look Up, Look Down- Items on the upper and lower shelves are often cheaper. Big brands often pay big bucks to have their products at eye level.

Cook Once, Eat Twice- Plan meals with recipes that can be doubled easily. Serve one and label and freeze the other for a later date. Often it doesn’t cost much more to make a double recipe. Use this same food for lunch to reduce spending excess dollars on lunch.

Buy Fruits and Vegetables in Season- Eating in season is one key way to cut your food bill. Farmer’s markets can offer savings on produce because you’re buying locally and directly from the farmer.

Consider Eating Less Meat- Make at least one or two meatless meals each week.

Cruise Through Your Fridge Daily- Check foods on hand to plan to use them before they go bad.

Invest in a Good Inexpensive Cookbook- With some new recipes, you can be more creative with the groceries you bring home. Look for healthy recipes that you can prepare in a short amount of time.

Watch the Cash Register- Checkout errors can be costly. Use supermarket discount cards to save.

Stock Up on “Real” Bargains and Non-Perishable Foods- For example, buy canned goods on sale.

Avoid Non-Nutritious Foods- This includes “junk” food snacks, sugary foods, soft drinks, etc.

Don’t Pay Interest on Food Bought on Credit Cards- This only increases the cost of food even more.

If you follow these tips and strategies regularly, you’ll start to see a difference in you food expenditures. While you can’t control the cost of fuel or food, if you manage your food dollars wisely, you will have more money in your wallet at the end of the month.

FOR MORE INFORMATION VIEW Supermarket Savings Video

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.