GROCERY BILL ON A DIET
Secrets for Bringing Home More for Less
This year, we’ll be paying more than ever before for dinner. Food prices jumped a whopping 4 to 5% in 2011 and are expected to continue rising in 2012, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It takes savvy shopping,” she says. “You can have great everyday meals and special-occasion feasts and trim the household budget with planning, patience, and grocery shopping ‘guardrails’ to keep your cart in line.” House offers these tips:
$wait for good deals.Save pricier purchases for double coupon days. If you’re planning for a special occasion or celebration, save now so you can splurge a bit later, the more you rush, the less you save.
$Be detail-oriented. There is a lot of fine print involved in being a savvy shopper, from expiration dates to special offers to asterisks. Know when a coupon expires, how much it’s for, how much more it will be worth on double coupon days and whether or not it’s worth the price in the first place.
$Plan ahead.Plan a menu for at least three meals in advance; combined with leftovers; that should give you five days or more of meals, depending on the meal. This puts you in control of your shopping list. Instead of always playing catch-up, replacing what you’ve run out of, you buy only when it’s on the menu.
$Design menus that use the most expensive foods less often, instead of making expensive foods (meat) the centerpiece of each meal. For instance, from now on at least twice a week, try using meat as more of a filler than a main dish. Instead of making hamburgers, you make spaghetti with only a little bit of meat added. Have a salad on the side with a few nuts thrown in or a sprinkle of cheese for extra protein.
$buy ONLY what you can eat at a grocery store.That means no toiletpaper, toothbrushes, etc. Grocery store prices for non-food items are higher than you’ll pay almost anywhere else, so make a hard-and-fast rule and stick to it.
$Do use coupons, but only for products you actually need.Not only do you likely not have the room, but if you don’t have the money now for extras, it’s still cash gone now.
House’s $85-a-week budget does require tossing out some pricey products your family may have grown accustomed to and changing the way you plan meals. But there are plenty of delicious, often healthier, and less expensive substitutes.
“You are the leader of your family unit, at home and at the grocery store,” House says. “Your new quest to become a savvy shopper might meet with some resistance at first. Take the bull by the horns and lead the family in the right direction.” GFM
Courtesy of Toni House, author of two Savvy Shopping books: How to Reduce Your Grocery Bill and Save Your Money, Save Your Family.House has a BA in accounting and a MBA and was most recently the senior consultant and owner of an accounting firm. Find more tips at saveyourmoneysaveyourfamily.com.