If you struggle to stay within your shopping budget, then listen up. Robyn Moreno of “Woman’s Day” magazine offers a few of her favorite tips to save money at the supermarket.
- Rethink the list: Plan meals first, make your list second. Consumers with shopping lists spend over 41% more than those who don't use one. When planning meals, make sure the week’s circular is in front of you. To avoid those emergency runs, make a master list of the ten meals your family eats most often and keep those ingredients on hand.
- Stalk the markdowns: Markdowns can ring up as much as 50% off the original price, so it’s possible to save $5 to $20 a week on meat alone using this strategy. Ask the store manager when meat, dairy, bread and produce are marked down. Stores often slash prices as items near expiration dates or to make way for incoming stock. Be sure to check labels. Some companies are now labeling products “organic” or “low-fat” even if they’ve always been so. Also, many of the “low-fat” items you pay a premium for may have just as many calories as competing brands without the claim.
- Buy frozen produce: Buy spinach, peas and corn frozen rather than fresh to cut cost but not nutritional value. If you can only afford to buy some organic food, make it produce. Organically grown fruits and veggies do not contain anywhere close to the level of pesticides that conventionally grown produce does. Bananas, canned or frozen corn, broccoli, and canned or frozen peas have the fewest residues. Be sure to buy your fair share of apples, pears, bell peppers, imported grapes, peaches, potatoes and strawberries.
- Buy vs. use: The biggest mistake at the meat counter is buying too much. You can save money and get more flavor when you use ground chuck instead of ground round in burgers. Due to its high fat content, ground chuck makes a juicer burger. Purchase the large “family pack” and repackage it into smaller amounts for the freezer. Ground round doesn’t yield as much fat when it’s cooked, so there is less shrinkage, making it ideal for meat loaf, stuffed peppers and meatballs. Center-cut bone-in pork loin chops will give you the best flavor for your money. They cost about $2 to $3 dollars less than boneless chops and you’ll often find them on sale. They’re flavorful and juicy. Try to get them thick — an inch and a half is best. Boneless turkey cutlets can be used in many recipes that call for chicken or veal. To ensure the turkey cutlets emerge from the pan crisp and golden brown, lightly flour them first, then sauté briefly in a mixture of butter and oil.
- Train little shoppers: Grocery shopping with children can add $100 to $400 a month to your bill. Not only do parents with kids in tow spend more time in the store — which can really add up each time you toss more and more items in the cart — but kids are masters of impulse buying. If you can’t go solo, turn the kids into smart shoppers. Give them some choices: They get to pick one lunch-box treat or two snacks. Or have them use real money (their own, or, say, $5 you give them) for anything not on the list.
- Shop around: Toiletries, paper goods and other items are cheaper to buy in bulk at a warehouse discount store. Don’t buy different cleaners that do the same job. The main thing is killing germs and getting a room clean, so one all-purpose antibacterial cleaner will do the trick. Some cleaners come in concentrates that you can dilute. A spray bottle and water extends your purchase.
- Check it twice: Grocery stores are not always reset with current sale prices. Your chances of being charged the full price on a sale item are high. To get it right, watch the scanner and speak up if you see a discrepancy. Americans lose between $1 billion and $3 billion a year in scanning errors!
For more information and tips from “Woman’s Day” magazine, visit their Web site at womansday.com